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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 12, 1998


Warm greetings to all Americans as we observe Presidents' Day, 1998.

On this day we remember with pride the history of the American Presidency and the achievements of the many extraordinary leaders who have guided our nation's course over the past two centuries. Each President in his own time has faced unique challenges in striving to fulfill the purpose of our Constitution "to form a more perfect Union."

For George Washington, that challenge meant sustaining and strengthening the fragile Union he had helped to establish. During the eight years of his Presidency, he carried out the awesome responsibilities of his office with such care and wisdom that he confirmed the trust of his fellow Americans and proved to a watching world that our new republic would survive and flourish.

Abraham Lincoln's great challenge was to preserve the Union. Taking the oath of office after seven states had already seceded, President Lincoln resolved to keep our country united, even at the cost of civil war. With courage and tenacity, he led America through four years of bloody conflict and, in victory, reached out to begin the healing that would bring us together again as one nation. "With malice toward none," he said less than two months before his death, "with charity for all . . . let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds . . . to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace . . . ."

Today we face our own challenge to build a more perfect Union, a Union that must now be forged from one of history's most racially and culturally diverse societies. We can do so by widening the circle of opportunity for all our people: opportunity for a good education, opportunity for good jobs, opportunity to reach our own great potential. If we do so, we will keep faith with these great leaders whose memory we honor today and enter the 21st century with our Union stronger than ever.

Best wishes for a memorable observance.