About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks at the Presidential Scholars Dinner

Good evening and welcome to my House!

The National Archives Building is the perfect place to bring Presidential Leadership Scholars. Architect John Russell Pope designed this building as a “temple to American History.” He believed only a monumental building in his beloved neoclassical style could appropriately showcase the most treasured documents of our democracy. He made the National Archives Building taller than the neighboring structures, surrounded it with a moat, and set it at an angle to emphasize the importance of this building to the American people. He wanted everyone to know that records matter.

This Rotunda is the home to the Charters of Freedom. Each year more than one million visitors come here to see the pen strokes of our Founding Fathers. These sacred documents contain the words that inspired a revolution, set up our government, and laid out our rights as U.S. citizens.

We opened our doors in 1935 with a mission to collect, protect, and preserve the records of the U.S. Government. And, most importantly, to make the records available so that the American public can hold its government accountable and learn from our past.  

We are the final destination of the most important records of the United States Government.  Today that collection translates into over 13 billion sheets of paper, 43 million photographs, miles and miles of video and film, and more than 6 billion electronic records—the fastest growing record form. These records include Oaths of Allegiance signed by George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge, the Louisiana Purchase signed by Bonaparte, the check for 7.2m dollars with which we purchased Alaska, the Civil Rights Act, as well as the Tweets that are being created by the White House as I am speaking right now.

As Presidential scholars you should already know that we administer a nationwide network of Presidential Libraries from Herbert Hoover in West Branch, Iowa, to Barack Obama being planned on Chicago’s Southside.  When Franklin Roosevelt, who created the National Archives, dedicated his Presidential Library, he captured the essence of the mission best:

“It seems to be that the dedication of a library is in itself an act of faith.  To bring together the records of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a Nation must believe in three things. It must believe in the past.  It must believe in the future.  And it must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”

Today these facilities house almost 800 million textural records, 675 museum objects, and millions of electronic records—the fastest growing record type.  To give you some perspective:  Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush 300k, Bill Clinton 20m, George W. Bush 200m, and 300m from the Obama Administration.

But I know that you are focusing on four presidential administrations: Lyndon Baines Johnson, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Each of these Presidents exhibited leadership in different ways. This evening, we pulled a few special documents from our vault that represent some of the important achievements of these administrations. I hope you enjoyed seeing these documents. 

And I encourage you to take advantage of the resources we have at all of our facilities nationwide, especially the Presidential Libraries, during your program and beyond so that you too “…can gain in judgment in creating your own future.”

Thanks for joining us.