“Tracie knows the power of words,” Amy Poehler said of American Library Association Executive Director and TIME100 Icon Tracie D. Hall, when she introduced Hall at the 2023 TIME100 Gala on April 26. “When I met her, and when I asked her what her favorite word was, she answered quickly: Abracadabra. How fitting for someone who believes in the magic of encouraging children to read, and providing more books for the incarcerated. Ms. Hall teaches everyone that comes through her doors that they are the protagonist. They are the main character. They have the magic. And we cannot wait to hear what they have to say.”
Hall, the first African American woman to lead the American Library Association since its inception in 1876, has spent this year fighting against political book bans and devastating budget cuts to protect Americans’ free right to read. In her tribute to Hall, author Min Jin Lee wrote, “Hall’s life’s work teaches each of us that the love of libraries and books can free us from hatred and lies not just for the present generation but for the liberation of all to come.”
At the TIME100 Gala, Hall spoke about what it means to lead an organization under attack, and how to have courage for your cause. Read her full speech below:
“I am here only because I represent a belief. The belief that stories can transform the way that we see the world. And that everyone’s—everyone’s—story deserves that opportunity. The belief that the books that contain those stories should be accessible to the readers that seek them. And that the libraries—the school libraries, the academic libraries, the public libraries, and yes, the prison libraries—that contain the books that contain those transformational stories should always be free and open to the public that they were built to serve.
“I am here as a librarian standing with thousands of librarians—warriors— across this country, who, despite bomb threats and threats of jail time are fighting to ensure that these words that stand as a vision of the American Library Association will always ring true:
“To everyone in this room who, in doing your work and expressing your ideas with so much conviction, make our lives a little freer: I salute you. And I remind us all that free people think, create, live, read. Free people read freely.”
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