Mister President, I rise today to introduce the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center Bill. I am joined by my colleagues and fellow Vietnam veterans, Senators McCain and Kerry, in sponsoring this bill that would authorize the construction of an Education Center near the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Twenty-one years ago, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built as a permanent testament to the sacrifice of over 58,000 veterans who died during the Vietnam War. It is a place of remembrance for Vietnam veterans and their families.
As the Vietnam War draws further into America's past, it is important for future generations to remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in Vietnam, and to understand the lessons learned in Vietnam.
Most visitors to the Wall today were not alive during the Vietnam War. The Education Center would serve as an access point for the next generation. By collecting historic documents, artifacts and the testimony of Vietnam veterans, the Education Center would provide visitors with a better understanding of the Memorial.
The Memorial was designed to accommodate expansion. Over the last two decades, the Wall's reach has extended; names of fallen soldiers have been added to the black granite. Building the Education Center underground would expand the memorial in a new direction - one that does not distract from the natural beauty of the Mall.
The names on the Wall must never become simple, empty etchings. Their individual and collective power must remain connected to the real human sacrifices of war. The Education Center would help preserve this bond. It would affirm the meaning of the Wall, not just as an acknowledgment of a war or a date to be remembered, but as a living memorial with lessons to offer those who come to learn.
Many educators, veterans, lawmakers and organizations have voiced strong support for the proposed Education Center. Like the Wall, the Center would be funded entirely by private donations - evidence of its broad-based public support. There would be no tax payer money involved in building the Center.
Building an Education Center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial would affirm the belief that we can inspire peace by educating our young people about the consequences of war. For there is no stronger advocate for peace than one who knows war.
I am proud to sponsor this bill authorizing the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center. I ask my colleagues to join me and Senators Kerry and McCain in support of this effort.