The following is a press release issued by the National Archives and Records Administration:
WASHINGTON, September 12, 2023 — The National Archives and Records Administration plays a critical role in safeguarding democracy by providing access to records that help citizens hold their government accountable, Dr. Colleen Shogan said during a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony held yesterday in the National Archives Rotunda.
“The prevalent condition in human history is not democracy or rights-based government. Rather, the default is autocracy and tyranny, where might makes right, with little regard to individual freedom or the pursuit of happiness,” Shogan said.
“What prevents us from falling back into the classic pattern of authoritarianism is our right—our responsibility—to hold our government accountable. That’s what makes the National Archives so important. Without the National Archives and the continued fulfillment of its mission, a healthy democracy cannot be sustained.”
Dr. Colleen Shogan makes remarks as Archivist of the United States on Sept. 11, 2023, at the National Archives in Washington, DC. NARA Photo by Susana Raab.
Shogan said the National Archives’ mission “is straightforward, but it grows in complexity every day. The National Archives preserves, protects, and shares the billions of records in its custody with the citizens of this great nation. We do this to cultivate public participation and strengthen our democracy.”
She noted that in order to meet an evolving mission in the digital age, the National Archives must transform itself.
“We will need to embrace technology to meet our mission in ways that might make us uncomfortable at times. New ways of doing things will challenge our second-nature habits and processes,” Shogan said. “But if we are going to succeed, we must move forward boldly. Timidity will not be our friend as records continue to proliferate at exponential rates.”
Shogan, who officially took office in May, was sworn in during the ceremonial event on September 11 by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts.
“It is the honor of a lifetime to serve as the 11th Archivist of the United States. It’s not lost on me today that I am the first woman appointed to serve in this role,” she said.
“I wore white today to recognize those who made it possible for me to stand here today and take this oath. The suffragists didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, so they aren’t on these murals. But their contribution to the vitality of our democracy is no less meaningful. Along with many other inspiring leaders in American history, they believed in the principles enshrined in these documents, and claimed them as their God-given, natural rights. The fulfillment of those rights, which continues today, is why these documents aren’t simply pieces of parchment. They are living promises to hold our government accountable,” Shogan added.
President Joseph R. Biden nominated Shogan to be Archivist of the United States in August 2022.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Shogan on May 10, 2023, and she was officially sworn in on May 17, 2023, by an executive staff member of the National Archives and Records Administration and began work immediately as head of the agency.
The swearing-in ceremony at the Rotunda is a more formal event to celebrate the start of a new Archivist’s tenure. It was generously supported by the National Archives Foundation.
Jim Blanchard, President and Chair of the National Archives Foundation Board of Directors and former Michigan Governor, presided over the ceremony. First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden provided opening remarks.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden introduces Dr. Colleen Shogan as Archivist of the United States on Sept. 11, 2023 at the National Archives in Washington, DC. NARA Photo by Susana Raab
“The history we preserve, the stories we elevate, the voices we amplify, are shaped by the person at the helm of this institution. These stories are all of our stories,” Biden said. “Men and women of all backgrounds, ages, and creeds. What we choose to preserve and whose voices we deem worthy of placing in our national memory. That’s why this milestone—the first woman head of the National Archives and Records Administration—is so momentous.”
Prior to joining the agency, Shogan served as Senior Vice President and Director of the David M. Rubenstein Center at the White House Historical Association.
She previously worked in the United States Senate and as a senior executive at the Library of Congress.