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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Proposing the Establishment of an American Revolution Bicentennial Commission

March 10, 1966

Dear Mr. President: (Dear Mr. Speaker:)

I have the honor to transmit, for the consideration of Congress, a joint resolution establishing an American Revolution Bicentennial Commission.

Nothing in our proud heritage surpasses the significance of that great struggle for freedom nearly two hundred years ago. The Colonies at that time contained hardly more than three million people. Yet they also contained the greatest group of leaders ever assembled on the stage of history: men like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Paine, Franklin, and Mason. These were men of vision. They were men of courage. They were men of ideas.

These great leaders, warmed by the love of liberty, gave to their fellow-Americans a driving force which inspired them to move from a colony of limited horizons to a powerful and mighty nation of free men and abundant opportunity.

The blood of men of many colors, many faiths, and many origins was spilled on the battlefield of this cause. Their names were American names: Attucks, Salvadore, L'Enfant, De Kalb, de Medici, Salomon.

But the American Revolution was more than a war. It was a political event. It was a social upheaval.

Above all, the American Revolution was a belief in the supreme worth and dignity of the individual--the idea that all men were created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That idea was developing in the Thirteen Colonies long before the first guns sounded at Lexington and Concord. From 1766--and even before--a series of events showed, as John Adams declared, that "the Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people."

It is fitting to plan now for the twohundredth anniversary of these events. In the rich diversity that is America, each community will celebrate in its own way and will draw its own inspiration from the Revolution. But the Federal Government must be prepared to share its knowledge and resources with states, local communities, historical societies, and others across the Nation. The Bicentennial Celebration should be a truly national effort.

I propose that we establish an American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, composed of members of Congress and the Executive Branch and distinguished and outstanding Americans appointed by the President.

This Commission will:

--Provide a creative and helping hand to State, local, and private groups in their


--Increase our knowledge and appreciation of the American Revolution through our schools and universities and our historians and scholars;

--Plan for celebrations at the national level;

--Recall to America and to the world the

majestic significance of the Revolution. In planning this Bicentennial Celebration, we must remember that we are celebrating not only the birth of American ideals, but the birth of ideals that today encircle the globe.

Ours was a true revolution of liberty. It was not a revolution of tyranny. It was not a revolution of aggression. It was a revolution for the greatest cause in the affairs of man--freedom and human dignity.

The impact of the American Revolution on the rest of the world was electric. This small, struggling nation became the rallying point for friends of freedom throughout Western civilization.

To these shores came great men like Lafayette, Von Steuben, Kosciuszko, and Pulaski. It was Pulaski himself who said, "Wherever on the globe men are fighting for liberty, it is as if it were our own affair."

Those words have special significance for our own generation. Today, the Vietnamese people are fighting for their freedom in South Vietnam. We are carrying forward our great heritage by helping to sustain their efforts.

From 1776 on, wherever human beings have dreamed of a better society, wherever they have determined to bring reality to their dreams, they have been moved by the eloquence of the Declaration of Independence. They have found guidance and sustenance in the actions of the men who saw our nation through the crisis of its birth.

I send this recommendation to the Congress with special pleasure. The Bicentennial Commission will help us commemorate the American Revolution with all the dignity and spirit it deserves.

For we must never forget Thomas Jefferson's proud and confident declaration of the meaning of the American Revolution in the whole long sweep of human history:

"I shall not die without a hope that light and liberty are on steady advance .... The flames kindled on the 4th of July 1776. have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism. On the contrary they will consume those engines, and all who work them."



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Hubert H. Humphrey, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

For the President's statement announcing the signing of a resolution establishing the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, see Item 323.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Proposing the Establishment of an American Revolution Bicentennial Commission Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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