Honoring First Lady Laura Bush

Last night the National Archives Foundation presented our Records of Achievement Award to former First Lady Laura Bush.  The award is an annual tribute recognizing individuals who have made a significant impact upon the public’s understanding of the United States and its history.  The accomplishments of the awardees reflects the Foundation’s mission by highlighting stories found in the billions of documents, photographs, maps, films, and recordings in the National Archives to bring a fuller understanding of our national experience.

Photograph of Laura Bush receiving Records of Achievement Award
Laura Bush receives National Archives Foundation 2018 Records of Achievement Award
L to R: National Archives Executive Director Patrick Madden, Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, former First Lady Laura Bush, Journalist and author Cokie Roberts, National Archives Foundation Chairman Jim Blanchard. Photo courtesy of the National Archives Foundation.

My remarks from last night’s ceremony:

I’m delighted to recognize a fellow librarian! And you may be surprised to learn how much we have in common: we studied for our Masters in Library Science at the same time, relocated to Washington for Executive branch positions on Pennsylvania Avenue, and both proudly champion our nation’s history.

But in all seriousness, First Lady Laura Bush’s unwavering support of civic literacy, her passion for education, and her unyielding commitment to the empowerment of women make her both an obvious choice for this award, and for the launch of our women’s vote centennial celebration.

Laura Bush has been an educator, a librarian, the First Lady of Texas, the First Lady of the United States, and a global advocate through the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The common thread linking her life’s work together is this intrinsic love of learning that she continues to share with the world.

Laura Bush’s educational work through the Bush Center in programs such as Middle School Matters, the School Leadership Initiative, Advancing Accountability in Education, and of course, my favorite––your Foundation for America’s Libraries––all demonstrate a commitment and passion for ensuring a literate society. This mission was what President Franklin D. Roosevelt had in mind when he created the National Archives, a mission which continues to be vital to our democracy.

Laura Bush said “We must prepare our children and grandchildren with the tools they need to be informed, engaged citizens who care about individual liberty and democracy. We must teach them history. We must insist they understand the government they are blessed to live under. We must teach our children to listen, to show empathy, to show civility in the face of disagreement, and to overcome malice and hate. And we must model the behavior ourselves.”

At the National Archives, we work to provide students of all ages with the tools they need to understand history and become active participants in our government. We recently launched a civic education webpage to make our education initiatives accessible to parents, teachers, and students. DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents, features more than 10,500 primary source documents and interactive activities for teachers and students. We make history fun with sleepovers in the Rotunda upstairs with themes such as space exploration and Native Americans. And we host a wide variety of educational programs across the country throughout the year.

We would not be here tonight if it wasn’t for our partner, the National Archives Foundation, helping the National Archives reach an ever-larger and more diverse audience. Together, we make civic literacy a reality. With the support of the Foundation and generous benefactors like you, we celebrated our annual 4th of July Reading of the Declaration on the steps of this building. We hosted two widely popular National Archives sleepovers. And we will launch our next exhibit “Rightfully Hers” this March on the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery.

Tonight, we celebrate this shared vision between Laura Bush and the National Archives family. Through the work of the former First Lady, the National Archives, and the National Archives Foundation, we’re striving for a nation in which all children have the same love of learning that drove Laura Bush to pursue her dreams and make the world a better place.

Thank you for joining us this evening as we celebrate our public-private partnership with the Foundation and pay tribute to Laura Bush.

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