Secretary-Elect Lonnie Bunch's Remarks at the News Conference Announcing the Smithsonian’s 14th Secretary

May 28, 2019
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Lonnie G Bunch III

Remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Thank you David and Steve. I want to express my profound appreciation to you and Risa, the search committee and the Regents for entrusting me with such an extraordinary privilege. I am humbled and honored to become the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. This is an emotional moment because the Smithsonian means so much to me personally and professionally. I met my wife Maria (who is here) at the Smithsonian, my daughter attended SEEC and my family was enriched by the educational opportunities that are at the heart of this Institution. I am so pleased that my mother could be here this morning.

I could have never imagined that when I “got a job” at NASM in 1978 that it would lead to a vocation, a calling that would shape my life and my career. I learned so much about the wonders of the Smithsonian during my time at that museum and even more during my tenure at NMAH. And I was so fortunate to be part of a gifted team that helped to birth NMAAHC. An experience that will remain with me forever.

I am cognizant of the challenges that the Institution faces during the next decade but more importantly, I am excited by the potential of the Smithsonian. I revel in the opportunity to work closely with the Regents and with my gifted and dedicated colleagues throughout the Institution—from scientists, to curators, to educators, to security officers to volunteers—to help the Smithsonian become the institution that America needs and deserves. It is important for the public to view the Smithsonian, not simply as an attic of nostalgia but as a cauldron of ideas, innovation and understanding that could be transformative for America.

Building on 173 years of scholarship, preservation expertise, innovative exhibitions and education in the fields of history, the arts, culture and the sciences, the Smithsonian is poised to be of even greater value and relevance. To accomplish this, the Smithsonian must become a more nimble entity, an institution that is ripe with technology, an institution better suited to serve 21st-century audiences, and an institution of research, of amazing collection, and of wonder, that helps America better understand itself and its world. This will ensure that the Smithsonian will always be a site where scholarship, creativity, education and service come together for the greater good.

All of this will be possible, in part, thanks to the efforts and creativity of my predecessor David Skorton whose commitment to excellence and to audiences provided a foundation upon which we will build. Thank you David for your leadership and friendship.

I am confident that the next decade will be one of the Smithsonian’s best. I believe this because the Smithsonian contains an amazing array of museums, research centers, libraries, archives and educational centers that, in combination, are unrivaled. And I am confident, because I am in awe of the creativity and the effort of the thousands who call the Smithsonian home and who, through their work, seek to serve America. The Smithsonian has a role to play in making a nation stronger, and has the opportunity to make an unprecedented difference locally, nationally and globally.

I want to thank the Regents for their confidence in me. I will work tirelessly to build upon the traditions of the Smithsonian Institution to help America better understand the changing world of the 21st century.

Thank you.