Compilation of Weekly Presidential Documents - Monday, October 6, 1997 Vol. 33, No. 40, ISSN: 0511-4187 Remarks on presenting the arts and humanities medals

Monday, October 6, 1997


Vol. 33, No. 40, ISSN: 0511-4187


Remarks on presenting the arts and humanities medals. (Pres Bill Clinton's

speech during the awards presentation of the 1997 National Medal of Arts and

National Medal of Humanities)(Transcript)



� September 29, 1997



� Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the White

House. I thank the Members of Congress for coming, the members of the

councils who stood up and were recognized. I also want to thank the

First Lady for that very nice speech and unusual introduction.




� The spin that was put on my going to the opera at home was slightly

different than the one you heard. [Laughter] It went more like, "I've

been trying to get you to do this for 5 years, now. I know you will

like this if you go." [Laughter] "And besides, it's Carmen, it's your

kind of thing." [Laughter] And then, afterward, I said, "Gosh, I just

loved that, and I thought Denyce Graves was great, and it was

fabulous." And she said, "I told you. I told you. I told you." So I was

glad to have the sort of sanitized version presented to you. [Laughter]

But I thought, in the interest of openness, I should tell you the whole

story. [Laughter]



� Let me again say to all of you, you are very welcome here in the

White House. And let me say a special word of thanks to two people:

first, to Jane Alexander for her outstanding leadership of the National

Endowment of the Arts, thank you; and second, to Sheldon Hackney, who

recently left his job as Chairman of the National Endowment for the

Humanities, but who did a wonderful job for the United States in the

position, thank you.



� This morning, we honor 20 men and women and one organization for

extraordinary achievement in arts and humanities. And in giving these

awards, we also applaud the achievements of our country. We celebrate

our capacity for individual expression and common understanding, and we

rejoice in our Nation's thriving and growing diversity. We take pride

in the power of imagination that animates our democracy.



� And above all, by giving these awards we declare to ourselves and to

the world, we are, we always have been, and we always will be a nation

of creators and innovators. We are, we always have been, and we always

will be a nation supporting our artists and scholars. It is our

heritage. It must be a great gift we give to the future.



� As Hillary said, as we work up to the millennium, we will be

observing it in many ways over the next 4 years that both honor our

past and encourage our people to imagine the future. Today, I invite

each of you to be partners in that endeavor in the White House

Millennium Program, to help us to make sure the millennium is marked by

a renewed commitment to the arts and humanities in every community in

our Nation.



� One of the most important goals for the millennium is to give every

child in America access to the universe of knowledge and ideas by

connecting every school and library in our country to the Internet by

the year 2000. Working together with business leaders, we've made solid

progress. And as we work to connect our schools and libraries we must

make sure that once our children can log on to the Internet they don't

get lost there.



� So today I'm pleased to announce that on the 27th of October the

National Endowment for the Humanities, in partnership with MCI and the

Council of Great City Schools, will throw the switch on a new

educational website called Ed-SITE-ment - Ed-SITE-merit, not bad -

[laughter]. This exciting new tool will help teachers, students, and

their parents to navigate among the thousands of educational websites,

and there are literally tens of thousands of them now. Most important,

it will expand our children's horizons and instill in them an early

appreciation for the culture and values that will be with them

throughout their lives.



� President Kennedy once said he looked forward to an America that

raised the standards of artistic achievement and enlarged cultural

opportunities for all citizens. The men and women we honor today have

brought us much closer to realizing that vision. More than 30 years

later, at the edge of the new millennium, we must pledge ourselves anew

to meet this challenge.



� Now, it gives me great pleasure to present the 1997 National Medal of

Arts and National Medal of Humanities awards. First, the National Medal

of Arts.



� Like Martha Graham and Georgia O'Keeffe, Louise Bourgeois' name is

synonymous with innovation, and her life is proof that creative impulse

never fails. In 1981, her retrospective at the Museum of Modem Art, the

first to be devoted to a woman artist, encompassed 40 years of

extraordinary work. Since then, she has created another lifetime of

enduring art, and I have no doubt she has more to teach us.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Jean-Louis Bourgeois, the artist's son, will

accept the award on her behalf. Louise Bourgeois.



� [At this point, the President and the First Lady presented the medal

to Mr. Bourgeois.]



� Don't worry, I'll report this on my gift form. Thank you. [Laughter]



� When Betty Carter sings "Baby, It's Cold Outside," it makes you want

to curl up in front of a fire, even in the summertime. Performing with

the likes of Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Lionel

Hampton, she is truly a goddess in the pantheon of jazz. Her greatness

comes not only from her unforgettable voice but from her passionate

commitment to helping young artists develop their own careers.



� Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparable Betty Carter.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Ms. Carter.]



� We can't celebrate art today without celebrating the people who help

us to experience it. Aggie Gund has spent a lifetime bringing art into

the lives of the American people. With the "Studio in a School," she

forged a new partnership between professional artists and public

schools to introduce children to the joys of creative expression.



� And I might say, that's even more important today. One of the things

that a lot of us who care about our schools are concerned about are the

dwindling opportunities too many of our children have in the arts of

all kinds, because we know it gives these children, so many of them, a

chance to learn, to grow, to find positive means of self-expression. If

they never become any kind of artist, the increase in

self-understanding, self-control, self-direction, and pure,

old-fashioned enjoyment in life is more than worth the effort. And so

we are especially grateful to Aggie Gund. As president of the Museum of

Modern Art, she is helping to usher in the 21st century of art.



� Ladies and gentlemen, it's an honor to present her today.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Ms. Gund.]



� From the National Mall to the National Gallery, Dan Kiley has helped

to redefine the American landscape. He's one of those rare artists who

join the beauty and variety of nature with the joy and form of design.

In his thought-provoking, memorable designs, building and site come

together as one, proving that great landscapes and great buildings are

part of the same vision.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Dan Kiley.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Kiley.]



� It is no mystery - [laughter] - why Angela Lansbury deserves this

award. From the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to Broadway to television,

she has created vivid characters we can't forget. For that work, she

has earned three Academy Award nominations, four Tony Awards, and 16

Emmy Awards. To that wall of honors we add this one, for she is her own

unforgettable character.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Angela Lansbury.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Ms. Lansbury.]



� A hush falls in the Metropolitan Opera as the great chandelier rises

and James Levine raises his baton. For 25 years and 1,600 performances

of 70 different operas, countless opera goers, television watchers, and

radio listeners have shared that experience and shared in the great

gift of his talent. His work has renewed the grand tradition of opera

and infused it with new life for the next generation of opera lovers.



� Ladies and gentlemen, James Levine



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Levine.]



� I really admire him. He was up here looking for his mother. He says,

"I know she's out here somewhere." [Laughter] Where is she? Good for

you. Thank you.



� Just hearing Tito Puente's name makes you want to get up and dance.

With his finger on the pulse of the Latin American musical tradition

and his hands on the timbales, he has probably gotten more people out

of their seats and onto the dance floor than any other living artist.

For 50 years now, the irrepressible joy of his irreplaceable music has

won him four Grammy Awards, countless honors, and a wide world of fans.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Tito Puente.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Puente.]



� If anyone has actually given a voice to American dramatic arts, it is

Jason Robards. In the great works of our greatest playwrights, Eugene

O'Neill, Lillian Hellman, Clifford Odets, Arthur Miller, and in Academy

Award performances in great movies like "All The President's Men," he

has brought the American experience to life with characters that

animate history and illuminate the human condition. And every one of us

who has ever had to give a significant number of public speeches has

wished at some moment in his life that he had a voice like Jason

Robards. [Laughter]



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Robards.]



� Edward Villella, quite literally, leapt onto the world stage of

ballet and changed it forever with the stunning grace and muscular

athleticism that are his signature style. As principal dancer with the

New York City Ballet, he collaborated with the men who defined 20th

century ballet, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. And as artistic

director of the Miami City Ballet, he is attracting the ballet audience

of the 21st century.



� Ladies and gentlemen, the remarkable Edward Villella.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Villella.]



� There may not be a serious, committed baby boomer alive who didn't at

some point in his or her youth try to spend a few minutes at least

trying to learn to pick a guitar like Doc Watson. A guitar virtuoso

whose unique style merges many musical traditions, he started his

remarkable career at age 13, armed with a $12 guitar and a deep love of

mountain music. Five Grammy Awards and a lifetime of achievement later,

he still lives in the land his great-great grandaddy homesteaded, and

he's still making that old-time mountain music.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Doc Watson.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Watson.]



� For our artists to create the kind of works we're here to celebrate,

they have to have three things: time, space, and inspiration. For

nearly half a century, that is what more than 4,500 artists have found

at the MacDowell Colony. On this 450-acre farm in rural New Hampshire,

Thornton Wilder wrote "Our Town;" Leonard Bernstein finished his great

"Mass." Today, a new generation of artists thrives in the atmosphere

created by composer Edward MacDowell and his wife, Marian.



� Ladies and gentlemen, the award to the MacDowell Colony will be

accepted by the chairman of the MacDowell Colony, a man we all know in

other guises, Robert MacNeil.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. MacNeil.]



� Now, I have the honor of introducing the recipients of the National

Humanities Medal, men and women who keep the American memory alive and

infuse the future with new ideas.



� First, Nina Archabal. To those who know and work with her, she is a

fireball who lets no one stand in the way of her mission to preserve

Minnesota's history. To the State of Minnesota, she's a bridge-builder

between native peoples and other Minnesotans, helping them share their

stories. To America, she exemplifies how tradition informs everyday

life and shapes history. And just this rooming she told the President

that it was high time he high-tailed it out to Minnesota to see exactly

what she was doing. [Laughter]



� Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Nina Archabal.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Ms. Archabal.]



� David Berry and I share a goal: to strengthen our Nation's 2-year

community colleges so that more Americans can get the education they

need to succeed in life, no matter how old they are or where they come

from. As professor of history at Essex County College in Newark, New

Jersey, he's broadened the horizons and expanded the dreams of his

students. As director of the Community College Humanities Association,

he's helping 2-year colleges all over the country to do the same.



� Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know how many of you have ever spent

any time in these 2-year institutions, but they are exhilarating in the

opportunities they offer to people who not so long ago would never have

been able to dream of them. And the fact that we are bringing the

humanities into them and putting them front and center is a very

important part of inspiring the Americans of the 21st century, because

more and more of them will find their way to these remarkable




� Ladies and gentlemen, David Berry.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Berry.]



� After a very, very successful career as chairman and CEO of an

investment banking firm, Richard Franke could well have rested on his

achievements. Instead, he made it his mission to advance the cause of

the humanities in everyday life. Through the Chicago Humanities

Festival he founded in 1989, he's bringing the pleasures of art and

ideas to the people of the great city of Chicago. And his commitment to

the humanities extends to the entire Nation.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Sir Richard



� Franke.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Franke.]



� I doubt that there is a more revered force in American education

today than Bill Friday. As president of the University of North

Carolina, he devoted himself to improving education for all Americans.

There is hardly an important educational task force he has not been a

member of. He helped to found the National Humanities Center. He sat on

the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education and the President's Task

Force on Education. As executive director of the Kenan Charitable

Trust, he continues his life of achievement.



� I can tell you that in all the years that I served as Governor and

Hillary and I worked to improve education for our children from

kindergarten through higher education and to change the horizons of the

South in ways that would bring people together and elevate their

conditions, no one was more respected or had more influence on how we

all thought and what we tried to do than the remarkable Bill Friday.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Friday.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Friday.]



� I think I should say that our next awardee, Don Henley, is not in the

wrong category. [Laughter] He has already won so many awards for his

wonderful, wonderful music, he may think that he doesn't need another.

But today we honor him not for another hit record but instead for 7

years of relentless effort to protect a vital part of America's

history, the woods that inspired Henry David Thoreau to write his

greatest work, "Walden." Through his support of the Thoreau Institute,

Don is also keeping Thoreau's great legacy alive for the 21st century.



� I've known Don for many years, and I told him today right before we

came out here that if I had a nickel for every time he has hit on me to

preserve the woods around Walden Pond, I would indeed be a wealthy man.

[Laughter] He has done his job to preserve a profoundly significant

part of our legacy as a larger part of his passionate commitment to

preserving our environment and our natural heritage.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Don Henley.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Henley.]



� Great writers reveal a world we've never seen but instantly recognize

a authentic. Maxine Hong Kingston is such a writer. In her

groundbreaking book, "The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of Girlhood Among

Ghosts," she brought the Asian-American experience to life for millions

of readers and inspired a new generation of writers to make their own

unique voices and experiences heard.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Maxine Hong Kingston.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Ms. Hong Kingston.]



� The great chorus of American voices has also been immeasurably

enlarged by the work of Luis Leal. For 50 years he has told the story

of the Chicano people, here in America and all over the Latin world. In

16 books he has revealed the unique voice of Latin literature. In 1995,

in recognition of his great contributions, the University of California

created the Luis Leal Endowed Chair in Chicano Studies, the only one of

its kind in our Nation.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Luis Leal.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Leal.]



� As we approach the millennium, many Americans are examining their own

and our Nation's spirituality, faith, and the role of religion in our

Nation's life. No one has thought more deeply about these questions

than Martin Marty, a renowned scholar of religious history, the author

of 50 books, the director of the Public Religion Project at the

University of Chicago which finds common ground in our diverse

communities of faith.



� Among many things to which he is faithful, he is faithful to his

teaching, and he told me he is missing class today, one of the very few

times in a very long career of teaching. We have all been enriched by

his work, and we thank him for it.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Martin Marty.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Marty.]



� Paul Mellon has elevated the great tradition of American philanthropy

to an art form. His gifts have immeasurably strengthened the cultural

institutions that are at the very heart of our civil society,

including, of course, the National Gallery here in Washington. With his

sister, he established the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Nation's

largest private funder of the humanities. And through his exceptional

generosity, he has enriched the libraries of our Nation with precious'

collections of the world's greatest works.



� Ladies and gentlemen, Robert Smith of the National Gallery of Art

will accept the award on behalf of Paul Mellon.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal to Mr. Smith.]



� No one has done more to expand the American library of voices than

Studs Terkel. He has quite literally defined the art of the oral

history, bringing the stories of ordinary people to life in his unique

style, and letting the everyday experiences that deepen our history

speak for themselves. That is why I am very pleased he has agreed to

advise the White House Millennium Program on the best way to collect

family and community histories, a project we will launch with the NEH

this spring.



� Ladies and gentlemen, a true American original, Mr. Studs Terkel.



� [The President and the First Lady presented the medal and

congratulated Mr. Terkel.]



� He just thanked me for coordinating the medal with his trademark

shirt, tie, and socks. [Laughter] The rest of our honorees will just

have to abide it. We were trying to get the wardrobe right.



� Let me again thank all of you for coming and say a special word of

thanks to Senator Pell and to Congressman and Mrs. Capps, to

Congressman Horn, Congresswoman Maloney, Congresswoman Pelosi,

Congressman Serrano, and Congressman Burr. And I thank them. We have

talked a lot about all the fights that exist between the President and

Congress over the NEH and the NEA. It's important to recognize we've

got some good supporters there, too.



� Let me invite you to enjoy the Marine Orchestra, to enjoy each other,

to enjoy this beautiful day and the rich gifts our honorees have given




� Thank you very much for coming.



� NOTE: The President spoke at 9:45 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the

White House. In his remarks, he referred to Lois Capps, wife of

Representative Walter Capps.



<< Return to Compilation of Weekly Presidential Documents Index