Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Reception Honoring American Artists, Winners in the Tchaikovsky International Music Competition in Moscow

September 07, 1966

Miss Marsh, distinguished winners of the Tchaikovsky competition, my dear friends who have honored us with your presence this evening:

In many countries, a great performer-like a great landmark or a great painting-is officially designated a national treasure. We have no such official category in the United States. But I hope that I can take the liberty tonight, without being accused of seeking illegally to broaden the powers of my office, to include our young guests unofficially in our national treasury.

I cannot give you a scroll or a medal bearing your new title. But already you wear the brightest badge of all: the pride and the admiration of all of your countrymen.

Every day the statesmen and the diplomats come and go in the airports of the world, busy with the tedious and exhausting work of peace. Often, they are unnoticed; too often--much too often--they are unsuccessful. But when Jane Marsh, who holds no diplomatic portfolio, left the Moscow airport, hundreds of people came out in the early morning darkness to bring her their farewell gifts.

For you, Jane--you and your colleagues-have done what few statesmen on earth can do. In the briefest time, in a foreign land with which we have great differences, you lifted the eyes of men beyond the things which make us adversaries to the things which make us brothers: to the hunger of all men for beauty; respect of all men for excellence; and the delight of all men in art.

It was just about 10 days ago, out in the State of Idaho, that I spoke of the common feeling for life, the common love of song and story which Americans share with the people of the Soviet Union. I said then that our compelling task is this: to seek every possible area of agreement, to broaden--in small ways and large--cooperation between the United States of America and the Soviet Union.

You artists have served that purpose and served it well. And I hope that history will record this example of how music has reached across the oceans, the walls, and the ideologies that separate us all, and has found response in the hearts of the Russian people. I hope that it will be followed by other actions in other fields so that other threads of better understanding can be strung across the space between us.

Last year, Congress established at our suggestion the National Endowment for the Arts, to enhance the place of the artist in our country. Several members of the Arts Council have come to be with us tonight. I hope that they will draw inspiration from this evening to advance the arts not only so that our Nation may be enriched, but so that the gulfs that are still separating nations can be bridged.

I am delighted to congratulate our newest national treasures tonight, and to welcome all of you to the White House--whose doors will always open widest to those who pursue and who achieve excellence.

And I am happy to present another national treasure: a distinguished American performer; winner of the 1958 Tchaikovsky competition--my friend, Mr. Van Cliburn of Longview, Texas.

Note: The President spoke at 7 p.m. in the East Room at the White House to 11 young Americans who had won prizes in the recent Tchaikovsky International Music Competition in Moscow. In his opening words he referred to Jane Marsh, a soprano from New York City and Mill Valley, Calif., who had won first place in the vocal competition. Later he introduced pianist Van Cliburn, who in 1958 became the first American to win one of the Moscow contests.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Reception Honoring American Artists, Winners in the Tchaikovsky International Music Competition in Moscow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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