|I am very happy to take
part in this unveiling of the statue of General Robert E. Lee.
All over the United States we recognize him as a great leader of men, as a great general. But, also, all over the United States I believe that we recognize him as something much more important than that. We recognize Robert E. Lee as one of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen.
Secretary Weeks, My friends:
There was a man in Louisiana condemned to be hanged, and under the state law he was allowed five minutes to give whatever last words he might choose to speak on that occasion. Well, he thought a moment and he said, "Well, I haven't got anything to say--get on with it." A man in the audience rose and said, "If he doesn't want those five minutes, Mr. Sheriff, let me have them because I am running for Congress."
Now when your President asked me to step up in front of this microphone, she really didn't know the risks, I think, that she was running.
No one could visit this wonderful place without his mind ruminating some about its history, about the accomplishments of this great family, and thinking about where we are now with respect to where this country was in 1725.
I was thinking, just a moment ago, of the golden age of Athens and the time of Pericles. The time between 435 B.C. and the second Punic War was a little bit over 200 years. Now, in the long perspective of history, two hundred years is nothing, because we think, almost, of Hannibal and Pericles as contemporaries.
But as we stand here and look back to Thomas Lee, it is a very different thing. It is particularly different because as we walked around this place today, we saw the room in this house where the clothing was made for the people on the plantation. Within the hour I walked through the mill where was ground not only the flour and the meal for the people of this plantation, but for others that needed it. Incidentally, I hear you can buy it--that's the commercial part of it.
With those accomplishments as examples, this was practically a
self-contained economic unit. While it is true they sent tobacco to
England and took back some treasures of art and other items of luxury,
as far as the running of the economy of the region, it was really done
by self-contained economic units.
There is not a person in this audience, there is not a person in the United States that is not affected every single day by what happens in Africa, in far Asia, in Europe and all of South America. We are no longer independent economic units.
We depend on others for billions of dollars' worth of our raw materials; of our manufactured goods we send abroad ten and a half billion dollars and we buy from others two and a half billion dollars of the same. Our total commerce is twenty billion dollars, and four and a half million workers in our country are engaged in building the things that we sell abroad.
This is the difference. This is the difference between the ox cart and the jet plane. This is the difference between signal flags of 250 years ago and the radar and the television of today.
So we have to think not only of Stratford; we think not only of Virginia under the United States, we think of the world in which we live. And as I walked around this place today, I just wondered what Thomas Lee and his great sons and his later descendant, General Lee, would think if they could have been here today.
I will tell you one thing: because of their accomplishments we know they were thinkers, they were men of vision, they were men of courage, and consequently they would not have shrunk from the duties that are laid upon each one of us, if we are going to make America what they envisioned for America.
I believe there is no single individual in the United States that can escape his duty to think for himself and to think of the relationship between him or her, and with the last individual in China, in Madagascar or at the North Pole or at the South Pole. Those relationships become more meaningful to all of us, and each of us must do his duty with respect to them.
Now, my friends, the Secretary of Commerce just closed his remarks with a quotation, and I will tell you one, from Lee. I think it is one of the noblest expressions I ever heard or ever read uttered by any other man of the English-speaking race. He was talking about the dedication and the obligation of each of us to his country.
He said, "We cannot do more than our duty. We would not wish to do
|Governor Godwin, Senator
Byrd, Congressman Butler, Congressman Harris, Congressman Satterfield,
Congressman Downing, and Congressman Daniel, distinguished guests,
ladies and gentlemen:
I am very pleased to sign Senate Joint Resolution 23, restoring posthumously the long overdue, full rights of citizenship to General Robert E. Lee. This legislation corrects a 110-year oversight of American history. It is significant that it is signed at this place.
Lee's dedication to his native State of Virginia chartered his course for the bitter Civil War years, causing him to reluctantly resign from a distinguished career in the United States Army and to serve as General of the Army of Northern Virginia. He, thus, forfeited his rights to U.S. citizenship.
Once the war was over, he firmly felt the wounds of the North and South must be bound up. He sought to show by example that the citizens of the South must dedicate their efforts to rebuilding that region 'of the country as a strong and vital part of the American Union.
In 1865, Robert E. Lee wrote to a former Confederate soldier concerning his signing the Oath of Allegiance, and I quote: "This war, being at an end, the Southern States having laid down their arms, and the questions at issue between them and the Northern States having been decided, I believe it to be the duty of everyone to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony."
This resolution passed by the Congress responds to the formal application of General Lee to President Andrew Johnson on June 13, 1865, for the restoration of his full rights of citizenship. Although this petition was endorsed by General Grant and forwarded to the President through the Secretary of War, an Oath of Allegiance was not attached because notice of this additional requirement had not reached Lee in time.
Later, after his inauguration as President of Washington College on October 2, 1865, Lee executed a notarized Oath of Allegiance. Again his application was not acted upon because the Oath of Allegiance was apparently lost. It was finally discovered in the National Archives in 1970.
As a soldier, General Lee left his mark on military strategy. As a man, he stood as the symbol of valor and of duty. As an educator, he appealed to reason and learning to achieve understanding and to build a stronger nation. The course he chose after the war became a symbol to all those who had marched with him in the bitter years towards Appomattox.
General Lee's character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.
In approving this Joint Resolution, the Congress removed the legal obstacle to citizenship which resulted from General Lee's Civil War service. Although more than a century late, I am delighted to sign this resolution and to complete the full restoration of General Lee's citizenship.
.....a great leader, Robert E. Lee. Robert E. Lee was a man who understood the values of a region which he represented. He was never filled with hatred. He never felt a sense of superiority. He led the southern cause with pride, yes, but with a sense of reluctance as well. He fought his battles courageously. And he said on one occasion that the word that was the most sublime in the English language was "duty"óduty to our country, duty to our region, duty to our neighbors, duty to the high standards spoken to us by God.
|I began by speaking today
about the Texas legend. Its hold even today on the American people is
easy to understand. Not far from here, 187 men gave a display of
personal valor and commitment to ideals the world will never forget. And
sometimes it's forgotten that only a few miles from here, a young
colonel named Robert E. Lee held his first real command.
"Who are you, my boys?", he once shouted to some regiments arriving just in time to fill a gap and prevent disaster at the Battle of the Wilderness. "Texas boys," came back the reply. And Lee shouted, "Hurrah for Texas!" And he waved his hat and tried to lead them into battle. And it was then that they grabbed the bridle and the stirrups of his mount, and the cry went up, "Loe to the rear!" And they refused to budge until he removed himself from danger, and then they turned and fought and saved the day.
Robert E. Lee, this southerner who criticized secession and called slavery a great moral wrong, would become himself an American legend; yet a man who thought-though he rode off into myth and glory, would suffer cruelly in his own time. After the dissolution of his cause, he would work to bind up the Nation's wounds. And to those pessimistic about the Nation's future, he once said, "The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long and that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history," he said, "that teaches us to hope."