Ralph Lauren Receives James Smithson Bicentennial Medal at Citizenship Ceremony
Hillary Rodham Clinton Will Deliver the Keynote at the Ceremony
The Smithsonian is awarding designer Ralph Lauren the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal in recognition of his contributions to the American experience and to the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner. The medal will be presented today during a naturalization ceremony welcoming 15 new Americans during which former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver keynote remarks. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services officials will participate in the 10:30 a.m. ceremony in the National Museum of American History’s Flag Hall.
During the naturalization ceremony, 15 candidates for citizenship from 15 countries—in honor of the 15-star, 15-stripe Star-Spangled Banner—will receive certificates of naturalization after taking the Oath of Allegiance administered by Secretary Johnson. Murkowski will lead the Pledge of Allegiance for new citizens originally from Australia, Canada, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Italy, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, Philippines, Romania, Sierra Leone and South Korea. Nashville-based Della Mae, a bluegrass-influenced rock band who served as State Department cultural ambassadors during Clinton’s tenure, will perform the national anthem among other selections.
“I am humbled to receive this honor and grateful to the Smithsonian for all they do to preserve and protect our nation’s treasures,” said Ralph Lauren, chairman and CEO of the Ralph Lauren Corporation. “It has been such an honor to be part of the Star-Spangled Banner Preservation Project. Our flag has always been an inspiration to me, and now it will be an inspiration for generations to come. On its 200th anniversary, I am especially proud to see it exhibited in all its glory; it is a constant symbol of what makes America great—our ideals, our courage and our faith in the future.”
Lauren, born 1939 in the Bronx to immigrant parents, got his start designing and selling ties out of a drawer in the Empire State Building. He has since built the Ralph Lauren Corporation, creating a global lifestyle brand. Lauren has also demonstrated a strong commitment to philanthropy, including providing major financial support to the museum’s efforts in 1998 to preserve “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the flag that inspired the national anthem.
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 http://americanhistory.si.edu/citizenship, this interactive site 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. Lauren will be the 70th recipient since 1990. The medal honors his lifetime contributions to American artistry, entrepreneurship creativity and vision.
The Star-Spangled Banner Preservation Project (1998-2006) was made possible by major support from Ralph Lauren Corporation. Generous support was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Congress, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the American Express Historic Preservation Fund. The conservation project was part of Save America’s Treasures—a public-private partnership administered by the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.