Welcome Remarks for the National Archives Foundation Gala
Good evening! Welcome back to the National Archives! This is our first big event since the pandemic started. It is so great to have you back in the building celebrating the National Archives and the American story.
It has been a long 20 months and I want to start by thanking the National Archives and National Archives Foundation staffs for their stamina, passion, and creativity pivoting to carry out our mission, getting us to this point. I am proud to be among them.
Let me start with the sock reveal. For those new to the Gala, I shamelessly plug a shop product by exposing my ankles. This year with the image of “the most important woman in the first thirty years of the Republic” in the words of tonight’s honoree.
Tonight, we are honoring Tennessee-native Jon Meacham. He is a presidential historian, Pulitzer–Prize winning author, professor at Vanderbilt University, contributor to Time and the New York Times Book Review, podcaster, and frequent commentator on television. To put it simply, he is everywhere.
Through his in-depth research and unique voice, Jon Meacham has given us new insight into Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George H. W. Bush, and John Lewis. His books have shined light on untold stories about these men and their moments in history. Here at the National Archives, we are pleased that he used records from the Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush Presidential Libraries to tell some of these stories.
Jon Meacham also writes about the responsibilities of citizenship. Something I feel very strongly about. He encourages people to “enter the arena,” “resist tribalism,” “respect facts and deploy reason,” “find a critical balance,” and, most importantly, “keep history in mind.”
In the Soul of America, Jon Meacham talks about an incident where President Harry S. Truman broke out a copy of the Bill of Rights and started reading it aloud to an angry woman. Truman later commented that “It’s not a bad idea to read those ten amendments every once in awhile. Not enough people do, and that’s one of the reasons we’re in the trouble we’re in.” I couldn’t agree more. I want everyone to visit the National Archives in person or online to see and learn from our founding documents.
Because of this, we have made civics education a priority at the National Archives. We work to provide people with the tools they need to understand history and become active participants in our government. We recently launched We Rule: Civics for All of Us. This program promotes civic literacy and engagement through distance learning programs and draws upon the vast holdings of the National Archives to promote the knowledge and skills students need for civic engagement in the 21st century.
I would like to thank our partner, the National Archives Foundation, whose generous support helps the National Archives reach an ever-larger and more diverse audience across the country. With the support of the National Archives Foundation and generous benefactors like you, we are able to make this shared vision of civic engagement a reality.
And very special thanks to Senator Durbin and Congressman Quigley for being here this evening and for their support of our major redesign of the public vaults exhibit area.
Here at the National Archives, history comes to life through our records. Jon Meacham brings these American stories to the people. For this, we are forever thankful. And tonight, we will honor his career and express our gratitude for encouraging citizenship and spreading history through his many books, podcasts, and lectures.
Thank you for joining us as we celebrate our public-private partnership with the Foundation and pay tribute to Jon Meacham.