Public Papers

Proclamation 6392 -- Bicentennial of the District of Columbia Month, 1991


By the President of the United States

of America

A Proclamation

Although it encompasses just 10 square miles, the District of Columbia contains a vast wealth of history and culture -- a legacy that befits our Nation's Capital. This year, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of our remarkable Federal city.

Conceived by the Framers of our Constitution, who provided for the establishment of a special district to serve ``as the Seat of the Government of the United States,'' our Nation's Capital began to take shape in 1791. In January of that year, a site was selected for the city under the direction of President George Washington. The following month Andrew Ellicot and Benjamin Banneker, a successful black farmer who was self-taught in engineering, mathematics, and other fields, began to survey the terrain.

Plans for the actual layout of the city reflected the exuberance, pride, and optimism of our young Republic. When he submitted his design to the Congress in December 1791, Major Pierre L'Enfant included numerous provisions for parks, fountains, and wide, sweeping avenues -- all reflecting a vision as grand and as ambitious as the American experiment itself.

Over the years, a number of our Nation's leaders took great personal interest in the development of the Federal city. Thomas Jefferson offered advice and sketches for its design, and it was has idea to build a large mall extending from the foot of the hill on which our magnificent United States Capitol now stands. Today the Mall in Washington is surrounded by monuments and museums that honor the brilliant thinkers and brave heroes who have defined and defended the American ideals of liberty and self-government. Many of the museums in our Nation's Capital also contain vast collections of American art and folklore, as well as fascinating displays of U.S. achievements in science, industry, and aviation.

As the seat of government of the United States for 200 years, our Nation's Capital has become a center of American culture and a world-renowned symbol of freedom and democracy. Here is where President John Adams and his successors continued the work that President George Washington and the First Congress had begun in New York. Here is where President Abraham Lincoln labored to preserve our Union; and here is where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the historic march that energized the civil rights movement and reminded America of its promise of liberty and justice for all. Much of our Nation's history has marched through Washington, D.C., and today that journey continues as we engage in the day-to-day process of democratic government.

While our Nation's Capital belongs to all Americans, this occasion is a very special one for the residents of the District of Columbia. Many families have lived in the city for generations, and this bicentennial is also a celebration of their roots.

At the end of the Civil War, thousands of African Americans came to Washington, making the city a virtual symbol of emancipation and progress. Their accomplishments, reflected in the growth of institutions such as Howard University, helped pave the way for countless others. Today residents of the District of Columbia continue to make outstanding contributions in education, business, science, and the arts. On this occasion, all Americans join them in celebrating 200 years of history and achievement.

The Congress, by House Joint Resolution 356, has designated December 1991 as ``Bicentennial of the District of Columbia Month'' and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this month.

Now, Therefore, I, George Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 1991 as Bicentennial of the District of Columbia Month. I invite all Americans to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and sixteenth.

George Bush

[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 11:31 a.m., December 16, 1991]

Note: This proclamation was published in the Federal Register on December 17.