Kansas Library Association Government Documents Roundtable

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Wreaths Across America Day

Saturday, December 15, is Wreaths Across America Day.  On the third Saturday of December, thousands of volunteers will honor and remember our nation’s veterans by laying more than a million wreaths at soldiers’ cemeteries across the United States and overseas.

Wreaths 3

Leavenworth National Cemetery

The story of this tradition began in the state of Maine in 1992, when the Worcester Wreath Company first honored those who serve by donating remembrance wreaths, transporting and placing the wreaths on graves at the Arlington National Cemetery.  By 2007, the nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America had formed, expanding the outreach.  Organizing a nationwide effort, Wreaths Across America has continued to cooperate with family, friends, and volunteers to place wreaths on the graves of servicemen and servicewomen at cemeteries throughout the country during the December holiday season.

For a number of years, the U.S. Congress has recognized this undertaking.  On December 11 of this year, the U.S. senators from Maine once again introduced a resolution which was passed by the Senate.  Senate Resolution 719 designates December 15, 2018, as “Wreaths Across America Day.”  The full text of the resolution is available at this link:  S. Res. 719.  The resolution recalls the mission of Wreaths Across America to “Remember, Honor, Teach”:

(1)  remembering the fallen heroes of the United States;

(2) honoring those who serve; and

(3) teaching the next generation of children about–

(A)  the service of veterans; and

(B)  the sacrifices made by veterans and the families of veterans to preserve the freedoms enjoyed by the people of the United States;

S. Res. 719, 115th Congress (2017-2018)

Podium Photo

“The Glory of Their Deeds Lives”

Activities have been in progress to culminate with Saturday’s events.  On Monday, a wreath laying ceremony was held at the U.S. Capitol and at state capitols across the nation, including our own.  That same day, a convoy with patriotic escort set out from Maine to transport the balsam fir wreaths once again to the Arlington National Cemetery.  The story of Wreaths Across America continues on this third Saturday of December, as wreaths are delivered to cemeteries throughout the country and thousands of people gather to pay respects, lay wreaths, and speak the names of those who have sacrificed.

For additional details regarding Wreaths Across America locations and ceremonies at national and state veterans cemeteries, view these websites :

Maryland Cemetery

Maryland Veterans Cemetery at Cheltenham



The National Park Service Saved My Vacation and It Can Save Yours Too!

August is almost upon us and in the coming weeks many will be squeezing in that last family vacation of the summer.  For most, the annual trek entails weeks of careful planning and time spent packing up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster (points if you get the film reference).  However, even the best laid schemes of mice and men can often find oneself in a hotel room in southeastern Alberta watching their vay-kay quite literally go up in smoke.  When that happens (but preferably before), resources available through the National Park Service can pull your vacation plans out of the fire.

Why all the fire-related puns?  In July 2015, I was on my way to Wood Buffalo National Park in extreme northeastern Alberta to hike and take in the park’s eponymous wood bison and whooping cranes.  Per Parks Canada, the wildfires ravaging British Columbia and western Alberta were being contained and my route unobstructed when I left Kansas.  By the time I’d reached Medicine Hat, it had become abundantly clear that it was time to make other plans.  That’s when I turned to the National Park Service’s Find A Park feature and discovered what Montana had to offer.  This feature allows users to search state-by-state for national historic sites & monuments, national parks & recreational areas, and trails all under the management of the National Park Service.  In turn, each park listing contains up-to-date park alerts & conditions, basic information, an events calendar, and maps.NPSThe NPS also provides a Trip Planning Guide that helps you identify activities appropriate for your group, learn about your destination & become aware of any potential hazards, and pack accordingly.  The NPS website also provides interactive and informative pages for children and educational materials for teachers.   Unsure where to visit or just can’t get away?  The NPS Multimedia Search provides users with a preview of our national parks by allowing them to view photos, listen to audio files, and watch videos taken by park visitors and personnel.

Without NPS Find A Park, I might have driven straight to the Yellowstone Ecosystem (and still had a grand time).  Instead, I spent a eight glorious days tooling around western Montana, getting a guided boat tour on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park,  visiting the Great Falls Portage on the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, and enjoying all points in between before wandering into West Yellowstone and running into this guy.  YellowstoneAnd yes, the NPS can even tell you the difference between the plains bison that makeup the Yellowstone Herd and their northern cousin.

A Healthy Dose of Information

When I was a small child and would get sick, my mother called good ol’ Dr. Beahm and he made a house call.  For those of you too young to know about house calls, Dr. Beahm (as most other family doctors) actually came to our house to examine me, left instructions with my mother, and often gave me a shot of penicillin or a friendly pat on the head as he left, depending on the ailment.

These days many of us jump online to Google symptoms and see what they may (or may not) mean.  This can be useful if you discover good resources with reliable information.  However, not everything on the Internet is true (duh! as my grandson would say) so solid, verified health information is crucial.  Where to begin?  Since this is a GODORT blog we’ll begin with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While you know they are heavy into research you may not realize a large section of their website is dedicated to Health Information.  This searchable plethora of health information covers topics from handling stress and managing your cholesterol to locating local health services and how to talk with your doctor.  There are even Wellness Toolkits to find ways to improve your well-being in any area you’d like.


Another great resource is healthfinder.gov with its friendly interface, a health quiz, and even “myhealthfinder” to help you know which preventive services you may need.

These websites are the perfect way to begin locating reliable health information for yourself and those around you.  Here are just a few more you can count on:


President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records

November 22, 1963Many of us recall when and how we heard what happened that day–a motorcade through Dallas, an assassin’s bullets, the loss of a President and its impact on a Nation.  For those who are younger, the story has been recounted in various ways.  We mark another anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination amid recent news regarding the release of assassination-related documents.  What is the background regarding the release of these records now?

The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (JFK Act) was signed by President George H. W. Bush October 26, 1992, nearly thirty years after President Kennedy’s death.  In his statement on signing the Act, President Bush noted that, although thousands of documents had been released by the government, many Americans continued to have unresolved questions.  “Because of legitimate historical interest in this tragic event, all documents about the assassination should now be disclosed, except where the strongest possible reasons counsel otherwise.”  Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George H. W. Bush (1992-1993, Book II)

The JFK Act, Public Law 102-526, provided for the “expeditious disclosure of records relevant to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”  The Act called for the National Archives and Records Administration to establish the JFK Assassination Records Collection and for each government agency to “identify and organize its records” relating to the assassination and “prepare them for transmission to the Archivist.”  Section 5(a)(1).  Section 5, in part, states:

Each assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act, unless the President certifies, as required by this Act, that–

i) continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations; and

(ii) the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

The date “25 years after the date of enactment” of the JFK Act was October 26, 2017.  On July 24, 2017, the National Archives released the first of several groups of online documents.  The next group was released on October 26.  The press releases for these and subsequent document releases are available on the National Archives website.

On October 26, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued his Presidential Memorandum for the Heads of Departments and Agencies, providing for a temporary six-month certification period.  During this time, President Trump has ordered agencies to re-review those documents with redactions, i.e., sensitive portions removed, before recommending further postponement of full disclosure by April 26, 2018.

Additional information on the JFK Collection, along with updates on the further release of documents, may be found at the following sites:


Introducing . . . govinfo

govinfo-next-gen-alpha-logo-118x39  Finding authentic government information just got easier.  In February 2016, the Government Publishing Office (GPO) launched govinfo.gov–the new interface for accessing official digital government information from all three branches of  the Federal government.  Since 2009, such content has been available on FDsys.gov–the Federal Digital System.  The two sites will co-exist while govinfo continues as a work in progress; then FDsys will be phased out.

“Keeping America Informed” has been GPO’s mission since the beginning–providing free public access to the Federal government’s legislative, executive, and judicial information.  With the digital age, GPO has changed, too.  govinfo functions as repository, search engine, and gateway to content, with a new look and easier access from your mobile device.

Here are just a few examples of govinfo‘s notable features and content:

  • Timely subject features, such as Patriot Day and Constitution Day;
  • The Daily Digest from the most current Congressional Record;
  • Quick access to the very latest Presidential documents and Congressional bills–the past 24 hours;
  • Collections such as the Code of Federal Regulations, the Statutes at Large, and Public Papers of the Presidents, as well as some United States Courts opinions;
  • Browseable searching from an A to Z list of documents, from the Americans With Disabilities Act to the Warren Commission Report;
  • Searching by citation and browsing by Congressional Committee or agency Author

Updates on new developments and guidance on searching are included on the site, with links to tutorials and handouts.  Feedback to GPO is welcome during this beta stage.  So, accept the challenge offered on govinfo to “Discover U.S. Government Information.”  Begin your search now–here–with govinfo.


Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance

In 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, Commander John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic designated May 30 as a day to honor those who had died in defense of their country.  Issuing General Order No. 11, Logan called upon those who survived to decorate their comrades’ graves with the “choicest flowers of springtime” and arrange “fitting services and testimonials of respect” throughout the country.

Flag photo blogAlthough local tributes had previously been held in various towns, the first large national observance of Memorial Day was held at Arlington National Cemetery May 30, 1868.  Congress would later recognize Waterloo, New York, as the official birthplace of the Memorial Day tradition, as noted by President Lyndon Johnson in his 1966 Memorial Day Proclamation.  For further details on this historical background, see Memorial Day History, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a Joint Resolution “requesting the President to issue a proclamation designating May 30, Memorial Day, as a day for a Nation-wide prayer for peace.”  Public Law 512.  With the enactment of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, effective January 1, 1971, Memorial Day was recognized as a legal public holiday to be observed the last Monday in May.

36 U.S. Code § 116  provides that the President will issue a proclamation each year:

(1) calling on the people of the United States to observe Memorial Day by praying, according to their individual religious faith, for permanent peace;

(2) designating a period of time on Memorial Day during which the people may unite in prayer for a permanent peace;

. . . .

The National Moment of Remembrance Act, passed by resolution of Congress in May 2000 (Public Law 106-579), established a new Memorial Day tradition.  This Act calls upon Americans to pause for a minute of silence–beginning at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day each year–to honor those who gave their lives serving our country.  Setting out to “reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble event” intended, the Act also established the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance, charged with promoting awareness, encouraging state and local participation, and coordinating national commemorations.

In accordance with law and custom, President Barack Obama will soon issue his 2016 Memorial Day Proclamation.  In Kansas and across the nation, the National Cemeteries will observe the day with ceremony, honoring all who have died in service to this country.  As citizens gather with reverence and patriotism, they will pass on these Memorial Day traditions and so preserve the heritage of Memorial Day for future generations.



Earth Day and the birth of the EPA

The first Earth Day in April 1970 was part of a growing movement to raise public awareness of environmental concerns such as air and water pollution, to force environmental protection on to the national Earth-Day-2016-Poster-Earth-Day-Networkpolitical agenda.  Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, Representative Pete McCloskey of California, and Denis Hayes from Harvard took the idea of a “national teach-in on the environment” and ran with it.  A date between Spring Break and final exams, April 22, was selected as the date.

When the day came, 20 million Americans coast-to-coast demonstrated in rallies to protest the use of pesticides, toxic dumps, air pollution and a myriad of other activities leading to the deterioration of the environment. The movement gained such momentum that by the end of 1970 the United States Environmental Protection Agency had been created and the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts had been passed.

Earth Day went global in 1990, with 200 million people in over 140 nations participating, according to the Earth Day Network (EDN), a nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities.