Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 04:30pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today met with reporters to discuss budget priorities for the ongoing legislative session, including mounting support for the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum at Medora, N.D.

Burgum has proposed investing $50 million in earnings from the state’s Legacy Fund, with $100 million in matching funds required from private donors and other sources, to create the experiential library and museum as a major tourist attraction and educational center at the doorstep to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Theodore Roosevelt V, the great-great-grandson of the nation’s 26th president; Melani Walton, a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation board member and Dickinson State University alumna; and Melani’s husband, Rob Walton, met with lawmakers Tuesday at the Capitol or the Governor’s Residence, reaffirming their commitment to the project.

It was also announced during their visit that the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation recently donated $5 million to the North Dakota Community Foundation. The donation was placed into a donor-advised fund, meaning the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation will be able to recommend grants from the fund that align with the Community Foundation’s mission of improving the quality of life for North Dakota citizens.

Below are some their remarks from the visit:

Theodore Roosevelt V, whose wife, Serena, serves on the TRPL Foundation board: “One hundred years after Roosevelt’s passing, and after years of hard work by many people in this room, we have the resources aligned and the vision to build the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. But even with the backing of major cultural institutions, philanthropic organizations, the Theodore Roosevelt Association, there remains one, critical outstanding question: Does North Dakota want this library here? Here, where 135 years ago TR became a conservationist, a westerner, a leader. Here, by the cradle of conservation, which helped birth the national parks. Here, where the president learned the North Dakota values of self-reliance, integrity and community. If this is the place for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, and I believe it is, then let’s get to work. Let’s build a world-class institution that will remind this country of the defining role that North Dakota played in shaping American history.”

Melani Walton, on the TRPL Foundation board on which she serves as a trustee: “Our foundation has not been able to actually go out and start shaking hands with all of these organizations that want to have a handshake, because of the one question Ted (Roosevelt) posed tonight. And that is, is North Dakota in? Are you in for the long term? ... This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you have right here at your fingertips. It’s your choice.”

Rob Walton: “Melani and I are very excited about the potential for the Theodore Roosevelt (Presidential) Library and Museum in the park in Medora and hope that you will be the catalyst that lets it happen. Because we’re certainly standing ready to be very supportive as well.”

Melani Walton: “We’re really at a tipping point. This is the tipping point of make it or break it.”

Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation: “This has been 20 years in the making, and it feels to me like this is the moment. The planets are aligned. The (Theodore Roosevelt) Medora Foundation, the state, the National Park Service, the Theodore Roosevelt Library Foundation, are all coming together in this moment to make something happen. … We as an organization that supports our national parks … stand together with you all to make this an amazing place, a world-class place that will not only help North Dakota but will help the United States and the world appreciate the great mind of Teddy Roosevelt.”

In addition to letters previously received, the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum continues to draw letters of support from local, regional and national groups and officials, including (attached):

  • The Medora City Council
  • Dickinson State University President Tom Mitzel
  • U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong
  • Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness

The Economic Development Association of North Dakota also has indicated its support.