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Hosting the Mark Twain Symposium, Laura Bush sits with Patricia Rowland and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns in the East Room Nov. 29, 2001.
Hosting the Mark Twain Symposium, Laura Bush sits with Patricia Rowland and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, in the East Room Nov. 29, 2001. White House photo by Susan Sterner.

White House Symposium on the Life and
Works of Mark Twain

"To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas - the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.."
- Mark Twain
Letter to Emeline Beach, February 10, 1868

The first in the White House Salute to America's Authors series, this symposium celebrated the life and works of one of our best-known authors, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, most commonly known by his pen name, Mark Twain. Clemens was a born storyteller who was one of the first writers to recognize that art could be created out of the American language. Through his carefully chosen words and his sharply honed humor, he dealt head-on with controversial issues that others were afraid to confront.

The Mark Twain Symposium was moderated by Eden Ross Lipson, children's book editor for The New York Times, and featured Ken Burns, who presented excerpts from his documentary on Twain; Jocelyn Chadwick, assistant professor of education at Harvard University; and Shelly Fisher Fishkin, a Twain scholar.

The Symposium concluded with an evening performance of Hal Holbrook's "Mark Twain Tonight" at historic Ford's Theatre.

For additional information about the life and works of Mark Twain. please visit:

Library of Congress, America's Library: Meet Amazing Americans: Mark Twain

Mark Twain House, Hartford, Conneticut

The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum

PBS: New Perspectives on the West

The Mark Twain Papers and Project, Bankcroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the Mark Twain Symposium


Related Links
White House Salute to American Authors Series
National Book Festival
Texas Book Festival
Laura Bush: Librarian and Teacher
Resources: Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
White House Conference on School Libraries
White House Colloquium on Libraries, Museums, and Lifelong Learning
Highlights of Mrs. Bush's Library Tours and Visits
Teaching Children to Use their Public Library
Laura Bush's Recommended Reading