Richard Nixon photo

Remarks on Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Eugene Ormandy.

January 24, 1970

Mr. Louchheim, Mr. Ormandy, members of the orchestra, all of the distinguished performing artists tonight, and all of those in this great American Academy of Music-that was its original name you know, and after tonight it is the American Academy of Music:

Those in this room are indeed fortunate to be here on this special day honoring Eugene Ormandy. Because only a few could be here, you are the special few.

I want you to know that for me it was a very special honor to be here, because I am in a much larger audience, the audience that does not live in Philadelphia, the audience as a matter of fact--and I was saying this to Mr. Ormandy before--I am one of those millions of people in America and the world who never before has heard the Philadelphia Symphony with Eugene Ormandy conducting in person. I know him and the orchestra through the records.

And I want to say, Mr. Ormandy, that when I was growing up as a child in California, and my mother was making me practice the piano and the violin, I never dreamed that someday they might be playing "Hall to the Chief" to me, but certain]y the highest experience that could ever have come is to have "Hail to the Chief" played by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy.

The highest honor that can be paid to a private citizen by the Government of the United States is the Medal of Freedom. The first award of this Medal in the decade of the seventies is to be made tonight.

Usually the awards are made in the White House. I found, however, when I suggested that Mr. Orrnandy might come to the White House for the award, he said: "Only if I can bring the 105 people in my orchestra--all 105."

Now, we would have been delighted to have the 105 in the orchestra there but we could not have had any guests. And so since the orchestra could not come to Washington, I thought that the President ought to come to Philadelphia and come to the orchestra.

I now will read the citation to you.




From early childhood he has possessed superb musical gifts. For thirty-four years he has brought these gifts to the conducting of the Philadelphia Orchestra, a name synonymous with excellence in music. Yet he brings to each performance something more precious than his great gifts; he brings himself. From the rich experiences of his life in music he has fashioned a unique and unforgettable orchestral sound, the sound of Ormandy. He has reminded audiences here in his adopted country and all over the world that the heart of music is a human heart and that the glory of music reflects and sustains the true glory of the human spirit.

Note: The President spoke at 11:03 p.m. at the Academy of Music of Philadelphia. Stuart Louchheim was president of the Academy. Following the President's remarks, Mr. Ormandy responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, and my beloved friends in the orchestra:

I hope you will not be surprised when I tell you that this is the most exciting day of my life and, I may add, in the life of 105 members of my orchestra.

Our beloved President and his beloved First Lady came to Philadelphia to celebrate the 113th birthday of this hall and the 70th birthday of both the orchestra and myself. What greater honor can come to any one person?

I am very humble in accepting this greatest of all honors, Mr. President, and in accepting this honor, may I say that you are honoring the Philadelphia Orchestra as well.
Thank you, sir.

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Eugene Ormandy. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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