East Room, The White House
3:11 P.M. EDT
THE FIRST LADY: Thank you. Thanks. Thank you, Director Kemper. And I’m so grateful for your tireless commitment to making museums and libraries accessible to all of us. I also want to thank the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences — Services, excuse me — staff for all the work they’ve done to make these awards possible.
So, hello, everyone. And welcome to the White House! (Applause.)
When I was young, I’d walk to our local library every two weeks and take home as many books as I could carry in my arms. And I’ll never forget the summer nights that my mom would let me stay up too late — well, one or two in the morning — so I could finish just one more chapter. The characters felt so real to me: A humble spider writing out “Some Pig!” on her barn door. (Laughter.) A magical nanny who held tea parties on the ceiling.
As I pored over page after page, without even realizing it, I was learning. And I never wanted to stop.
When a child falls in love with learning, a world of possibilities opens before her.
And that is the gift that all of you give every day.
In each book, each new exhibit, each reimagined way to connect with science or math or history or art, we see ourselves.
Museums and libraries are living parts of our communities — changing as we do and teaching us new things with each visit. They weave together the stories of our nation: its past, present, and future. And they safeguard our freedom to learn, to explore, and choose the ideas and philosophies that shape us, without fear of being silenced or censored.
As you may know, the White House is a museum, and we have a library downstairs. And as we work to open the doors of this house wider and wider, we have seen that it, too, can grow and evolve and begin something new.
And that’s why we’ve worked with the Library of Congress to install a temporary exhibit of young adult and children’s books in our library. Because guess what? They weren’t there. (Laughter.) I know, I was so shocked.
So, anyway, we want the children who visit to see themselves in this place so we can spark that lifelong love of learning that I found in the hallways of my hometown library. And I hope to make these books a permanent part of our living museum.
We’re here today to say that this work matters. It changes lives.
Because of you, a student has discovered a lifelong love of science, inspiring her to, you know, pursue a career that she loves.
A young person who needs a job can find the support to search for one.
A parent is able to borrow the tools she needs to fix that broken bed frame or plant the garden where she can grow memories with her children.
An artist can show the world his heart and the heritage that shaped him.
In big cities and small towns, in suburbs and rural villages, you are a lifeline, a connection to the endless possibilities that exist within each of us. A place not to just discover dreams, but to make those dreams a reality.
You show us what lies beyond the limits of our imaginations and how to listen to others’ stories, to hear new perspectives and imagine new futures.
You show us how to fight for what we believe in and ask us to take a moment to stop and appreciate the beauty in the world.
You connect us to each other, teaching us understanding, kindness, and compassion.
I know that your communities are so proud of you, and the President and I are so proud of you too. Thank you for everything you do.
And now, I will ask each pair of awardees to join me on this stage as Director Kemper reads your citations. (Applause.)
END 3:17 P.M. EDT