Our chairman, [former Republican Congressman from California] David Dreier, had retired from Congress in 2012. He was, among other things, serving on the board of directors of Tribune Publishing, which, at that time, owned the Capital Gazette. So when the terrible tragedy occurred, with five people being killed in the newsroom, he was very concerned…So [Dreier] talked to a couple of journalists, Don Graham being one of them. And then he approached the Annenberg Foundation, which has supported many, many journalism projects over the years. And of course, the Foundation was created by Walter Annenberg who was a major media owner. And [Dreier] asked them for seed money to get started to explore this. His idea was that what we needed was a public memorial on federal land—that this was a memorial that needed to take its place alongside all the other memorials here in Washington.
We say that we have three purposes. The first is to commemorate those who lost their lives. So we want visitors—if they knew someone—to find a place of contemplation and solace. If the visitors don’t know anyone in particular, we want them to come away with an appreciation of those stories [of the fallen journalists]. A lot of that storytelling may need to take place online, but we want people to go away with a sense of the cost—that there is a cost to press freedom, and there is a cost to witnessing and recording and telling stories. That there are people who are willing to pay that cost is something to be appreciated.
The second goal is to educate. And that flows from the first goal of commemorating. We want people to learn these stories, we want them not to be forgotten, but also to develop a sense of why a free press is a pillar of democracy, as President Biden said the other night at the White House Correspondents Dinner. And finally, we want to inspire. So you can think of all the visitors who come to Washington, and of course, the visitors who come to Washington from all over the world. [We hope they leave the memorial] thinking about why democracy is important, and that they’ll be inspired to go home and fight for an independent and free press.