The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
January 8, 2007

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the National Awards for Museum and Library Services
The East Room

10:44 A.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Welcome to the White House. This is always one of my favorite events, as you might imagine, a retired librarian. I love to have this opportunity to recognize libraries and museums around our country, and the great things they do in each one of our communities. So I want to thank you all very, very much for coming today.

Mrs. Laura Bush addresses her remarks at the 2006 National Awards for Museum and Library Service ceremony Monday, January 8, 2006, in the East Room of the White House, honoring three libraries and three museums from around the nation for their outstanding contributions to public service.  White House photo by Shealah Craighead I want to, of course, acknowledge Dr. Anne Radice, who is the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the IMLS board that are here, as well, the ones who work to support IMLS and also to work on picking the award winners that we're going to see in a minute.

We have three members of Congress joining us. I want to thank Senator Enzi for joining us, Congressman Fortenberry, and Congressman Regula. Thank you all very much for joining us today.

Also Stephen Johnson, the Administrator of the EPA is with us. Thank you very much, Steve. Dr. Bruce Cole, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Dana Gioia, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts; Adair Margo, the Chairman of the President's Council on Arts and Humanities; and Allen Weinstein, the Archivist for the United States -- thank you all very, very much for lending your expertise and prestige to this event. Thank you for coming.

There are also a few members of the National Council of the Arts and National Council of the Humanities joining us, and distinguished guests, thank you for coming today to celebrate the national award winners for museum and library service.

Every one of us can remember our first visits to our favorite library or museum. For me, those happy childhood memories are of the times I spent with my mother at the Midland Public Library in my hometown of Midland, Texas. Recently, the Midland Public Library celebrated its 100th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, Midlanders compiled an anthology of their favorite library memories. In her introduction, the Midland librarian explains why we love these institutions: "In a sense," she writes, "being in a public library is being home. We know that at any library, the characters in our favorite stories are waiting for us like old friends. Young people can open doors to wherever their imagination takes them. Patrons immediately feel welcome among the same rows of computers, the familiar smell of yellowing pages, and the same kind librarian asking, "May I help you?" (Laughter.)

At every library and museum across our country, we feel at home, thanks to the librarians and the curators who are eager to serve their communities. Today we recognize six libraries and museums that exemplify this spirit of service.

In North Carolina, the Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Public Library transforms lives. Library programs publish local writers and help high school students apply for college. Children become permanent book-lovers at the library's ImaginOn center, where they use multimedia, arts and crafts, and theater to bring their favorite stories to life. As one young patron commented to the librarian, ImaginOn "is better than Disney World." (Laughter.)

Through its community outreach and free computer services, the library helped a homeless patron reconnect with his family in Boston. Soon, he'll move from the streets of Charlotte into a loving home. Another patron recently wrote to thank library staff for cheerfully answering research questions for her son's school project over the phone. "I'm receiving radiation treatments for breast cancer," this mother explained. "I'd gladly come downtown to help my child, but my energy level weakens everyday. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for making me still a hero to my son."

In San Antonio, Texas, the public library uses a downtown facility, 22 branches, and nine bookmobile stops to turn a city of 1.2 million multilingual residents into a community of learning. Library partnerships with local public schools offer students online homework help, and lectures by renowned National Geographic explorers. Partnerships with city arts institutions offer San Antonians free entry to cultural exhibits and performances.

Library partnerships with local hospitals and pediatricians help San Antonio's youngest residents develop early literacy skills. Through its "Born to Read" program, the library distributes literacy kits, including books and a library card application, to the 25,000 babies delivered in San Antonio every year. In San Antonio, thanks to the public library, it's never too early to start reading.

Frankfort, Indiana, is a town of 16,000 where East meets West -- at the Public Library. Frankfort is home to a large Japanese community, and a fast-growing Hispanic community. To help Frankfort come together as one community, the library showcases Hispanic guitar music and foods, and teaches children how to make calaveras skeletons and Mexican tin ware. A biannual Japanese festival features traditional art, sushi, Koto players, and tea ceremonies.

As the library introduces Frankfort to its residents' different cultures, it encourages their appreciation of all arts and culture, especially music. Children receive instruction, and show off their skills, on the library's new Yamaha grand piano. Teenagers develop healthy interests through voice lessons, and perform Broadway show tunes in the library's theater. Frankfort has one of the few libraries in the country that actually encourage noisy patrons. (Laughter.)

Everyone enjoys going to museums, but with ArtTrain USA, the museum comes to you. Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, ArtTrain USA loads world-class art exhibits onto rail cars and chugs across the United States, stopping in communities with little or no access to museums.

ArtTrain introduces small towns to the arts, and then encourages local residents to make art the center of town life. The 1,600 residents of Ada, Oklahoma -- 16,000, that is -- were so inspired by ArtTrain's "Native Views" exhibit that they decided to convert their old armory into a city museum. At every whistle-stop -- from Auburn, New York, to Palmer, Alaska -- ArtTrain is exciting Americans about art. The few people who aren't excited about the art tend to be train buffs, and they're excited about the locomotive. (Laughter.)

In Chicago, the John G. Shedd Aquarium introduces millions of visitors to the wonders of the underwater world -- from the white-sided dolphins of the Pacific, to the zebra mussels living right off of Lakeshore Drive. The Shedd Aquarium also urges visitors to be good stewards of these aquatic wonders, especially the Great Lakes, which contain 90 percent of America's fresh water supply, and a variety of fascinating ecosystems.

Through massive public awareness campaigns, exhibits about invasive species, and cooking demonstrations highlighting sustainable seafood, the Shedd Aquarium shows millions of Chicagoans how to preserve the biodiversity in their own back yard. By introducing more than 300,000 schoolchildren to the beauty of marine life, the Aquarium ensures that our lakes and oceans will be protected for generations to come.

At most schools, the class pet is a goldfish or a hamster. But in Lincoln, Nebraska, thanks to the Children's Zoo, class pets can be baboons, wallabies, and bearded dragons. With a Science Focus High School located right on its grounds, and three inner-city elementary schools within walking distance, the Lincoln Zoo turns studying the animal kingdom into a hands-on adventure.

Lincoln is a diverse community, and the zoo is committed to reaching every member. Zoo programs are presented in many of the 26 first languages spoken by Lincoln residents. Through its Sensory Safari, the zoo allows Lincoln's visually impaired citizens to experience the textures, sounds, and -- for better or worse -- the smells of the animal kingdom. (Laughter.)

And while the zoo is officially a "Children's Zoo," some of its most devoted patrons are simply young at heart. Through the "Our Zoo to YOU" program, Lincoln residents in assisted-living and retirement communities enjoy visits from teen volunteers, and quality time with guests from Lincoln's petting zoo.

Congratulations to each of the recipients of this year's National Awards for Museum and Library Service. Whether it's a train conductor hauling art masterpieces across the United States, the zookeeper introducing children to a Redfoot Tortoise, or that friendly librarian asking, "May I help you?", the people behind each of today's winning institutions have made their organizations indispensable to the communities they serve.

Many representatives from these communities are here today. Each will tell you that their hometown libraries and museums are inspiring examples for educational institutions across our nation. Thank you to the staff of these exceptional libraries and museums for your outstanding service.

Now I'm delighted to introduce someone who's devoted her career to the educational and cultural life of our nation: Dr. Anne Radice. (Applause.)

* * * * *

MRS. BUSH: Congratulations, again, to each one of the libraries and the museums. Thank you very, very much for what you do for our country by serving your own communities and educating people in your communities, that your reach is so much farther than you'll ever, ever know. And we thank you very much for that.

I want to thank Anne Radice again, the Director of the IMLS, for her good work, and also her partners that are the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Archives and the President's committee. Thank you so much for joining us.

Joining us also today is the former director of the IMLS, Robert Martin. (Applause.) Congratulations again to each one of the library and museum winners, and thank you very, very much for your service to your communities. Thank you all. (Applause.)

END 11:08 A.M. EST

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