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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
September 15, 2003

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at The Museum of Mobile Preserve America Event
The Museum of Mobile
Mobile, Alabama

Thank you, George (Ewert) for bringing history to life at the Museum of Mobile. Thank you, Senator Sessions, Congressman Bonner, and Mayor Dow for all you do for families in Mobile.

I'm so glad to be back. Mobile is one of my favorite cities as you might have guessed. Last year, I was here to celebrate the opening of the West Regional Branch of the Mobile Public Library.

I enjoy Mobile so much I brought some friends to visit. Thanks to our Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, for your service to our country. Thanks also to John Nau for your leadership as Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

And thanks to the residents of Mobile for making the Azalea City a great place to call home and to visit. Carl Carmer wrote, Mobile "rests apart, remembering the five flags that have flown over her. Spain and France and England and the Old South, grown harmonious through the mellowing of time, are echoes in the street. Mobile stays in the heart, the loveliest of cities."

This loveliness can be found in azaleas at Bellingrath Gardens, or in the vibrant designs of quilts that have been passed down by generations of African Americans.

The exhibit Stitches in Time here at the museum highlights the symbolism behind historic quilt patterns. Early slaves made quilts to keep warm - but they also used scraps of fabric to weave a story. A beautiful example is the Drunkard's Path Wall Hanging made of cloth from Africa.

The block-type design was used by African American quilters to communicate routes of escape northward. The jerky pattern may look like the wanderings of a tipsy man - but the message to slaves was to avoid traveling in a straight line to evade capture. Quilts were made with tied string and the knots in the strings indicated the number of miles to freedom - while the star pattern represents the North Star.

I commend the museum and residents of Mobile like Merceria Ludgood, for sharing this piece of history with us. This museum is a great educational resource - and the story of how it came to be is a lesson in history itself. Once the house of city government and a farmers market, this unique building was nearly destroyed during Hurricane Frederick - but you refused to let it go. More than 140 years after it was built, this treasure is once again making history. I applaud you for preserving this historic site for continued learning and enjoyment.

This is exactly the type of preservation we want to see continue across the country. President Bush and I want every American - especially children - to learn about our nation's heritage and enjoy our national treasures. A new White House initiative called Preserve America will help insure that they do. Preserve America promotes cultural and natural preservation and encourages greater appreciation of our heritage - from monuments and buildings to landscapes and main streets. The Departments of Interior and Commerce and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation are strong partners in this initiative.

Preserve America directs federal agencies to inventory and promote greater use of historical sites in partnership with state, tribal, and local governments. This initiative will provide more opportunities for preservation while increasing tourism and economic development. Mobile is a great example of a community that is using its past to build a better future. A trip through downtown Mobile is a journey in time - from the 18th century replica of Fort Conde to the modern silhouette of the Museum of Art.

More than eighteen million people visited Alabama last year spending nearly six and a half billion dollars - an increase of seven percent from 2001. And more than ninety-three thousand jobs were created within the travel industry. The Preservation Tax Incentive Program has helped Alabama revitalize historic buildings and neighborhoods. In the past five years, more than seventeen projects have been certified through this program - with a total of more than four million dollars in construction spending.

Preserve America supports and promotes more programs like this. America's downtowns are vital parts of our communities. By ensuring their success, we strengthen America.

Another goal of Preserve America is to promote the conservation and enjoyment of our natural resources. Our open spaces are sanctuaries for learning and reflection. And for the President and me, the outdoors is a great place to relax and unwind. As a child, I loved to visit Monahans Sandhills State Park in West Texas. The park is more than three thousand acres of sand dunes which children of all ages love to slide down. The dunes actually stretch hundreds of miles and mark the spot where the Permian Sea used to be. I remember trips to the Sandhills with my Sunday School class and Girl Scout troop. The President also remembers visiting the park with his Cub Scout Troop. Barbara Bush served as den mother for the troop. According to the President, it was about this time that her hair turned white.

And here in Mobile, thanks to conservation efforts, one beautiful place children and visitors can enjoy is Fort Blakeley Battlefield Park. Visitors can relax and learn their history as they hike and horseback on miles of trails. Blakely Park is part of the Civil War Discovery Trail which links more than three hundred historic sites in sixteen states to tell the story of the Civil War. Through Preserve America, the Cooperative Conservation Initiative will provide 15 million dollars this year to support the conservation of open spaces.

The final component of Preserve America is honoring communities like Mobile for their hard work. The Presidential Award for Preserve America will reward projects that achieve public benefits through preservation. And communities that integrate preservation and tourism may also apply to be designated as Preserve America Communities. I'm pleased to announce that the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation will begin accepting applications today. John Nau will describe the application process in a few moments. These awards will highlight model projects and encourage community leaders to share their experiences with others.

Preserve America will help save our past and ensure a future filled with opportunities for learning and enjoyment. This initiative, and the awards and federal support, will provide strong incentives for continued preservation of our cultural and natural resources. As Carmer said, "Mobile stays in the heart." And with your continued work to preserve your heritage, Mobile will stay in the hearts of all who live in and visit your historic city. Thank you.


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