Jimmy Carter photo

1977 Inaugural Portfolio Presentation Remarks on Receiving the Portfolio at a White House Reception for the Artists.

June 14, 1977

TOM BEARD. On behalf of the 1977 Inaugural Committee, it gives us a great deal of pleasure to present the 1977 Inaugural Portfolio to the President and First Lady. I'll introduce the artists from my right to the left.

First, Bob Rauschenberg.

MR. RAUSCHENBERG. I couldn't read Thomas Jefferson's writing. I wanted to use the part of the Declaration of Independence that was censored out.

THE PRESIDENT. I like what you wrote. I think all of you know that these artists have made a tremendous contribution, not only to American art and the cultural sciences but also to the right and the opportunity of hundreds of thousands of American visitors to Washington during Inauguration week, to have access to the cultural events and the museums before and between the Inaugural ceremonies. And this series of paintings, I think, is indicative and proof of the fact that for the last 25 or 30 years, American artists have dominated the visual arts throughout the world. I am very proud of that, and I think that is something that I wanted to point out to you.

I don't know how many of you know Mr. Rauschenberg's comment up here: "A new President and a land older than most volunteer to count, carrying its raw, scratched, scarred spirit reunited, the people are moving, their needs guide the laws that lead to legal insistence that the people and the land are inseparable. Change is not a contest. Change is survival's praise."

I think that's really beautiful, and I'm proud of the fact that he showed me as a father. Congratulations.

MR. RAUSCHENBERG. I wouldn't have written it if I could read Thomas Jefferson's handwriting. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I see. Thank you very much.

MR. BEARD. Next is Mr. Roy Lichtenstein.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Lichtenstein's work is indicative--I am not trying to interpret the paintings for him, because I've never talked to them before about their own work so I am treading on dangerous ground here---but I think it shows the symbolism--to me it shows the symbolism of the oath--the fact that I am tied to the people. And I believe that this is a very good expression of the vitality of Inauguration Day. I think it shows very clearly also a sense of justice, of stability, of age, but also something coming of age.

Now, I think if he interpreted his own work, it might be quite different from what I said. But I think it's really great. Is that okay?

Thank you very much. I am really proud of you. I was intrigued with the little cactus which kind of looks like a hand upraised taking the oath of office.

MR. BEARD. Next is Mr. Jacob Lawrence.

THE PRESIDENT. The one thing that I like about this beautiful painting is that it shows the most important ingredient of an election, an inauguration, and a nation, and that's a people. And I think it shows the kind of a bright, clear spirit that did exist on Inauguration Day. Now, I have to admit that I had a biased viewpoint on Election Day, but to me everything looked clear and rosy and beautiful and hopeful, and I hope that all of you felt the same way. But this painting, I think, very accurately describes how the people reacted to the inauguration.

Thank you very much. I am proud of you.

MR. BEARD. Next is Mr. Jamie Wyeth.

THE PRESIDENT. Jamie, how are you doing?

Although I haven't known the other three artists personally, Jamie Wyeth is one of my friends that I have known for a long time.

He has been helpful to me in many ways. He came down to Plains and got to know my friends and my relatives and my home when I was selected as the Man of the Year by Time magazine. I was very proud that they chose Jamie Wyeth's painting of me before the Plains water tank to go on the cover of Time.

I think that this--it's the first experience with this kind of art, is it not, Jamie, this printing? But I think it shows again the great interrelationship between different events that took place during the Inauguration Day and leading up to it, and I am very grateful, Jamie, that you've helped again in this way.

I think this symbolizes also a very good sense that people do participate in all the aspects of politics and government and what a nation is now and what a nation can be in the future.

I am very proud of you.

MR. BEARD. And last, but certainly not least, Mr. Andy Warhol.

THE PRESIDENT. Andy, how are you doing? Who said he wasn't least? [Laughter]

Andy Warhol is also a very good friend of mine. He came down to Plains to visit us, and when he left, I have to admit I was very disappointed. He had about a $25 camera and he was going to help us raise an enormous amount of money during the campaign--enormous amount to us then, and it turned out to be very successful. And his first painting of mine, which was distributed in a very limited edition and which has magnified over and over in value already, was one of the turning points in the financing of our campaign.

He did it to help me and to help the Democratic Party, and I think that his painting of me, based on that photograph, was superb. It kind of grows on you. [Laughter]

I do think that this new one is different. The first one was frowning and scowling and worrying because I was broke, I had lost some primaries, I didn't know where I was going to go next, and the fact that Jamie Wyeth and Andy Warhol were willing to help me kind of turned the tide.

And now I think it's very significant that this picture is smiling. And I am going to try to keep myself smiling and maybe all of you smiling for the next 4 years.

But Andy, I do really thank you for it. . I particularly want to thank Tom Beard for making all of this possible and also--is Joan Mondale here? I didn't see Joan. I know Fritz--here she comes. I think Joan is adding a lot to American art and music and drama, don't you? [Applause]

Where is Frank--Frank Fowler--and Gil Kinney? Hi, Frank. Thank you again very much.

Is Mr. Kinney here? We want to thank you both.

You know, I think it is really remarkable and gratifying that people like Frank and Mr. Kinney can come in, along with Tom Beard and others, and just say this is something that needs to be done. It'll add a distinctive acquisition to those who want to remember the Inauguration Day, and it kind of exhibits a wide diversity of artistic ability and talent, and it also helps to finance the opportunity for literally hundreds of thousands of people to be well occupied in cultural events during inauguration.

So, I think the culmination of all this effort is really something that I will never forget. I had nothing to do with it. I was just a participant and also one who enjoyed the fruits of their great work and their great talent.

And I thank all of you for coming to commemorate this occasion. Thanks a lot.

Note: The presentation ceremony began at 4:40 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. Tom Beard was the coordinator of the Inaugural Portfolio project. In his remarks, the President referred to art dealer Frank Fowler and art collector Gil Kinney.

Jimmy Carter, 1977 Inaugural Portfolio Presentation Remarks on Receiving the Portfolio at a White House Reception for the Artists. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243743

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