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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 27, 2008
Mrs. Bush's Remarks on Americans for the Arts and Smithsonian Institution Luncheon
Smithsonian American Art Museum
12:00 P.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you, everybody, and thank you, Adair, very much. Thank you, Adair, for that very wonderful introduction and for the poster production. Everyone will be thrilled to have this. I'll be especially happy to have it, because we'll have to give this painting back to the El Paso Museum of Art next January when we leave the White House.
Thank you for your excellent work, Adair, as the Chairman of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities. The President's Committee has led the way in expanding international cultural cooperation, especially with Mexico and China, and I appreciate that very much. In fact, the Coming Up Taller Awards, that the Richmond Boys Choir was awarded, is also now -- we're awarding great youth groups, youth arts groups in China and Mexico the Coming Up Taller Award as well. So that's all because of Adair and her great committee and the way they've reached out across geographic divides. So thank you very much for your leadership at these efforts. (Applause.)
Thanks also to Americans for the Arts. Thank you very much, Bob, for your very kind words, and to the Smithsonian Institution. Betsy, thank you so much. And to the Kennedy Center; Michael, thank you very much for everything you said -- and to everyone for those very, very kind words. Thanks to all of the representatives and enthusiasts from America's arts and culture organizations that are here today.
Thank you for the honor. Thank you very much for honoring me today. But what this has really given me the chance to do is to thank each and every one of you for your inspiration and your entertainment and all of the great things that I've had the opportunity to do since George has been here as President. And in fact, one of the great perks of my job is that I can call all of these great arts institutions and say, can you open up early tomorrow for me to come see this show, or the great box at the Kennedy Center that gives me the chance to see so many fabulous performances there.
I want to say a special thanks to Michael Kaiser for the way you've reached out around the world with arts education for arts groups everywhere. He thanked me for putting Pakistan and Romania together with the Kennedy Center, but the fact is, I got the idea from him because of his work first with Mexican arts groups and now with groups in 36 countries, I think you said, and that's really terrific. Thank you very much for reaching out like that.
I also now have the chance to thank the Smithsonian and Betsy for everything you all do, for all those times I've called to have a special tour at the National Gallery or here at the SAAM or at the National American Portrait Gallery -- all of those great tours that both George and I have had the chance to have because of you all letting us. So I want to thank all the great museum directors that are here in Washington, as well as the curators who've given me such wonderful tours.
I'm so thrilled that we're in this magnificent courtyard. I've really looked forward to seeing this courtyard with this unbelievable Norman Foster ceiling, and I'm so proud that this renovation and this ceiling happened while my husband was President, and that I've had the chance to now get to be here in this completed building, here at the very end of his term. So thank you all, and congratulations on such a magnificent renovation of this wonderful building and then these great two museums that are housed here.
One of my favorite things about this museum is the "Vaquero" that's posted outside by my friend Luis Jimenez, and I think it's a great and lively reminder of how the arts can inspire and empower us.
From literature to portraiture, each of you is committed to giving every American the chance to participate in all forms of the arts and humanities. And it's been my pleasure to meet so many of the really great beneficiaries of these efforts. I've been inspired by all the recipients of the National Medal of the Arts, the National Humanities Medal, the National Medals for Museum and Library Services, and the Coming Up Taller Awards that I've had to meet -- had the chance to meet when they've come to the White House for these awards. These awards recognize our nation's great cultural achievements, and in so doing, I think these great awards ensure the arts and humanities maintain an honored position in our society.
I've also met many people abroad who have had the chance to take advantage of your efforts, like the students I just met week before last in Egypt, who are reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" because of our now international Big Read that Dana Gioia has so successfully led from the National Endowment for the Arts. When I was there in Egypt, I met with these students who are going to read "To Kill a Mockingbird," and now American communities will read the Egyptian works of their Nobel Prize-winning author Fayrouz -- rather, actually, Naguib Mahfouz, and I read his book, "The Thief and the Dogs," that will be the book that Americans will read. I read it on the way home from Egypt.
As participants in the Big Read Egypt/U.S., these students that I met will learn more about American culture by reading some of our greatest literature, and then we'll have a chance to learn more about other cultures by reading the titles of the great authors of the world. This program is part of the Global Cultural Initiative, which is a unique partnership between the United States State Department and all of the cultural agencies that are represented today.
Just as we're teaching students about other countries through American culture, we're also using the arts and humanities to teach American students about our own culture and art, and certainly Picturing America is one of the great initiatives that will do this. Bruce Cole, thank you very much for this wonderful idea. More than 30,000 schools have applied to receive their big folder of 40 icons in American art and history. So thank you for that. This will be the largest NEA -- NEH program ever in our history if we reach that many students through Picturing America.
I also want to thank Anne Radice for everything terrific that IMLS is doing. I was just in the Los Angeles Public Library last week on -- last Friday, and got to meet there, obviously, the director of the Los Angeles Public Library. But she told me about 60 Los Angeles Public Library employees who are now in the midst of getting their graduate degree in Library Science because of IMLS Laura Bush scholarships for the 21st Century Librarians. And they represent 60 new employees for the L.A. Public Library, but they represent librarians all across the country who are now getting their Masters in Library Science because of the IMLS. Thank you very, very much for that, Anne, and thank you for reaching out to all the collections around the country with this great conservator program that you're doing.
And of course, I can't help but mention the Library of Congress, and thank Jim Billington and all the Library of Congress staff for the magnificent National Book Festival. This year will be our eighth National Book Festival, and I hope and feel assured that this National Book Festival will go on long after George and I have retired.
Thank you all very much. Thank you for honoring me today, but thank you for giving me this chance to thank you each and every one of you for everything you do for our nation with the arts and humanities and culture. Thank you for that. (Applause.)
END 12:09 P.M. EDT