For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 3, 2002
President Commemorates Lewis and Clark Bicentennial
Remarks by the President at the Bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's "Voyage of Discovery"
The East Room
Lewis and Clark Proclamation
2:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome. Please be seated. You read it just like I wrote it. (Laughter.) Thank you all for coming. It's great to see so many of my fellow Americans here on the eve of Independence Day, the day we celebrate the fantastic freedoms we love in America. And I hope every American goes out tomorrow and gives thanks for the many blessings of our nation.
I want to thank members of my Cabinet who are here. Thank you all for coming -- Gale and Ann. I want to thank members of the Congress -- Senator and Congressman from the great Commonwealth of Virginia are here. I want to thank many members of the administration who are here. I see Fran, who is head of the National Parks. I want to thank the Tribal leaders who have come. I want to thank my fellow Americans. Welcome to the people's house.
And it's a beautiful house, as you can see. I want to thank Laura for serving as the host while I was doing work. I particularly want to thank the Missouri Historical Society for lending this splendid portrait of the man Stephen Ambrose called "the greatest of all American explorers," Captain Meriwether Lewis.
You know, it's amazing -- it's fitting, and amazing, when you think about it, that we're holding this event here in the East Room, because this is where Lewis lived when he was Jefferson's private secretary. Not a bad room. (Laughter.) They tell me, though, that back then the room was damp and depressing. The second First Lady who lived here, Abigail Adams, actually used to hang the washing here. (Laughter.) And I want to thank Laura for getting my underwear out before the event started. (Laughter.)
Nearly 200 years ago, President Jefferson sent an expedition to explore what was then the uncharted West. Jefferson was a curious man, as we've learned, and I bet you he wanted to lead the expedition himself. But he was occupied and so he chose a trusted aide and friend, Meriwether Lewis, to lead what was called the "Voyage of Discovery."
The Lewis and Clark expedition lasted just a couple of years, but it changed the face of our country forever. It opened up the American West for future development. It increased our knowledge of our natural resources. It helped us gain a better understanding of America's native cultures. Most importantly, the Lewis and Clark Expedition will stand forever as a monument to the American spirit, a spirit of optimism and courage and persistence in the face of adversity.
Earlier this week, I signed a proclamation designating 2003 through 2006 as the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration. I urge all Americans to learn more about Lewis and Clark and how the expedition changed our nation, and at the same time, to learn more about our native culture, to learn more about courage and the values that continue to shape our nation today.
American history is filled with remarkable examples of heroism and adventure, and the voyage of Lewis and Clark is one of the most remarkable of them all. And that's why we're here in the White House today. Their expedition became an epic of endurance and discovery, and that epic became an American legend which all Americans should know about, and they should teach their children about it, as well.
The achievement would not have been possible without the tremendous contribution of a remarkable Shoshone Indian woman, Sacagawea, who helped the explorers on their long and perilous journey. And I say remarkable because she had a two-month-old baby when the trip began. And she was just as committed to discovery and success as Lewis and Clark and the other young members of the "Corps of Discovery."
Her courage and her strength reminds us that American Indians have played a central role in our history, and their unique culture must never be lost. Tribal colleges and universities help preserve irreplaceable languages and cultural traditions. At the same time, of course, they offer a high-quality college education to thousands of students, and provide much-needed job training and other means of economic development in Indian country.
I bring that up today because I had the honor of signing an executive order affirming the federal government's commitment to these unique institutions. Many of the board members that I named are here today, and they were in the Oval Office earlier, and I want to thank them for coming. All Americans -- all Americans -- deserve an excellent education, including those who attend Tribal colleges and universities. (Applause.)
I want to thank you all for coming today. I want to thank you for being here to honor the courage of great explorers. I want to thank you for being here to honor the richness of native cultures. And I want to thank you for being here to honor the grand history of the American West.
May God bless you and your families, and may God continue to bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 2:51 P.M. EDT