The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Gerald R. Ford
Remarks at American Freedom Train Ceremonies in Alexandria, Virginia.
December 19, 1974

Thank you very, very much, John Warner, Don Kendall:

Let me say at the outset I am most grateful for the participation by the Jefferson High School Band and the T. C. Williams High School Band, and I thank very deeply those who have participated and made it possible for this Freedom Train to undertake its journey throughout the United States.

Obviously I am tremendously pleased to participate in the official ceremony recognizing the American Freedom Train as a major Bicentennial effort.

When this train begins its 17,000-mile journey through 48 of our 50 States this spring, the Freedom Train will serve as one of the focal points for our Bicentennial commemoration. It will visit 76 cities and give Americans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view some of the most historic national documents-documents which relate directly to our history for the last 200 years.

I strongly urge parents and teachers to make sure that your children and students take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. The cargo on this train represents much of our Nation's past history and our hopes for the future.

This exhibit touches virtually every phase of the American experience. The train will carry, for example, George Washington's personal copy of the Constitution. It will contain the handwritten draft of President Kennedy's inaugural address. There will be Moon rock samples, the first Bible printed in America, Paul Revere's saddlebags, as well as exhibits representing the Nation's culture, technological progress, professions and trades, sports, and the arts.

During the next year and a half, 40 to 50 million Americans are expected to view these exhibits as we near our 200th birthday as a nation.

I sincerely hope that every American, as he or she contemplates these historical reminders, will reflect on how far we have come in the short span of 200 years. And as we take a long look back, let us also take a long look forward. If we do, we will be able to see the problems facing us today in a much clearer perspective.

Our problems are serious ones--especially our energy problems and those of our economy. But think of the problems our forefathers had. Think of those 13 tiny colonies taking on the mightiest nation, the mightiest empire in the world. And think of them winning their liberty as well as ours.

Very few people back in 1776 would have thought that in just 200 years, those 13 colonies would provide the jumping off spot from which, eventually, 50 united States would span a vast continent and beyond, tame a mighty wilderness, construct a technological society of enormous scientific complexity, and then set out to explore space itself. But as we look back over this span of time and see what we have today, that is exactly what took place and transpired.

As we reflect on these historic accomplishments, let us also look ahead to the future that we are building. Let us reaffirm our faith in the American spirit.

As one of the great nations of the world--spiritually, militarily, diplomatically, and economically--we in America have the best of many worlds. We have nearly all of the resources which we desperately need. We have the technological resources. We have the human resources. Now, what we need in this period of--a critical time, we must have the will to resolve those problems, the will to win and the will we will win with in the months ahead.

By the year 2000, I see a people living in a community of peace with other nations, with a standard of living still the highest in the world, with disease greatly conquered, with individual liberties secure for everyone, with wide opportunities for good education and good housing, and with our national will and spirit still climbing as we move toward celebration of our tricentennial.

I see the Bicentennial of 1976 as a rebirth as well as a birthday--a rediscovery of our strength and of our potential. It will strengthen our resolve to fulfill the promises of our forefathers. It will fortify our determination to continue to build a freer, more just, and more humane society.
This American Freedom Train will be a fitting symbol for what the Bicentennial really represents. Since the day the golden spike was driven, the railroad has symbolized our unity as a nation.

On behalf of all Americans, I thank the American Freedom Train Foundation and the corporations that have provided grants for this Freedom Train. I know that your contributions will inspire others to participate in the Bicentennial. I would like to say a very special word, a special word of thank you to the people of Portland, Oregon, who provided the "iron horse" that will actually pull this Freedom Train.

I look forward to the Freedom Train to provide a unifying symbol of the heritage that made America's great past a great one and will make its future an even greater one.

Now if I might, I would like to pick up this and present it to the Freedom Train for display, which is a document of tremendous historical significance, symbolic of what America really stands for--freedom.

Citation: Gerald R. Ford: "Remarks at American Freedom Train Ceremonies in Alexandria, Virginia.", December 19, 1974. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
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