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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



By Mr. WARNER (for himself and Mr. Webb):

S. 3477. A bill to amend title 44, United States Code, to authorize grants for Presidential Centers of Historical Excellence; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation with Senator Webb to help encourage the preservation of, and public access to, historical documents and records of former United States Presidents. Congressman Goodlatte is joining us in this effort and has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

The preservation of historical documents is critical to the future of any nation. Current and future generations can look upon the examples of those that came before and learn from their accomplishments, as well as their mistakes. Our Founding Fathers understood the need to preserve important documents for future generations. Thomas Jefferson once said that ``a morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable.'' In addition, he considered it ``the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities, which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country.''

Today, we have federally supported presidential libraries from President Hoover onward, but, generally, we do not have federally supported libraries for Presidents prior to President Hoover. The documents and records of these Presidents are scattered throughout America. In our view, the Federal Government should be taking an active role in encouraging the preservation of these documents.

In Virginia, we have an organization that has been leading the way in preserving the records of President Woodrow Wilson. To date, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library has preserved several thousand documents. Last year alone, the library received more than one million Wilson-related documents, and it is in the process of preserving these documents and will make them freely available on the Internet. Thousands of people visit the library each year to see documents that have never been seen before in public. In my view, libraries like the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library are critical to our Nation's history, and we should be encouraging more organizations to engage in this important endeavor.

The legislation I introduce today will help encourage these and other efforts to preserve, and provide public access to, these historical documents by authorizing the National Archives and Records Administration to provide grants to certain organizations to support their efforts in preserving the historical records of past Presidents.

I want to thank the National Archives for their assistance in drafting this important legislation. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to see this legislation signed into law.

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