A familiar voice begins, “…two years ago, it was a great honor to be elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society,” as President Bill Clinton sends his bicentennial congratulations via video.
The Society has elected fourteen U.S. Presidents to membership, beginning with John Adams in 1813. Given the demands on a President’s – and a former President’s – time, we understood how coming to AAS for the bicentennial could prove to be too much of a challenge. In fact, in addition to contending with President Clinton’s busy schedule, the annual meeting was held on Secretary of State Clinton’s birthday, so we were doubly grateful to be able to share his remarks on October 26.
In the video President Clinton recalls the pivotal role played by Isaiah Thomas as a printer and publisher who helped to create a distinctly American culture and then, by founding AAS, established a place and a plan for preserving it. The crucial decision to create a library where all printed material would be collected and preserved, every item treated with equal importance, has determined its course now for 200 years. He heralds AAS as an important democratic institution, and observes how digitization has allowed scholars and historians to access our collections from all over the world.
President Clinton takes a moment to reflect on how AAS has served, and continues to serve, our nation: “America’s future depends in part on our continuing capacity to remember the past. This year we honor the American Antiquarian Society’s dedication to collecting, preserving, and sharing that past. I also believe we should celebrate the Society’s role in shaping our shared future.”
He concludes his message by thanking those associated with the American Antiquarian Society for all they do – a fine tribute to a unique national institution.
First aired at our 200th annual meeting, we are pleased to post President Clinton’s cyber greetings here.