America's founding documents are once again on display in Washington after a painstaking restoration of the parchments, and the renovation of their home at the National Archives. President Bush led the celebration when the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights went back on public view.

It was a day for patriotism, and paying homage to the nation's founding fathers.

Their work is now on display in new state-of-the-art gold-plated cases where the public can see first hand the words that gave birth to the United States.

"In this rotunda are the most cherished material possessions of a great and good nation," the president said.

America's leaders were on hand for the rededication of the National Archives exhibit after two years of painstaking and costly renovation. Instead of hanging on a wall or in tabletop displays, the fragile documents are positioned at easy-to-read angles so even small children and people in wheelchairs can see them.

President Bush said that is as it should be, that all Americans should be able to look at these documents and read their message of freedom for all. He said it is a message that knows no national boundries.

"America owns the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But the ideals they proclaim belong to all mankind," he said.

The president said in the course of two centuries, these ideals have defined America's place in the world. He said since the nation's founding, Americans have witnessed the power of freedom to overcome tyranny, to inspire hope in times of trial, and to turn men and women to thoughts of peace.

We have seen freedom's power in Europe and Asia and Africa and Latin America. And we will see freedom's power in the Middle East," Mr. Bush promised.

Paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence, Mr. Bush went on to say that every person, in every culture has the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The original declaration once sat away from the other documents in the rotunda of the National Archives. It was placed high on a wall and curators admit it was difficult to see.

Now it sits at a lower level, in a case to the left of the Constitution - with all four pages of the document on exhibit for the very first time.

The founding documents were first put on display in the rotunda in December 1952. The $100 million building renovation began on July 4, 2001.