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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
October 18, 2007
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at a Gala Reception for the National Museum of African American History and Culture
National Portrait Gallery
8:09 P.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Lonnie. Thank you, and congratulations on a really wonderful show. I think this show is a great overview of what the museum will be, these wonderful photographs -- portraits this time -- of people who are so important to American history. So thank you, and congratulations on this great show.
I also want to recognize Marc Pachter, of course, the Director of the National Portrait Gallery. I see Dr. Allen Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States, here in the crowd; Anne-Imelda Radice, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services; members of Congress. Thank you very much for joining us today.
I'm delighted to be here for the opening exhibit of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. "Let Your Motto Be Resistance" honors African American history by shining a spotlight on the extraordinary people who made it. The 86 portraits in this exhibit capture African American pioneers standing up for dignity and equality in art, culture, religion, and politics. Formal sittings show the familiar faces of our national heroes. Candid shots offer glimpses into their more personal moments.
We see the powerful image of a slave known only as "Gordon" -- whose scarred body, offered to the lenses of two Louisiana photographers, became a visual indictment of slavery. We see the brilliant abolitionist Frederick Douglass gazing stoically from his portrait -- and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. caught in a tender moment with his wife and baby daughter. Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Jr. laughs in the halls of a Congress he helped open to African Americans. Formal photographs show W.E.B. DuBois, Sojourner Truth, and clergyman Henry Highland Garnet -- from whose oratory this exhibit gets its name.
Dancer Gregory Hines and boxer Muhammad Ali -- men who broke barriers with their nimbleness and grace -- are seen at the height of their athleticism. Portrait subjects James Brown and Leontyne Price reshaped the soul of American music. I love the image of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard recording a song in Detroit's Motown Studio. In the 60s, I was a huge fan of the Supremes -- and I still am. (Laughter.) My only complaint is that the musical group I loved as a young woman is now found in a museum of history. (Laughter.)
In 2003, President Bush signed legislation establishing the National Museum of African American History and Culture as part of the Smithsonian Institution. It's the first national museum that will be devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life. The museum will narrate the history of the United States through the perspective of African Americans, and will also tell individual African American stories.
Planning has already begun for the museum's future location at Constitution Avenue, and we look forward to when the museum's new building will take its place among the cultural and historical treasures on our National Mall.
I'd like to thank Deborah Willis, the guest curator of the National African American Museum for your thoughtful work in putting together "Let Your Motto Be Resistance." I urge people in the Washington area, come see this show. It's really terrific.
Thank you to Marc Pachter and the National Portrait Gallery for the generous loan of your collection, gallery space, and resources. And thanks especially to Lonnie Bunch and to his staff for turning a great idea into a museum our nation and the world can be proud of. (Applause.)
END 8:14 P.M. EDT