Thank you, Lonnie, for that introduction and for your extraordinary commitment to ensuring that everyone has access to our nation’s history and culture.
Melissa, your vision and leadership have brought more people than ever to this institution.
And my dear friend Ellen—thank you for inviting me to share this special moment with all of you.
I’m honored to be joined by your Excellencies—and grateful to everyone who has gathered here, with us, today.
A few weeks ago, after a day of midterm campaigning in New Hampshire, we ended the day in New York City. It had already been very long day—but I didn’t feel ready to go to my hotel. I needed something more than rest.
I knew that Alex Katz was showing at the Guggenheim; and it was likely my only “free” evening in NYC for a long while.
So, we went.
And as I walked through his works, I felt myself breathe out the buzz of the day.
I stopped thinking about tomorrow’s politics and the speeches I would give, the papers I still had to grade for my other job. And instead, found myself cooled by the rain-blues that surrounded me: warmed by walls of sunshine yellow, lost in conversation with each pastel person who stared back at me from the canvas.
I was nowhere but present.
In a world that asks us to sprint from moment to moment—from meeting to meeting—art stops us in our tracks.
It feeds our spirits when we’re hungry for something more. It shows the contours of our sorrows and joys, so that we know we aren’t alone. It brings us back to the beauty and humanity in every moment.
And that’s reflected by the placement of this historic museum, in the heart of our capital on the National Mall, where we show what makes our nation unique: our people, our leaders, our history, and our democracy.
For almost 50 years, thanks to so many of you, the Hirshhorn has brought some of the most innovative and visionary works of art to Americans and visitors from around the world.
And with this renewed sculpture garden, guests will be able to experience it in new, more accessible ways.
This project will create a place which will draw more people to the treasures inside—where they are welcomed to stop, and sit, and reflect.
This garden invites everyone to take a breath, look within ourselves, and experience life in the moment.
As many of you know, First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson was a key figure in the creation of the Hirshhorn.
She once said, “Art is the window to a man’s soul. Without it, he would never be able to see beyond his immediate world; nor could the world see the man within.”
So, whether we visit this garden for just a moment—or stop for a while and contemplate what lies beyond the limits of our imaginations—we shine a little brighter when we are here.
And when we leave, we carry that light with us, seeing the world around us in new, more beautiful colors.