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Inaugural Meeting of the Five-Star Council

On November 8, 2001, Librarian of Congress Dr. James H. Billington and Veterans History Project director Ellen McCulloch-Lovell convened the first meeting of the Five-Star Council, a twenty-six member advisory board to the Veterans History Project. Following this meeting, members of the Council addressed the press and public in the Members Room of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building. Also present was Tess Canja, president of AARP, who announced that her organization has pledged $3 million to support the Veterans History Project over the next three years.

To view a cybercast of the public briefing, select the links below to watch each speaker's presentation. Please note that the free RealPlayer G2 software is required to view the cybercast. Download here if needed.

Veterans History Project director Ellen McCulloch-Lovell began the proceedings by introducing James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, who welcomed everyone to the meeting, summarized the goals and history of the project, and introduced and thanked the Five-Star Council members for their participation. Dr. Billington is a graduate of Princeton and Oxford universities and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Since becoming the thirteenth Librarian of Congress on September 14, 1987, Dr. Billington has championed the Library's "American Memory" National Digital Library (NDL) Program, which makes freely available online seven million American historical items from the collections of the Library and other research institutions.

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a combat veteran who was awarded two Purple Hearts during the Vietnam War, recognized the accomplishments of his fellow Five-Star Council members and discussed the importance of the Veterans History Project, especially for future generations. Senator Hagel stated in this clip, "In the hands of the nation's young, rest the nation's destiny. This project is so important for that reason alone, to connect [our history with] our young people, the next generation, the generation that will inherit the challenges of the day." Senator Hagel served as deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1982. In 1996, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and four years later he was one of the cosponsors of the legislation establishing the Veterans History Project.

A native of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Representative Ron Kind was first elected to Congress in November 1996. He was the principal author and leading sponsor of the legislation creating the Veterans History Project, and he recounted at the November 8 event how he was inspired to establish the project after hearing for the first time the personal stories of his father, a Korean War veteran, and his uncle, a World War II veteran. He felt that their stories and all American veterans' stories should be preserved for our nation's future generations.

(Clip begins with brief introduction by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.) Senator Daniel K. Inouye remarked at the meeting that less than half of all high school seniors polled in 1991 knew the significance of December 7, 1941. This date is of grave importance, particularly for Inouye. He was a seventeen-year-old high school student and Red Cross volunteer when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and he rendered first aid to civilian casualties. In 1943, he enlisted in the military and became a member of the U.S. Army's famed 442d Regimental Combat Team. Senator Inouye returned home in 1947 as a captain with a Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart with cluster, and twelve other medals and citations. He later received a Congressional Medal of Honor. In 1959 he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives as Hawaii's first congressman, and in 1962 he began the first of his seven consecutive terms in the U.S. Senate.

(Clip begins with brief introduction by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.) Senator John Warner of Virginia began a long career in public service during World War II when in January 1945, at age seventeen, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served on active duty until the summer of 1946 and was honorably discharged as petty officer 3rd class, electronic technician's mate. Senator Warner commenced a second tour of duty following the outbreak of the Korean War in the summer 1950, this time in the United States Marine Corps. Following his service in Korea, he remained in the Marine Corps Reserve for ten years and was promoted to the rank of captain. After serving as secretary of the navy from 1969 to 1974, Warner was elected to his first term in the United States Senate in 1978. At the November 8 briefing, Senator Warner discussed his father, who was a surgeon in the trenches during World War I, and his mother, who worked with the Red Cross and other relief organizations caring for the returning wounded. He lamented that he did not have an oral history of his father and said "let us not let other families go without" having their stories preserved. About the Veterans History Project, he told Dr. Billington, "I cannot think of any charge given to you by Congress that takes greater significance than this one."

(Clip begins with brief introduction by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.) Former Representative Sam M. Gibbons of Florida spoke of the importance of collecting veterans' stories so that future generations can learn from previous generations' experiences. Gibbons began his own military service in June 1941 as an infantry officer. Most of his time was spent with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. As part of the 101st Airborne Division, he led parachute infantry forces in the predawn invasion of Normandy, France. He participated in the invasion of Holland, the Battle of the Bulge, the defense of Bastogne and actions in Central Europe, and he received the Bronze Star for his service. Upon leaving the armed services as a major, Gibbons served in Congress for thirty-four years representing Florida and was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

(Clip begins with brief introduction by Ellen McCulloch-Lovell.) Introduced by Veterans History Project director Ellen McCulloch-Lovell as "the Library's very own general," Deputy Librarian Donald L. Scott discussed his service in Vietnam and his pride in integrating the military. Prior to coming to the Library, General Scott served as the chief executive officer of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), a division of the Corporation of National Service. His earlier career in the army included stints in Germany and two tours in Vietnam. His decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, six Bronze Stars, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge. In 1991, General Scott retired from active duty with the rank of brigadier general having served thirty-one years in the army. General Scott ended his remarks by introducing Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. A combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, Principi served as deputy secretary of veterans affairs, the Veterans Administration's second-highest executive position, from March 17, 1989, to September 26, 1992, when former President George Bush named him acting secretary of veterans affairs, a position he held until January 1993. In December 2000, President George W. Bush nominated Principi to be secretary of veterans affairs, and the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment on January 23, 2001. He told the audience that "all that we love and cherish in America today, all that we enjoy in this great land of ours is because" of the sacrifices and service of young GIs who fought in World War I, World War II, and "on the frozen hills of Korea, . . . the jungles of Vietnam, . . . and the deserts sands of the Persian Gulf." Secretary Principi said that he "look[s] forward to dedicating the resources of my department" to further the goals of the Veterans History Project.

(Clip begins with brief introduction by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.) Prior to introducing AARP President Esther "Tess" Canja, Dr. Billington noted the important role that active partners play in carrying out the mission of the Veterans History Project. He indicated how fortunate the project was to secure major private sector support from AARP. Ms. Canja announced at the meeting that AARP has pledged one million dollars for each of the next three years to the project. She also declared that she would encourage AARP's thirty-five million members to collect the stories of veterans.

Ellen McCulloch-Lovell was appointed director of the Veterans History Project on May 25, 2001. Prior to her appointment, she was director of the White House Millennium Council, which ran a number of national programs and partnerships to commemorate the millennium. From 1983 to 1994 she served as chief of staff to Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. In this clip she thanked all those involved with the Veterans History Project and concluded by introducing segments of several interviews received as part of the Veterans History Project Collection.

(Clip begins with brief introduction by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.) At the November 8 meeting, Lt. Gen. Julius W. Becton was introduced by his longtime friend Dr. Billington. General Becton entered active duty in the U.S. Army Air Corps in July 1944 and graduated from Infantry OCS in 1945. A veteran of three wars--World War II, Korea, and Vietnam--he served in various positions at many posts in the United States and abroad. Overseas duty carried him to Germany, France, the Philippines, the Southwest Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. His key duty assignments included Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, Commander of the VII US Corps, and the Army Inspector of Training. After retiring from the army, General Becton became Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and later president of Prairie View A & M University. He has served as director of the Boy Scouts and America and is interested in a variety of education issues. In his remarks, he emphasized that the Veterans History Project is a great way to connect today's younger generation with our nation's veterans.

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  April 3, 2009
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