Archive for January, 2011

Deepwater: Lessons Learned

Written on: January 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

The largest oil spill in U.S. history gripped the nation’s attention for over three months this past summer. On May 22, 2010, President Barack Obama announced the creation of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. The Commission’s goal: “to learn the essential lessons so expensively revealed in the tragic loss of life at the Deepwater Horizon and the severe damages that ensued.” The President charged the Commission to determine the causes of the disaster, to improve the country’s ability to respond to spills, and to recommend reforms to make offshore energy production safer.

The records contained within the National Archives are very often used as primary sources for learning the lessons of our national experience. In the case of the Deepwater disaster, the crisis demanded even more than National Archives records — it also needed the expertise and experience found in a NARA staff member.

Jay Hakes, the director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, was named the Director of Policy and Research for the Commission.


Jay Hakes
Director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and

Jay was tapped for this six-month assignment because of his extensive background in energy matters. During the Clinton Administration, Jay was head of the Energy Information Administration where he oversaw the collection and dissemination of America’s official energy data … [ Read all ]

50 Years Ago…

Written on: January 21, 2011 | 0 Comments

On Tuesday, January 17, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to the American people, where he warned of the growing power of the “military-industrial complex.”

On Friday, January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address to the American people, where he charged, “…ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

It was a big week for Presidential speeches.

Many Americans were inspired by these speeches. During their Presidencies, I wrote letters to President Eisenhower and President Kennedy. My letter to President Eisenhower was inspired by a class project where I had to write a report about his trip to India – my first experience with reading The New York Times! My letter to President Kennedy was inspired by his “proposed Peace Corps.” Even as Archivist of the United States, I never imagined that I would be able to see these letters again. I have learned that you should never underestimate what an archivist can find! On my visits to Presidential Libraries, I have seen both of my letters.

The records at Presidential Libraries help tell the story behind these two speeches. I hope you take a few minutes to watch the following videos that help explain the evolution of the speeches through the drafts and notes found within the records … [ Read all ]

Celebrating Ronald Reagan

Written on: January 10, 2011 | 2 Comments

With Nancy Reagan at his side, President Obama signed a law establishing the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission in June 2009. As Archivist of the United States, I serve as an ex officio member to “provide advice and information to the Commission.”

Throughout 2011, there are many events planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of President Reagan’s birth. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum will dedicate their redesigned permanent exhibition on February 6, 2011, President Reagan’s birthday. There will also be a birthday celebration on February 18 at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.  Presidential records, including documents, pictures, film, and artifacts, will play a special role at these events.

photograph-of-ronald-reagan1Photograph of President Reagan and Vice President Bush meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev on Governor’s Island, New York, 12/7/1988
(National Archives, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

Throughout this year, there will also be a special exhibit of records and artifacts at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. The items currently on display (featured below) center around the theme of foreign relations and will be part of a rotating exhibit in partnership with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

Ronald Reagan was a president who had a profound effect on the nation and the world during his eight years in office. He also holds a special place in the history of the National Archives.… [ Read all ]