Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at the Arts and Humanities Awards Dinner

October 05, 1995

The President. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to welcome all of you here and say again to our honorees today how very much Hillary and I enjoyed having all of you here and having the great honor of presenting your awards to you.

Helen Hayes once said that, "We rely upon the poets, the philosophers, and the playwrights to articulate what most of us can only feel in joy and in sorrow. They illuminate the thoughts for which we only grope. They give us the strength and bond we cannot find in ourselves, the wisdom of acceptance, the will and resilience to move on."

Those words have special meaning today as America and, indeed, our entire world work to find their way into a new era, an era in which people are dramatically changing the way they work and live and relate to one another.

We must dare, as artists and poets do, to break free of the past to create a better future rooted in the values that never change. That is a great lesson our artists, our thinkers, our scholars, our supporters and advocates of the arts and humanities teach us. We thank you for your lives, your dedication. We honor all of you.

In every period of change and upheaval, there is always great new opportunity and there is always a struggle between those who are best positioned to receive that opportunity and those who work but aren't so well-positioned. I want to thank tonight, especially, the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities because, in a world where some fear we're moving to a winnertake-all society, you work so that all people can win in their access to the arts and humanities. And that is a goal worth pursuing and worth achieving.

I thank you all for your work, and again, I say on behalf of the First Lady and the Vice President and Mrs. Gore, we're honored to have our honorees here in the White House tonight and deeply grateful for your many contributions to America.

I'd like to propose a toast to the winners of the awards today.

[At this point, the musical entertainment continued, and then the President resumed speaking.]

The President. Thank you so very much. You were both wonderful. You know, one of our awardees is over there in the cowboy hat there, Mr. Monroe, sort of the founder of bluegrass music. And I could tell by looking at him that I am authorized on his behalf to offer you a place in his next bluegrass band. [Laughter]

We need somebody here who can play "Blue Moon of Kentucky" in A—is there a volunteer? [Laughter] Great. Bill, make sure he does it right.

[Bill Monroe sang "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and then dinner participants sang "God Bless America."]

The President. Can I ask you all to give Mr. Zuckerman and our wonderful pianist a big hand? Weren't they terrific? Thank you. You were wonderful. [Applause] Let's give them a wonderful hand. They were terrific. Please come back. Come on up. Now, there is only one way we can end this magnificent evening. Come on up. You were wonderful. Thank you for being here. Thank you, Tuesday, for being here.

I think we should end—I think Bob Hope should sing "Thanks for the Memories." It's the only way you can end.

[Bob Hope sang "Thanks for the Memories."]

The President. We want you all to join us out there for dancing and more music, and maybe you can get the rest of them to sing, if we're lucky. [Laughter] Come on. Let's go out—everybody. Thanks, again, to everyone and especially to our wonderful musicians.

Thank you, and good night.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:31 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Arts and Humanities Awards Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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