Remarks by the President at Signing of a Presidential Proclamation Establishing the Fort Monroe National Monument
NOVEMBER 1, 2011
2:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, one of the great pleasures of this job, but also one of my responsibilities, is making sure that we are preserving our nation’s treasures so that they can be enjoyed by our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren. And over the years, over 100 sites have been set aside as national monuments -- everything from the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon.
So today, I am continuing that proud tradition by adding another monument to the list: Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, has played a remarkable role in the history of our nation. It was the site of the first slave ships to land in the New World. But then in the Civil War, almost 250 years later, Fort Monroe also became a refuge for slaves that were escaping from the South, and helped to create the environment in which Abraham Lincoln was able to sign that document up there -- the Emancipation Proclamation.
In September, Fort Monroe closed its doors as a military base. But thanks to advocacy of some outstanding citizens and historians and elected officials who are represented here, as well as the great work of our Department of the Interior and Ken Salazar and the -- all the people who have been involved in making this day possible, we are going to continue this legacy, making Fort Monroe a national monument.
This is going to give an opportunity for people from all across the country to travel to Fort Monroe and trace the history that has been so important to making America what it is. It’s also going to be an incredibly important economic boost to the region. Local officials estimate that this may end up creating as many as 3,000 jobs in the region. It will add millions of dollars to the local economy in and around Hampton. And so this is a win-win. Not only is it good for the people of that region now, but it also allows us to set aside this incredibly important site for the enjoyment and appreciation of generations to come.
So I want to thank everybody who’s here for the great work that they’ve done. I am looking forward to not only visiting myself but also taking Malia and Sasha down there so they can get a little bit of sense of their history. And I thank the Commonwealth of Virginia for giving us this opportunity to appreciate the remarkable history of their state but also of this country.