July 4, 1986

Thank you, Lee, and thank you all. It's been said that we Americans count our blessings too seldom. But not this weekend. This weekend we celebrate, my friends, we cut loose! The procession that we are about to witness will be as colorful as fireworks, as majestic as Lady Liberty herself. I hear you [referring to the sound of a ship's horn]. [Laughter]

It will speak to us of the past, of the days when great ships like these dropped anchor in our harbors to unload tea from China, whale oil from open seas, and, yes, immigrants from around the world. It will speak to us of present and future amity between our nation and the many nations that have sent ships here today to lend their beauty -- the curve of their hulls, the lines of their masts and rigging as they stand out against the sea, the sky -- to our rejoicing. Passing in review today we see more than 20 of the 30 or so tall ships that are left in the world. The U.S. Coast Guard bark Eagle will lead the procession. Schooners, barks, brigantines, and ketches from more than 30 countries are entering the harbor.

Somehow, men have always found moving the sight of these vessels of wood and metal and canvas. Indeed, some centuries ago one writer of proverbs described as ``wonderful the way of a ship in the midst of a sea.'' Perhaps it has something to do with the knowledge that nothing binds sailing ships, nothing holds them back, that they can travel anywhere across the vast and trackless sea. Perhaps, indeed, these vessels embody our conception of liberty itself: to have before one no impediments, only open spaces; to chart one's own course and take the adventure of life as it comes; to be free as the wind -- as free as the tall ships themselves. It's fitting, then, that this procession should take place in honor of Lady Liberty. And as the wind swells the sails, so too may our hearts swell with pride that all that Liberty's sons and daughters have accomplished in this the land of the free. This spectacle has been literally years in the planning.

On behalf of the American people I want to thank Ambassador Bus Mosbacher and his entire Operation Sail staff for making this international celebration, this stately salute to Liberty. And now, Bus, where are you? Come forward.

Note: The President spoke at 10:59 a.m. on Governors Island. He was introduced by Lee Iacocca, chairman of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Foundation. Emil Mosbacher, Jr., was the chairman of Operation Sail. Prior to President Reagan's remarks, he and President Mitterrand were presented first day issue stamps commemorating the Statue of Liberty by French Director of Posts Alain Madelin and U.S. Postmaster General Albert V. Casey. Earlier in the morning, the President watched the International Naval Review aboard the ``U.S.S. Iowa'' in New York Harbor.