Remarks at the
Swearing-In Ceremony of Don W. Wilson as Archivist of the
The President. It's an honor to be
here in this place dedicated to our history with all of you who do so much to
preserve the record of that history and to make it come alive for your fellow
Americans. Special greetings to the
we've come together today to witness an important event in the history of our
National Archives: the swearing-in of Don W. Wilson as the first Archivist
selected to manage the National Archives as an independent agency. Mr. Wilson
is more than qualified, as you've already heard, for this high post, both by
academic background and years of experience. He holds a doctorate in American
history. He served as Historian and Deputy Director of the Eisenhower Library
Perhaps most important, Mr. Wilson has a vision -- a vision of what the National Archives can become. He has said that he would like the Archives to grow into a national cultural resource as treasured as the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress. And he has stated -- and here I quote: ``Traditionally, our foremost concern in the National Archives has been the historical researcher. While this will, and should, remain undisturbed as a basic mission, many of us recognize that the Archives could serve a larger audience -- a history-minded public excited about their country's past.'' With that in mind and conscious of the documents that are with us in this room, I wonder whether you would join me in considering three moments in the history of our nation.
it is 1787. Fifty-five delegates have gathered in
it is February 1861. Abraham Lincoln has been making his way slowly eastward
the final moment that I'd like you to join me in considering requires no
imagining. It is now, the present. Like the men of 1787, like
It's my belief that during these past 7 years we've done much to restore our nation -- restore our economy and defenses, restore our basic values, even restore a sense of our own fundamental goodness as a people. Yes, I feel certain that despite the challenges that beset us, this nation of freedom will flourish.
But if we're to succeed in the future, we must learn our own past and learn to look at these and other documents and hear the echoes and sense the greatness and draw strength. For to study American history is, in a sense, to study free will. It is to see that all our greatness has been built up by specific acts of choice and determination, and it is to see how very fragile our nation is, how very quickly so much that we cherish could be lost.
All this is really only a way of elaborating what I suggested at the beginning: that what you at the National Archives do is of tremendous significance and that Don Wilson's vision for the Archives is a vision of national importance. And to all of you, my thanks. And to Don Wilson, congratulations.
[At this point, the Archivist was sworn in.]
The Archivist. President Reagan,
distinguished guests, colleagues, first let me say that I am both excited and very honored to assume this office as Archivist of the
Before I give a very few brief remarks on a couple of goals that I have, there are two other people I want to publicly recognize today. The first is Dr. Frank Burke, whose able leadership as Acting Archivist over the last 32 months has kept the institution growing and has provided many strong foundations upon which we can continue to build. Thank you, Frank. The second person I want to recognize is my wife, Patsy, whose personal strength and confidence in my abilities have often times exceeded my own over the past few years. It is her love and faith that were major ingredients in making this day possible for us. Thank you.
Another future opportunity for the National Archives leadership lies in formulating a national archival collecting policy. It is, it seems to me, time for the Nation's largest and most significant archives to move beyond concern for its own records and play a leadership role in determining a policy for documenting our national heritage. I am convinced that the National Archives can articulate the national interest and identification preservation in making available the archival records at all levels of government. I think that the National Archives can energize. It can coordinate, promote, and consult without centralizing or seeking to control. Generations of specialized researchers and ordinary citizens will benefit if we are now able to establish a sound and thoughtful national records policy.
believe all agree that the basic mission of the National Archives is to
preserve for posterity our nation's most important documents. As Archivist of
tasks facing us are both enormous and challenging. The National Archives today
requires leadership, ingenuity, and a long-term professional commitment to recordskeeping and public service. Now is a time when there
is a greater awareness than ever before of the needs of the National Archives.
Today we have more concerted, collective support and appreciation of its
mission by users, by constituent groups, by the White House, and by Congress,
than any time in its history. That makes now a time of opportunity as well as
great obligation. As seventh Archivist of the
Note: The President
spoke at in the Rotunda at the
National Archives. In his remarks, he referred to Representative Dick Cheney of