Bill Clinton photo

Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival

June 18, 1993

Thank you very much. I can say this, that when she's listening to my jazz she wishes I would practice more. [Laughter] I am delighted to have all of you here at this, our first televised concert from the White House. Both Hillary and I are very excited and pleased to welcome you here. It's especially appropriate that we should be together here at America's house to celebrate that most American of all forms of musical expression, jazz.

One of the greatest things that ever happened to jazz was a simple 2-day event that took place in Newport, Rhode Island, way back in 1954. The Newport Jazz Festival was an immediate hit, and it grew and grew. It captured the imagination of young musicians all across the country and eventually across the world. No event has done more to nurture the careers of jazz artists; none has done more to thrill and delight jazz fans. The festival's influence has been truly profound, inspiring more than 2,000 other jazz festivals every year all around the word. Indeed, the French Government recently recognized that impact when it awarded the festival's producer the Legion of Honor.

Tonight we're having our own White House jazz festival as a special tribute to the 40th year of Newport Jazz and, of course, to its founder and its fine producer, George Wein. George, stand up. Where are you? There he is.

You know, jazz is really America's classical music. Like our country itself and especially like the people who created it, jazz is a music born of struggle but played in celebration. This unique musical and cultural art form is now more than a century old. It's paused periodically in its evolution to give us ragtime and boogie-woogie and swing and bebop and cool and free jazz and fusion, only then to continue its restless rebirth into forms that have yet to be named or even imagined. Original and enduring, adapting and growing, jazz is simply one of our Nation's greatest creations.

Many good people swing to the sound of jazz and rally to its cause, and one of them is our host tonight, the son of a jazz legend. In his father's name, he's established an institute which introduces young people to the beauty of jazz and encourages up-and-coming jazz musicians. And he is a brilliant musician in his own fight and a good friend of the President and the First Lady. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Thelonious Monk, Jr.

[At this point, Mr. Monk hosted the musical program.]

We want to say a wonderful, heartfelt, happy thank-you to all the performers; thank you to Thelonious Monk, Jr., the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and its executive director, Tom Carter; and a very, very special thank-you to George Wein, the producer of the Newport Jazz Festival. Thank you for the wonderful tradition that you have created.

You know, if you look at the different ages and backgrounds of all the gifted performers assembled on this stage, we're reminded once again that jazz is a true reflection of the American people, a music of inclusion, a music of democracy, a music that embraces tradition and the freedom to innovate. That's a good thought to end on.

Thank you all for coming, and good night; bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:45 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. He was introduced by Hillary Clinton.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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