6:56 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. What a place. You look right there and that says it all. That’s history at its highest.
Thank you very much for what you’ve done. So many of you have been so helpful. And I see Congress, I see Senate, I see congressmen. They hate each other during the day, but tonight they love each other. (Laughter and applause.)
It’s my pleasure to be with you once again at Ford’s Theatre — the annual gala. Please join me in thanking all of the wonderful performers who have made this an unforgettable evening. Great talent. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
So tonight we come together to celebrate American life, history, culture, and the eternal legacy of President Abraham Lincoln.
I want to thank all of the chairs of the gala, including your honorary co-chair, America’s beloved First Lady. Oh, I’d love to have her poll numbers. (Applause.) How do I get her poll numbers, Kevin, John? (Applause.) And they do love you.
We’re honored to be joined by many members of my Cabinet — thank you very much; and members of Congress. Many friends and distinguished guests — very distinguished, as a matter of fact. A special thanks to our host and my good friend for a long time, Larry Gatlin, and his brothers, as well as the chair of Ford’s Theatre Board of Trustees, Phebe. Thank you very much. What a job. What a job. Thank you. (Applause.)
And finally to Paul Tetreault — and the way you ran those stairs, Paul. I was going to do it but I didn’t want to take a chance. (Laughter.) And the entire staff of Ford’s Theatre, thank you very much for everything you’ve done. This is an event that we hope to be here — what do you figure? — another six times, right? (Laughter.) Six times, at least. At least. (Applause.) Because we do want to preserve this heritage and this center’s treasured legacy.
I also want to congratulate tonight’s Lincoln Medal Recipients: a man I have a lot of respect for, General Colin Powell, and his wife Alma. And maybe even more respect for you, Alma. (Applause.) Great job. Great job. Thank you and thank you for your service to our nation. You have been outstanding. Two people to really look up to. Congratulations. Congratulations. (Applause.)
And congratulations as well to somebody I used to watch a lot, Mark Russell, who has been a devoted performer at Ford’s Theatre for many, many years. Mark, congratulations. Congratulations to him. (Applause.)
For decades, families from all around the world and all around the country have come to this very treasured place to gain a glimpse into President Lincoln’s life, and, in so doing, into one of the most vital chapters and probably one of the most interesting chapters in American history.
During our nation’s greatest trial, President Lincoln stood for truth and freedom and human equality. As President Lincoln’s friend, the renowned abolitionist Fredrick Douglass, said: “Abraham Lincoln was called upon to decide the fate of the Republic.” So true. “He did not hesitate, he did not doubt, he did not falter…his faith was strong” and his unwavering in patriotism, like nobody else. And he had great patriotism for this country and for countrymen. That’s a — was quite a legacy, and quite a statement from another great man.
The patriotism of President Lincoln has lived on in every subsequent generation that has risen to the call of destiny and
the demands of duty. This week, we are commemorating another moment when our nation and the entire world was tested at the highest level: the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Right after this event, Melania and I will board Air Force One and travel to the United Kingdom, and then to Normandy, France. On that precious soil, we will honor the more than 150,000 Allied troops who landed on D-Day, and the millions more who fought in the Second World War.
As one people, America came together to pledge our resolve to protect the sacred rights and freedoms that these immortal patriots gave their very lives to secure. We will never forget America’s heroes — never, ever, ever.
Our duty, and the duty of every patriot, is to pass on the inheritance of liberty and justice that is the cherished birthright of all Americans.
Thank you again to Ford’s Theatre and everyone here tonight. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you very much for being here. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
7:01 P.M. EDT