About the National Archives

The 2005 Records of Achievement Award to Tom Brokaw

Remarks by Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States
September 13, 2005, Washington, DC

Welcome, Tom Brokaw!  On behalf of the staff of the National Archives and Records Administration, I welcome you and our many other distinguished guests to the Foundation for the National Archives’ second annual “Records of Achievement” award gala. Let me begin my remarks by extending our deepest appreciation to the Boeing Corporation for its generous support of this evening’s event.

Two days after the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy and only days more since the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf states, we gather at an appropriate moment to honor Tom Brokaw, an extraordinary journalist even before he became the historian of “the greatest generation.”

The days ahead will continue to test the capacity of our citizens to rise to the occasion, overcome initial distractions, and address the costly, complex, and crucial issues now before us—not those perhaps of a “greatest generation,” but arguably no less challenging and demanding of serious leadership.

In that connection, distinguished guests, I thought you would wish to know that we at the National Archives have been addressing the emergency issue of lost and destroyed records in the Gulf states—“identity loss” pure and simple. I and others from the National Archives, along with state archivist colleagues and leaders of the major archival organizations, will leave for the area later this week and next week to determine the condition of Federal and other records—the needs and priorities for assistance in restoring records as this country pursues regional recovery. The work continues.

I thought you would also wish to know that hundreds of Mr. Brokaw’s media colleagues attended one or another of 13 recent openings of reviewed and released files related to Judge John Roberts. Hundreds of NARA employees worked here in Washington and at the Reagan and Bush libraries (NARA oversees all the Presidential libraries), resulting in the release, with bipartisan support, of over 79,000 pages of Presidential and Federal records pertaining to Roberts in six weeks, a process that would normally take up to six months—but completed in record time prior to yesterday’s opening of Judge Roberts’ senate confirmation hearing. In broader context, the National Archives and our Presidential libraries have opened nearly 1 million pages of Presidential records since November 2001.

I thought you would also wish to know that last Thursday NARA awarded a multiyear contract for $308 million to Lockheed Martin after it won the competition to develop a model “Electronic Records Archives,” or “ERA,” system capable of accepting, preserving, and making accessible—far into the future—any type of electronic document, no matter on which hardware or software originally generated. We at the National Archives recognize a sense of urgency around the need to develop the system, which we hope will be running by 2007 and fully operational by 2011. Why urgency?  Because an unprecedented number and variety of electronic records are now being created by Federal agencies and departments, all of which are headed directly toward the National Archives. The Electronic Records Archives is not a panacea for this problem but, rather, a good start, a beginning, a major first step.Failure is simply not an option. Therefore, the work continues.

Finally, if time allowed, I could discuss many of the newer and important activities under way or planned at the National Archives. Nevertheless, I thought you would still wish to know about the newly remodeled Rotunda and extraordinary Public Vaults exhibit, about the elegant new McGowan Theater and the handsome new O’Brien exhibit hall—all achieved in close partnership with the Foundation for the National Archives. As for NARA itself, I’d like you to know about our new special tour for visiting heads of state and government; about the return of Ross Perot’s 1297 copy of the Magna Carta, scheduled for display just outside the Rotunda beginning this Saturday; about a new series starting this fall of “American Conversations” involving major guest speakers; and about a greatly enhanced program of educational activities. In short, the work continues.

Let me conclude, first, by recognizing and thanking two of my predecessors as Archivist, Don Wilson and John Carlin, for their good work. Don and John, please stand. now, on behalf of the 2,800 employees of the National Archives at our 14 regional archives, 18 Federal records centers, 11 Presidential libraries, and 4 Washington-area  buildings (including this magnificent facility and the Federal Register), we welcome all of you.

It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce the chairman of the Foundation for the National Archives, who will in turn introduce our guest of honor tonight. Tom Wheeler wears many hats. He is a special partner at Core Capital Partners, and prior to joining Core, Tom was the president and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA). He has also served as president of the National Cable Television Association, the principal trade association of the cable television industry.

Mr. Wheeler is also a frequent commentator on technology issues, and his opinion columns have been widely published in major daily newspapers. In 2000, Doubleday published his first book, Take Command: Leadership Lessons of the Civil War, on the confluence of business, technology, and leadership. He is currently working on his next book, From Gutenberg to Google, about the impact of technology-driven networks throughout history.

Tom, the podium is yours—but the work continues. Tom Wheeler.