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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 17, 1998




On a December morning 95 years ago, over the windswept sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright turned humanity's age-old dream of powered flight into reality. The two brothers, bicycle mechanics by trade and visionaries by nature, had worked painstakingly for years to construct the first power-driven craft that was heavier than air and capable of controlled, sustained flight. After persevering through many trials and discouraging setbacks, they made their fourth trip to Kitty Hawk in 1903 and, on December 17, with Orville at the controls and Wilbur running alongside, their airplane took flight and took us into a new era. The achievement of the Wright brothers was not only a great personal success and a vindication of years of creative effort and methodical experimentation -- it was also a feat of historic significance for the future of humankind.

Almost a century later, the same passion and power of imagination that spurred the Wright brothers are fueling the dreams of a new generation of Americans. From John Glenn's second historic space flight to the construction of the International Space Station, we continue to open new frontiers and expand our horizons. Just as the Wright brothers' inventions and achievements created a new industry and revolutionized transportation, commerce, and communication, today's missions into space hold great promise for the development of new technologies and industries to benefit all humanity and strengthen our hopes for lasting peace and prosperity for nations across the globe.

This November, I was pleased to sign into law the Centennial of Flight Commemoration Act, which establishes a commission to coordinate the celebration in 2003 of the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight. The commission's activities will raise public awareness of the enormous contributions of the Wright brothers to human progress; remind the world of the triumph of American ingenuity, inventiveness, and diligence in developing new technologies; and inspire all Americans to recognize that the daring, creativity, and spirit of adventure reflected in the achievement of the Wright brothers will be crucial to the success of our Nation in the 21st century.

The Congress, by a joint resolution approved December 17, 1963 (77 Stat. 402; 36 U.S.C. 169), has designated December 17 of each year as "Wright Brothers Day" and has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation inviting the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 17, 1998, as Wright Brothers Day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-third.