Remarks at the Swearing-In Ceremony for James H. Billington as Librarian of Congress
We can all be grateful for such beautiful edifices as this. These buildings are treasures, and each of them, in its own way, is a monument to freedom. Certainly that's true of this building, the crown jewel of the largest repository of information in the world.
was my honor a few years ago to have helped dedicate the
Today it's a pleasure to assign the stewardship of this institution to one of this nation's most respected intellectuals. Dr. James Billington, I am certain, will continue the magnificent job done here at the Library of Congress by his predecessor, Dr. Daniel Boorstin. And let me add that I think this nation owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Boorstin for his hard work and dedication. Dr. Boorstin did much to ensure that the people as well as government officials receive full benefit of this national treasure. Dr. Billington will build on this tradition.
has had a lifelong love of books. He stands here today because of an appreciation
for scholarship instilled in him by a father who never went to college, but who
filled his home with books bought secondhand to save the family's limited
funds. Much to his father's credit, Jim Billington
received a scholarship to attend
In this library and throughout our country one will find books and publications on almost every subject and from almost every point of view. Our Founding Fathers wanted it that way. They trusted the ability of the people to make judgments for themselves. ``When truth and error have fairplay,'' Ben Franklin once wrote, ``the former is always an overmatch for the latter.'' Competition, then, is an integral part of a free society. It is not vital just for commerce and industry but also an energizing force in the arena of ideas. There's a creative genius that is unleashed when people are free. Restrict information and you restrict the potential of the nation. Limit public debate and you limit the dynamism of liberty.
Dr. Billington will now bear the responsibility of overseeing the world's largest library, which includes a collection of 84 million items, 535 miles of shelves, and a staff of more than 5,000. During a time of necessary budget restraint, this will not be an easy task. The challenge, as Dr. Boorstin will testify, is not just administering this institution but ensuring that its vast resources are put to maximum use for the benefit of government, academia, business, and the people themselves. The Library of Congress was founded with a $5,000 appropriation in 1800. It has grown with the country, and it is an important part of the decisionmaking process here in the Nation's Capital.
Billington, I know you'll keep this institution the
vital center of scholarship and ideas that it was intended to be. We entrust
you with this great national resource, Dr. Billington,
and are proud to have you as
Note: The President spoke at in the Great Hall at the Library of Congress.