About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for the FOIA Advisory Committee

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
December 6, 2019 

Good morning. I’m Debra Wall, Deputy Archivist of the United States. Welcome to the National Archives and Records Administration and this sixth meeting of the 2018–2020 term of the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee. Whether you are here in McGowan Theater on stage or in the audience or on the National Archives YouTube Channel, we are pleased you are joining us.

Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, who usually welcomes the Committee and the public to these meetings, sends his regards. He’s at the christening of the new aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy in Norfolk, Virginia today. It’s a particularly special event for the Archivist, who served as a Navy hospital corpsman during the Vietnam War.

President Kennedy’s tenure in office occurred before Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act in 1966. But he recognized the importance of government openness. In a speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association in 1961, President Kennedy said:

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

Nearly 60 years later, President Kennedy’s words are manifested in the important – and transparent –work of this Committee.

Earlier this fall, the Committee began its first discussions of proposed recommendations and I understand today’s meeting will focus on continued discussion and deliberations about possible recommendations.

Committee members, thank you for your important work. It is gratifying to see collaboration among professionals from both sides of the FOIA process ––agency and requester––and your shared vision of making the FOIA process work better for all.

I now turn the meeting over to Committee Chairperson Alina Semo. Thank you.