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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release July 7, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT DEDICATION OF ANDERSON COTTAGE
U.S. SOLDIERS' AND AIRMEN'S HOME
AS A NATIONAL MONUMENT
U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home
12:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. Hello, everyone, and
welcome to what most people call the Old Soldiers' Home, the Soldiers' and
Airmen's Home, on this historic day.
I want to begin by thanking General Hilbert for his leadership
here. And I want to thank Bill Woods for speaking on behalf of all the
residents at the home. He said to me, you know, I stumble a little, I'm
not used to doing this. I thought he did a fine job. (Applause.)
He told you one of the things that I wanted to say, which is that
the people who live in this home open amazing volumes of mail -- at one
point, 9 million pieces since he's been at it. A lot of that mail is mail
that very young children send to Socks and to Buddy. And you may know that
Hillary actually did a book on the best letters that children wrote to the
White House asking questions of our pets. And it would have been
impossible to do that book, and it would be impossible to respond to those
children with the staff we have at the White House if it weren't for the
veteran volunteers here, who do this and so many other things to help the
White House work.
I hope one of the things that will come out of this today is that
the people who have retired after distinguished careers in military service
will finally get some of the credit they deserve for helping the White
House to operate every single day of the year. And we thank them all.
I also think we brought Buddy and Socks out here today to play.
I hope I get them back before the end of the day.
I would like to say a special word of appreciation to Secretary
West for his work with our veterans. And because of what we're doing
today, I want to say again how indebted I feel the country is to Secretary
Babbitt and to those who work with him, especially Bob Stanton, the
Director of the National Park Service. We make another milestone decision
today under the leadership and with the drive of Bruce Babbitt. When all
is said and done, I'm not sure America will ever have had an Interior
Secretary who had done so much good for the natural heritage of America as
Bruce Babbitt. (Applause.)
I want to thank George Frampton, of the White House, who has done
so much to support this effort. I thank the members of the D.C. City
Council who are here today. We're going to try to raise a little more
money to help you with the continued renaissance of our Nation's Capital,
and we thank you for your leadership. (Applause.)
I want to thank Richard Moe, the President of the National Trust
for Historic Preservation, for all that his organization has done to
protect this site and others like it. The Trust is helping to put places
like Anderson Cottage literally back on the map.
And, finally, this is one of the First Lady's White House
millennial projects, which has allowed us to honor our past and imagine the
future. I want to thank Ellen Lovell, who runs that project, and I want to
thank Hillary for the truly astonishing impact this millennial effort has
had in our country. Dick Moe told me on the way up here that we've now
seen $100 million divided almost 50-50 between public and private monies
committed to preserve the great treasures of America, of which this is one.
And I know how passionately Hillary feels about this.
I'll never forget, I was once reading -- a couple years ago I was
reading this biography of Rutherford Hayes. And President Hayes, he was
one of those Union generals from Ohio that got elected President -- Grant,
Hayes, Harrison, McKinley. After the Civil War, if you were a Union
general from Ohio, you had about a 50-percent chance of being elected
President. (Laughter.) There has never been any category of Americans
that had such a high probability of being elected President as Union
generals from Ohio between 1865 -- or 1868 and 1900.
But anyway, I was reading how Hayes brought his family up here
because the Potomac was a swamp and the mosquitos were terrible and the
heat was unbearable, and no one could work in the White House. And I
started talking to Hillary about this, and she kind of nosed around up
here. And we knew about the home because of all the work that the veterans
here do for the White House. And one thing led to another, and this became
one of our millennial treasures.
But I am very grateful to her and to Ellen Lovell, because I
think that the millennial projects around the country -- and I'll say a
little more about this later -- have really given a lasting gift to
America. So I want to thank them. I know Hillary wishes she could be here
Now, I understand I am the first President since Chester Arthur
to actually go up and down the stairs at the Anderson Cottage more than 100
years ago. But the place is very special to America. It has so much of
the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, even though it has almost been forgotten for
more than a century. It's not because the people have forgotten President
Lincoln; last year more than 1 million people visited Ford's Theater alone.
But barely 100 made it here to Anderson Cottage, where Lincoln lived and
worked; where his son played and his wife found solace; where his ideas
took shape and his last, best hopes for America took flight.
In some ways, this cottage behind me is the most important, as
well as the least known, Lincoln site in the entire United States. He
spent a quarter of his presidency at this cottage, he called the Soldiers'
Home. It was, in part, summer days like this one, that drew the Lincolns
here, to higher ground, where the breeze flows more and a visitor can
breathe a little easier. In 1862, Mr. Lincoln's second year as President,
he and Mary packed up and moved the family these few miles north for the
summer. It was quieter here; it was a place to reflect; and for them, at
that time, it was, sadly, also a place to grieve for the lost of their
young son, Willie.
It was a place where the President could sit beneath the canopy
of a beautiful copper beech tree, to go again through the books of poetry
he loved so, or drop the books and follow his son, Tad, up into the cradle
of the tree's great limb. That tree is just behind the cottage here. I
saw it when I arrived and I walked beneath its canopy just as President
Lincoln did almost 140 years ago. It is still very much alive, standing
proudly and, I might add now, because it is three centuries old, it is our
last living link to Abraham Lincoln.
It's hard to believe we're just a few miles from the White House.
On a clear day, it's close enough to signal by semaphore from the Sherman
Building tower; close enough to commute. On my short drive here today, I
thought about how Mr. Lincoln used to come here -- on horseback or by
carriage , up and down the old 7th Street Pike. His days were spent
in wartime Washington; his nights and mornings here. Not a bad commute by
our standards, but it wasn't especially safe, either.
One evening, in August of 1864, the sound of a gunshot sent Mr.
Lincoln, who was riding alone on horseback, scrambling for home. He made
it back here safely, though his $8 plug hat did not -- the bullet passed
through the hat, but thankfully, not through him. His guards found it
along the road -- and they found the bullet hole.
The Soldiers' Home gave the Lincolns refuge in times of trouble,
but not escape. If anything, being here often brought President Lincoln
closer to the front. The Battle of Fort Stevens was waged just two miles
north of here. Lincoln got on his horse and went to witness the fight. On
another ride, he passed an ambulance train, a terrible reminder of the
war's human cost. And in July of 1864, the able Confederate General Jubal
Early got so close to this cottage that Lincoln had to return in haste to
the relative safety of the White House.
The war was never far away from him. In that, I think we see the
real significance of the Soldiers' Home. For Lincoln came to this cottage
not to hide from war, but to confront its deepest meanings, to plumb its
most difficult truths, to find the solace necessary to muster the strength
and resolve to go on. It was here, as many of you know, that President
Lincoln completed a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished
slavery in the seceding states. When he signed it, Lincoln said, "my whole
soul is in it." You can still feel that spirit strongly in the room in
this cottage where he worked.
America knows Monticello, Mount Vernon, Hyde Park. We come to
understand our heroes not only through their words and deeds, but by their
homes, the quiet places they created for themselves and their families.
But not enough Americans know about Anderson Cottage and the truly historic
role it has played in our nation's history. We should, and now we shall.
There is fragile, vital history in this house. Today we come to reclaim
it, to preserve it, and to make it live again -- not simply to honor those
who came before, and not only for ourselves, but for generations yet to
come who need to know how those who lived here lived and made the decisions
they made, at a profoundly fateful time for our nation.
Our compact with the past must always be part of our commitment
to the future. So today I am proud to designate President Lincoln's summer
home, the Soldiers' Home, as a national monument. (Applause.)
I am using the power vested in me under the Antiquities Act,
because conservation applies not only to places of great natural splendor,
but to places of great national import. This cottage in its way is just as
precious as a giant Sequoia, as irreplaceable as the ruins of cultures long
past. And it is our profound obligation to preserve and protect if for
I am also announcing as part of our partnership with the private
sector to save America's treasures, an award of $1.1 million to Anderson
College. (Applause.) Now, we need a lot more, but this is a good start --
one of 47 grants we're awarding today, $15 million overall, to fund
preservation efforts across America.
As I said, Hillary inspired this whole millennial "Save America's
Treasures" project. We both look forward to the important work ahead, to
continuing it for the next six months, and in the years ahead when we
return to private life. This new round of awards will reach from Valley
Forge, Pennsylvania, to Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas; from
Ellis Island in New Jersey, to the USS Missouri anchored off Hawaii.
The Missouri, as some of you may recall, is where the Japanese
formally surrendered, bringing an end to the second world war. We have a
gentleman here today who served on that battleship and witnessed that
ceremony. Tony Antos, if you're here, I wish you'd stand up so we could
give you a hand. Where are you? Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
The Save America's Treasures" movement has already saved the
Star-Spangled Banner, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
and, now, Anderson Cottage. The new steps I announced today, along with
the new funds, will help to ensure that the Soldiers' Home is restored to
the way it looked when the Lincolns lived here. Then, at long last, school
children and scholars alike can tap this precious national resource. And
we will all better understand the life, times and legacy of Abraham
Earlier, I said Mr. Lincoln sat beneath the copper beech tree and
read books of poetry, the works of Burns, Holmes, Whittier. His favorite
poem was called, "Mortality," by William Knox. He knew every line, every
word, by heart. He said it so often, people started to believe he had
written it. In a few moments, when I sign the proclamation establishing
this as a national monument, you might think of this stanza as a brief
meditation, which meant so much to President Lincoln, and you might think
of it any time we act to preserve our history and our heritage for our
"For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, we view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run."
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:15 P.M. EDT
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