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Special Event

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt Delivers Statement at Washington Monument Unveiling

Aired July 3, 2000 - 10:19 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And we are going to go live back to Washington, D.C. Robert Stanton, who runs the National Park Service, is about to introduce Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. Let's go ahead and listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ROBERT STANTON, DIR., NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: ... 224th anniversary of our independence. Thank you, again, for this opportunity.

I know that I speak on behalf of my fellow and sister bureaus, if you will, and offices within the Department of Interior, and to a large measure, on behalf of the men and women of this great country and certainly to our young people, to introduce our next speaker, who certainly is no stranger here on the Washington Monument. He has been our inspirational leader, as well as assuring that budget from the Park Service is made available to the Washington Monument Preservation Project, as well.

A former governor of the state of Arizona, who is now into his -- almost 8th year, seventh plus six months into his tenure as the secretary of the interior. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming to the podium, the Honorable Bruce Babbitt, secretary to the Department of the Interior.

BRUCE BABBITT, INTERIOR SECRETARY: Good morning.

I simply want to welcome all of you to this extraordinary place in the heart of our nation's capital.

I was listening to Amy Grant and I remembered the first time I brought my 10-year-old son to this place. It was early in the morning. And I took him by the hand, and we walked up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial down at the end of the Mall. And just as the sun was flaring out over Washington, I stood behind my son as he looked up and read outloud the words of the Gettysburg Address engraved upon the interior wall of that monument.

And I turned and looked out, and thought once again about the meaning of this space. It's a sacred place. It's where Americans have come for generations to reflect on who we are, and the extraordinary history that has converged to make our nation, and to think of the generations that will continue to come here to find and reflect upon our common experience as Americans.

And, of course, we honor that experience and we honor this place by taking care of it. And this monument, at the center of this Mall, has not had an easy history. When Congress authorized this monument here back in the 19th century, they appropriated enough money to get under way, and then they ran out of money in about 1840, and they ran out of money right where you see the color change about 20 percent of the way up. And it just stood there and stood there for a long time.

And finally Congress and the American people kind of made a deal. First of all, there was a subscription drive in which Americans were called upon to donate no more than $1 a person. And Congress then came through right after the Civil War with the balance, and the monument was completed.

Now that takes us up to three years ago, when we're thinking it is about time to fix this monument up. And, once again, Congress was cutting budgets, and there was wasn't a lot of money. So we started looking around and said maybe what we need is a partnership. Let's see if we can go out and find some partners, once again, in the tradition of this monument. And that's when we found Target Stores, and the General Electric Company, and Discovery Communications.

That's when the Park Foundation kind of made an irresistible offer to the Congress by saying: Look at these American companies stepping forward to make a statement about our commitment.

And then we found this guy Michael Graves, a pretty special guy. His task was to build the scaffold. How many of you -- do you remember the scaffold? Show me your hands those of you who saw it out here at night. Wasn't that something?

You know, I came out here one night and said: I am not going to let them take that scaffold down. We'll just keep it there forever. It was so beautiful. But they did a wonderful job, and here we are with the result.

It's a time to celebrate. To say thank you to those folks. Target Stores, Discovery Communications, General Electric, and to spend a day, and a holiday in this community reflecting in this space about who we are and who we can be and will be as a nation.

Thanks for coming. Thanks very much.

KAGAN: We've been listening to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt on this occasion, the unveiling of the Washington Monument. It is 112 years old. It needed a bit of a face lift. It got $10 million worth of work, improving things like the heating, the ventilation, the cooling, and the electrical systems. Opened again starting tomorrow -- starting this week, and then they are going to close it again in December so they can put a new elevator on the inside, if you don't want to climb all those 897 steps it takes to get to the top.

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