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Americans Celebrate Jamestown Anniversary

Americans are celebrating their history this weekend, as the nation marks the 400th anniversary of Jamestown - the first permanent British settlement in the Americas. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports President Bush joined the festivities Sunday, traveling to the settlement site in the state of Virginia.

The president made a pilgrimage to the site where the United States began to take shape 400 years ago.

He walked by the ruins of the Jamestown settlement, and watched as the sails unfurled on a replica of one of the ships that brought the first British settlers to America on May 13, 1607.

"The story of Jamestown will always have a special place in American history," said President Bush. "It is a story of a great migration from the old world to the new."

President Bush said it is also a story of hardship overcome by resolve, and a settlement built on the marshes of the James River that laid the foundation for American democracy.

The president said what makes the history of Jamestown so remarkable is the fact it almost failed. Many of the original settlers died of hunger and disease, and the last were preparing to head home just as more colonists arrived.

"Jamestown survived," he said. "It became a testament to the power of perseverance and determination."

President Bush said there is a lesson in the founding of Jamestown for modern day America. He talked about the first rumblings of democracy in this settlement founded by the sons of England, and their firm belief in the rule of law.

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

The president's visit marked the end of months of special events marking the anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown settlement.

So many people came to Jamestown for the final weekend of anniversary festivities that the delicate grounds of the old settlement - where the search for artifacts continues - could not handle all the crowds.

And so a nearby campground was turned into a special park, where 25,000 people gathered to hear President Bush. Organizers said they had hoped for visits during the anniversary celebration from the president and Britain's Queen Elizabeth. In the end, they got both. The Queen went to Jamestown 10 days ago, returning to a spot she first saw 50 years ago, during her first visit to the United States as the British monarch.