While the centennial of the beginning of World War I is not until next year, preparations have already begun in the Fifth District. The ten years leading to the outbreak of World War I were a tense and conflict-ridden time. Nations competed in arms races. Problems of progress, power, and politics slowly burned before the infamous spark to the powder keg -- the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914. Weeks later, Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia on July 28, 1914. Then, in August of 1914, nearly all of Europe erupted into war. In 1917, after President Woodrow Wilson exhorted Congress to make the world 'safe for democracy,' our nation decided to go to war as well.
Millions served in World War I, many of them making the ultimate sacrifice, and now it is our job to serve their memory. After World War I, in 1919, the citizens of Kansas City, organized and led by the Liberty Memorial Association, raised over $2.5 million in ten days. This astounding accomplishment, born out of gratitude and respect for the men and women who fought in the Great War, reflected the passion of public sentiment for the Great War that had changed the world forever. Lest the Ages Forget-- nowhere else in our country did the outpouring of patriotic fervor forever etch in stone the reverence that was felt for those lost and those who had served.
Dedicated by the Supreme Allied Generals and consecrated by the President of the United States, the citizens of Missouri have long kept alive the sacred memory of those who sacrificed in the Great War. On November 1, 1921, the supreme Allied commanders spoke to a crowd of more than 100,000 people. It was the only time in history these leaders -- President Calvin Coolidge, Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium; General Armando Diaz of Italy; Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France; General John J. Pershing of the United States; and Admiral David Beatty of Great Britain -- were together, in memoriam, in one place.
For more than eighty years, hundreds of thousands of veterans of World War I, and their families have come to the Liberty Memorial to remember lost friends and loved ones. While the Memorial is in Kansas City, it is an attraction for the whole district, state, nation and even world.
In 1998, while I was Mayor of Kansas City, after the physical structure had taken a turn for the worse, the community again stood in support of the Liberty Memorial by passing and paying a half-cent sales tax for 18 months. The funds allowed the restoration and revitalization of the Memorial, and the creation of a museum in remembrance. In 2004 the Museum was designated as the United States' official World War I Museum, opening December 2, 2006, as the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.
More recently, earlier this year, President Obama signed the World War I Centennial Commission Act, which I introduced. This established a World War I Centennial Commission which has already started planning the war commemorations, set to begin in 2014, throughout the country and in the Kansas City region. I will continue to work to ensure the service of our veterans, both now and in our past, is honored appropriately.