Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by First Lady Jill Biden
Thank you, Governor Blanchard. And thank you for your dedication to the National Archives.
Senator Capito, you were a champion for Dr. Shogan in the Senate. Thank you for everything you did to make this moment possible.
Twenty-two years ago today, the horror of 9/11 changed us all in some way. We must always remember those lost that day and in the aftermath. And we will keep their families always in our hearts. We stand with them today, and every day.
The history of a democracy belongs to its people, and we must preserve it with care for future generations.
As far back as the Constitutional Convention, our leaders recognized the power of our founding documents and the importance of keeping them safe and accessible.
This experiment in democracy hinged on the people, and their ability to claim their rights and hold their elected officials accountable. That power could only be made real with access to history, unfiltered and uncensored.
So, in the 250 years since, we have collected these records, first in the hands of George Washington, later at the Department of State, and now in the National Archives.
Each one is a snapshot in time tracing the history of a young republic – our republic – from its nascent beginnings to who we are today – the greatest, most powerful country on this planet.
The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The Louisiana Purchase and Emancipation Proclamation. The 13th and 19th Amendments. Harriet Tubman’s Civil War pension claims. Thomas Edison’s lightbulb patent.
A letter Annie Oakley sent to President McKinley in 1898 volunteering the services of 50 “lady sharpshooters” for the Spanish-American War. The transfer of power between 46 presidents.
Each of these pieces of paper tells a story – the story of a country and its people, zigging and zagging through history, imperfectly marching toward a more perfect union.
Conversely, sometimes that story is a dark one. Manifests of slave ships. President Roosevelt’s Executive Order on Japanese internment. The Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision.
It’s these stories we must learn the most from. It’s these we must study, for past is prologue, as one of the statues flanking this building proclaims.
As an educator I know this well, that our present and our future are inextricably linked to our past – and that we must learn from that past or be bound to repeat it.
That’s why, as First Lady, I’ve been so committed to upholding these sacred institutions, so they may continue to serve the American people and teach the next generation about our shared heritage.
These National Archives have captured our complicated story for nearly 100 years.
And for that entire period, the Archives have been led by men.
Today, however, I’m so honored to be part of the ceremony to swear-in the first woman ever to be appointed Archivist of the United States.
The history we preserve, the stories we elevate, the voices we amplify are shaped by the person at the helm of this institution.
These stories are all of our stories – men and women, of all backgrounds, ages, and creeds, what we choose to preserve, and whose voices we deem worthy of placing in our national memory.
That’s why this milestone – the first woman head of the National Archives and Records Administration – is so momentous.
Dr. Shogan, congratulations on becoming the 11th Archivist of the United States.
You’re immensely qualified with a sterling record of service, a clear commitment to preserving our nation’s unique history, and a deep respect for this country’s founding principles.
I can’t wait for the next generation of American stories that will be housed within these walls, under your leadership.