Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Historic Preservation Awards


November 18, 1988


Don Hodel, John Rogers, and everyone here: Thank you all for coming. You know, when they told me that today's event was the Presidential Historic Preservation Awards, I said, ``Oh no, not another occasion to honor me.'' [Laughter] Besides, if anybody deserves credit for this President's historic preservation, it's Nancy. [Laughter] But then I was delighted to learn that I got to give the awards, not receive them. And it's more fun that way, anyway.


We're here to honor those of you who honor us with your respect for our past and concern for our future. ``The future of our civilization,'' the historian Lewis Mumford once wrote, ``depends upon our ability to select and control our heritage from the past, to alter our present attitudes and habits, and to project fresh forms into which our energies may be freely poured.'' Well, today we're here to honor all of you who have intertwined our hopes for the future of our civilization with a deep respect for the glories of our heritage.


In 1966 the National Historic Preservation Act became this nation's primary historic preservation legislation. One of the act's main goals is to encourage all levels of government, as well as all private organizations and individuals, to give their highest support to those who undertake preservation with private means. The projects and programs we're recognizing today reflect many forms of these independent endeavors. They are corporate-sponsored projects; programs featuring extensive cooperation between businesses and nonprofit organizations; and, overall, a high level of independent initiative.


Over the past 20 years, private enterprise has shown an increasing awareness of the advantages in preservation. Working independently, these organizations and individuals have maintained and adapted historic resources for modern use. Rehabilitation projects have provided facilities for businesses, housing, and community centers. Obviously, many programs unrelated to historic preservation have benefited from the creative use of our older resources.


In an earlier time, many thought that preservation work was expensive, time-consuming, and limited in its outcome. We have evidence in this room to prove that notion false. In fact, well-informed, planned, and coordinated enterprises prove that you can show cost-effective results and generate social and economic benefits beyond the original scope of the project.


The renovation of one building can inspire similar undertakings in the surrounding area and result in overall neighborhood improvements. The rehabilitation of one small area can lead to the revitalization of an entire downtown business district and stimulate progress in that town's economy.


The ability of private enterprise to enrich our heritage so effectively provides us with daily evidence of the cultural values that have sustained this nation. The presence of historic properties as working and productive assets in our communities gives us an important link between the past and the present and reminds us of what we were, who we are, and where we hope to be.


The word ``preserve'' in the old Latin originally meant ``to observe beforehand.'' What could be better tribute to our guests than to honor them as people who were foresighted enough to see that our national ethic is actually a conservative ethic in the most literal sense. If we can learn to observe beforehand that our history and our culture are of great value in giving us our sense of identity as Americans, then we will all work to preserve that heritage, just as these honorees have done. We owe much to the independent endeavors of these individuals who have dedicated their own personal resources to further the goals. Their work stands as inspiration for all of us.


Now for the fun part. Let me ask you something. When that light went out, did this go off too? [Laughter]


Note: The President spoke at 1:18 p.m. in the Indian Treaty Room of the Old Executive Office Building. In his opening remarks, he referred to Secretary of the Interior Donald Paul Hodel and John F.W. Rogers, Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. In his closing remarks, the President referred to a loss of electrical power. The following organizations received awards: the Tattnall County Historic Preservation, Inc., of Reidsville, GA; Gaylord Lockport Co., of Lockport, IL; AIA, Stopfel-Miller, Inc., of Boston, MA; Steelcase, Inc., of Grand Rapids, MI; the Nantucket Historic Trust and Sherburne Associates, of Nantucket, MA; the historical department of the Museum of Church History and Art, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of Salt Lake City, UT; Philadelphia Historic Preservation Corp., of Philadelphia, PA; Preservation Techniques, Inc., of Philadelphia, PA; Shelburne Farms, of Shelburne, VT; and Technology and Conservation magazine, of Boston, MA. A tape was not available for verification of the contents of the remarks.