Imagination Library Event Transcript

Dollywood, Dec. 12, 2003

DAVID DOTSON: One of the things that won't be in our little event but is worthwhile for you to know now that I'm sure that you've gotten the material, is that the High-Scopes Research Educational Foundation just completed a study. It's the first study that we've done on some of the outcomes and issues of the Imagination Library. We released that study today. And Charles Smith is right down here, and he will be able to talk to you afterwards. We also have with us Laurie Rich, who's the Assistant Secretary of Education for Interagency and Intergovernmental Affairs, she is right there, and she's come from Washington, and she'll also be delighted to talk to y'all if you so choose. So, without any further discussion on the matter, I think it's time to present our lady of honor, Sevier County's gift to the world, the one, the only, Dolly Parton.

DOLLY: Are talkin' about me? (Applause) Now get off here, this ain't Davidwood! Well hi everybody. How are you? Well, thanks a lot. I just wanted to come out here on this cold morning. Are you freezing to death? Anyway, I just wanted to welcome all of you. We're so happy to have you here, and Ken's been telling me all of the wonderful things all of you've been doing for the Imagination Library and the Dollywood Foundation, and of course you know proud we must be of it, and we consider ourselves "the little program that could," right? (Laughs) That's our first book, of course, the kids get to read, The Little Engine That Could. But we started this thing a few years back, and we had no idea that's going to get to be as special as it, hopefully it is going to get bigger, but as special as it really is. So, we kinda started it, as you know, here in our county, and it just started to grow and grow. And, of course, I have all of these wonderful people back here making me look good. It looks like I've done all this stuff myself, and of course I ain't, but I'm happy to do whatever I can. See, I don't even know how to use good English. (Laughs)

Put me in a school program, I said this is the worst thing. I was the worst student in the world, hated school. But I got involved in the education stuff several years ago when we first started the scholarship fund back in the '70s. And of course my, my folks didn't get a chance for a good education. My Dad never was able to read and write. Had a house full of kids. But he was the smartest person I ever knew in spite of that fact. And I just think I wonder what all my Daddy could have been had he been able to read and write. And of course through the years we've tried to help all the young kids in any way that we can.

Then a few years back we decided that it would be a great thing to start with the little kids, when they were real young, to teach them to love books, and teach their parents to read with them and to learn to kinda connect the love of reading with the love of people that you do love. Anyway it's just turned into a great thing, and David was telling me that all of you folks have really done great in your county and in your state, so we just, I just wanted to come out here and encourage you to even do more. 'Cause we, we've got a little girl back there who's gonna get the one-millioneth, that how you say it? Ha! Are you a word to mean Millioneth-eth-eth. (Laughs.) Anyway, she's gonna come out later. And we think that's great. We want to get it to where we can have books in the hands of every child in the whole United States. So, I just wanted to thank all of you for all you're doing. And David said to me the fact that I have an, an album out called For God And Country, an American album, and I kinda do a little preachin' song in it where I sound like my grandpa, who was a Pentecostal preacher, and he said, "Well, just go out there, and he said these people like, 'Wanna hear the good news! Ha! And you're that preacher! Ha!'" And I said, "Well, if that's the way it is, that's the way it is." So, if we have to preach, we're just out to really teach. Anyway, thank you so much, and I think David's gonna come back. Actually, I guess I have to do, well I don't have to do, but I think I'm gonna do before I bring anyone else back for the rest of the program, 'cause when we first started the Imagination Library, I thought, well, that this would be great for me to have a song, or a poem or something, that really would help children to build their confidence, their self esteem, and so I wrote a song that has now become like the theme of our, our little program, which is now a different program. But anyhow, it's actually a song, but actually when I first wrote it it was kind of a poem, and I don't have music up here, but Lord who knows, I'm liable to light into a song at anytime, but I just mostly wanted to tell you what is says. And it says:

That I have chased after rainbows. I've captured one or two.
And I've reached for the stars, and I've even held a few.
And I've walked that lonesome valley, topped the mountain, soared the sky.
I've laughed, and I have cried, but I have always tried.

'Cause I've always been a dreamer, and dreams are special things.
But dreams are of no value if they're not equipped with wings.
So secure yourself for climbing, make ready for the sky.
Don't let your chance go by, 'cause you will make it if you try.

So you try to be the first one up the mountain,
Be the highest flying dreamer in the sky.
Try your best to be an inspiration,
For others that are still afraid and shy.
And try to make the most of every moment.
If you fail, get up and try again.
And try each day to try a little harder,
'Cause if you never try, you never win.

'Cause nothing is impossible, if you can just believe.
Don't live your life in shackles. Your faith can be the key.
The winner's one that keeps determination in his eyes,
Who's not afraid to try and not afraid to fly.

So try to be the first one up the mountain,
Try to be the first to touch the sky.
And don't let somebody tell you you can't do it.
And if they say that, show 'em it's a lie.
And if you fail at first, just keep on trying.
'Cause you are not a failure in God's eyes.
The path you're taking now makes all the difference.
And it all depends on just how hard you try.
And the first step is the one that's always hardest.
But nothing's gonna change if you don't, what?, try.


Oh, I do much better with music. But anyhow, that is not the plug that got me trying to sing. That's just about to get these feelings out that we feel about this program and what we hope to instill in our children, that you can do anything if you try, if you have the knowledge, and if you can read you can find out about anything, can't you? You don't even have to go to school if you can read, now you should. Ha, ha! (Laughs) Most of us don't want to, but I truly believe that if a child can read it can find your way through anything. So anyhow, again, thank you, get out there and make all these people just go to all their politicians and tell 'em to get on the stick. We've got lots to do, and we're doing a good job, and thanks again for doin' it. So I'm gonna have David come out again, 'cause I think we have some more stuff to do. It time for you?

DAVID: It is time.

DOLLY: Alright, what else you got?

DAVID: Well, the first thing we have are our good friends at Penguin Books who are the suppliers of all the books for the Imagination Library. And they have a couple of presentations to make Dolly, so I'd like to introduce from Penguin Books Lisa Betelli.

DOLLY: Hello, Lisa!

DAVID: And Gina Molochi.

DOLLY: Hi, Gina. Nice to see you. Welcome to Dollywood.

GINA: Hi, Dolly. We wanted to, on behalf of Penguin Books, thank you for allowing us to be part of this special endeavor. We are trying our best to be a good corporate citizen. We've done so many great things in so many communities but nothing like this. We hope we're a part of your 3 millionth book, 10 millionth book, and 100 millionth book.

DOLLY: Me, too!

GINA: We would like to present to you these two of a kind editions of The Little Engine That Could as a token of our appreciation as acknowledgment all of the work to go into this and a symbol of everything to come.

DOLLY: Well, your need more books that that. We've got a whole crew working on this.

GINA: Don't worry!

DOLLY: And you need one, too. Well, that's very sweet. Thank you so much. (Applause) And you have done a great job. And we appreciate all that you have done and you do. And I'm honored to have these. You gonna hold 'em? For now?

DAVID: And we've got another special presentation to make. If you'll just stay right there.

DOLLY: They never give me my presents. They just take 'em away. (Laughs)

DAVID: They're all in my garage. Next, we've got a person and a family. We'd like to present our one millionth book. We did that just about two weeks ago, and the recipient of our one millionth book is little Cana Beth Waynick from Danville, Ala.

DOLLY: Cana! Hi! She was back there playing with my fingernails and pokin' on all my rhinestones. Weren't you? Congratulations. Can you read yet? (Laughs) She don't like no part of me. Go ahead David. (Laughs)

DAVID: I was just gonna say this is her father John Mark and her mother Carrie.

DOLLY: Got all the names right? He's so good.

DAVID: We would like to give this, that edition to Cana Beth, and we'd like for you to sign it for her.

DOLLY: OK! Glad to! You'd better spell that. How do you spell Cana? C-A-N-A. So maybe I ought to put it here in the smoke. C-A-N-A. Cana Beth. Okay. Can you read this Cana? You won't be able to read this when you're 30. (Laughs) Maybe I should date this, too, so when you are a little older, you'll know exactly what day you got this, won't you. Okay. That's for you! Anything you want to say? (Laughs) She said, "I want my mama!" (Laughs) Thank you very much. (Applause)

DAVID: We've got one more thing to do right now, you know all these people from all across the country are here. And they collect all of the stories everyday with the books being to families. So I'd like to introduce from Wells County, Ind., Pamela Becker.

DOLLY: Hi, Pamela. What a pretty sweater. I like that. It's like my coat of many colors. Your sweater.

PAMELA: That's my favorite song, too.

DOLLY: Well, welcome to Dollywood.

PAMELA: I am so honored on behalf of these people and so many more, we have 260 communities across the country, and have collected stories and thank yous from across the country, lots of different ones. It's all been put in a scrapbook. And we would like to present this to you.

DOLLY: Oh, great! Well, that's a nice gift!

PAMELA: I would just like to read just one of them, one of the thank yous. It says, "Dear Dolly, Thank you so much for the wonderful books. My teacher and I look forward to getting them and reading them. It's very nice of you to do this for us. Thanks for caring about our education. I also love the train bookcase. Trains are great. Love, Alex and Caitlin McCambler."

DOLLY: Aw, well, how sweet!

PAMELA: So this if for you. And thank you.

DOLLY: Well, great. Well, I love these kinds of things. I'm always takin' pictures and always puttin' them in a scrapbook, so this will give me something to do when I'm riding on my bus.

PAMELA: Well, good. And I would just like to say as a local sponsor, our local United Way in northeast Indiana, how much we are so excited about this program and what wonderful things this is doing in our community, and we couldn't do this without your backing. So we appreciate that.

DOLLY: Well, we're proud of every person who's takin' part in that. We need each other, don't we.

PAMELA: Yes, we do.

DOLLY: I'm just happy to do my part, and we couldn't do it without all of you. So thank you so much. You want to hold onto this for now. I think we're gonna take some pictures, and in case they give me somethin' else! (Laughs) Anyhow, but I will get it later. I promise you now.

DAVID: And now we thought we're going to do some photos with everybody, but before we have some members of the press here, so you feel like taking a few questions..

DOLLY: Oh, yeah, anybody wants to ask me anything, I'll just act like I know what I'm talkin' about. Ha, ha. I always said if I don't like what they ask me, I'll just make up something that I want them to know. (Laughs) Anybody, you got a microphone. Hi there!

Q: Hi, we'll start with me. I'm Beth Hanes from WVIR Channel 10 in Knoxville. Let me just say it's an honor to talk to you.

DOLLY: Well, thank you. I started down there in Knoxville, on radio, there on WVIR.

Q: I know, I know that first of all I should say congratulations on a tremendous milestone for Imagination Library. And you talked about or kinda of addressed the subject when you were talking, but you've put a lot of heart and effort into this program. Why is it so important to you to educate young children, to teach them the importance of reading?

DOLLY: Well, I just really and truly believe that if a child can learn to read you can, you can find your way through anything. And as I mentioned a little bit earlier, a lot of it is based on the fact that so many of my relatives worked so hard, got married so young. Daddy was 17 and Mama was 15 when they got married, and they had 12 kids when they were like 35 and 37, so and my Dad came from a big family, so a lot of people, especially up around here, didn't have a chance to get an education. So I just saw what a hindrance it was and what a heartache it was so many times when people couldn't read and write. My Daddy couldn't even spell our names, you know, it was like he didn't know our names on sight. But he, he wasn't trying to be into that. But it just always touched me that my Dad was so pure, so sweet, so good, and I, you know, always, you know, was inspired by that. But I have to say, my Dad passed away three years ago, and he was so proud of me. And when we started this program, he was just so excited. I had gotten telling' him that a lot of the little kids, you know, different ones, especially now, they call me 'The Book Lady.' And I love that, and I'd rather be called the Book Lady than anything . But anyway, Dad was real proud when we first started. And he didn't get to see all the great things that we're doing now, but anyhow, it, it's just a wonderful thing to be able to give back to the community and to the kids, they're our future, as the song says.

Q: Did you ever think it would be this successful?

DOLLY: No, I didn't. I hoped it would be. But like people always ask me if I grew up knowing that I was going to be this big of a star. When you start out doing something, you start with a dream. And you just try to work that dream, try to do everything that you can. You don't know how big it's going to get or how big it can get. But you hope for the best. And the fact that God has blessed us with so many great people that work so hard to make this all, they make me look better than I should. But I'm just so happy to be part of it. We're just, we're just amazed at the progress that we've getting, and we're not done yet, are we! No, we're going to get on with it.

Q: And for my last question, you actually got to meet a family today and see one of the child, one of the children that you're actually helping out. What was that like for you? You probably don't get to see a lot of the children.

DOLLY: Well, that's true, you don't. But it's always great. She's too little to read, but she's not too little to read these books. They think that I bring these books and put 'em in the mailbox, like (laughs), yeah they do! Think I'm kinda like the Easter Bunny or something, like I come in the night. And all these kids think it, which is great! And that's why they call me, like, The Book Lady, they say, "Dolly's book! Dolly's book's come!" And so I'm sure that she'll have her little pictures and she'll remember this day and she'll be part of something special. And by the time she's grown, good Lord, maybe every child in all America, maybe the whole world, will get a book a month, and they can all read and write. Anybody else? You just holler yours.

Q: Hey Dolly. Melanie from the Mountain Press in Sevierville. I want to know what you want for Christmas.

DOLLY: Everything! (Laughs) I always do. I'll take anything. They say, well, what do you buy a woman who has everything? I say, well, get her something to put it in! (Laughs) But I love everything. I'm the easiest person in the world to buy for. I always make the joke that I need a lot of money 'cause it costs a lot to look this cheap. (laughs) But I am need to buy lipstick and make-up, so I want a lot more of the same stuff I use all year. I'll take anything. I love presents. I'm like my little dog used to be. He loved tearing into presents. He didn't care what was in 'em. And that's the way I am.

Q: What is your favorite Christmas memory?

DOLLY: Well, I have several. I guess I have two favorite Christmas memories. One, we were very poor, as you've read about. There were 12 of us kids, and Mama had one on her and one in her as long as anybody can remember. So needless to say, with that many kids, my Daddy was just a farmer. And Daddy never had been able afford a wedding ring for Mama. They didn't have a wedding ring, a wedding band. So this one Christmas after we had quite a few kids in the household, Daddy came to us one Christmas and said would it be okay if whatever money I can save up this year I won't buy presents for anybody but get your mama a ring? And so we were so excited about that. And that was also the first year that we had electricity. And so we had a Christmas tree that year, and my aunt had given us some Christmas lights, those bubbly lights, to put them on the tree. And my Dad had tried to make a game out of this whole thing, make it Christmas for everybody. And he had took one of the bulb things, put Mama's ring around it, and screwed it back in. And whoever found Mama's ring, there was one prize but, that we had. So me and my brother 'bout tore up the house apart lookin' for it, and we fought, and, well, I always said I found it, and he said he did. But the good news is what Daddy, Mama was so excited to have her ring, and Daddy had bought a big box, the present he had wrapped for the winner, this big box of candy so we had to share with each other, so that was one thing. And then another year we were cryin' for one of those big walkin'-talkin' dolls in the Sears catalogue, The Wish Book, they called it. And so there was no way we were gonna get one of those dolls, and so we were, Mama, somebody had asked us what we wanted, and I said I wanted one of those walkin'-talkin' dolls. So Daddy had loaded us up. Mama had some complications in her pregnancy, and they had taken her to Knoxville. So Daddy had hired some driver to take us down there to see Mama. And when we walked in, Mama said, "Come here, I've got a present for everybody. You've got your own walkin'-talkin' doll, and it pees (Laughs) and it cries (Laughs)." Just like one of those that the tears come out. So she made, so they made everything special to us. And those are two special memories. And he peed and peed and peed. (Laughs) On all of us for a long time, but we always loved all our new babies, so we had one for Christmas.

Q: Hi Dolly. Sandra from the Tennessee Star Journal here in Pigeon Forge!


Q: Governor Bredesen had made a statement that if the lottery came in that some of those funds would go to the Imagination Library. Have you heard any updates on that.

DOLLY: No, but I'm hopin' to, because when, before he got elected he led us to believe he was going to help us with all this program. We did help him, and we still believe he'll help. 'Cause I think he's a good man, I think he's very sincere. And he walked into a whole big heap of debt of all kinds of things. But he, every now and then he lets us know he is still interested in doing all this, so I'm hoping as soon as he gets himself cleared up a little bit and gets the state a little bit better on its feet that he is going to live up to that. I really feel like his heart was in it. And if not, I'm gonna kick his (Laughs). But I'll make him look bad in the next election. He won't get elected again! Ha, ha. (Laughs) But, now sincerely, I think he, he will help us out. So, I'm gonna keep on after him, though.

Q: Hi Dolly, I'm Michelle from the Seymour Herald and the Smoky Mountain Herald. I actually have two questions. One is that the Imagination Foundation is so successful so far, where would you like to see it go in the future?

DOLLY: Well, we just want it to grow and expand. 'Cause it would be our dream to have every child in America have books in their hands. And we're going to do that by, you know, we really believe in this and it's really going great. And we're going to be able to do more things. So we'd just like to have every child be educated and have the own world of dreams and to be determined to chase them but to have a way to have an outlet for that. And I truly believe that by teaching them to learn to love to read that they'll learn to love school more and learn how to, you know, and The Little Engine That Could and my little song "Try," and it's all the thoughts like that to like I say build up confidence and self-esteem. We're just hopin to, you know, to have it in every child's hands.

Q: Also, I'd like to know how you started collecting butterflies.

DOLLY: Well, I always loved butterflies. My Mama said I was always so tricky. I guess it was the colors in 'em, 'cause I love loud colors. And when I was little, she said I used to always follow these butterflies around, hopin' around the flowers, and I used to always get lost, and she'd always have to have to come out and find me. So I just always thought they were like, I wasn't afraid of 'em, you know like there are some bugs. But they'd be just so gentle and colorful and spiritual. And that just kind of became my little emblem 'cause I feel sorta like that. I ain't out to hurt nobody, but I do want to hop from one thing to another! (Laughs)

PETE OWENS: One last question.


Q: Hi Dolly, Duane Gordon from And I would like to ask how many communities are currently participating in the Imagination Library program across how many states.

DOLLY: Well, I am not certain of all those numbers, but David Dodson has 'em, and he's right here to help me out.

DAVID: This just in!

DOLLY: Just in! I know, I know a lot of this stuff. I keep up with it, but it's new everyday.

DAVID: Yes, it is new everyday, and as of about a couple of days ago, it was just over around 260, 260 in 35 states. (Applause)

DOLLY: That's great! Again, we want to thank all of you for coming today, and so I hope you're going to come to the shows, any of em, are you? Well, good, I hope you'll enjoy that to. So anyway, God bless you and thank you again for your help, and just keep on keepin' on, and that's what we'll do to.