Mr. and Mrs. Rubinstein, distinguished members of the Cabinet, guests:
Let me welcome each and every one of you to the White House this afternoon. Many of you, as I look around the room, have been here from time to time over the years; and as long as Betty and I are here I hope that you will regard the White House as a home away from home.
As most of you know, the Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor that is within the power of the President of the United States to bestow. I feel very deeply privileged on this occasion to act on behalf of all Americans in presenting that medal to one of the giants of our time.
The legend of Arthur Rubinstein has been built upon many, many pillars. Critics have acclaimed him the greatest master of the piano living today, a musician as thoroughly familiar with Chopin and Beethoven as with the interpretations of more modern Spanish and Impressionist pieces.
It is difficult for many of us to believe that Arthur Rubinstein made his New York debut in Carnegie Hall some 70 years ago. He was a young man and by his own account he was not yet the artist that he knew he could be; but in the years that have passed then, through his extraordinary dedication and through the support of his lovely wife and family, who are here with us today, he has turned his vision and his interpretations into an uncompromising standard of musical excellence. Yet, to millions of fans across the globe, Arthur Rubinstein has given something more than the joy of music--he has also given the joy of life itself.
"I love life unconditionally," he has said, and he has communicated that sheer delight to generation after generation. It was his late and very fine friend, Sol Hurok, who wrote, after first hearing Mr. Rubinstein in 1921: "The power of his personality and the sense of grandeur and poetry that enveloped his playing filled me with almost unbearable excitement."
The multitudes who have packed concert halls in Europe, in the Soviet Union, and Latin America, and in the United States--they, too, have felt that unbearable excitement from this man.
Here in the United States we feel a very special bond with Arthur Rubinstein because in 1946, some 30 years ago, he chose to make America his home. Arthur Rubinstein has been decorated and celebrated in almost every land, but it is said that above all else he values the document that made him an American.
I know that many of you here today have long looked forward to this moment, and I feel proud that on this 200th anniversary of our Nation, I have the great privilege to present this medal to one of our greatest national treasures, Mr. Arthur Rubinstein.
And now, Mr. Rubinstein, if you will please step forward, I will read the citation and will present to you the Medal of Freedom. [At this point, the President read the citation, the text of which follows:
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM
WITH DISTINCTION TO
Musician, gentleman, and bon vivant, Arthur Rubinstein has shared his singular and deeply personal mastery of the piano throughout the world. For over seven decades, his ceaseless vitality, his luminous spirit and his profound depth of mind have brought a fresh sparkle to the lives of people everywhere. His audiences love him; his colleagues and friends revere him; and his country, the United States of America, is proud to proclaim him as a giant among artists and men.]