This Fourth of July holiday is an appropriate time for every American to reflect on the deeper meaning of the momentous events at Philadelphia 196 years ago today.
John Adams, later to be our second President, summed up that meaning in a letter to his wife on the night of July 3, 1776. The Continental Congress, to which Adams was a delegate, was to complete its work on the Declaration of Independence the following day. About that event he wrote:
"I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration .... Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction .... "
You and I, and all of the 209 million Americans living today, are the posterity of which he spoke, and we have triumphed, in ways the Founding Fathers scarcely dreamed of.
Over the past two centuries our revolutionary heritage of self-government has helped to make the United States the freest and strongest nation history has ever seen. It has enabled us to bear with unfailing honor the responsibility of world leadership in the cause of peace.
As we look back to America's beginnings, therefore, we are surely entitled to a feeling of pride and gratitude. At the same time, as we look forward to America's Bicentennial, just 4 years from today, we also have a feeling of healthy impatience for change--a determination to make dais good land even better.
It is in this traditionally American spirit of pride in our past and present, and purpose for our future, that I would like to talk today about some of our preparations for the year 1976.
In 1966, 10 years ago, the Congress established an American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. I have worked closely with this Commission and its Chairman, David Mahoney. At our urging, its membership has recently been expanded to make it more broadly representative of all the American people.
The Commission's excellent plans call for truly national participation in our Bicentennial observance. Thousands of communities in all 50 States will contribute to a celebration as wide as America's land and as richly diverse as its people, within a framework of three interrelated programs.
One is called Heritage '76. This will focus on the unfolding panorama of our Nation's history over the course of two centuries.
Another is called Horizons '76. This will involve looking ahead into our third century, selecting goals to help make America the "more perfect Union" we all want it to become, and working together to achieve those goals.
The third major program, the one I especially want to talk about this morning, will be known as Festival USA. Its concern will be travel, discovery, and hospitality--hospitality by Americans to Americans, and hospitality by Americans to millions upon millions of visitors from nearly every other country of the globe.
In the near future, I will be sending, in the name of all the people of the United States, formal and official invitations to the governments of nations around the globe, extending a welcome to the people of those nations to visit the United States, as laws and circumstances permit, during the Bicentennial Era--and especially during the year 1976.
This unprecedented invitation to the world is particularly appropriate for two reasons:
First, because America is and always has been a nation of nations. Patriots from France and Prussia and Poland helped us win our Revolution. Strong men and women of every color and creed from every continent helped to build our farms, our industry, our cities.
The blood of all peoples runs in our veins, the cultures of all peoples contribute to our culture, and, to a certain extent, the hopes of all peoples are bound up with our own hopes for the continuing success of the American experiment.
Our Bicentennial Era is a time for America to say to the nations of the world: "You helped to make us what we are. Come and see what wonders your countrymen have worked in this new country of ours. Come and let us say thank you. Come and join in our celebration of a proud past. Come and share our dreams of a brighter future."
A second compelling reason for this invitation to the world relates to our hopes for a genuine and lasting peace among nations.
Of course, we are all aware that a real structure of peace cannot be built on good will alone. Its foundation must be the resolution of those basic national differences which can lead to war.
The United States is doing everything in its power to lay down that kind of foundation for peace. It is in this cause that I have traveled to Peking and Moscow, worked for a just peace in Vietnam, acted to check the nuclear arms race, moved to revitalize our alliances.
As we succeed in reducing the danger of war, however, we must also work at enhancing the quality of peace. One of the best ways of doing this is through people-to-people contacts--contacts aimed at reducing the fear and the ignorance which have divided mankind down through the ages, and at fostering habits of trust and patterns of cooperation. That was one of the major purposes of the visits Mrs. Nixon and I made to the People's Republic of China and to the Soviet Union.
Some of you have heard the story which Woodrow Wilson liked to tell about the English writer Charles Lamb. "I hate that fellow," Lamb said of another one day; to which a friend replied, "I didn't think you knew him." Then Lamb admitted, "Oh, I don't--I can't hate a man I know."
The point is that nations, like individuals, stand a better chance of working constructively together if people on both sides can learn to respect one another as fellow human beings. Our invitation to the world can contribute significantly to that crucial process.
As we move toward 1976, the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission will follow up on this invitation with a vigorous action program. I urge every American to join in support of that program. Here are some ways we can all help:
Business and industry can expand their present efforts to bring the costs of travel, lodging, and meals within the reach of millions of additional visitors.
Air carriers and shipping lines can continue exploring new ways of offering inexpensive transportation to and from this country.
Corporations with interests abroad, private organizations with foreign ties can encourage the participation of their foreign colleagues in the Bicentennial.
Cities which have sister communities in other countries can intensify contacts with them.
Families which have relatives abroad or which speak a second language, or any family that wishes to do so, can make special hospitality plans for foreign visitors.
And volunteers young and old can serve as guides, as interpreters, as hosts and hostesses, to help greet a flood of Bicentennial guests which may be double the nearly 14 million people who visited the United States last year.
State and local governments, the Congress, and the Federal executive branch can assist the national and State bicentennial commissions in every way possible.
In issuing this invitation to the world, the American people will also be issuing a challenge to themselves.
This is the time to open our hearts and our homes and our communities to those who come to America for the first time. This is the time not only for reaching outward, but for reaching inward, for discovering and appreciating parts of our own land and people and heritage which we may not have known before.
This is the time to put our best foot forward in every aspect of our national life--to prove what America is and can be.
My deepest hope for the Bicentennial Era is this: that all America and all the world can earn the name which Mrs. Nixon and I have chosen for our house here at San Clemente--"La Casa Pacifica," the House of Peace--and that the American people can open their arms to the people of the world with the traditional Latin welcome, "Estan ustedes en su casa," you are in your own house. Let America be known throughout the world as the "Land of the Open Door."
Reaching out in this way, we can prove once again that the Spirit of '76 is a spirit of openness, of brotherhood, and of peace.
We can share with all mankind the eternal message of the Fourth of July-the message of liberty, of opportunity, and of human dignity.
I hope that each one of you will join me in extending, and in wholeheartedly supporting, America's Bicentennial invitation to the world.