In conjunction with the 200th anniversary of his birth, the city of Delaware’s inaugural Hayes Day celebrations kicked off on Tuesday morning with a ceremony honoring Rutherford B. Hayes at his statue on the southwest corner of William and Sandusky streets.
Members of the Delaware Hayes High School Junior Air Force ROTC presented the colors of the United States to begin the ceremony, and they were followed by the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Also on hand were three Hayes Scholars from Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU), and they were introduced to those in attendance before the Paraguay national anthem was played.
The Hayes Scholars program at OWU was established to provide Paraguayan students with full or partial tuition scholarships in honor of the relationship between Hayes and Paraguay dating back to Hayes’ role in arbitrating the land disputes following the Triple Alliance War, which was waged from 1864-70 in South America.
A total of three proclamations were read by representatives of the city, Delaware County, and the state. Delaware Mayor Carolyn Riggle and County Commissioner Barb Lewis issued proclamations declaring Oct. 4 Hayes Day, while Charles Perry commended the Hayes Heritage Committee on behalf of state Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) for its work in honoring Hayes.
Bill Rietz, who is the chairman of the Rutherford B. Hayes Heritage Committee that has driven the recent projects, offered a background of what the committee’s goals were at its onset in 2018, as well as what’s to come around the city on the inaugural Hayes Day.
“Our mission statement in 2018 was to properly recognize a native son in Delaware who went on to the highest elected office in the land as the 19th president of the United States,” Rietz said. “Behind me is his statue. We have some honorary signs, and we put a pedestal and a bust of him in the rotunda at Hayes High School. I think we did an adequate job on the first part of our mission statement. The second part of our mission statement was to educate the community about Rutherford B. Hayes and who he was, and so that is starting today.”
José Antonio Dos Santos, who is the Paraguay ambassador to the United States, concluded the ceremony by recounting Hayes’ role in preserving Paraguay’s future as the arbiter following the Triple Alliance War, as well as the reverence still held for Hayes today in his country.
“In the end, President Hayes ruled in favor of Paraguay and gave Paraguay back what we know as the Chaco region,” Dos Santos said. “The Chaco region is 60% of our territory today, so thanks to this gentleman, Paraguay didn’t lose 60% of our territory. So you understand why President Hayes is so important for us, and any ambassador has to come here (to Delaware) because it is our duty to come here whenever something is celebrating President Hayes.”