To the Congress of the United States:
The report of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, which I am transmitting to the Congress today, presents cogent suggestions for commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of our nation.
I strongly endorse the Commission's primary recommendations that:
--The commemoration be national in scope, seeking to involve every State, city and community;
--The Bicentennial be a focal point for a review and reaffirmation of the principles on which the nation was founded and for a new understanding of our heritage;
--This be the occasion for looking ahead, for defining and dedicating ourselves to our common purposes, and for speeding the accomplishment of specific local projects responsive to our changing national priorities.
The goal which the Commission has established is most appropriate for our nation at this time: "to forge a new national commitment, a new spirit for '76, a spirit which vitalizes the ideals for which the Revolution was fought; a spirit which will unite the nation in purpose and dedication to 'the advancement of human welfare as it moves into its third century."
I concur with the Commission's concept of a Bicentennial Era with its focal point in 1976.
The Commission is now moving from the planning to the development stage of the Bicentennial Era. To assist it in its task, I have these comments on some specific areas:
On Making the Celebration National in Scope
1. I invite the Bicentennial Commissions now formed or forming in each of the fifty States, along with Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and the Territories, to share in a special effort to ensure active and nationwide participation in the celebration of America's 200th birthday. In the year preceding July 4, 1976, I invite each of those areas to accept the responsibility for a single week in which national focus would be on that area's local traditions and commemorative activities, in a way that would permit the nation and the world to observe both our historic development and our local activities to meet the challenges of the third American century.
2. The Commission urges a "multi-city exposition" and quite properly concludes "there should be no commercially oriented world's fair in the traditional sense anywhere in the nation during the Bicentennial Era." I agree. There can be no single Bicentennial city. Nor is any traditional .type of world's fair in one city adequate 'to the challenge of a national celebration.
However, since American civilization has drawn on the genius and traditions of nations throughout the world, and has contributed as well to their development, we should actively encourage international participation in our celebration. To do this in an orderly and well-planned way, we should select a principal site on which that intonational participation can focus. Philadelphia, site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the creation of our Constitution, would be the natural place for this activity.
Accordingly, I am now instructing the Secretary of State to proceed officially with appropriate registration procedures with the Bureau of International Expositions for an international exposition in Philadelphia in 1976. Such an exposition, however, is to be primarily cultural, inspirational and non-commercial in character, with the emphasis on quality rather than size.
Pursuant to the provisions of Public Law 91-269, I am directing the Secretary of Commerce to review the financial and other support to be secured for the Philadelphia exposition from both government and private sources and, together with David J. Mahoney, Chairman of the Commission, and George P. Shultz, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, to report to me the result of this review.
If suitable financing arrangements can be worked out, Philadelphia can be an exciting focal point for international participation in a way that will carry forward the regard of our Founding Fathers for "the opinion of mankind" without in any way restricting the scope .of the celebration to a single city. In fact I hope that foreign visitors and visiting groups, including artists and performers, will travel to every comer of the nation and participate in as many Bicentennial events as possible.
3. It would be appropriate for the nation's capital to play an important role in helping to set the tone for the national celebration. I have already made known my support for such long-range projects as a new rapid transit system, the Federal City Bicentennial Development Corporation, and an acceleration of urban renewal plans. I am directing Chairman Mahoney to begin a series of meetings with Mayor Washington, the National Capital Planning Commission, Chairman Mark Evans of the National Capital Historic Region Bicentennial Committee, Counsellor to the President Daniel P. Moynihan and Director Shultz to define specific plans and costs for my review and to recommend ways to achieve community participation in the planning and development process.
4. The Commission report asks of Boston "to develop a program to explore and examine the revolutionary roots of America through its great historical resources" and endorses the completion of Miami's permanent Trade and Cultural Center (Interama) "as a part of the Bicentennial observance." These plans, as well as others from cities in other sections of the country, are to be strongly encouraged.
5. The Commission pointed out that improved travel facilities would "contribute greatly to a successful Bicentennial celebration," and expressed particular interest in special urban corridor projects in the Northeast which would not only expedite the flow of visitors from one historical site to another, but would also provide permanent benefits for a significant percentage of the American population. I am instructing Secretary Volpe and Director Shultz to analyze these projects, including costs and timing, and to submit their recommendations to me.
On Finance and Organization
1. I will refrain from making commitments to any particular project recommended by the Commission until timing and cost data are submitted and studied. As policy choices and costs become evident, Chairman Mahoney will resubmit some of these recommendations to the Commission and will inform me of the Commission's preferences.
2. The Commission will have important operational responsibilities: the Bicentennial Calendar, publications, films, the setting of standards and the coordination and monitoring of many projects closely tied to the national celebration. It may be advisable to enlarge the Commission and constitute it as the "Board of Directors" of a corporate structure equipped to deal with operating functions. I am asking Chairman Mahoney to meet with Director Shultz and to recommend to me a plan for future Commission organization and funding.
On the Overall Theme
A "Festival of Freedom" does not, in my opinion, grasp the unique character of the American experience. True, this event will be festive, colorful and affirmative; yet it must also be thoughtful, profound and searching.
There is a phrase in the Declaration of Independence that is based on English political philosopher John Locke's concept of "life, liberty and property" being the inalienable rights of man. Thomas Jefferson's dream for the new nation transcended the material; he saw property rights not as an end in itself, but as one means to human happiness.
For that reason, he substituted the phrase "the pursuit of happiness," and that ideal has constantly reasserted itself-most recently as a renewed concern for "the quality of life."
That thread is woven through the fabric of American life over two centuries. It keeps us from getting smug about our success; it reminds us of the need for the spiritual as we attain more of our material needs; it keeps us moving, growing, changing for the better.
Improving the quality of life is, in a sense, a more compelling concept in this era of advanced technology than it was in the time of Jefferson. I believe that this is the area in which we will find the fundamental theme for our anniversary observance of the continuing revolution that is the United States of America.
The White House
September 11, 1970