The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of Mrs. Bush
May 10, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Unveiling of Relief Medallions in the Gardens of Remembrance
Battery Park
New York, New York

2:47 P.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Mayor. Thank all of you so much. I'm so excited to be here today. I've been really looking forward to this. Thank you for your welcome to the great City of New York.

Thank you also, Warrie, for your leadership for The Battery Conservancy. It's truly breathtaking to look out upon these 11,000 acres or, as Warrie likes to say, 11,023. And it's great to see so many New Yorkers here who are committed to preserving this city's great heritage.

Warrie mentioned Lady Bird Johnson, but in fact it was Lady Bird Johnson who wrote me and asked me to meet with Warrie because she loved what she was doing at The Battery and she wanted me to see her plans which I got to do fairly recently, and they are magnificent. The plans for the carousel that's going to have the sea creatures as the rides and the most magnificent and ambitious plans for Castle Clinton, which should be really, really beautiful.

Lady Bird Johnson is one of my great inspirations. Another Texan like Warrie and Elizabeth Betsy Rogers. And I think maybe there's something about growing up in Texas that makes you especially appreciate the outdoors and native plants.

Mrs. Johnson made America more beautiful -- all of America -- by restoring city and national parks and by planting native grasses and wildflowers everywhere. On the highways, all over the United States, when you see the native grasses and the native wildflowers on the roadside, you really have Lady Bird Johnson to thank for that.

She worked tirelessly to preserve native plants and to promote their use in planned landscapes. She once said of her own work, "I've had a love affair with the environment. It's my sustenance, my pleasure, my joy. Flowers in the city are like lipstick on a woman: It just makes you look better to have a little color." (Laughter.)

We are fortunate to live in a country with so much color and so many wide open spaces for children and for families to enjoy. The students from Cobble Hill school who are here with us today should enjoy having one of the world's greatest cities for your classroom.

I'm glad that the students joined us. You're probably excited to be out of school for a little while. But the great thing about learning is it can happen anywhere.

There is no better place to learn about your heritage than here at The Battery, the frontier of American history. Nearly 150 years ago, men and women beckoned by freedom and opportunity arrived at Castle Clinton.

In his book The Uprooted, Oscar Handlin wrote: The long American coast dawned unnoticed by those who had waited weary days for it; like the gift delayed in coming which arrives when hope is almost gone, as the travelers came on deck this unexpected vision gladdened their hearts.

The Battery embodied their hopes and dreams for themselves for their children. With perseverance and passion, they built a country rich in history, tradition and vitality.

The evolution of this city mirrors the evolution of our nation. And The Battery holds the story of our nation's early beginnings. Militia defended our young country here, hence "The Battery," and the "Swedish Nightingale" Jenny Lind filled a September night with song.

As gates to a new world, eight million immigrants walked through Castle Clinton. The Marquis de Lafayette and Amelia Erhart were honored here. And children learned about the wonders of the sea at the country's first aquarium.

Today, with Warrie's leadership and the commitment of The Battery Conservancy, this historic treasure will soon mark a new beginning. The Castle will be restored to a center of cultural excellence, and the parks will be a horticultural oasis.

The Conservancy hopes that the Castle can be a starting point for visitors to begin their journey of discovery of this city, and they hope that young people will learn about their ancestors, about nature and about their roles as stewards of history.

President Bush and I want every American -- especially children -- to learn about our nation's heritage and to enjoy our national treasures. A White House initiative called Preserve America ensures that they do. The Conservancy is the perfect example of what this initiative is about.

Preserve America supports partnerships that preserve our nation's heritage -- from monuments to landscapes to main streets, while sparking an economic investment and tourism in America's communities. The Departments of Interior and Commerce and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation are strong partners in this initiative.

By making our neighborhoods vibrant places to visit and live, we also inspire young people to make their communities into their classrooms.

Preserve America has two initiatives to teach young people that an understanding of the past is essential for understanding the future. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation worked with the History Channel's Save Our History to develop an education manual. The Council has distributed the manual already to more than 50,000 students. This guide provides teachers with lesson plans and with ideas to get students involved in preserving historic sites in their communities.

Preserve America is also working with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to honor outstanding teachers. The Council is currently accepting nominations for the first Preserve America History Teacher of the Year Award. Teachers from across the country can be nominated and a national History Teacher of the Year will be selected from this group this fall.

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 many have found comfort here at the Gardens of Remembrance. In the gardens, we honor those who lost their lives on September 11th and those who survived that day of tragedy. These perennials are living reminders of our shared history of Americans and of our shared faith in freedom.

Today, we unveil one of the medallions as a testament to the enduring power of freedom. May all who come here be reminded, not only of what we've faced, but also of what we've overcome. Today we celebrate the contributions that the people who came before us made to this city, and your contributions to future generations.

Millions of immigrants came here searching for something new. By preserving The Battery, you ensure that our children can continue to come here to search for our country's past.

The Battery stands as a testament to who we are and who we can become, and to what we can overcome. Thank you for preserving this historic site for continued learning and enjoyment. (Applause.)

(The medallion was unveiled.)


END 2:55 P.M. EDT

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