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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
September 26, 2008
Interview of the First Lady and Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington by Chris Cuomo, ABC's Good Morning America
8:35 A.M. EDT
Q We're joined by the First Lady this morning and Dr. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress. Very nice to have both of you here.
MRS. BUSH: Thanks, Chris. Thanks for coming.
Q This is a big deal that's going on tomorrow.
MRS. BUSH: It is a big deal. Last year over 120,000 people came. So we hope we'll have that number of people or more this year. We have -- there's plenty of room, so don't be put off by the number of people that come. There are big tents that are up along the Mall, and we have 70 very well-known authors coming, many Pulitzer Prize winners. In fact, that's sort of how we pick our authors now, are people who have won awards.
So I want to encourage people to come out and bring your kids. There are great events for children and adults.
Q Now, you've been doing this since you were back in Texas, but this year, different. This year, more pressure, dual role for you, because you are also an author this year with your daughter Jenna.
MRS. BUSH: That's right.
Q Tell me a little bit about the book.
MRS. BUSH: Well, Jenna and I are going to read from "Read All About It," the book that we wrote together. We had a wonderful time, mother and daughter, writing a book together, based on stories that I used to tell Jenna and Barbara about the students that I taught when I taught 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade, and then on stories that Jenna would tell us about the students that she teaches, and she's actually teaching 6th grade this year.
So I think it's going to be really fun. Jenna and I are thrilled to have the chance to actually be authors at a book festival.
Q And Dr. Billington, what does it mean to you that we've seen this growth -- 30,000 in 2001; 120,000 last year; more expected this year?
DR. BILLINGTON: I think it means that reading is so deep in the American psyche, in our whole history. I mean, we were put together as a nation by people who were readers, and that's gone on. And, you know, we're a nation that adds without subtracting. So we add and we're very active on the Internet, building a world digital library, got 14 million pieces of American history culture online. But the whole purpose is to get people back into reading. And that's happening.
And I think this is a great tribute to the First Lady's leadership and her exemplification of the fact that she herself is an active reader and now she's an author and going to be a reciter, as well. So this is a great tribute to her, but it's also a great tribute to the American spirit and the fact that people love to hear and meet the authors, interact with them, and see that this is a great human enterprise, as well as something enriching for their own families. That's why more and more families are coming.
It's all free, rain or shine, and people really are coming, and we're grateful.
Q And relevant, in a little bit of a different way this year, because we're talking about how the economy will change our lifestyles. You believe that there may be a move back to the libraries because it's cheaper and easier.
MRS. BUSH: Well, actually, I think we've already seen that, that people are going to their public libraries more. And I want to urge people to do that. Go use your public libraries. They're there for you to use them. And people use them to get on the Internet, as well as to check out books and read.
It's very -- it's a wonderful example to take your child to the public library and let your child get a library card and then show them that reading is important. If it's important to you, then it will be important to your children, as well.
Q And what do you think the message will be tomorrow? Because there's a little different climate right now in Washington, D.C. How will you handle that with the folks that come there tomorrow?
MRS. BUSH: Well, there will be -- there's everything at the book festival. Every -- certainly every view is represented. We have all kinds of writers. We have very serious history and biography writers that I think people will love to hear, people who've won Pulitzer Prizes before. We have fiction and mystery. We have the mystery writers that people are crazy about, and fiction, too; romance writers like Sandra Brown, who is a huge best-selling writer.
Who else do we have?
DR. BILLINGTON: Everything you could want. You have your --
MRS. BUSH: We have great children's writers. Boys would love to come to Tiki Barber, who --
Q Tiki and Ronde wrote the book about not fumbling.
MRS. BUSH: That's right, both write books, the two men. John Scieszka, who's written "The Stinky Cheese Man."
Q Sounds great. (Laughter.)
DR. BILLINGTON: Alan Warbrick (ph), you even have Meltzer who is simultaneously the only person ever to be on the Diamond sort of best-seller comic list and the New York Times best-seller book list at the same time.
Q Beautiful. Dr. Billington, thank you so much. First Lady --
MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Chris.
Q -- a pleasure. Good luck with the festival tomorrow.
MRS. BUSH: Thanks a lot.
Q Thanks for talking to us about it.
MRS. BUSH: Thank you.