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Remarks at the Ceremony Commemorating the 175th Anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in Baltimore, Maryland

September 07, 1989

What a lovely day! And thank you, Congresswoman Bentley -- my friend, Helen Bentley -- for, one, inviting me here, and for joining in the invitation for me to be here. I have a very high regard for Maryland's great Helen Bentley. I'm very pleased that you have Tom Clancy, the esteemed author, my friend, involved in this project. What a marvelous contribution he's made to our literary world and, I also would like to think, to the national security interests of the United States by his writings.

Superintendent Tyler, I'm pleased to be with you, sir, having heard of your tender loving care for this and other of our great monuments. I'm pleased that Congressman Montgomery, a great leader in the veterans movement, was with me at the Legion and here with us today -- Mississippi's son.

I'm proud to share this platform with Mayor Schmoke. And of course, I have a few differences with your Governor. [Laughter] We went to the ball game when the Rangers were in town, and I understand that the Orioles are playing the Rangers tonight. And I hope you'll excuse me if, for the first time, I visibly differ with Don on this one. I want my kid, who runs the Rangers, to keep his job. [Laughter] So, you'll have to forgive me, Governor, for this one evening. But as for Don Schaefer, we may be in opposite parties, but I am grateful to him for his leadership in this State, and I am grateful to him for his standing up with us as we formulate it and now are trying to advocate a national strategy to combat narcotics in this country. Your Governor is out front, and I am very, very grateful to him.

And what a lovely day to visit one of America's most hallowed shrines. I'm grateful to all of you for the warmth of the reception. One hundred and seventy-five years ago, three events -- the Battle of North Point, the Battle of Baltimore, and "The Star-Spangled Banner" -- wrote one of the greatest chapters in the American experience. And even now, they teach us, and they inspire us, and they remind us of what Francis Scott Key saw "by the dawn's early light." He saw this flag, the American flag, a flag that honored sacrifice and heroism and embodied all that matters to the human spirit -- a flag that Americans have cherished from Bunker Hill to Khe Sanh, fighting on the front lines and on the homefront so that freedom could prevail.

Think of it -- that night's historic Battle of Baltimore. Remember the birth of the national anthem. Marvel at how 1,000 citizen soldiers defended Fort McHenry against the mighty enemy. And today we remember those volunteers, for, because of them, Baltimore stopped the British invasion and preserved our independence. And today also, we praise their successors, volunteers like you.

I think of the Fort McHenry Guard or visitors who donate to help to preserve this site or the patriots of Fort McHenry and members of the 175th Anniversary Commission -- volunteers helping to restore the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, volunteers who show how community service is timeless, like the American ideal. As an old Navy person, I salute your mission; for you're ensuring, as Francis Key said, that our flag will yet wave. And as an American, I ask you: Help salute that flag by supporting a constitutional amendment making it illegal to desecrate that unique symbol of our liberty.

Key wrote his "Ode to the Courage of American Patriots and the Liberty They Fought to Protect." All Americans believe in liberty, for the evidence of its power lights the world. The volunteers of 1814 showed that, and the volunteers of 1989 -- it's an enormous force across our country -- prove it anew.

I want to thank them and you for this wonderful occasion. I came by to say thanks, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. And let's together ensure the true destiny of America, that "what so proudly we hail" will always bless "the twilight's last gleaming." Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:50 a.m. at Fort McHenry. In his remarks, he referred to John W. Tyler, Superintendent, Fort McHenry National Monument; Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke; and Gov. William D. Schaefer. Following his remarks, he returned to Washington, DC.

George Bush, Remarks at the Ceremony Commemorating the 175th Anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in Baltimore, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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