Thank you, Catherine. And thank you for everything you do to preserve the National Mall, Lafayette Park, and the White House grounds.
On mornings when the humidity of D.C. summer has not yet taken hold, I sometimes go to the Kennedy Garden. Surrounded by peach irises or speckled stalks of foxglove, looking out past the South Lawn, I watch the sky turn blue above the National Mall. In a city that changes and evolves with each administration, each new Congress, the monuments stand tall through wind and rain, snow and baking heat, lifetime after lifetime.
Every day, thousands of visitors come here from across the nation and around the world. Children run and leap on the carpets of emerald grass, parents urging them to pose for just one more picture. Couples stroll hand-in-hand along the stone pathways. Lunchtime joggers clock a few miles past students reading in the shade.
The Mall is the blooming and bustling heart of our capital. But even on the busiest of days, there is something sacred found in the shade of the monuments, mirrored in the waters of the reflecting pool.
As we wander through the stone and marble, each heart-wrenching memorial, we can almost hear the echoes of great speeches, of rallies for freedom and justice, floating on the wind.
As our fingers graze the names etched in stone, searching for someone familiar or merely reaching for the name of a stranger, our heartbeats join the great rhythm that remembers those who sacrificed everything for our country.
Here, in our nation’s front yard, we feel the pull of each invisible thread that stitches us to something greater than what we are alone. And we know that we are a part of a legacy that lives on: a collective memory that shapes our past and promises a future filled with hope.
All of you help make those moments possible. From reviving the Constitution Gardens to reopening the Lockkeeper’s house and museum, you help us remember the past. That wisdom guides us as we continue to build a country that lives up to the timeless ideals that have shaped us: the pursuit of justice and equality, the honor of service, and the strength of unity.
Yes, history is sown into the soil of the National Mall. It is a gift to the millions of Americans who journey to this place to remember our past, celebrate our present, and see themselves in our future. Your work ensures that we can all experience the rich, complex, and beautiful story of who we are as Americans. And when we tell that story, we stand stronger as a nation.
Thank you for your dedication to education and honoring our country’s history.