Maryland Olympians Homecoming Announcement
September 9, 2008
Thank you all for coming. Isn’t this a great day?
I’d like to say a special word of thanks to Debbie Phelps for helping make today possible – for sharing your wonderful son with Maryland and with the world, and also for helping us put together what’s truly going to be an exciting event.
I’d also like to thank John Morton who will be co-chairing our celebration and helping us raise $300,000 in private funds to make this event a reality.
And of course, County Executive Jim Smith. Jim, we knew that surgery could never hold you back, and I think I speak on behalf of our entire State when I say that we are all so happy and so relieved to see you healthy and happy and back at it once again. Jim was named America’s best County Executive by his peers and he’s been serving all of our One Maryland with such great passion and dedication.
For three August weeks, Marylanders of all ages, from all ethnicities, from all walks of life, gathered around their TVs and radios – sometimes waking up well before “dawn’s early light” and staying up well past “twilight’s last gleaming” to cheer on our American Olympic heroes – including our greatest American Olympian, Michael Phelps.
Played proudly after each of their many victories was the greatest symbol of our American Olympic glory, the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem.
So we thought “what better a place to honor our Maryland Olympic heroes than the birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner, Fort McHenry?”
Today we’re asking Marylanders to mark their calendars and prepare for a very, very exciting Olympic celebration on October 4 featuring fireworks, surprises and Maryland Olympians, including the pride of Towson, Michael Phelps.
Eight different times we heard our national anthem played proudly as Michael Phelps swam his way into Olympic history. And along the way, he not only made us proud, he brought us together as Marylanders and as Americans – embodying not only the heart of the champion but the spirit of an Olympian.
I’ll never forget the night in Ocean City when the Maryland Association of Counties was meeting – Mayor Dixon was holding a reception that night and many of us were gathered around the television sets to watch Michael Phelps. There was a magical energy as Marylanders young and old, black and white, male and female were on the edge of their seats, praying, cheering, and feeling so proud of our State and of our country.
And for three weeks, anywhere you went in Maryland the scene was similar. Our families, our friends, our neighbors gathered in living rooms and bar rooms with a unity of focus on our favorite son. And every time they introduced him as Maryland’s own, all of us swelled with pride and joy.
So, once more we’re asking our Olympic heroes to help bring us together and recapture some of that Olympic glory – along with that unity which is what the Olympic Games have always been all about.
You know, in just a few days we’ll be marking the anniversary of the War of 1812, for which Ft. McHenry played such an important role in saving our union, when America’s very existence was tested and pushed to the brink.
Instead of folding to the oppressive force of tyranny, Marylanders came together as a people to stand up to the tremendous challenges we faced – and our resiliency, our courage and our resolve carried us through. That day we reminded the world that, even when faced with great adversity, Marylanders lead the way. Even when faced with the most daunting odds, Marylanders lead the way.
Fort McHenry stands as a reminder of those words penned during that battle by Maryland native Francis Scott Key… and as a reminder of our enduring spirit….That spirit is echoed in our State and our strength as a people today. And it’s echoed in our Olympic champions that we celebrate, who’ve stepped up to lead the way once again.
We look forward to celebrating this spirit with all of you on October 4 and we encourage Marylanders to check the website Baltimore.org for more details.