Burgum Thanks Legislator and Supporters

Interior Rendoering of Library

Friday, April 26, 2019 - 2:30pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – State legislators who voted to create a $50 million endowment for the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum joined Gov. Doug Burgum today as he signed the bill into law and thanked the assembly, calling it “a historic piece of legislation that’s going to be transformational.”

The state-funded endowment will be created if $100 million in private donations is first raised for construction of the library and museum in Medora, on the doorstep to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Burgum said the signed bill is “a challenge to donors everywhere” to help make North Dakota only the 11th state to host a presidential library. The project has the support of the Roosevelt family,

“This is the place for this presidential library. We’ll tell the story not just of Roosevelt but of the people of North Dakota, and we’ll tell that story to generations going forward,” Burgum said. “We’ll be forever grateful for the Legislature’s courage and resilience to find a way to seize this historic opportunity.”

Burgum stressed that the $50 million endowment will always be held by the state Department of Trust Lands. The fund’s earnings will be used for operations and maintenance of the library and museum, but only after the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation has raised or secured binding pledges for $100 million, he noted, calling it a “brilliant funding strategy.”

The endowment was an amendment to SB 2001, which is the Governor’s Office budget bill. House members passed the bill 76-16 and the Senate approved it 34-13 this week.

“This is a historic day for North Dakota, and I’m really thankful for all the people that supported this project,” said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson. “This is a legacy project.”

“We all have that Rough Rider spirit,” said House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington. “And so I’m honored to be part of this.”

Speaking to the bipartisan passage of SB 2001, House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, said it was “the work of working together” that led to a strong “yes” vote in the House.

The $50 million endowment will come from a $35 million Bank of North Dakota loan and $15 million from the state’s general fund. Of the $15 million, $9.8 million is unspent funds designated for a presidential library by previous legislatures, and $5.2 million is from higher-than-anticipated revenues from the current 2017-19 biennium.

Burgum noted that no dollars will be appropriated from next biennium’s general fund revenues or Legacy Fund earnings, so the project did not compete with any 2019-21 appropriations. He praised the Legislature for funding priorities including health care, behavioral health, workforce development, education, corrections and infrastructure.

North Dakota Legislature passes once in a lifetime bill

The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation (TRPLF) has been given a huge show of support from the ND Legislature.


The North Dakota legislature passed and Governor Burgum has signed a bill which will establish a $50 million endowment for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. This once in a lifetime opportunity will attract $100 million in private donations.

Governor Burgum, Randy Hatzenbuhler and Dave Thompson tell the story.

Governor hosts Roosevelts and Waltons at his residence

The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation (TRPLF) joins Governor Burgum in hosting a social at the Governor’s residence.


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.

Melani Walton Elected to Board of Trustees, Joins Effort to Build Presidential Library

The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation has elected Melani Walton to its Board of Trustees. Walton, a well-respected and dedicated philanthropist, is an alumna of Dickinson State University (DSU), where she was an academic and athletic All-American and remains an emeritus member of the DSU Foundation Board.

Melani Walton

“The TRPLF Board of Trustees has been working diligently to make the dream of a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum a reality,” said Board Chair Bruce Pitts. “Melani’s leadership, vision, hands-on work ethic and deep commitment to this effort will propel us closer to making that dream a reality.”

Walton added, “I am honored to join this board and to be part of giving voice and place to President Roosevelt’s legacy. We have the opportunity to help others appreciate and experience the raw magic of these lands, not only as a destination but as a way of life. Growing up with the Badlands as part of our family heritage, I had the chance to learn about TR’s life and know others will benefit from his history.”

Walton’s commitment to the region is grounded in her own family’s history in the western North Dakota area, which dates back more than three generations. Walton also shares Theodore Roosevelt’s passion for conservation, sustainability, exploration and leadership.

“We are deeply grateful for Melani’s dedication to honoring Theodore Roosevelt with a presidential library and museum worthy of his incredible life and legacy,” said North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. “Her strong educational and family ties to Dickinson and the region, her national perspective and her passion for philanthropy will help provide the momentum we need to realize the potential of this important project.”

Walton added, “Theodore Roosevelt understood the deep importance of nature and sustainability of lands and developed our nation's park system for the health of humanity and future generations. He was a visionary who left a lasting impact.”

She and her husband Rob are instrumental in supporting the African Parks Foundation, which has re-established and invigorated parks throughout Africa. More broadly, they have made substantial contributions of their time to Conservation International, participating extensively in its field operations globally. They also created the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiative at Arizona State University, whose sustainability programs have reached millions of children and adults. Other Walton philanthropic leadership focuses on research and innovation in the areas of education, arts and humanities, brain health, consciousness studies, and well-being.

Melani Walton has served on a number of boards, including The Nature Conservancy, the Arizona Science Center, The Learning Committee, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Advisory Board, the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and the Arizona Women’s Board. She is also a member of the National Association of Professional Women.