Remarks as prepared for delivery by First Lady Jill Biden at the groundbreaking ceremony of Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden

Washington, D.C

Thank you, Lonnie, for this introduction and for your extraordinary commitment to making our nation’s history and culture accessible to everyone.

Melissa, your vision and leadership have brought more people to this institution than ever before.

And my dear friend Ellen – thank you for inviting me to share this special moment with you all.

I am honored to be joined by Your Excellencies – and grateful to all who are gathered here with us today.

A few weeks ago, after a day of midterm campaigning in New Hampshire, we ended the day in New York City. It had been a very long day – but I didn’t feel ready to go to my hotel. I needed more than rest.

I knew that Alex Katz exhibited at the Guggenheim; and it was probably my only “free” night in NYC for a long time.

So we went.

And as I walked through his works, I felt myself exhaling the intoxication of the day.

I forgot about tomorrow’s politics and the speeches I would give, the papers I still had to grade for my other job. And instead I felt chilled by the rainy blue that surrounded me: warmed by walls of sunny yellow, lost in conversation with every pastel-colored person staring at me from the canvas.

I was nowhere but present.

In a world that requires us to sprint from moment to moment – from meeting to meeting – art stops us.

It feeds our spirit when we hunger for more. It outlines our sorrows and joys so we know we are not alone. It brings us back to beauty and humanity in every moment.

art matters.

And that is reflected in the placement of this historic museum in the heart of our capital on the National Mall, where we showcase what makes our nation unique: our people, our leaders, our history and our democracy.

For nearly 50 years, thanks to so many of you, the Hirshhorn has brought some of the most innovative and visionary artwork to Americans and visitors from around the world.

And with this renewed sculpture garden, guests can experience it in new, more accessible ways.

This project will create a place that draws more people to the treasures within – where they are welcome to stop, sit and reflect.

This garden invites everyone to take a breath, look within themselves and experience life in the moment.

As many of you know, First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson was a key figure in the creation of the hirshhorn.

She once said, “Art is the window to a man’s soul. Without her he would never be able to see beyond his immediate world; nor could the world see the man in it.”

So whether we visit this garden for just a moment – or stop for a while and contemplate what is beyond the bounds of our imagination – we shine a little brighter when we are here.

And when we leave, we carry that light with us and see the world around us in new, more beautiful colors.

Many Thanks.