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Governor Bob McDonnell today applauded President Barack Obama's signing of a Presidential proclamation creating a National Park Unit at Fort Monroe in Hampton. The proclamation was issued through the Antiquities Act, an executive order the President can use to designate national monuments which can then be managed as a unit of the National Park Service. Some 324 acres, including access to beaches and a significant amount of open space, is included in the President’s designation. Governor McDonnell was represented at the signing by Fort Monroe Authority Executive Director Glenn Oder. Fort Monroe ended its tenure as an active Army post in September of this year as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure order. The Commonwealth of Virginia is in the process of taking ownership of the Fort property. The decision to request a National Park Service presence at Fort Monroe was supported by Governor McDonnell, United States Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb and Virginia’s congressional delegation and local officials and was subsequently approved by the Fort Monroe Authority earlier this year.
“Today’s proclamation stands as a testament to the tireless efforts of our state and local leaders as well as the tremendous outpouring of support by the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Governor Bob McDonnell. “I congratulate everyone who has been involved in this worthy endeavor from bold start to successful finish. This was a grassroots campaign that started with the great citizens of Hampton Roads, whose passion and determination never wavered. They sought to see Fort Monroe, with its critical role in the history of America, take its rightful place for all time as a monument to our nation’s history.”
Governor McDonnell also stated, “I’d like to thank both Hampton Mayor Molly Ward whose dedication to this effort has been truly remarkable and Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, Terrie Suit, whose leadership as chair of the Fort Monroe Authority has been key to the success of this initiative. The FMA’s new Executive Director, Glenn Oder, deserves significant credit for his effort in ensuring Fort Monroe will continue to be a vibrant, historical community for future generations to enjoy. United States Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb as well as Representatives Scott Rigell and Bobby Scott all played key roles, as did our entire congressional delegation. I’m both honored and humbled to have been a small part of the effort leading to this historic proclamation that has solidified Fort Monroe’s place as a national treasure. This was a bipartisan mission to preserve our shared history, and it has succeeded.”
Secretary Terrie Suit remarked upon the event, “This proclamation is significant not just for the Commonwealth of Virginia but for the nation and the world. Our policy leaders have taken action today to preserve an incredible piece of the American story and to ensure it will be told. This is an exciting moment for all Americans. It is because of the bipartisan and selfless cooperation that took place throughout this process that generations will know what Fort Monroe has meant to our nation.”
It is the declared policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia to protect the historic resources at Fort Monroe, provide public access to the Fort's resources and recreational opportunities, and to exercise exemplary stewardship of the Fort's natural areas.
With a history stretching back over 400 years, Old Point Comfort and Fort Monroe are best known for the Fort's role as the birthplace of the Civil War-era “Contraband" decision. This courageous decision was a crucial moment in the eradication of the evil institution of slavery in this country. The Contraband decision is one of the least well-known and most important chapters of American history. This proclamation and the authority it brings with it, will help to commemorate the struggles and triumphs of 500,000 African American women, children, and men who freed themselves at great risk thereby securing their own liberty, influencing national politics, and hastening the formal Emancipation Proclamation and amendment to the United States Constitution. The Contraband decision is why Fort Monroe was given the moniker: “Freedom’s Fortress.”
Governor McDonnell recently lobbied President Obama personally on the matter when he met with him October 19 during the President’s visit to Hampton. The Governor also joined local, state and federal officials in wearing green that day in support of a National Park System designation at Fort Monroe.
Citizens are also being made aware of and encouraged to give to the new Fort Monroe Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization which provides crucial support to the Fort Monroe Authority for its public education, recreation and stewardship efforts at Fort Monroe National Historic Landmark District. For more information, visit www.fmauthority.com.