Laura Bush Centennial Speech Transcript

Laura Bush's speech has been transcribed below for the hearing impaired and those who wish to read along. Only the paragraph structure has been changed to facilitate easier reading.

Thank you all very much. Thank you, Susan. Thanks everybody. Thank you very much. There’s something very special about being introduced by one of your really good long-time friends, and thank you very much, Susan, for that.

Susan and I have had almost a lifetime, I guess we met when we were 18 years old, and talked about books. And she was the one who went to library school first, which gave me the idea a couple of years later to go to library school; so we've had that in common our whole lives and it's made for a very rich friendship. But thank you very much, Susan. Mayor, thank you so much. Thank you for offering me the key to Corpus Christi.

I grew up in Midland, in West Texas, and I always felt a real affinity for Corpus because I thought Midland and Corpus were very similar; you all had the Gulf, and we had the Ancient Permian Sea. We're sort of the same size; we're oil towns, and I know that Corpus just like Midland has a lot of really strong, rock solid citizens who know what is really important in life. And that certainly is what you all have done with the Public Library with 100 years of the Corpus Public Library. I want to thank the staff of the Corpus Christi Public Libraries, especially Herb Canales, who is your director, who was one of our founding advisory board members at the Texas Book Festival, and, in fact, was in Washington for the very first National Book Festival, as was Patty Mueller, both advisory board members, on that beautiful September day in 2001, three days before September 11th. I also want to thank the Corpus Christi (Public Library) Foundation and the Friends of the Corpus Christi Libraries, and a special thanks, of course, to the ladies of the La Retama Club. Without the La Retama Club there might never have been a Corpus Public Library. And I would especially like to recognize Robin Kenedy, the great-grandniece of two of the original La Retama members: Kathleen Jones Alexander and Lorine Jones Lewis. Thank you very much, Robin.

There's perhaps no greater joy for a librarian than to commemorate a century of learning and literature. I'm thrilled to be here to celebrate the centennial of the Corpus Christi Public Library, one of the oldest public libraries in Texas.

Libraries have been a part of my life for my whole life since my mother took me to the Midland Public Library when I was a child. When I was little the Midland Public Library was in the basement of the Midland County Courthouse and, of course, the courthouse was the most important building in Midland. It was right there in the middle of Courthouse Square; it was what young people drove around. That was the entertainment in West Texas to drive around the Courthouse Square on Saturday nights, and so since that was the most important building in town I thought the library was the most important place in Midland. It could be the heat that drives us Texans to take refuge in our libraries, and when we do we find refuge in books and reading, and then mystery and history and intrigue draw us back again and again. As a child, spending quiet summer afternoons at the Midland Public Library was one of my favorite things to do. I love the anticipation of stories and characters yet to be discovered.

Beloved Texas author, the late A. C. Green, who was one of our early Texas Book Festival authors, and so I had the chance to get to know him, he grew up in Abilene where his grandmother was the librarian, and he wrote about the joy of going to the library and captured my sentiments perfectly. He wrote, "I was raised in a library, brought up one book at a time, a page at a time, a word at a time, raised from a hot, dry West Texas town to a world which time, travel, and age have never yet combined to better -- the world of the printed page."

This is an exciting day in the storied history of Corpus Christi's Library System. I had the privilege of visiting the Corpus Christi Library in 1997, when George was Governor, to dedicate the Library Information Network (LINCC). I have been struck since then by the strong sense of community surrounding this library. I appreciate how local residents have invested in this library since it first opened in 1909.

Two years before the library opened members of the La Retama Club recognized the urgent need for a public library. That small band of women began their fundraising efforts by hosting a book shower, sort of like a baby shower, at the ladies' pavilion which brought in 200 books for the library. Two years and 300 more books later the Corpus Christi Public Library opened with 500 books in one room of the Hatch and Robertson Building in Downtown Corpus. Over the next several years, the library, as Paige told us, survived a fire and a hurricane, further demonstrating the dedication of the library's founders and patrons, and I imagine there were some days when some of those volunteers wondered if the library would even remain open to the twentieth anniversary.

But today, what began with 500 books in a one-room library is now a library system with six branches, a collection of more than 400,000 resources, and more than 850,000 visitors each year. This library, like thousands across our country, stands as a beacon for education and information. Children know that if they have a question about the world, the library is the place to find the answer, and someone will always be there to help them -- our dedicated librarians. So I want to thank the librarians here today especially. Are there librarians here and can you all stand up? Herb, where's the staff? Thank you all very, very much. Your job is an important one.

Our nation runs on the fuel of information and imagination that libraries provide for free without bias to all of our citizens. Librarians educate and inform the public and by doing so they strengthen our democracy. As the Corpus Christi Public Library has grown so has your community of readers. From long-time residents to newborns, generations of learners continue to be nurtured at this library. Readers know that the library staff and volunteers are always ready with recommendations. For parents looking to get their kids interested in books, or for avid readers looking for the next great author. And from story time and game time for children, to family game night and activity groups, each of the Corpus Christi Public Library branches serve as vibrant community centers.

I commend the City of Corpus Christi, the Library Foundation, the Friends of the Library, and so many private citizens for your generous support. A century ago private citizens came together to fund and support the Corpus Christi Library. Your ongoing support has brought us to this very happy day. There's a lot to celebrate in the last one hundred years, so it's only fitting that the centennial celebrations will continue over the next several weeks. So I hope you'll all take advantage of all the great events which feature guest speakers and authors at each of the Corpus Christi Public Library branches.

And, in fact, this reminds me to remind you that the Texas Book Festival will take place on the weekend of October 30th and 31st at the State Capitol, so be sure and go up to Austin for that.

Congratulations to the Corpus Christi Public Library on one hundred years of reading and learning. Today as we celebrate the past we mark a new chapter in the history of the Library. With devoted patrons and book lovers like each one of you, the Library is sure to have another one-hundred-year rich and story filled years in Corpus Christi. Thank you all so much; it was so much fun to get to be here with you.