Richard Nixon photo

Radio Address About the American Revolution Bicentennial.

March 10, 1974

Good afternoon:

Just 12 months from now, in March of 1975, the United States will officially begin to celebrate the 200th anniversary of our birth as a nation. As we prepare for this occasion, I want to talk with you today about some of our plans for the Bicentennial era and what it can mean for every American.

The Bicentennial offers us a unique opportunity--a time to take a long look backward, but more importantly, a time to look forward, a chance to rekindle the spirit that in 200 years built 13 small dependent colonies into the strongest nation in the world.

That will be the purpose of our Bicentennial celebration--a rededication to American values, as well as a reaffirmation of our strength and potential as a free people working together to achieve great goals, not only for ourselves but for all people in the world.

Our Bicentennial will be very different from the Centennial celebration held in Philadelphia 100 years ago. In 1876, the great attractions were Alexander Graham Bell's remarkable invention, the telephone, and the massive 40-foot high Corliss steam engine which powered the fair's machinery and brightened its grounds with electric lights, although the children attending that celebration probably thought the best invention was a brand new drink called root beer.

In 1976, there will be no single city in which we celebrate our 200th anniversary and no single exhibition of our progress. No one city would be big enough. All America will be the showcase. The Bicentennial will be in each of our 50 States and territories so that all Americans can participate in it, because this is a celebration that belongs to all Americans.

To ensure the success of the Bicentennial, strong and vigorous leadership is needed. To provide that leadership, I will tomorrow nominate Mr. John Warner to serve as Administrator of the Bicentennial Administration. Mr. Warner has given distinguished service to the Nation for the past 2 years as Secretary of the Navy, and I know he will bring those same skills and energies to the Bicentennial Administration.

As his first order of business, I have directed Mr. Warner to prepare for me a summary and projection of all Bicentennial planning in the public and private sectors and to present them at an early meeting of the full Cabinet.

Because the Bicentennial belongs to the entire Nation, it must be a completely nonpartisan effort. In the appointments I shall be making to the Bicentennial Advisory Council and the Board of Directors, I shall insist on this principle, and I know that everyone involved will share this nonpartisan spirit.

Mr. Warner and his staff will call upon groups and communities all over America to prepare a truly national celebration. The Federal Government will help in this effort, but above all, it will be a citizen celebration. It will be successful because the people, not the Government, will make it successful, just as America's unprecedented progress over the past 200 years has been due primarily to what people have done rather than what government has done.

The Bicentennial is not going to be invented in Washington, printed in triplicate by the Government Printing Office, mailed to you by the U.S. Postal Service, and filed away in your public library.

Instead, we shall seek to trigger a chain reaction of tens of thousands of individual celebrations--large and small--planned and carried out by citizens in every part of America. We have already made substantial progress toward that goal.

Hundreds of cities, towns, counties, and other organizations have joined the Bicentennial Communities program since it was inaugurated last summer. Thousands more have been invited, based upon their plans and projects. As of today, 485 communities have drawn up plans for participation and have been designated as Bicentennial Communities. Each of these plans includes a project to improve the life of the community in fields like art, recreation, education, and housing, not just in 1976 but for years to come.

Naturally, the urban centers that played a major role during America's early history will play a major role in the Bicentennial.

Philadelphia, which housed the Continental Congress that drew up the Declaration of Independence, has over 300 different Bicentennial projects underway, many of them located near Independence Hall.

New York City, among other projects, plans to redevelop the South Street Seaport, one of the Nation's oldest ports, and to restore several historic ships. Tentative plans have also been made for the city, in July of 1976, to play host to "Operation Sail '76," a fleet of tall, full-rigged sailing vessels arriving from around the world to honor the United States on our 200th anniversary.

Boston is restoring such historic structures as Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, and the Old State House.

Washington, D.C., is preparing for an estimated 45 million foreign and domestic visitors with projects such as the new National Visitor Center, the Eisenhower Civic Center, Constitution Gardens, and the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian. Bicentennial plans in the Nation's Capital also include many programs that will directly benefit local citizens and increase their appreciation for America's rich and diverse heritage and enrich their daily lives--programs such as a neighborhood preservation housing project and cultural and folk art activities.

The success of the Bicentennial will be measured by the number of people who participate in it. The more people who participate, the better it will be. Citizens of Charleston, South Carolina, are setting an especially good example in this respect. In this old southern port, which served as an important military base during the Revolution, one out of every 12 citizens is already participating in Bicentennial projects and events, including the construction of a naval museum, development of a Bicentennial park, and extensive restoration of many of the city's buildings dating back to colonial days.

But a city doesn't have to be over 200 years old to participate. The American adventure that began in 1776 has kept on going ever since. It is the only successful continuous revolution in the history of the world, and every generation of America, from its Founding Fathers down to the present day, has played a part.

Take the case of Denver, Colorado. Colorado will be celebrating its own 100th anniversary in 1976 and is coordinating its local celebration with the Nation's 200th birthday. Among the goals the people of Denver have set for themselves are the completion of a new performing arts center and a new sports arena.

In my native State of California, another aspect of the American life will be explored. Individual programs will depict the Spanish-American, Black, Chinese, and Japanese contributions to California life--each an important part of the great American experience.

One of the finest examples of community action comes from the little town of Clarendon, Texas, where the townspeople are building a community amphitheater with bricks made by the local schoolchildren. Each brick will be signed by the child who made it and will be a part of the overall structure.

To me and, I am sure, to millions of other Americans, that amphitheater will represent, in miniature, the spirit that built America.

Our Bicentennial observance could not possibly realize its full potential or meet our high expectations without the support of the free enterprise system which has made our country what it is today-the best and strongest nation in history. Interest among private groups and organizations is developing, and we welcome their involvement.

The American Express Company, for example, has donated funds for a face-lifting of the Statue of Liberty. That historic symbol of hope in New York Harbor will get a thorough cleanup and reglazing. The company has also produced a documentary film highlighting the great contributions made to our country by the many ethnic groups who crossed the seas to find a new home in America.

Civic, youth, and religious groups, such as the Boy and Girl Scouts and the Jaycees, are also mounting voluntary Bicentennial programs.

Invitations have also been extended to 130 foreign nations, and within the next few months, many of them are expected to announce plans for exhibits and other projects in communities across the country.

There are many other projects now underway as we approach the Bicentennial-from the little town of Dorset, Vermont, where a population of 300 is planning seven different programs, to the great cities like Detroit, where an ethnic festival is on the drawing boards. Each group, each community is free to set and achieve its own goals, ranging from the most serious and enduring to the most lighthearted and temporary. Given the backing of the people, these projects will succeed, and they will make our 200th birthday as a nation the most moving, most representative, and most enjoyable celebration in American history.

The Bicentennial is an almost unparalleled opportunity to enlist the talents of America--poets and planners, scholars and steelworkers, performers and participants--in a vast array of events and activities that express and strengthen America's sense of herself as a creative and great national community.

One of our greatest Presidents was also a keen historian. Long before he became actively involved in politics, Woodrow Wilson had thoroughly studied and had taught American history, and he had built a deep understanding of our origins as a free people.

"The American Revolution," he wrote, "was a beginning, not a consummation." That is exactly the way we should feel about the Bicentennial. In looking back with pride and, perhaps, a little nostalgia on our first 200 years as a nation, we must not lose sight of the future.

The Founding Fathers realized this. They gave us a set of principles and a body of laws that were designed to last--to grow and adjust with time, but to remain forever true to the basic values of freedom and individual dignity.

In celebrating our Bicentennial it is essential that we, too, look ahead. We must use the opportunity the Bicentennial offers us to develop new institutions and new ideas to help determine America's course in the coming century.

We face great challenges, but in our laws, in our ideals, and in the character of the American people, we hold the keys to all the problems that confront us.

Like the Founding Fathers, we are bound to experience many problems along the way. But like them, we will have our share of disagreements and disappointments. That is the price that every free society must pay, and history shows us that it is a price worth paying for freedom.

But if we work together as men and women of good will--as Americans always have in difficult times--the best that is in all of us and in the American system will prevail.

We can build a future in which 100 years from now another generation of Americans celebrating another anniversary can look back with pride on a time when our generation insured for them a world at peace, a nation healthy and free, and a national heritage which will be a sound foundation for even greater progress in the future.

Thank you and good afternoon.

Note: The President spoke at 1:07 p.m. from Key Biscayne, Fla. The address was broadcast live on nationwide radio.

Following the address, the President met with John W. Warner, Administrator-designate of the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration.

On the same day, the White House released at Key Biscayne an advance text of the President's address and a fact sheet on the American Revolution Bicentennial. An announcement containing biographical data on Mr. Warner was also released and is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 10, p. 313).

Richard Nixon, Radio Address About the American Revolution Bicentennial. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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