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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington DC

By Mr. GRAHAM of Florida (for himself and Mr. NELSON of Florida):

S. 2656. A bill to establish a National Commission on the Quincentennial of the discovery of Florida by Ponce de Leon; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, in 2013, our nation will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon's landing on the east coast of Florida. I am pleased to introduce a bill today that establishes a commission to determine how we can best commemorate his discovery of Florida. For a country as young as ours, a Quincentennial is a rare milestone worthy of tribute.

Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the coast of Florida, south of the present-day St. Augustine, in April of 1513. During the Easter holiday, he explored our coasts, visiting the Florida Keys and the west coast of Florida. The first European explorer to step foot on North American soil, Ponce de Leon opened Florida and the mainland of the Americas to the rest of the world. Florida owes its heritage to Ponce de Leon. Even the name Florida dates back to Ponce de Leon's discovery. When he saw the lush terrain, Ponce de Leon named the area the "land of flowers" or "Florida" in Spanish.

While there is no doubt that Ponce de Leon is a key part of Florida's history, his landing in Florida is ingrained in our entire nation's early history. Children read in their history books about the myths surrounding Ponce de Leon's voyages. His quest for the fountain of youth has become a myth symbolic of the age of exploration.

Other Europeans were encouraged to make the dangerous journey across the Atlantic toward the Americas, persuaded by the stories of Ponce de Leon's explorations of the new lands of Florida. Ultimately, his discovery opened the path for exploration and colonization of the Americas.

I have drafted this bill with the assistance of a notable scholar accomplished in the field of early Florida history-Dr. Samuel Proctor, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Florida. I would like to thank Dr. Proctor for all of his efforts in drafting this bill.

Funding authorized by this legislation would support the activities of this commission and would allow for educational activities, ceremonies, and celebrations. Fittingly, the principal office for this operation would be located in St. Augustine, FL.

With the establishment of this commission, my hope is to not only commemorate Ponce de Leon's arrival in Florida but to enhance the American public's knowledge about the impact of Florida's discovery on the history of the United States. I hope that my colleagues will recognize the importance of commemorating this historic event.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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