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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions S. 1076

Location: Washington, DC

S. 1076. A bill to authorize construction of an education center at or near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a special place on the national mall. Its design has proven moving to millions of visitors, offering a place of reflection, remembrance, and healing.

Despite the "Wall's" success in honoring those who fell in Vietnam, the memorial lacks an appropriate visitors center, a place where the broader story of America's involvement in Vietnam can be told. The legislation we introduce today would authorize the construction of such a center to provide information on the memorial, and to perform appropriate educational and interpretive activities relating to the memorial.

A Visitor's Center at the Vietnam Memorial is important, because the Vietnam War and the men and women who fought it are important. A Visitor's Center can provide a lasting gift of knowledge and understanding to those who visit the memorial, including students—for whom Vietnam is a passage in their history books—and their parents—for whom the memories of Vietnam remain immediate.

Adding a new structure to the national mall is not something we should do without consideration of the impact such an action will have on the open space we so cherish there. This legislation, however, specifies that the Visitor's Center be designed with those concerns in mind—and in fact we expect the structure to be built under-ground. In addition, the design, construction, and operation of this center will be borne by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. In this legislation, we seek only to authorize their work—not pay for it.

Vietnam left its imprint on a generation. It remains a touchstone of the American experience in the twentieth century. A Visitors Center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will help educate a new generation about the heros who served their country in the Vietnam War, and I am delighted to introduce this legislation with my fellow Vietnam veterans, Senator Hagel and Senator McCain.

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