hope that welcome was for Christopher Columbus. [Laughter] Well, Secretary
Carlucci, Secretary Verity, and distinguished international guests: We are here
today for the signing of the Columbus Day proclamation. It's on this day we
revisit the enduring lessons of his courage and leadership. Columbus, of course, has always
held a proud place in our history not only for his voyage of exploration but
for the spirit that he exemplified. He was a dreamer, a man of vision and
courage, a man filled with hope for the future and with the determination to
cast off for the unknown and sail into uncharted seas for the joy of finding
whatever was there. Put it all together and you might say that Columbus was the inventor of the
course, we recognize others besides Columbus today. For just as
Columbus, a son of Italy, inaugurated the age of European exploration in this
hemisphere, so too, have millions of Americans of Italian descent contributed
to the building of this nation of aspirations on this continent of hope. Over
the years, millions have left that country for these shores, often carrying
scarcely more than the prayers in their hearts and the determination in their
souls. And as they've come, they have brought with them the richness of the
heritage of their homeland, and given its richness and strength to our land.
Spain also claims Columbus and his achievements.
And millions of Americans of Spanish heritage have also followed in his wake.
Like immigrants from all over the world, they have lived the American dream and
made it a reality for themselves and their children and the generations that
Columbus Day is an American holiday, a day to celebrate not only an intrepid
searcher but the dreams and opportunities that brought so many here after him
and all that they and all immigrants have given to this land.
the next few years Columbus' voyage will take on a
heightened significance. The year 1992 will mark the 500th anniversary of his
sailing. It is called the quincentenary, and it may
take another 500 years before I can say that easily. [Laughter] But it will be
a time when Americans from all backgrounds look back on all that that voyage
has meant to mankind over the past half millennium. We're already getting ready
for the big celebration. Three years ago, I appointed a commission, the
Christopher Columbus Quincen -- [laughter] -- Quincentenary Jubilee Commission, to recommend ways for the
Nation to mark this milestone. The Commission has submitted its report, which I
have sent to Congress. Recommendations include educational programs to enhance
the knowledge of history, geography, foreign languages, and international
affairs among our young people. The Commission will be raising money from the
private sector in order to plan and coordinate projects for the anniversary.
The members of the Commission are with us today, so let me recognize them and
say thank you to all of them for their efforts to make sure that the Quincentenary -- [laughter] -- is a success.
before I sign the proclamation, with all the celebrations we've seen having
over the -- or been having over the last decade or so -- the Revolution, the
Constitution, now Columbus' voyage, I can't help
being reminded of an old story. That's what happens when you reach my age.
[Laughter] You can't ever help being reminded of old stories. [Laughter] And if
you've heard me tell this one before, well, you're just going to have to hear
me tell it again.
about a man who wanted to become an opera singer in the worst sort of way. And
he became an actor in Hollywood. And he was an actor
only until he could put together enough money to travel to Milan to study. And he
studied in Italy for 2 years and then
finally was rewarded with being invited to sing at La Scala,
the very spiritual fountainhead of opera. They were doing ``Pagliacci.''
And he sang the beautiful aria ``Vesti la giubba.''
when he had finished singing, the applause from the orchestra seats and the galleries was so sustained and so strong that he had to
repeat the aria as an encore. And again, the same sustained, loud applause; and
again, he sang ``Vesti la giubba.''
And this went on until finally he motioned for quiet. And he tried to tell them
what this welcome meant to him on this, his first appearance in opera. But he
said, ``I've sung `Vesti la giubba'
now nine times. My voice is gone. I cannot do it again.'' And a voice from the
balcony said, ``You'll do it till you get it right.''
now it's time for signing.
Note: The President
spoke at in the East Room at the
White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to Secretary of Defense Frank
C. Carlucci and Secretary of Commerce C. William Verity.