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Special Event

Laura Bush Hosts American Authors

Aired January 19, 2001 - 10:28 a.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN: Now we get back to our inaugural celebration and Laura Bush, the future first lady, who's appearing at -- this is her special event this morning; an event celebrating great American authors.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

LAURA BUSH: ... Vice President-elect Dick Cheney.

But finally, I'm honored by the presence of my second grade teacher, Ms. Neggy (ph) who -- in whose class, and by whose example I first began thinking about the rewarding profession of teaching. Years later I did become a teacher and a librarian. And, though I haven't planned a lesson plan in a long time, I will always have tremendous respect for the teachers all across our great nation.

Today is truly a librarian's dream. Not only do we get to hear from five respected American authors but also, if anybody in the audience starts to get rowdy, I get to tell them to hush up.

We're here to salute America's authors; the men and women whose books line library shelves and enrich our country's proudly diverse culture. Representing this especially august choir of American voices are Steve Ambrose -- Stephen Ambrose, Carol Clark (ph), Mary Higgins Clark, Stanley Crouch and Stephen Harrigan.

Please join me in welcoming them.

(APPLAUSE)

Where are they?

Great; thank you all very much, thank you.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Together, their work and the work of so many other American authors reflects the life and times in our United States. Like pieces of a vibrant mosaic, the books they write add new color and form to an already existing body of great literature; a literary collection that has shaped our country in ways that are both momentous and subtle. The 50-page pamphlet "Common Sense," published exactly 225 years ago this month changed the feeling here in the colonies that our problems with Great Britain could be solved peacefully. "Common Sense" set the stage for our Declaration of Independence in the summer of 1776. Years later, one commentator testified to the influence of "Common Sense" when he observed that the American cause owes as much to the pen of Thomas Paine as to the sword of Washington.

In 1851, Harriet Beecher Stowe published "Uncle Tom's Cabin" exposing the evil of slavery for all to see. President Lincoln noted her role in -- the role her book played in stoking the embers of the pre-Civil War tensions when he referred to Stowe as the little woman who made the big war.

But it's rare for the effects of literature to be so cataclysmic. More often, literature is hauntingly quiet. Authors write and readers read in solitude. The power of a book lies in its ability to turn a solitary act into a shared vision. Books allow us to discover who we are as people and what we can achieve as individuals. It's because of Herman Melville that we know what it was like to sail beyond the rim of the world on a 19th century whaling ship.

It's because of William Cather that we can conjure up with such forlorn clarity the beauty of the vanished American prairie. It's because of Richard Wright that we can understand the boiling rage and desperate yearning of those who were denied full membership in America's promise.

Our country's authors have helped forge the American identity, create its memory, define and reinforce our national conscience. Books have entertained and inspired us; books have done what humans rarely can do: convinced us to put down the remote control.

Though there are an increasing number of ways for children and parents to spend their leisure time reading is still, in this librarian's opinion, the most productive, the most rewarding and the most enjoyable.

After you hear from our five authors, I'm sure you'll agree. There's no magic like the magic of the written word.

Stephen Ambrose is our first author; and a few years ago, my mother-in-law, Barbara Bush was introducing Stephen Ambrose at her annual family literacy event in Houston. When she confided that she wasn't sure if she would -- should introduce him as "a historian" or "an historian." Finally, her George solved the grommer -- grammar problem when he brilliantly suggested that she introduce him simply as "the historian."

It works for me. Ladies and gentlemen, the historian Stephen Ambrose.

Thank you very much Stephen. Thank you, and welcome very much. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE) STEPHEN AMBROSE, AUTHOR: Mr. President, Mrs. Barbara Bush, Mr. President-elect -- your wife has just introduced me up here -- Mr. Vice President-elect and Mrs. Cheney, it's wonderful to be here...

KAGAN: And this is just as Laura Bush described him, that historian Stephen Ambrose begins to speak. He is one of five American authors selected by the first lady for this event.

She is a former librarian; as she said, that gives her the right to tell anybody in the audience to "hush up" as she said in her Texas slang.

This is kind of the debut for Mrs. Bush in Washington. This is her event today -- her special event as part of the inauguration festivities.

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