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Eleanor N.
Democrat DC 0

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  • The Introduction of a Bill to Require the Library of Congress to Install the D.C. Seal in the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building

    by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton

    Posted on 2015-12-10

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    NORTON of the district of columbia in the house of representatives Thursday, December 10, 2015 Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, today, I introduce a bill to require the Library of Congress to install the District of Columbia seal in the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The Library is one of the few buildings in the District that remains open to the public on most holidays. It provides not only D.C. residents but visitors and researchers from across the nation with access to incomparable resources. The bill requires the Library to depict the District's seal on the stained-glass windows in the Main Reading Room, where the seals of all the states and territories that existed when the building was constructed, except for the District, are depicted. D.C.'s seal was readily available at that time and should have been included. The seals of Hawaii and Alaska are not included in the display because they were not states or territories when the building was constructed. The fact that these two states were not part of the Union at the time of the creation of the stained-glass windows argues for the inclusion of the District, which, after all, was in fact the nation's capital at the time. We are asking that omission of D.C. be corrected immediately. This omission was brought to my [[Page E1763]] attention by a District resident, Luis Landau, a former docent at the Library.

    The residents of the District have always had all the obligations of American citizenship, including paying federal taxes and serving in all the nation's wars, including the War of 1812, during which the Capitol building, which then housed the Library of Congress, was burned, prompting construction of the current Library of Congress building with the state and territory seals. It is, therefore, without question that the District and its residents should receive equal treatment among the stained-glass windows that portray the history of the United States. D.C. residents deserve to have their history and American citizenship recognized.

    There is existing evidence that the seal of the District should have been depicted. The Members of Congress room in the Jefferson Building, which is not open to the public, has a painted depiction of the D.C. seal, along with state seals, on its ceiling. This precedent reinforces our request to be represented among the stained-glass windows in the Main Reading Room, which is open to the public. There is no reason why the D.C. seal cannot be added with the planned restoration of the stained-glass. The right time to add the seal of the District would be during the planned restoration.

    Congress already includes the District of Columbia, or has corrected the omission of the District, when honoring the states. For example, the District of Columbia War Memorial honors District residents who served in World War I, the World War II Memorial includes a column representing the District, the flag of the District is displayed among the flags of the fifty states in the tunnel connecting the House office buildings to the Capitol, and D.C.'s Frederick Douglass statue now sits in the Capitol alongside statues from the 50 states. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 requires the armed services to display the District flag whenever the flags of the states are displayed. Legislation was also enacted to give D.C. a coin after it was omitted from legislation creating coins for the 50 states. We also successfully worked with the U.S. Postal Service to create a D.C. stamp, like the stamps for the 50 states, and worked with the National Park Service to add the D.C. flag alongside the state flags across from Union Station. It is long overdue to display the D.C. seal, along with the seals of the states, in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress.

    I urge support of this legislation.


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