Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by First Lady Jill Biden at a White House Historical Association Dedication Ceremony Honoring Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy
Thank you, John. And thank you Stewart.
It’s wonderful to be here with all of you today. I feel like I’m coming to visit neighbors, but the truth is that you’ve been more than just neighbors to me these last two years—you’ve been indispensable partners.
On a frigid winter morning in January, over a hundred years ago, twelve women stood in front of the White House. With banners of purple, gold, and white above their heads, these “Silent Sentinels” marched through Lafayette Park without a sound. When the seasons changed, they continued their vigil under the pouring rain and pounding sun. When women were arrested, others showed up to take their place. They walked without sound, but their message to President Wilson—here, in this park, steps from the White House—was clear: Women deserved the right to vote.
From public marketplaces to political movements, from patriotic celebrations to protests that would sway a nation—the history of our country is sewn into the soil of this park. And in the bronze statues and ancient trees, in the cobblestones and foot-worn townhouse floors, we can find the stories. Stories that remind us of how far we’ve come; stories that inspire us to rise to new heights.
And when these historic buildings around Lafayette Park were set to be replaced—swept away to make room for towering office buildings, First Lady Jackie Kennedy intervened.
Because she understood that the American people deserved to enjoy natural beauty and open sky when they came to the People’s House.
Because she knew that the lives lived here needed to be remembered.
Because we all deserve to experience our rich history—the full, complex, and beautiful story of who we are.
She knew that when we tell that story, we stand stronger as a nation.
Today, the White House Historical Association is her legacy—her gift to First Ladies like me—who have the pleasure of working with you to keep our history alive.
It’s also her gift to the millions of Americans who journey to this place to remember our past, celebrate our present, and see themselves in our future.
Stewart, John, and all of the historians who work to preserve this space and its legacy, thank you.
Together, we are opening the doors of the People’s House wider and wider to welcome all those who are part of this nation.