Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at the 25th Anniversary Reception for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

April 27, 1996

That's the most attractive introduction I've ever had. [Laughter]

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome, welcome to the White House and welcome here for this occasion. We're delighted to join in the 25th anniversary celebration. And I want to say a special word of welcome to the members of the Kennedy family and to thank them for remaining tireless in their efforts to preserve, promote, and honor our Nation's culture.

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts prospers today as our national cultural institution, thanks to so many people who are committed to that ideal, the ideal that art and culture are not so much a pastime as a definer, a clarifier, a representation of America.

Recently, the First Lady and I returned from a trip to the Far East and to Russia, and, as in other visits, we saw how prized an export our culture is. It's not just coincidence that it is embraced and adapted by a world increasingly sharing our democratic ideals. Visit almost any part of the world and there can be no doubt, our art, our music, our dance and theater are among our greatest ambassadors.

Here in America, the Kennedy Center is the Nation's stage. It's hard to believe that just a quarter century ago it was only a goal. President and Mrs. Kennedy realized the significance of a national cultural center. They even held a telethon to raise funds for the center. Of course, President Kennedy could not have known that he would be the center's greatest inspiration and its namesake. But there could not be a more fitting living memorial, for at the Kennedy Center each night we enjoy great performances. Each year we honor great performing artists. Every day we work to commission and create new works and to reach and educate a new generation.

The Kennedy Center makes our culture accessible as it never was before. Last year more than 2 million people attended performances at the center. Another 20 million saw its touring and broadcast productions. And many of these people who could not otherwise afford the price of admission took advantage of free and lowcost performances.

The Kennedy Center is truly a place for all Americans. It is promise and proof of our shared values. It offers a forum to an amazing variety of God-given talents. The best of art endures, enriches, and enlivens the human condition far beyond the horizon of any of our tomorrows. Our art is the best record of who we are, what we have been, and what we hope to become.

President Kennedy said it best in words inscribed in the marble walls of his memorial: "There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was also the age of Shakespeare."

Tonight we pause and pay tribute to the deeper sources of our strength, the expressions of the human spirit that light up not only our stages but our national life. We celebrate 25 years of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and we look forward in joyful expectation to new generations of performances. The best of the Kennedy Center is yet to come.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:15 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the 25th Anniversary Reception for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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