About the National Archives

Archivist welcome for State of the Constitution Lecture

Thursday, September 15, 2015, at 7 p.m.
McGowan Theatre, Archives I

Who is the Archivist?

David S. Ferriero

David S. Ferriero The Archivist of the United States is the head of our agency, appointed by the President of the United States.

The AOTUS Blog
What's an Archivist?

Good evening. I'm David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. Welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater for our ninth annual Guggenheim Documentary Center Tribute Program.

This program is part of our continuing partnership with the Charles Guggenheim Center for Documentary Film, created in 2004 to honor the past president of the National Archives Foundation, four-time Oscar-winning filmmaker, and creator of tonight's documentary film.

We began these tributes in 2007 with a screening and discussion of Charles's 1964 film Nine From Little Rock, for which he won his first Oscar. Thanks to the generosity of Guggenheim Productions, Inc., we have that very Oscar on permanent display outside the theater.

Through an ongoing program of public film screenings and discussions presented here in the theater (which Charles helped design), the Guggenheim Center not only acknowledges the contributions of a great American filmmaker, but is also a showcase for the motion picture holdings of the National Archives and the art of the documentary film.

Before we get to tonight's program, I'd like to tell you about some upcoming programs.

This Thursday, September 15, is the 228th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States, and we'll have several programs throughout the day.

At noon in this theater, United States Senator from Utah Mike Lee will discuss and sign his new book, Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America's Founding Document. Between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. in our Boeing Learning Center, we will present Constitution Day family activities, and at 7 p.m. here in the theater we'll host a discussion on how a rising generation of civic leaders, shaped by the digital revolution, is reaffirming its commitment to the rights-based principles of the U.S. Constitution. This program is presented in partnership with the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier.

Charles Guggenheim was driven to understand and tell America's stories. While he made films about leaders, Presidents, and great heroes who changed the course of history, his heart identified with common working men. He celebrated the dignity of their work.

It was in that spirit that he made tonight's film, Monument to the Dream, which expertly documents the conception and construction of the St. Louis Gateway Arch, which celebrates its 50th anniversary of its completion next month.

Tonight we will debut a digital restoration of Monument to the Dream, commissioned by the National Park Service and personally produced by Charles daughter Grace Guggenheim, who is with us tonight. You are the first audience to see this new version.

After the film, we'll invite up our panel to discuss the past, present, and future of the Arch and its surrounding area. Our moderator will be veteran St. Louis journalist Mary Delach Leonard, and she'll be joined by author and historian Dr. Tracy Campbell and Maggie Hales, executive director of the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation.

It's now my honor to welcome former Missouri Congressman James W. Symington, who will introduce tonight's film.

James W. Symington served four terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1969 to 1977.

His great-grandfather, John Hay, served as Abraham Lincoln's private secretary, Ambassador to Great Britain, and U.S. Secretary of State.

His father, Stuart Symington was a United States Senator from Missouri between 1953 and 1976, and was a Democratic candidate for President in 1960.

Before serving in Congress, James Symington served in the Kennedy administration as Deputy Director of Food for Peace. Later, he was an administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Chief of Protocol of the United States during the Johnson administration.

He appeared as a commentator in Ken Burns's 1990 television series The Civil War, and is the author of the recent book, Heard and Overheard: Words Wise (and Otherwise) with Politicians, Statesmen, and Real People.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Honorable James W. Symington.