Bush salutes new Americans at July 4 ceremony

/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush invoked the memory of Thomas Jefferson Friday in welcoming new U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony at Monticello, saying "I'll be proud to call you a fellow American."

On his final U.S. Independence Day as president, Bush told an audience Friday at the home of the Declaration of Independence's author that he was honored to be present for the naturalization. Shouts from protesters were heard during Bush's remarks, and the president responded by saying he agrees that "we believe in free speech in the United States of America."

The last six Fourth of July holidays have taken place amid continuing violence in Iraq. Bush's addition of 28,000 U.S. troops last year in Iraq helped foster a measure of stability in what is now the sixth summer of the war.

Bush mentioned neither the war in Iraq nor U.S. efforts to fight terrorism in his speech, other than to say that "we pay tribute to the brave men and women who wear the uniform."

For the people assembled with him at the naturalization ceremony, he said: "When you raise your hands and take your oath, you will complete an incredible journey. ... From this day forward, the history of the United States will be part of your heritage."