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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 17, 1996


Warm greetings to everyone celebrating Presidents' Day, 1996. I am pleased and proud that so many of our citizens gather at this time each year to celebrate our nation's rich history and to pay tribute to the office of the Presidency.

America has been blessed with many great and good leaders over the past two centuries. The Presidents we honor with special pride on this day -- George Washington and Abraham Lincoln -- accepted the burdens of their office at moments of great national challenge and set a shining example for those who were to follow.

As the first President of the United States, Washington played a vital part in defining the role of the Presidency in America's government and national life. With courage and vision, he ensured the steady course of American democracy and, in relinquishing his office at the appointed time, established the peaceful transition of power that has become the envy of other nations around the world.

Abraham Lincoln preserved the Union that Washington helped to create. He guided America through four years of painful and bloody conflict, and at the end of his Presidency, we were still one nation under God, and government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" had not perished from our land.

But Presidents alone cannot ensure America's success or preserve our freedom for future generations. It falls to each and every citizen to take part in the great experiment of American democracy. As we face the unknown challenges and exciting possibilities of a new century, let us renew our resolve to participate actively in the process of government, to stay informed and committed, and to educate our children about the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. In this way we will keep faith with the great men whose service and sacrifice we honor on this day.


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