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Jeff Bezos To Receive James Smithson Bicentennial Medal at National Museum of American History Naturalization Ceremony

20 Individuals Will Be Naturalized and Become U.S. Citizens
June 14, 2016

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will award Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal in recognition of his contributions to the American experience in the field of e-commerce and technological innovation. The medal will be presented today during a naturalization ceremony welcoming new Americans. Museum Director John Gray will deliver welcome remarks, Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton will present the medal and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Léon Rodriguez will preside over the naturalization process in the 11 a.m. ceremony at the National Museum of American History.

The ceremony takes place on the 100th anniversary of Flag Day, which was officially established by President Woodrow Wilson in a 1916 proclamation to commemorate the anniversary of the June 14 adoption of the American flag in 1777. In 1949, President Harry S. Truman signed an Act of Congress designating the day as National Flag Day. The museum is home to the Star-Spangled Banner, the very flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the song that became the country’s national anthem.  

The naturalization ceremony, in which 20 candidates from 17 countries will receive certificates of naturalization after taking the Oath of Allegiance, is presented in partnership with USCIS. It also marks the beginning of the museum’s participation in “America Now,” a three-museum collaboration of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History and Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is made possible by the support of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Family Foundation. The Washington Post is the media sponsor of “America Now.” Museum events continue June 18 with a free Go-Go and Hip-Hop Community Innovations program from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and a ticketed, 21 and over, “We the Party People” event from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., which celebrates American democracy with objects-out-of-storage, Ted-style talks, music, performances and themed food and beverages. More information is available at http://s.si.edu/americanow.

During the naturalization ceremony, U.S. Army Reserve Specialist Jae Seon Shim, of Fort Belvoir, Va., will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and U.S. Army Chaplain (ret.) Linda George will perform the National Anthem. Following the naturalization ceremony, Bezos will be presented with the James Smithsonian Bicentennial Medal by Skorton.  

Bezos was born in 1964 and was adopted by his mother’s second husband, Cuban immigrant Mike Bezos. He graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University in 1986. Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994 with the mission to be the Earth’s most customer-centric company. He is also the founder of aerospace company Blue Origin, which is working to lower the cost and increase the safety of spaceflight. In 2013, he purchased The Washington Post. Time magazine named Bezos “Person of the Year” in 1999.

The National Museum of American History has partnered with USCIS since 2008 to host naturalization ceremonies, and in 2012, the two entities launched “Preparing for the Oath: U.S. History and Civics for Citizenship,” a web-based learning tool designed to help candidates prepare for the civics portion of the naturalization test. Accessed at https://americanhistory.si.edu/citizenship, this interactive features videos and multimedia activities that draw from the museum’s vast collections in order to foster an in-depth exploration of American history.

The James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, established in 1965, is given under the Secretary’s authority to persons who have made distinguished contributions to the advancement of areas of interest to the Smithsonian. Bezos will be the 70th recipient since 1990. The medal honors his dedication to the American values of entrepreneurship, innovation and freedom.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. For more information, visit https://americanhistory.si.edu. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free.

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