- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

JAMESTOWN, Va. — President Bush yesterday capped a weeklong celebration of America’s founding with a speech and a bit of music conducting at the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement’s foundation.

“As we begin the 21st century, we look back on our history with pride and rededicate ourselves to the cause of liberty,” Mr. Bush told a crowd of about 5,000 on a field near the site of the original settlement.

On stage with the president were a symphony orchestra and a 1,607-member choir composed of high school students from across the country. A huge American flag served as a backdrop.

Mr. Bush had toured the site of the original Jamestown fort with first lady Laura Bush, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Mr. Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton.

He touched on wrongs committed by European settlers against American Indians and African slaves, but focused on the theme of liberty. His speech connected America’s founding with the quest to establish a democratically elected and viable government in Iraq.

“America is proud to promote the expansion of democracy, and we must continue to stand with all those struggling to claim their freedom,” Mr. Bush said.

“From our own history, we know the path to democracy is long, and it’s hard. There are many challenges, and there are setbacks along the way,” he said. “Yet we can have confidence in the outcome because we’ve seen freedom’s power to transform societies before.”

Organizers of the celebration drew a parallel between Jamestown and space exploration.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin introduced a video feed of U.S. astronaut Suni Williams from the International Space Station. Mrs. Williams told the crowd that the same “courage and conviction” that made Jamestown possible “continues to drive today’s explorers to establish the first human outpost on the moon.”

The cold, driving rain of the morning had dissipated, and the sun began to emerge from behind the clouds just before Mr. Bush appeared on stage at noon.

John Krivjansky, 44, of Springfield, said the morning dampness was “a little bit of a bummer” but that he was glad to see American Indians and Africans included in the retelling of Jamestown’s story. “How are we going to have a dialogue with different races if we ignore the reality just so everybody can feel good?” he said.

Former U.S. Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, predicted that the publicity of Mr. Bush’s visit combined with last week’s visit by Queen Elizabeth II would “improve historical literacy” and boost tourism to the state. “This will pay dividends for years,” said Mr. Allen, who also has served as Virginia’s governor.

The president drew a roar from the crowd for an unscripted move after his speech. As the orchestra played “Hail to the Chief,” Mr. Bush hopped onto the conductor’s platform and took the baton, leading the orchestra for more than a minute.

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