Governor's Address at Flag-lowering Ceremonies
September 30, 1979

Cristobal Junior-Senior High School and Balboa Heights Administration Building

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Distinguished guests, friends, it was 75 years ago that the first United States flag was raised officially on the Isthmus of Panama. It signaled the beginning of the American construction of the Panama Canal. That ceremony, like this one today, was a brief and a simple one. It was held on the morning of 4 May 1904, at 7:30. And the young army officer Lt. Mark Brooks, who had been selected to sign a receipt for the French Canal properties after accepting the keys to the Ancon Hospital and the storehouses, stepped proudly forward and raised the Stars and Stripes to the head of the flagpole of what was then the headquarters of the French Canal Company.

This evening the United States flag will be lowered from the flagpole on my right for the last time. And tomorrow, the Canal Zone will have passed into history. There are no tomorrow's for the Canal Zone, only yesterdays. But those yesterdays will light our memories assuredly for a lifetime. It is only natural and appropriate, then, that we should pause a moment in nostalgia remembrance. Much has been said and written about the Panama Canal, but very little about the Canal Zone, and yet in its own way, it represents every bit as much a success story. Indeed it has been the umbrella under which the Panama Canal has flourished all these years. One must but review historical pictures to see vividly, the tremendous assist that man has given to nature here on this spot. Just look around you. Open your eyes and you see a beautiful scene, artfully, designed, laboriously, developed and well maintained. But the Canal Zone is not only beautiful terrain, it is also a community blessed with many advantages: quality education, first class hospitals, many fine churches and religious activities, social and fraternal clubs, veteran's organizations and I could go on. Suffice it to say we enjoy a quality of life here under a sound organizational structure that others must envy.

Thus, tonight we remember lest tomorrow others may Forget. But on a brighter note, though the Canal Zone has no tomorrow's, we do. Certainly the passing of jurisdiction over the Canal Zone to the Republic of Panama and the creation of the new, and smaller Panama Canal Commission call for major changes in our lives and in our livelihoods. But many, perhaps most, of the attributes of the Canal Zone that I have mentioned will journey with us into the future. Tomorrow morning, the American flag will be raised on the flagpole to my left and the Panamanian flag will go up on the right in the place of honor. And this will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Panama Canal. And many of you here tonight will write that chapter. Though the job may seem difficult to you now, it cannot pose more serious challenges than those faced by our predecessors.

Together with our Panamanian co-workers and friends we must, and I'm sure we will, record another glorious chapter in the saga of the path between the seas. When President Roosevelt visited here in 1906 he spoke on the theme Of international cooperation and said, and I quote, "The United States and Panama are partners in a great work which is now being done here on the Isthmus. We are joint trustees for all the world doing that work. The fact that these two flags will continue to fly here until the year 2000 attests to the fact that we remain today joint trustees serving all of the nations of the world.

And as we now turn our thoughts to the future, I would like to say, to those of you who are leaving the Canal, you have my best wishes for success in whatever you endeavor. The qualities you have displayed with the Canal organization will stand you in good stead wherever too may go. For those who are staying on, the days that lie ahead will demand the best you have to offer in terms of continuing commitment to excellence and the operation of the Canal, and also the willingness to adapt to new and changing conditions. I am confident that you will be up to that task.

And now, though I have had the opportunity, on many occasions during the past days to say farewell, I'd like to just take this occasion again to express my own personal feelings. Counting my earlier stint as Lieutenant Governor here in the Canal Zone, I have spent almost 8 years, about twenty percent of my total service in the military forces, as part of the Canal organization. Despite the frustration and the turmoil and the tensions, my wife Pat and I have derived a great sense of pride and a great satisfaction from our association with the Canal and, more importantly, with the people who operate it so well. Your loyalty, your support, your dedication and your friendship will accompany us always in our remembrances of the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone. Best wishes for the future and God bless you one and all.

H.R. Parfitt
Governor, Canal Zone

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Last update: October 4, 1998
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