Remarks by the First Lady
National Trust for Historic Preservation's 1998 List of
"America's Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places"
C&O Canal National Park, Maryland
June 15, 1998
It is such a great pleasure and honor for me to be here and to be a part ofthis ceremony. I share Senator Sarbanes view of this, that it is a littlebit odd to gather because something is endangered, but that is exactly thepoint, to bring attention to what all of you care so much about, this canaland this aqueduct, and what you have been doing.
We are trying to create greater public awareness and visibility for thework of preservation and heritage throughout our country. I am delightedto be here, with everyone who has already spoken. I share the very highopinion of Maryland for sending to the United States Senate two suchexemplary leaders: Senator Sarbanes and Senator Mikulski. They both havemade their marks in so many important ways in the life of our country.And I am deeply grateful to them for their leadership and friendship.Also, Congressman Bartlett, thank you for your commitment to historicpreservation, and in particular to this canal park.
I also want to thank Doug Farris and everyone associated with the ParkService, which is really acting on our behalf. If you look at what thePark Service does around the country, they are on the front lines ofpreserving what we value, our natural and historic heritage. I also wantto thank former Congressman Goody for his long years of support forpreservation, and, in particular for the C&O Canal.
I am also grateful to be in partnership with Dick Moe and the NationalTrust for Historic Preservation. The Trust has done so much good work overthe years of its existence in drawing our attention to what it is thatmakes America special, about who we are as a people, about where we comefrom, and about what has made us the way that we are. By releasing thislatest Most Endangered Historic Places list today, the Trust is once againgiving us a road map of what we must do, as individuals and as a nation, toensure our rich and diverse heritage.
Now, we cannot save our historic sites if people don't know they evenexist. Those of you in the C&O Canal Association, and those who are inother ways connected with this canal, understand what a treasure it is. Andwe want your feeling about this to be spread as far as we can throughoutour country, so that people throughout the United States, perhaps throughthe media's coverage of this event, who didn't even know about the C&OCanal, didn't know about the aqueducts, will be saying to themselves, "Youknow, that's really important; that's what helped make America what it istoday." So, this list will help create even greater public support.
Now, what several people have already referred to is this new partnershipthat the President and I are attempting to create. A new partnershipbetween the public and the private sector, among the federal, state andlocal governments, and among institutions and organizations like thoserepresented here.
I was quite struck over the last several years, as I have traveled aroundour country, to see the deterioration of many of our historic sites. Ihave also been quite concerned to see how stretched the National ParkService is, attempting to meet the needs of our millions and millions oftourists, while preserving the natural historic beauty that brings thosetourists to these places in the first place.
So in talking to my husband about how our country would mark the passing ofa century and a millennium, we thought that it would be an appropriatetime for us to bring attention to the endangered areas of historicpreservation and to try to create a program that would enable us to worktogether to save documents, buildings and structures such as the aqueductthroughout our country. So we created the White House Millennium Council,and through the council are creating a number of programs designed to reachout particularly to young Americans who too often don't understand muchabout our history. To try to get them involved in a very tangible way byenabling them to see what they can do to save some of what has made Americaso great.
The overall theme of the White House Millennium program is to "Honor thePast and Imagine the Future." and as part of the program we have launchedwhat we're calling "Save America's Treasures." We are trying to raiseadditional federal appropriations, not something that takes away from whatthe Park Service is already doing, but adds to it so that we can meet theneeds such as the of preservation and repair of this aqueduct. Then tomatch the public money that will be contributed through the appropriationprocess with private dollars that will be raised using the Trust as avehicle to reach out to individual Americans, charities, corporations andothers.
In the next month we'll have a series of significant announcements aboutprivate contributions that I hope you will follow because we've beenworking very hard to persuade individual Americans to contribute theirprivate dollars to saving public treasures. In my conversations with manyof the corporate chief executive officers and heads of foundations andother philanthropists, I have been struck by how they have said over andover again, "We want to be part of this but we want it to be a nationaleffort. We want it to be a public/private partnership which is so uniquein America." We are the only nation that really works together in ourpublic sector and our private sector to meet the needs that we're talkingabout today. In his State of the Union Address, the President requestedfunds for this project, and he said that he wanted to call on all Americans"to support our project to restore all our treasures, so that thegenerations of the 21st Century can see for themselves the images and wordsand structures that are the old and continuing glory of America."
So whether its the Star-Spangled Banner that is in great need of repair inthe Smithsonian, or Mesa Verde that Dick Moe has put on the list this year.From one end of our country to the other we have reminders of the work thatwas done. You heard Congressman Bartlett and the others talk about thework that was done to create this canal. We would not have had theeconomic progress from the late 19th century to the early 20th century hadwe not had that kind of commitment to make America progress along the linesof the economic commerce and transportation, and buildings and structuresthat have stood the test of time.
We are going to be doing a lot in the next months to bring attention tothese particular sites. I want to thank all of you who have joinedtogether in the C&O Canal Association -- which I understand is made up ofover 1300 citizens -- to be part of a grassroots effort to make the canalwhat it should be.
I sometimes sneak away from the White House; I don't want the press to knowthis. I take a walk along the canal or ride my bike along the canalstarting in Georgetown. I don't get to go as far as I'd like to go becauseI have to turn around and get back to another engagement. But I justcannot imagine not having that place to escape to and wondering at thebeauty of that natural setting and the extraordinary engineering feat thatthat canal represents.
I also want thank the Citizens' Advisory Committee of the C&O NationalHistorical Park and the American Society of Civil Engineers because you arepart of this unique American public/private partnership. I announced lastweek that I am going to be publishing a small book of letters to the twomost important inhabitants at the White House, namely, Socks the Cat andBuddy the Dog. We get hundreds and thousands of such letters, mostly fromchildren. They write and tell Socks about their cat or write and ask Buddywhat he likes to eat. So I thought that we could use those letters as a wayof encouraging letter writing and literacy among children.
I want to give all the proceeds from that book to that National ParkService Foundation so that they can continue their private partnership withthe public partnership. I call on all Americans to think about the giftswe can give to the future. This will be Sock's and Buddy's gift to thefuture, which we hope will enable us to do a lot more with the Park Servicethan we could do with just the public appropriations.
I feel like, with all of you here today, we are all preaching to the choir.You are already committed to making gifts to the future by preserving thebest of our past, by protecting what history has given us. I hope that youwill take some time in the next year leading up to the turn of themillennium to talk with your friends and neighbors about why this is soimportant to you. Those of you with your yellow hats, who are concernedabout the canal and its future, speak out to people and talk to them aboutwhy you are involved in this and what each of us can do on an individuallevel.
Certainly, raising the millions of dollars to pay for the aqueduct orpreserve the Star Spangled Banner is beyond the reach of individualAmericans, but contributing to efforts like funding the statue in themiddle of our town square that needs to be fixed up before it deterioratesfurther. Saving even the historic documents in a town or in a family areall ways that we can give gifts to the future. So let me thank you foralready doing what I hope more Americans will do in the next couple ofyears. And I look forward to coming back at a celebration that will be muchmuch bigger when we've done everything we need to do to preserve theAqueduct and we can gather and all of you can take a well deserved bow andthe rest of us can applaud and thank you for making that day possible.Thank you all so very much.
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