President-Elect Barack Obama keynoted the opening general session at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, June 23–29, 2005, while a U.S. senator from Illinois.
This article, published in the August 2005 issue of American Libraries, is an adaptation of that speech, which drew record crowds and garnered a standing ovation.
Bound to the Word
Guardians of truth and knowledge, librarians must be thanked for their role as champions of privacy, literacy, independent thinking, and most of all reading.by Barack Obama
If you open up Scripture, the Gospel according to John, it starts: “In the beginning was the Word.” Although this has a very particular meaning in Scripture, more broadly what it speaks to is the critical importance of language, of writing, of reading, of communication, of books as a means of transmitting culture and binding us together as a people.
More than a building that houses books and data, the library represents a window to a larger world, the place where we’ve always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward and the human story forward. That’s the reason why, since ancient antiquity, whenever those who seek power would want to control the human spirit, they have gone after libraries and books. Whether it’s the ransacking of the great library at Alexandria, controlling information during the Middle Ages, book burnings, or the imprisonment of writers in former communist block countries, the idea has been that if we can control the word, if we can control what people hear and what they read and what they comprehend, then we can control and imprison them, or at least imprison their minds.
That’s worth pondering at a time when truth and science are constantly being challenged by political agendas and ideologies, at a time when language is used not to illuminate but, rather, to obfuscate, at a time when there are those who would disallow the teaching of evolution in our schools, where fake science is used to beat back attempts to curb global warming or fund lifesaving research.
At a time when book banning is back in vogue, libraries remind us that truth isn’t about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information...
See adaptation of speech in American Libraries...
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