About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Citizen Engagement in America’s History"

Good evening, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through YouTube. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could with us for tonight’s discussion of “Citizen Engagement in America’s History.”

This program is presented in partnership with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, and we thank them for their support.

Tonight’s program is part of the National Archives’ ongoing efforts to promote civic education and facilitate historical understanding of our national experience. Through our public programs and educational activities, we offer a wide range of program formats for audiences of adults, children, and educators, to educate American citizens about democracy.

Before we get started, I’d like to tell you about two other events coming up later this month.

On Thursday, June 21, at noon, as a Robert F. Kennedy Legacy Program, we will hear from Kerry Kennedy about her new book about her father, Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope. Using interviews with those who have been inspired by him, Kennedy brings to life RFK’s values and passions. A book signing will follow the program.

Then on Tuesday, July 3, at noon, get a head start on the July 4th celebration with a conversation with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. These two Founding Fathers (portrayed by Joseph Doyle and Steven Edenbo) will debate each other and take questions from the audience.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. Check our website or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

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Citizen engagement and civic literacy have long been woven into the work we do here at the National Archives. Our mission statement declares that we strive to “cultivate public participation.” We firmly believe in the importance of public access to government records and that such access “strengthens democracy by allowing Americans to claim their rights of citizenship, hold their government accountable, and understand their history so they can participate more effectively in their government.”

The records we preserve belong to all Americans, and they have the right to examine them and use them. The Constitution of the United States—which we publicly display in the Rotunda—proclaims the primacy of the people in its opening words: “We the People.”

Another document exhibit, “Records of Rights,” has many examples of how “We the People” have asserted our rights, campaigned for justice, and petitioned our government.

All of us at the National Archives take our roles as caretakers of America’s records very seriously, and we are proud that the work we do every day preserves our documentary heritage for generations to come.

I’ll turn you over now to Martin Frost, of the United States Association of Former Members of Congress, who will introduce our panelists.

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Martin Frost served 26 years as a congressman from the 24th District of Texas from 1979 to 2005. During that time he served eight years in the House Democratic Leadership, four years as Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and four years as chair of the House Democratic Caucus. He was a member of the House Rules Committee and the House Budget Committee. Since leaving Congress, he served four years as chair of the National Endowment for Democracy and is the incoming President of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress. He is an adjunct professor in the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management and holds journalism and history degrees from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Martin Frost.