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For Immediate Release - Office of the Press Secretary - March 10, 2003 - 10:27 A.M. (EST)


THE FIRST LADY: Good afternoon. You know, liberals like to pretend that ethnic cesspools like New York City are where our nation's citizens go for a big heaping dose of American culture. Well, I think I speak for Real Americans everywhere when I say I'd rather spend a lovely afternoon amongst the endless shelves of glass and pebble figurines at Chattanooga's Rock City gift shop than being bored silly by wall after wall of degenerate abstraction pictures at the Museum of Modern Art! Like most conservative homemakers, give me the sales at an outlet mall over the exhibits at the Washington Mall any old day!

But, sadly, much of the American culture that we treasure and trade on E-Bay is being threatened. And the Franklin Mint can't preserve our heritage all by itself! That is why my husband has made veiled threats to Congress if they don't approve $30,000,000 to erect thousands of "Preserve Our Darn Culture!!!!" billboards throughout this beautiful land, something might just happen to their children.

These wonderful two-color billboards will all be done as part of Preserve America, a new White House initiative that will provide communities with greater support to protect and restore our nation's cultural resources. The Departments of Interior and Commerce and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation are strong partners in this initiative. For example, in the next five years, we hope to save hundreds of financially troubled McDonalds from the unpatriotic swing of heartless wrecking balls. It is so very important that when we are long rotting in a cold, worm-infested grave that if our great-great-great grandchildren have a hankering for greasy food served with nostalgic slowness and filth, they can do as we did and easily locate a McDonalds from a speeding car. It is for this reason that all 14,549 Golden Arches in this country will be designated as Historical Landmarks.

Please hold your applause until I raise my right hand like this.

No, that was just a demonstration. I don't wish to be interrupted right now. I hate being interrupted. Few things get my goat like being thrown off carefully rehearsed patter. Anyway, where was I?

As you traveled here, you may have flown over America's patchwork landscape of corporate farms, oil refineries and landfills. You may have driven along a highway access road, chock full of gas stations, fast food restaurants and pornographic bookstores with private video booths with holes in between the booths that are used for - well, I don't need to spell it out for you. You may have even walked past a Shoney's with its classic statue of a robust young man filled with the exuberance that only comes from ground beef.

Every mile of your trip was a journey through America's great heritage - a heritage our parents and grandparents bestowed to us and each of you continue to build upon and make just a little bit more electrifying.

America is blessed with historic architecture, landscapes and communities. Every one tells a story about the past and provides insight for the future. But to prepare for the future, we must remember our history. It is like the President always says, "Those who don't learn from history have the wonderful pleasure of repeating it so you don't feel like you've missed out on stuff."

Imagine a vast, open space of green and gold dotted with trees of poplar and pine. Imagine endless waterways and prairies full of deer and bear. Imagine oceans of grasses as far as the eye can see. This was the abounding West of America more than 200 years ago. It was where President Thomas Jefferson and a band of explorers longed to go and build lots of stuff on.

It was this dull wasteland that was yearning for a touch of Americana. Can you believe, you could travel miles and miles without seeing one cloverleaf interchange, much less a Burger King? Yes, our founding fathers had much work ahead of them. But first we had to kill all the half-naked Indian savages.

This is what Preserve America is all about. Our nation's cultural and natural resources are important parts of our heritage. Preserve America will promote historic and cultural preservation and encourage greater public appreciation of our national treasures.

One problem we have is that many people don't even know where this country's cultural landmarks are. For example, those of you who know where "Crazy Bob's Fireworks Superstore" is, please raise your hands.

Dear me! It's worse than I thought!

That is why, starting next year, you will begin seeing illuminated red, white and blue signs along our nation's roads. Beginning 100 miles from each cultural landmark, there will be sign with my picture on it (I'm wearing my favorite cucumber pantsuit) and a clear designation, for example: "Laura says it is only 100 miles to Butts County's first Stuckey's." So that distracted motorists don't miss these designated attractions, a sign will also countdown each mile, until, the hundredth sign: "Laura says you are here!"

The very definition of heritage is something that is passed down from preceding generations. So I ask you today, what will we pass down to our children - what will their heritage be? Can we ever hope to top the fabulous cornucopia of colorful retail signage that brightens a dreary stretch of asphalt like a riotous spray of wildflowers that our forefathers have passed down for our driving pleasure? Truly, they are not called "the Greatest Generation" for nothing!

Every American deserves to discover and learn about our nation's heritage. But imagine if our grandchildren could never see the neon and showgirls of Las Vegas? Imagine if they could not step under the shade of the same oak tree that our forefathers had used to string up a colored man who had inappropriately leered at one of their Caucasian ancestors.

Many of our historic sites and monuments are deteriorating and need to be preserved. Just last weak, I took a tour of K-Mart store in Wheeling, West Virginia and I was moved to tears by the unsightly linoleum floors. Filthy! Fortunately for America, I always travel with Clorox. So, believe me when I say, I am proud to serve as the honorary chair of Save America's Treasures which is working to restore and protect these valuable pieces of American commercial history. And I am proud of the President's commitment to continue to support Save America's Treasures with 30 million dollars this year. Thanks to the President, that very K-Mart today has floors you could eat off!

The President wants to continue this support and the preservation of our heritage through Preserve America. Today, President Bush signed an Executive Order on Preserve America to ensure that everyone, especially our children, will continue to explore and learn from historic treasures like our nation's first 7-11 convenience store in El Paso.

This order directs federal agencies to inventory and promote greater use of historical sites and overrides meddlesome state, tribal, and local government zoning regulations. Preserve America will provide more opportunities for preservation and increase tourism and economic development. There are so many stories of preservation at work in our communities.

My favorite example is close to our home at the White House. Arlington House is the ancestral home of Robert E. Lee. This beautiful building overlooks Washington, DC, from Arlington National Cemetery. Sadly, the politically correct pirates who bowdlerize our sacred history had the "Slavery Fun House" and all of the whips usually made available to eager tourists as part of the hands-on educational exhibit "Watch Shiftless Negroes Sing While Picking Cotton." Thanks to federal funds - and wire transfers to shut Jesse Jackson, All Sharpton and Coretta Scott King up - these fun-filled exhibits will soon reopen to America's families who can afford the new $30 admission price.

And recently in Topeka, Kansas, the Westboro Baptist Church was lovingly restored to its previous splendor by power-washing its cinderblocks for about eight minutes. Construction is almost complete on a covered walkway to link the sanctuary to the new "AIDS Cures Fags Cultural Center," which houses the nation's largest collection of signs and sandwich boards with scatological invective.

Our open spaces and landscapes also provide us with great opportunities for learning. Preserve America will promote new ways to lure developers to squandered unused spaces, such as our glut of National Parks. We will also encourage new ideas for using barren, worthless land to make homes for foul-smelling chemicals and leaky radioactive canisters that are now often simply left curbside in our major cities.

I know that all of you, who are not America-hating traitors, join me in heralding this important day as the first day of the rest of our lives -- and a day when America finally stopped taking for granted the wonderful contributions it has made to commercial culture.

Thank you.

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