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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 24, 2005

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Opening of "Info USA" Bratislava
University Library
Bratislava, Slovak Republic


Thank you, Minister Chmel for your warm welcome to your beautiful country. And special thanks to Dr. Trgia for your leadership of this extraordinary library. For nearly a century, The University Library has stood as a beacon for information and education. Today, this library is one of the most renowned cultural and academic treasures in the heart of Europe - and in the world. President Bush and I also thank our Slovak hosts for welcoming us. Slovakia is a close friend and ally of the United States. Our nations and our people are bound by common ideals and common values. And one of our most cherished values is the importance of education. Slovaks and Americans are united in our love of liberty and learning.

There is perhaps no greater joy for a librarian than to help open the doors to a new home of learning and literature. The establishment and expansion of libraries is important to the progress of all people and all nations. Libraries facilitate the free exchange of information which is vital to democracy. And libraries embody our history, our culture, and our collective memory, which is vital to our humanity.

President Bush was not surprised when I told him my first stop in Slovakia would be at the University Library. Some of my fondest childhood memories are the times I spent reading with my mother at the public library in my hometown of Midland, Texas. I remember the serenity of the quiet reading rooms and the smell of new books. In an afternoon, we traveled from the desert of west Texas to exciting new lands rich with adventure and history. Even today, in this age of technological advancement, books have a unique way of connecting us with the world and with each other. For more than five thousand years, libraries have been lighting the way to learning for all mankind. And today, there is no still greater place to learn about history, mystery, and life.

Books are among our greatest tools for the expansion of liberty and the preservation of democracy. The joy of reading is universal, transcending time and space. With reading comes greater understanding and self-respect, and greater respect for others. And an understanding of other cultures is essential for our future and for future generations.

The collections in InfoUSA Bratislava will link generations of Slovaks and Americans. Every day, thousands of young people around the world come to InfoUSA centers to learn about the United States. Through books, speaker series, and videos about American life, I hope more Europeans will gain an appreciation for the rich heritage and diversity of my country. As you learn about American culture, I also hope you will enjoy the artistic and literary talents of American authors.

Special thanks to the University Library and the United States Embassy in Bratislava for fostering understanding between our two countries. The United States Embassy is providing a core collection of books on topics including, United States history, literature and art. The University Library is providing this inviting space and the support of a librarian fluent in both English and Slovak to assist library patrons. I'm confident that InfoUSA Bratislava will further enhance the warm friendship between the people of Slovakia and the United States. Thanks to the people of the Slovak Republic for your friendship and your commitment to education and liberty for all.

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