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Talking It Over
January 10, 2001
This week, some of you may have seen pictures of forklifts loading hundreds of boxes onto a Little Rock-bound airplane. Here in the White House, though, the piles of boxes containing the President's papers and other mementos don't seem to be getting any smaller.
For the sake of history, nothing is thrown out. Rather, every note and jot is packed up, labeled, and sent to the National Archives or the site of what will, in a few years, be my husband's presidential library.
As I wrote last week, the very process of packing these documents elicits vivid memories of the events and initiatives that actually changed the lives of millions of Americans. Many of the achievements noted in last week's column related to children -- but there have been many more.
I suspect that when my husband was elected President, many Americans didn't know the depth of my interest in the arts, or how much it would mean to me to be the steward of the White House collection. But it has truly turned out to be one of the great joys of living here.
Until Rosalyn Carter had the idea to create an endowment, refurbishing and acquisitions of art were funded by private donors. Barbara Bush launched the White House Endowment Fund, and I was able to help it along -- not only reaching, but exceeding its goal of $25 million.
Anxious to showcase American artists and craftspeople, I was pleased to add two paintings to the permanent collection, a 72-piece collection of American crafts and eight exhibits of contemporary American sculpture.
I would hope every American has the opportunity to visit the White House. But there are four books, three of them new, that may be the next best thing: White House curator Betty Monkman's "The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families"; photographer David Finn's record of the eight sculpture exhibits, "20th-Century American Sculpture in the White House Garden; The White House Collection of American Crafts"; and my new glimpse inside 1600, "An Invitation to the White House."
The White House is a living museum, and it has been my goal to showcase not only American art, but a sampling of our country's other talents, as well. I hired Walter Scheib, the first American chef to head the White House kitchen, and invited artists like Aretha Franklin and Lou Rawls, Rita Moreno, Tony Bennett, Liza Minnelli, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Stevie Wonder to perform.
If the arts are to thrive, of course, they can't be restricted to the White House stage. Rather, they must be part of every child's education. That is why my husband and I support more public funding for the arts and a return to strong arts education programs in our schools.
One example of the kind of successful private-public partnership that my husband and I have long worked to foster is VH1's "Save the Music," which collected instruments so that, once again, schools could offer music classes. I will never forget the look on the faces of the children when I walked into their schools with violins, trumpets or flutes.
The seeds of another successful partnership were born in 1992 when representatives of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, en route to a meeting with me, found themselves stranded on the side of the road when their bus broke down. Determined not to miss our meeting, some resorted to hitchhiking, while others rode in sheriff's vehicles. A year later, we were working together to create the National Action Plan on Breast Cancer, a comprehensive blueprint that encouraged more women to get mammograms and increased federal research funding.
The President and I also worked to raise awareness and funding for other diseases, winning the largest increases ever in medical research funding.
Early in the administration, we received letters from thousands of Gulf War veterans who, disabled by undiagnosed and unexplained symptoms, were frustrated by their belief that the medical establishment was ignoring them. Working with representatives from agencies like the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense, we were able to open a toll-free advice line, and make sure that legitimate claims were approved and funds allocated for research into the treatment and prevention of Gulf War Illness.
As difficult as it is to pack up and leave the White House, it helps to think about stories like these, and take stock of the impact this administration has had on the lives of so many -- not only here, but also around the world -- the women of Vital Voices, the refugees in the Balkans, the children of Northern Ireland.
As I move to the Senate, I'll be working on issues like these and others to which I have long been deeply committed: building modern schools that offer our children the best education in the world, protecting our Earth from the effects of global warming and other environmental hazards, restoring human rights to the women of Afghanistan, expanding the rights of women and children around the world while protecting them from human trafficking, finding the key to peace in the Middle East, making cancer, AIDS and other dread diseases words that children read only in history books, and providing affordable health insurance to every single American citizen.
In the meantime, though, I've got to wrap up. The boxes are calling.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2001 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
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