Sunshine Week, an annual initiative to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of unnecessary and excessive secrecy, begins March 14, 2021. One year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of Sunshine Week events across the country, including ours, we invite you to join us (virtually, of course) on March 15 as we celebrate in conversation with Senior U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth as well as a panel discussion of the U.S. transparency landscape.
Records of the U.S. Senate, Berryman Political Cartoon Collection, 1896 – 1949, There’s Always A Ray of Sunshine, 3/7/1924. National Archives Identifier 6011842
Open government is a big part of our mission here at the National Archives all 52 weeks of the year. While James Madison’s March 16 birthday and his work as the father of the Constitution inspired the timing of Sunshine Week, it was his fellow Founding Fathers who first publicly noted the importance of records to our democracy. In their listing of grievances against King George III, the founding gentlemen noted in the Declaration of Independence that among “repeated injuries and usurpations,” the king “called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.”
The National Archives’ role in public records access includes the important work done by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS). Often referred to as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Ombudsman, OGIS helps to resolve FOIA disputes, identifies methods to improve compliance with the statute, and educates the public about the FOIA process. OGIS’s vision — a FOIA process that works for all stakeholders — dovetails so nicely with the National Archives’ strategic goals of making access happen and connecting with customers.
OGIS Director Alina M. Semo chairs the FOIA Advisory Committee, which in July 2020 delivered to me 22 new recommendations for improving FOIA administration across the government. Several of those recommendations recognize the important link between strong records management programs in supporting efficient and effective federal FOIA programs. OGIS and the Office of the Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government are working to strengthen the crucial link between FOIA and records management programs by developing new briefing and training materials.
In the meantime, please join us at our Sunshine Week event from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Monday March 15 as one of Judge Lamberth’s former law clerks, Adam R. Pearlman, has a conversation with Judge Lamberth, followed by a panel of government transparency experts from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Judicial Watch as well as a member of the current FOIA Advisory Committee.
Records of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Photographs from the National Digital Library, ca. 1998 – 2011, Sunrise National Archives Identifier 166709802