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Laura Bush Speaks at the Dedication of the National Willa Cather Center

Laura Bush Speaks at the Dedication of the National Willa Cather Center

Saturday, June 3, 2017

On June 3rd, nearly 300 guests gathered in our Red Cloud Opera House as distinguished guest Laura Bush delivered moving remarks for the dedication of the National Willa Cather Center. A former teacher and librarian, Mrs. Bush lauded Cather’s writing and spoke to its continued relevance. “Thanks to the talent of Willa Cather we have a better understanding of one of the most remarkable and compelling periods in American history,” Bush said. “Through her words, we come to appreciate who we are as a people and what we can achieve as individuals and as a community. Willa Cather gave a lasting voice to the western spirit that defines us as a nation, and that’s what makes her work so timeless.” Rev. Charles Peek, who served as Master of Ceremonies, opened the memorable event by stating, “How wonderful it is that we are able to gather today to celebrate this monumental achievement.

The National Willa Cather Center is a high-water mark in generations of efforts by Mildred Bennett’s kitchen cabinet and its descendants to fulfill the original mission to make known the significance of one of not just Nebraska’s, not just America’s, but one of the world’s great writers, Willa Cather.” The National Willa Cather Center was created through restoration and adaptive reuse of the historic Moon Block building in Red Cloud, Nebraska. The project was made possible with the completion of a $7 million capital campaign, graciously led by Honorary National Chair, Ken Burns; Honorary Chair, Joanne Berkshire; and Co-Chairs, Ruth H. Keene and John A (Jay) Yost. In addition to federal appropriations and federal and state historic tax credits, nearly 500 individuals and foundations from across the country contributed to the campaign.

Executive Director Ashley Olson noted, “With the completion of this project, our rich and growing collection is now housed in an archive that will ensure preservation for years to come. Scholars and students will have hands-on access to these materials while conducting research quietly and comfortably in our new study center. And finally, our visitors from across the country and around the world will discover Cather and encounter some of her most treasured personal possessions through our new museum exhibit.”

Willa Cather Foundation Board President, Lynette Krieger, expressed thanks to the generous donors who made the project a reality and spoke to the impact of the new museum. Together we’ve created a place that transcends bricks and mortar. We’ve created a place that greatly enhances Cather’s presence in our modern world—a place that eloquently brings Cather’s story to life in the imaginations of scholars, students, and readers young and old.”

Public tours led by members of the Willa Cather Foundation Board of Governors and staff immediately followed the dedication and ribbon cutting. Tour highlights included the study room, archive, green room, classroom/theatre, bookstore, and exhibit hall.

Whether you’re a long-time Cather fan or have recently discovered her writing, you’re encouraged to visit the new National Willa Cather Center to delve into her life and work. Admission is free and the Center is open year-round. Please visit www.WillaCather.org or call (402) 746-2653 to begin planning your trip.