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 Home > News & Policies > May 2006

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 1, 2006

President and Mrs. Bush Present Preserve America Presidential Awards
The Rose Garden

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     Fact sheet Preserve America

10:22 A.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Hello, everybody. Thank you all very much. Thank you for coming, and congratulations to this year's Preserve America Presidential Award winners. The projects we honor today protect America's gorgeous landscapes, teach Americans about our march toward freedom, and display living snapshots of our colonial past. They remind us of how blessed we are to have rich and varied natural and cultural resources. We know our national treasures are diverse when we can celebrate both the majestic mountains of Montana, and a life-sized gingerbread castle in New Jersey.

Mrs. Laura Bush and President George W. Bush address guests in the Rose Garden during an event honoring the recipients of the Preserve America Presidential Awards May 1, 2006.  White House photo by Kimberlee Hewitt Preserve America is now in its third year of supporting outstanding projects that protect and promote our national treasures. Since 2003, we've honored historical organizations, history teachers, and entire communities -- 372 of them, in fact -- for their commitment to preservation.

Last week, I toured The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts. The Mount is the former home of Edith Wharton, one of America's most famous writers, and one of my favorites. The group that restored this beautiful estate, Edith Wharton Restoration, won a Preserve America Presidential Award last year.

Since September, President Bush and I have visited the Gulf Coast many times. The Gulf Coast is a region steeped in some of America's most fascinating history and culture. As the Gulf Coast recovers from the hurricanes, we must help areas affected by the storms restore the treasures of their past so that all Americans can enjoy this region's heritage for many years to come. So today, I'm delighted to announce that the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation will host a National Preserve America Summit in New Orleans this fall. (Applause.)

The summit will convene experts in historic preservation, conservationists, cultural scholars, archaeologists, and representatives from federal agencies and the private sector. These authorities will review our national historic preservation programs and propose improvements to make them more effective. The summit will also help make our national treasures more accessible to the American public, and will help communities use their cultural attractions to boost local economies. This is especially important along the Gulf Coast, where well-reserved and well-presented history can help revive local business and speed economic recovery.

Leading up to the summit, we'll have a series of 12 forums, hosted by federal agencies and private sector partners, to address a variety of preservation topics. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, in partnership with Tulane University, will kick off the first forum on May 31st. The Tulane conference will focus on the rich culture of New Orleans, from its regal, colonial architecture to its artistic contributions as the birthplace of jazz.

A central element of the Preserve America Summit will be the restoration of historic sites devastated by natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Experts will determine how we can best protect historical and cultural treasures in disaster-prone regions, so that the next time a hurricane strikes, we'll be better prepared.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. Through this summit, we hope to take stock of the strides we've made over the last four decades, and determine how best to protect our rich national heritage into the 21st century and for centuries after.

Today we recognize organizations that are doing great preservation work now. I'd like to introduce you to my husband, who will announce this year's Preserve America Award winners.

Ladies and gentlemen, President George Bush. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thanks for the introduction. (Laughter.) Laura and I welcome you here to the White House. We are privileged to have some our country's really great community leaders and preservationists here in the Rose Garden. This is a fitting place, we think, to honor those who work hard to preserve our nation's history and protect the natural beauty of the country.

This is a -- this Rose Garden is one of America's historic treasures. I spend a lot of time mowing out here. (Laughter.) The commitment of the folks here to preserve the unique treasures in your own communities means that you celebrate our nation's history and you help instill a love of our nation's natural beauty for future generations. And that's why we have such an event, to encourage people to preserve and instill -- preserve what is important, and instill love for our -- for our natural treasures.

I appreciate not only the First Lady of the United States being here, but I appreciate the First Lady of Florida being here -- mi cunada. Thank you. (Applause.) Give Brother my best. (Laughter.) Tell him he's doing a fine job. (Laughter.)

I want to thank Administrator Steve Johnson of EPA -- thank you for being here, Steve -- Lynn Scarlett, who's the Acting Secretary of the Department of Interior; Fran Mainella, who is the Director of the National Park Service; and Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming -- thanks for coming, appreciate you being here, Senator. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule.

I appreciate Bruce Cole, who's the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, joining us. And it's good to see my old friend, John Nau, who's the Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and he's the Chairman of the Texas Historical Commission -- and he's a fine lad. (Laughter.) It's good to see Bobby, too. Thanks for coming. And we appreciate all the members of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Thank you for serving. Thank you for your dedication to our country.

Laura and I want every American to have a chance to learn about this country's history, and one of the best ways to do so is to visit our country's great historical landmarks. So, in 2003, we created -- actually, she created -- she told me to create, which I did -- (laughter) -- the Preserve America Presidential Awards, to recognize outstanding contributions to America's cultural and natural heritage. By their efforts, today's award winners have drawn tourists to historic sites and towns, they've revitalized communities and our natural spaces, and they've opened up new opportunities for learning.

The first Preserve America award winner we honor this year is Mission San Luis. It's a project that has reconstructed the former Western capital of Spanish Florida in Tallahassee. The mission was burned to the ground over 300 years ago. And the state of Florida, in partnership with local and private groups, successfully recreated nearly every detail of the mission. The reconstruction team used original mission documents to ensure the highest level of historical accuracy. By their painstaking effort they have helped Mission San Luis rise from the ashes to an educational, cultural and historical resources reflecting Florida's beginnings.

Congratulations, and welcome. (Applause.)

Our second award recipient is the state of Maryland. Through a new program called Maryland Heritage Areas, the state is protecting areas of historical significance and increasing heritage tourism and educational opportunities. State and community leaders are investing in projects to highlight special parts of American history, including the location where Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad helped slaves escape to the North, and Fort McHenry, the site that inspired Francis Scott Key to write America's National Anthem.

And I appreciate the good folks of Maryland for highlighting the amazing sites you've got in your state. And welcome, thank you for coming. (Applause.)

Our third award recipient is a company named Tauck World Discovery, which is helping protect one of America's most precious natural resources. Since 2003, this company has been running an innovative volunteer program in Yellowstone National Park. Under this program, tourists who come to appreciate the scenic landscape can also help keep those vistas beautiful by contributing a good day's work. Pretty interesting concept, isn't it? Since the program began, guests have donated almost 10,000 hours of labor on projects throughout the park. By their good work, the good people at Tauck are inspiring Americans to lend a hand in preservation, and making sure that Yellowstone is a natural wonder for the years to come.

And we welcome you both. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)

Our fourth award recipient is Hampton Hotels. Probably surprises you, doesn't it? Under their "Save a Landmark" program, Hampton Hotels is helping communities rehabilitate roadside attractions along America's great highways. Their efforts have helped preserve landmarks along Route 66, to restore the Jesse Owens Park in Alabama, to refurbish one of the country's classic theme parks in New Jersey, and save the world's largest Santa Claus in Alaska. (Laughter.) Each of these landmarks represents a piece of cultural and regional history. By saving them for future generations, they are helping to celebrate the diversity of America -- and provide educational opportunities for families as they travel across our great land.

Thank you very much, appreciate what you're doing. Congratulations. (Applause.)

All of these award winners set such a wonderful example for our fellow citizens. You've taken the lead in preservation, and we appreciate it. You're showing what is possible when local citizens decide to make a difference in the community in which they live. And your work is preserving America for generations to come.

And so Laura and I welcome you to the Rose Garden. We thank you for your efforts. May God continue to bless our country. (Applause.) Thank you all. (Applause.)

END 10:33 A.M. EDT