What Is the Price of Presidential Libraries?
Eric J. Vettel, February 2007
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To the Editor:
As a long-time member of the American Historical Association and executive director of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, I have great difficulty understanding concerns raised in The Coalition Column of the January 2007 issue of Perspectives about legislation authorizing a grant from the Federal government for the Wilson Library.
The fear of setting a precedent for public funds for private presidential libraries is a profound analytical error of the first order. All effective governments must make value judgments, and we can surely trust our legislators to draw proper distinctions between the impact and legacy of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and those of Chester A. Arthur, Millard Fillmore, James Garfield, William Henry Harrison, Franklin Pierce—indeed, most if not all of the 19th-century presidents.
With the Clinton Library surpassing $200 million and the proposed cost of the Bush Library nearing $500 million, should not our nation be willing to invest a one-time grant of $5 million in matching funds to support construction of a library for one of the most influential—for good and bad—chief executives?
—Eric J. Vettel, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library