Remarks at the Andrew W. Mellon Dinner
Thank you very much, Mr. Laughlin. Mr. Powell, Mr. Smith, members of the Board of Trustees, members of Congress and our administration, members of the Mellon family, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great honor for Hillary and me to be here tonight to honor this great legacy of Andrew Mellon and to honor all of you who do so much to carry on that legacy.
I first came to the National Gallery over 30 years ago when I was a college student at Georgetown. Over the years, I've come back as often as I could. When I came here from time to time as Governor of my home State, I confess that on occasion I sneaked out of the meetings of the Governors' Association and came to the National Gallery, where there was less noise and more light. [Laughter] Hillary and I have been privileged to visit here in the last few years to tour the Vermeer and Picasso exhibitions, among others.
It's hard to believe now that the National Gallery is 61 years old, founded when our country was in the grip of the Great Depression and the world was slipping inexorably toward World War II. But Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon knew that our Nation's work lay, even then, not simply in our monetary strength or our military power but in the value of our ideas, the creativity of our spirit, the power of our common culture. So he and a group of passionate men and women gave this great gift to the Nation and established the tradition of partnership that endures down to the very day.
There is no question that Paul Mellon carries on this tradition. His generosity has helped to invigorate and sustain our entire Nation's cultural and artistic institutions. Having already won the National Medal of Arts in 1985, last fall he was awarded the National Medal for the Humanities, which Robert Smith kindly accepted for him.
So tonight I want to thank him again and all the members of his family who have participated in giving other Americans, who could never have afforded these things on their own, access to this wonderful world.
When President Roosevelt dedicated the National Gallery, he said, "The dedication of this gallery to a living past and to a greater and more richly living future is the measure of the earnestness of our intention that the freedom of the human spirit shall go on."
Today, at the dawn of a new century and a new millennium, it falls to us to continue in that great tradition. Hillary and I have launched the White House Millennium Program to encourage all Americans to honor our living past, with all its treasures, and to imagine our even more richly living future, with the creations and the discoveries yet to come.
I hope that all of you will find ways to join us in your homes, wherever you're from, in the coming months and years as we celebrate and commemorate the new millennium. But most of all, tonight I just want to thank you on behalf of a grateful nation for your dedication and your commitment to our common cultural and artistic life.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 9:15 p.m. in the West Building at the National Gallery of Art. In his remarks, he referred to Alexander Mellon Laughlin, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Earl A. Powell III, Director, Robert H. Smith, President, and Paul Mellon, Honorary Trustee, National Gallery of Art.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Andrew W. Mellon Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/225498