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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
October 4, 2003

Opening Remarks by Mrs. Bush at National Book Festival
The East Room

Welcome to the White House and to the National Book Festival. Thanks to the bookworms here for celebrating reading and authors. Thanks also to Dr. Billington and the Library of Congress for sponsoring this celebration. And a special thanks to the authors, poets, illustrators, and storytellers for giving us the reason to celebrate. Without you, we wouldn't have tales of mystery, history, and heroism. We wouldn't have characters to intrigue us or rhymes that inspire. And we wouldn't have good books to devour - as Julia Glass says, " a contestant in a pie-eating contest."

Mrs. Bush poses with children during her visit to the 2003 National Book Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Oct. 4, 2003.  White House photo by Susan Sterner We have an extraordinary panel of authors to kick-off the festival. Dr. Billington, Walter Isaacson, Catherine Coulter, Pat Conroy, and Bob Lanier will discuss their love of books and the written word. Special thanks to our sponsors and patrons this year. Your generosity and the generosity of our contributors and friends have helped to make this event possible.

By helping to make the National Book Festival a success, you've also helped to inspire the first book festival in Russia. I just returned from Moscow. There I joined Mrs. Putin for a celebration of children's literature and school libraries. R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps books, joined me. I wish you could have seen him weave a scary story with the children about a boy and a haunted car.

Today, we celebrate our freedom and the power of books to bring people together - in this case, bus loads of people. Excited readers from across the country are coming today - from a family literacy program in Virginia, to a library group from Pennsylvania, to seniors from an online book group, and members of a mother-daughter book club. Librarians in Nebraska are encouraging readers to check out the festival - or at the very least - to check out books at the library by authors we celebrate today.

And Kathy Thomas from Half Price Books is here with practically her whole family from Texas. Last year Kathy brought her son and nephew dressed as bookworms. This year, they're back in costume, along with her mother, sister, and three more nephews. From Texas to Utah, volunteers are here to help organize the event, including more than three hundred from the Junior League of Washington. A school librarian from Connecticut is thrilled to be here. She wrote to tell me, "This is the third year I will be coming to attend. I always come away with lots of share with my students. Each year it gets better and better."

Books and reading bring out the excitement in all of us. This commonality connects us to one another - and so do the stories in a good book. Our history as a people and a nation is one great story - pieced together like a quilt bit by bit, generation by generation. By reading together and sharing stories, we become part of the fabric of the American community. This is the beauty of books - they are not just for reading - but for sharing. Abraham Lincoln said, "My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read." With your support and enthusiasm, many new friends and new books will be found today.

I'd now like to introduce my friend and fellow book-lover, Dr. James Billington, our Librarian of Congress. Dr. Billington was instrumental in helping Mrs. Putin organize the first Russian Book Festival. He has written several books on the history of Russian culture, including The Face of Russia, which is a companion book to a television series that he wrote for PBS. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Dr. James Billington.


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