On October 5th, German-Americans once again celebrated their ethnic holiday, German-American Day. It is shared nationwide with government officials, legislators, state governors, mayors, and all Americans. According to the 1990 U.S. Census, more than fifty-seven million Americans are of German ancestry and constitute the largest ethnic group in the United States. More than 1,2 million Marylanders (25,48%) are of German descent.
German-American Day has been formally observed annually since 1987, when President Reagan signed the first Presidential Proclamation commemorating the significant contributions made by Americans of German descent. President William J. Clinton in his 1995 German American Day Proclamation also honored their achievements with these words:
"Since the earliest days of the settlement of North America, immigrants from Germany have enriched our Nation with their industry, culture, and participation in public life. Americaís unparalleled freedoms and opportunities drew the first German immigrants to our shores and have long inspired the tremendous contributions that German-Americans have made to our heritage.Germans who had already settled in the colonies and others who came to fight in the war of Independence, such as Baron Friedrich von Steuben, contributed significantly to ensuring the triumph of the American colonists. The translated version of the Declaration of Independence is a lasting symbol both of the depth of the American-German friendship and of Germansí extraordinary intellectual and material contribution to the birth of representative government in the United States.
In the course of 300 years of German emigration to this great land, German-Americans have attained prominence in all areas of our national life. Like Baron von Steuben in Revolutionary times and General Eisenhower in World War II, many Americans of German descent have served in our military with honor and distinction. In the sciences, Albert Michelson and Hans Bethe immeasurably increased our understanding of the universe. The painters Albert Bierstadt and modernist Josef Albers have enhanced our artistic traditions, and composers such as Oscar Hammerstein have added their important influences to American music.
Yet even these many distinguished names cannot begin to summarize all the gifts that German-Americans have brought to our Nationís history. While parts of the Midwest, Pennsylvania, and Texas still proudly bear the stamp of the large German populations of the last century, it is their widespread assimilation and far-reaching activities that have earned German-Americans a distinguished reputation in all regions of the United States and in all walks of life."
In the nearly 220 years since that great victory, generations of German Americans have remained active and invaluable participants in the American experiment. Today, more citizens of the United States can claim German ancestry than that of any other ethnic group. Inspired by two centuries of shared freedom, German Americans throughout the country are helping to lead our Nation toward a future as bright as our past - a future of growing understanding and certain peace. We at Western Maryland College are celebrating German-American Day for the forth time with high and middle school students, their teachers, parents, and chaperones from Maryland.