Welcome to the Newseum.
On behalf of the trustees you met a few minutes ago, it is my privilege to welcome you and to invite you to you use this house, to treat it as your own and to invite your friends and fellow citizens of the world to revel in this celebration of freedom.
On behalf of the trustees, it is also my privilege to acknowledge the vision and courage of Al Neuharth, the know-how and tenacity of Charles Overby, Peter Prichard, Joe Urchel and the team they put together to work with Jim Polcheck, Ralph Applebaum and others to build this living monument to free expression.
And on behalf of the trustees, I thank the founding partners of the Newseum. Those contributions have evolved into partnerships and into a far broader-based coalition dedicated to the proposition that free expression belongs to all of us. I am especially gratified to express my pride and that of my colleagues present here today from Knight Foundation to say how pleased we are to be one of the Founding Partners.
Those who come here looking for a museum of news or of journalism will find it. There is material here enough to satisfy scholars and please any history buff.
But that museum could have been done by anyone who owned a great collection of newspapers and artifacts related to news gathering. What sets this place apart is that, for all the history, Newseum is about the present and about our future.
The ethics game, for example, explores the kinds of choices editors make daily. But the Newseum teaching moment comes as your team playing the game considers the variety of ways you can resolve them. When you practice free speech, you strengthen free speech.
The Berlin wall segments are here as interesting artifacts and a hook for telling a larger Cold War story. But their greatest value is in their stark display of free speech versus suppressed thought, visible and even tangible when you look at the West Berlin side of the wall and see a riot of graffiti, opinion, commentary and free expression, and then look at the East Berlin side and see nothing, blank, grey and shut down. Those symbolic opposites form a Newseum teaching moment about freedom of expression and the spirit of liberty.
Perhaps the greatest teaching moment is in the galleries where hundreds of thousands of children on their school trips to Washington will stop and videotape a report, complete with microphone and a picture of the White House or Congress in the background that they will later download from the Newseum's website. Visit after visit, each child will have the same set of facts but record his or her own version of what's newsworthy. Then, as classmates compare and discuss their reports, they discover and learn from their different approaches, each true, each different.
Imagine the impact on a child who sees another's point of view, perhaps for the first time. And then imagine the impact of that same experience on an adult.
That is a great Newseum moment; a ‘spirit of liberty' moment, taken from Judge Learned Hand, cited last night by Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney.
Judge Hand wrote, "...the spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women."
You've heard and seen that this is the most interactive museum. It is also the most American museum. It is deadly serious with a light touch, perhaps the only museum where talking is not only allowed, but encouraged. It teaches by making it fun to participate. It is a place that, like good news reporting, offers you facts and opinions and alternatives and asks that you make up your own mind.
It is a place Jack Knight would have loved.
Some 50 years ago, he said a good newspaper should "...bestir the people into an awareness of their own condition, provide inspiration for their thoughts and rouse them to pursue their own interests." A half century later, that's a good compass for a museum that asks you to consider your freedoms and practice and protect them.
That is what we'll do here. Let everyone know that today, free speech has gained another voice.
Welcome to the Newseum.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.