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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 4, 2002

Opening Remarks by Mrs. Bush at the White House Conference on School Libraries
As Delivered
The East Room

Welcome to the White House Conference on School Libraries. One of America's greatest advocates for reading and books is here with me today — my mother-in-law, Barbara Bush.

Several distinguished members from Congress are here:

Senator Ted Kennedy;

Senator Arlen Specter;

Congressman Ralph Regula; and

Senator Jack Reed.


When I was a child, one of my most prized possessions was my library card from the Midland Public Library. I am fortunate that my mother took me to get my library card at an early age. In fact, that was the first card I carried in my wallet, and I used it throughout my childhood to borrow books from what seemed to me to be a vast and inexhaustible collection.

That card was my passport to visit a little house on the prairie, sail across the ocean on a whaling ship, or travel back in time. These childhood adventures are not mine alone — they belong to any child who has the chance to browse a library's bookshelves.

Libraries allow children to ask questions about the world and find the answers. And the wonderful thing is that once a child learns to use a library, the doors to learning are always open.

In his essay titled, "In Defense of the Book," William H. Gass writes:

"The library is meant to satisfy the curiosity of the curious, provide a place for the lonely where they may enjoy the companionship and warmth of the word. (The library) supplies handbooks for the handy, novels for insomniacs, scholarship for the scholarly, and makes available works of literature to those people they will eventually haunt so successfully."

Today's discussion is all about libraries — school libraries, community libraries, places that are designed to enrich lives and learning.

I want to welcome our guest speakers today:

Dr. Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York;

Chris DeVita, president of Wallace-Readers Digest Funds;

Dr. Susan Neuman, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education;

Dr. Keith Curry Lance, director of the Library Research Service and one of the respected authors of the Colorado studies on libraries;

Dr. Gary Hartzell, professor of educational administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha;

Dr. Steven R. Wisely who has served as superintendent of Medford School District in Medford, Oregon, for 17 years;

Dr. Kathleen D. Smith, principal of Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado; and

Faye Kimsey-Pharr, principal of Lakeside Academy of Math, Science, and Technology in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Dr. Robert Martin, the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS, has very kindly agreed to serve as our moderator.

The IMLS is an independent federal agency that supports all types of museums and libraries, including public, academic, school, research and archives. IMLS grants help museums and libraries expand their collections and services, so millions of Americans can enjoy their exhibits and resources.

Dr. Martin is an eloquent speaker when it comes to the topic of libraries.

At a House Subcommittee hearing on education, he said, "America's libraries are the fruits of a great democracy. They exist because we believe that memory and truth are important. They exist because we believe that information and knowledge are not the exclusive domain of a certain type or class of person, but rather the province of all who seek to learn. A democratic society holds these institutions in high regard."

Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Robert Martin.

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