Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a Concert by the University of Minnesota Band.

May 23, 1969

Ladies and gentlemen:

On behalf of all of you who have had the opportunity to hear this splendid program, I wish to express our appreciation and the appreciation of the Nation for this fine musical organization.

I think that as we conclude the program you would like to know and to meet, at least, some of the other distinguished guests who are here in addition to the distinguished guests who are part of this musical organization.

First, I should say that when you hear a band like this play so well, including somebody playing a tuba like I didn't think a trumpet could be played, when you hear that you wonder, are they really amateurs, are they really students, and I have news for you--one in the band is a ringer. The one in the band who is a ringer, incidentally, is the second flutist, who is Mrs. Bencriscutto,1 because the second flutist who is playing in that position has just been drafted. So she ought to be introduced. Will you please stand up.

1Mrs. Frank A. Bencriscutto, wife of the conductor of the University of Minnesota Band.

We will do our very best to get him back to school as quickly as we can.

Then, too, I think you would like to meet the president of the university. I take special pleasure presenting him to you, because for 8 years he was here with President Eisenhower in a top capacity, as one of the assistants to the President; as an adviser to the President. He is one of the great educators of this country, a political scientist, a political philosopher, but also one who has had a deep interest in international relations, Dr. Malcolm Moos.

Dr. Moos, I think since you are back where you used to work for so long for so little--I mean in money, of course--that you might be permitted a word or two.

[At this point Dr. Moos spoke briefly. The President then resumed speaking.]

I understand today we have several representatives from the Congress from Minnesota to honor the band. I think Senator Nelsen [Representative Ancher Nelsen of Minnesota] is here? Senator [Eugene J.] McCarthy? No? Well, at least we have a Congressman here, I know. Al [Representative Albert H. Quie of Minnesota].

Having spoken of both the Senators-and I know that only their duties on Capitol Hill made it impossible for them to be here--let me say that this seems to be the year of Minnesota, because last year, in the year 1968, two of the major Presidential candidates, of course, came from Minnesota--Vice President [Hubert H.] Humphrey and Senator McCarthy--and this year the next Chief Justice of the United States [Warren E. Burger] comes from Minnesota, but I would say standing taller than all the rest today is the band from Minnesota, the concert band.

I am sure that we would all like to see the man who played a major role in helping to make these arrangements and who represents his country with such distinction here in Washington, Ambassador Dobrynin.

Mr. Ambassador, would you like to come up and say a word?

[At this point Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin spoke, recalling the tour of his country by the University of Minnesota Band. The President then resumed speaking.]

Ten years ago--and it was just 10 years ago that Mrs. Nixon and I went to the Soviet Union on an official visit--our host on that occasion was the man mentioned a moment ago by Ambassador Dobrynin, one of the most distinguished representatives of the Foreign Service of the United States, one who has served in major posts throughout the world, and who has just completed his diplomatic career, but is going on in other careers, and still serving the Nation in special capacities, Ambassador Thompson. Would you come up and say a word, too?

[At this point former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Llewellyn E. Thompson spoke. The President then resumed speaking.]

I would like to conclude this very heartwarming and exciting performance here in the Rose Garden with a response to the remarks of our two Ambassadors, Ambassador Thompson and Ambassador Dobrynin, and to say a word with regard to the itinerary of this band.

Here in the United States we all, of course, know of Moscow and Leningrad, the great cities that are so often visited and are so often in the news, but very few Americans have had the opportunity to visit and to know the other parts of this country and those parts this band had the opportunity to visit, and I think this is of interest to all of us.

I noticed on their itinerary is Novosibirsk, a great city in the heart of Siberia. I recall that when we were there in 1959' we saw the Novosibirsk Ballet Company put on a performance of Swan Lake that was, I think, almost up to the Bolshoi. Some said it was better. But in any event, it indicated what was going on in the other parts of the country.

In addition to that, this musical organization went to Alma-Ata, which is down in what is called the Asian part of the Soviet Union. It is only about 100 miles from the Chinese border. It is a very different part of the country. It is called the country where the apples

Then, in addition, they went to storied and famous city of Samarkand where you can see the magnificent blue temples for miles and miles before you get there, glistening there in the sunlight.

Then, as I was reading, before the band came this morning, some background with regard to Samarkand, in the year 327 Alexander the Great took it by storm, and in the year 700 the Arab forces had to conquer it by siege. Then 700 years ago, in the year 1200, Genghis Khan again conquered Samarkand, but only after a siege.

I think, Mr. Ambassador, you will agree that this musical organization, without firing a shot, took Samarkand easily on this trip by the reception they received there.

But if I could indicate the thrust of my remarks directly to what the Ambassador has said, any of us who have traveled in the Soviet Union know, as we meet the Russian people in all of the far-flung areas of that country, that the Russian people and the American people are not natural enemies. The Russian people and the American people, on the contrary, are natural friends.

We have somewhat the same sense of humor, as the Ambassador so well demonstrated a few moments ago. We like much of the same kind of music. We respect each other.

Now it is true that in terms of our diplomatic problems today we have some very great differences to which the Ambassador alluded, and those differences it is the responsibility of statesmen and diplomats to resolve without having them escalate into armed conflict.

But I think that the hope of all of us today, as we hear this magnificent musical organization, and as we think of those things we have in common, is this: that the time will come when the Russian people and the American people and the Soviet Nation and the American Nation will continue to be rivals, as good friends can be; and we shall continue to compete, as friends can compete; but we shall compete in how each of us can enrich life rather than destroy it, how we can enrich life through our music, through our culture, through our economic progress, through all of those areas in which the people of the world, wherever they may live, have a vital interest in the quality of life.

I think this is the lesson this band brings to us here today. I hope this will only be the beginning of more exchanges where the Russian people and the American people will know each other better so that we can realize as statesmen what a responsibility that we have to see to it that these two great peoples can live together-yes, in rivalry, but in rivalry with the peaceful competition which can only be good for both of us.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:26 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Remarks of Dr. Moos, Ambassador Thompson, and Ambassador Dobrynin are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, PP. 730 and 731 ).

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Concert by the University of Minnesota Band. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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