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Mr. MICA. Mr. Speaker, first of all, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous materials on H.R. 4097.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Florida?
There was no objection.
Mr. MICA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, today I am pleased to stand before you and offer for consideration of the House H.R. 4097, which would reauthorize the John F. Kennedy Center through 2014.
Everyone knows the Kennedy Center. It is one of the most outstanding national and cultural treasures that we have in our Capital City. I am pleased to be the sponsor of what I consider important legislation for several reasons.
First of all, in Congress, we get to do some exciting things. As chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, within our committee we have six subcommittees, and one does oversee public buildings. We've had a lot of public consternation--and rightfully so--with some of our public buildings programs under the General Services Administration. I was home last week, and everybody in America recalls the guy in the hot tub thumbing his nose at Congress and the taxpayers. That's a bad example of behavior and wasteful expenditures of taxpayers' dollars. But I'm pleased to be here to say that there are many in government that do have programs that are very beneficial for the country, and one is the Kennedy Center. What an incredible institution.
As the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I get to sit on their board of trustees. Actually, I've gone to their meetings and see how they operate. Most people don't know, but most of their programs are funded through private donations, not public donations, although the building does stay under the responsibility of the Federal Government.
A lot of folks don't know a lot about the history of the Kennedy Center. The Kennedy Center--and I learned this being on the board--was actually an idea of a Republican President. Dwight David Eisenhower, in the 1950s, was determined to create a national cultural center in our Nation's Capital. This center was the idea and the genesis of one of our Presidents. Probably most people don't know that. I learned that in the rededication of the Eisenhower Theater within the Kennedy Center. After many years, it was renovated, again, mostly through private funds and donations.
I actually saw an old clip of President Eisenhower when he came up with a plan for a national cultural center. Subsequently after that, of course, we had the assassination of our beloved President Kennedy. In 1964, they began work. In 1971, they actually opened the center and named it the Kennedy Center in honor of our late President. But a little bit about the history.
I'm also excited about this proposal because this legislation authorizes one of the first additions I know of. I know we've done some repairs and some renovations, but we're actually talking about an addition to the Kennedy Center, and it's going to be funded with private money. Only private funds will be raised for this. So it's exciting to see a public-private partnership and the great leadership of the Kennedy Center.
I have to pay a little bit of tribute to Michael Kaiser, the president. This guy works day and night to make everything happen at the Kennedy Center. And he, of course, reports to the chairman of the board, who is David Rubenstein. He does a magnificent job corralling some of the leaders of our Nation, those in business and free enterprise that come in and through their donations support the Kennedy Center.
It's incredible--Washington, D.C. programs. It truly has made the Nation's Capital a center for a whole host of cultural activities--dance and theater and symphonic music, and the list goes on and on. And many people across the Nation get to see it in their own living rooms. They don't always get to come to our Nation's Capital, but we've seen those performances that are televised. So it is a rich part of our Nation's Capital, and certainly a rich part of our Nation's culture, and we are now seeing for the first time an addition.
This addition will support the center's educational mission, and that's very important. It will be a benefit, again, both for Washington, D.C., our Nation's Capital, and for the Nation. And internationally they have programs today. The purpose of the expansion is to provide improved facilities of the Kennedy Center by adding approximately 56,000 square feet of space for classrooms, rehearsal rooms, event spaces, and offices. And for the first time, they will have a dedicated area for educational purposes, as I've outlined; other rehearsals and other functions and activities and things that don't fit into some of the theater and some of the existing facilities that they have already in the main building. So the expansion will permit the center to address its growing needs and provide greater accessibility for the center's programs and performances for the general public.
So I'm pretty excited about this proposal. Most
people don't know that we worked some years, 15 years, on the visitors center. We also were raising funds. Part of the construction of that visitors center was raising funds privately. Most people wouldn't know that the author of the visitors center was Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, who made an agreement that half the funds would be raised privately for that visitors center here at the Capitol, and also some public funds. Of course, all that changed with September 11, when the Capitol was attacked and our Nation was attacked, and we had to make some dramatic changes in that whole funding, and security issues that were raised there. But, like the visitors center, we're raising funds. This is totally, again, the private sector that is building this facility and great addition to the Kennedy Center.
So with that, I reserve the balance of my time.
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Mr. MICA. In closing, again, I think this is a very significant piece of legislation that does authorize the first addition that I know of to the Kennedy Center. Not only does it do that, it does it with the whole expansion being done with private funds. But we do have to authorize that. Again, the Federal Government is the custodian and trustee of the center.
Also, I think this bill is brought forward in a fiscally responsible approach for maintaining the facility, and we authorize the capital repair and maintenance program for the Kennedy Center at the requested level, and also in a reduction from current spending levels.
So whether it's the cultural center of the Nation, the Kennedy Center, and all other government programs either partially funded, like this, or publicly funded, we've got to do more with less taxpayers' money in a responsible fashion. This legislation does that, and I'm pleased to offer it for consideration of the House.
I urge my colleagues to support passage of this measure.
I yield back the balance of my time.
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