Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks of the President and the First Lady at the Final Program of the "Young Artists in Performance at the White House" Series in Santa Ynez, California

March 07, 1982

The First Lady. Thank you. Well, good afternoon, and welcome to the season's last program of the Young Artists in Performance at the White House. To the viewers at home, let me say, if you hear bellowing in the background that's not my husband and Congress debating the budget. [Laughter] It's the sound of cattle, for today we're far away from Washington on a cattle ranch in the mountains of central California.

Just as the beauty of this ranch is different from that of the White House, the beauty of the music that we're about to hear is distinctive from that of earlier shows. While country and western music isn't classical, it is classically American. It's down-home, down to earth, and downright fun.

Our guest artist today is the great country and western musician, Merle Haggard, a performer who has won every major country music award. He once recorded an album called "The Best of Merle Haggard," and as you'll soon hear, that's exactly what we're going to get this afternoon. We'll also hear the best of Mark O'Connor, an amazing young fiddler who Merle believes is destined for future greatness, and I think you will all agree.

In a few minutes, Merle will introduce you to the members of his band, The Strangers, but whenever country and western music is played there really are no strangers. So get your boots ready to stomp and your heart ready to romp and enjoy the music.


[Following the performance, the President spoke to the guests at 2:32 p.m. as follows:]

The President. Thank you. You should know better than that, because in the business I was in, if you didn't sing or dance or play an instrument, you ended up making a speech. [Laughter]

Well, I just want to, on behalf of all of us, thank Merle and Mark. You know, in the comic strip "Charlie Brown" this morning, just curiously enough, one of his little girlfriends was telling him about a strange uncle she had that liked the violin. So, she said, he went down and bought one and then he went down to the symphony orchestra and watched them to see how it was done. He went home and he couldn't play it at all, so he was going back next week and sit closer. [Laughter] I think we've just heard a young band and some other gentlemen up here who've sat very close.

I think the music we've heard today reaches the heart of America. Merle, you've taken the hopes and heartbreaks of our' people, combined them with the freedom and beauty of our land, and ended up with the music of America. I can't think of a better setting for this last of our series of performances for young American artists. Here on this magnificent ranch in the spectacular Santa Ynez Valley, we can remember our roots and feel the power and strength of our past. Inspired by the artists today and tomorrow, we can rest assured that we have every resource we need to conquer the future.

As someone said, "The political life of a nation is only its most superficial aspect. In order to know the inner life, to really understand it, you've got to find the heart in the literature, the philosophy, and the arts, and there you will find the ideas and the passions and the dreams of a whole people."

I would add: In those dreams, you'll find their future. If the American people stop long enough to understand the strength, the morality, and the courage that runs deep in our national character, then I believe we will have turned the corner in our struggle to renew our national life.

I'd like to thank Beverly Sills for bringing together such an outstanding group of stars as she has this season, and for the wonderful young American talent. Nancy and I have enjoyed this program very much. We hope that everyone viewing it has, and that all of you have. And I hope the rising generation of American artists, this generation of artists, will be encouraged to meet the challenges ahead of them and aspire to surpass the high standards of the American artists who've come before. But most of all, I hope all our countrymen will take pride in the American cultural heritage—the respect that is rooted in the creativity that can only come from freedom.

So, thank all of you for joining us and, Merle, it just struck me here that you might consider, say, a couple more songs?

[At this point, Mr. Haggard performed an encore, and then the President resumed speaking. ]

Ladies and gentlemen, just one last word that has to be said here—and I hate to be interrupting the music, but we now have to go. But I think all of us here should understand, here on this magnificent ranch, this beautiful valley, who we're indebted to-Mr. and Mrs. Gildred, for making this place available for the day. Why don't you come up here where they can see you? Here they are.

This is just wonderful, and we thank you.

Incidentally, the reason that Nancy and I were late for lunch was we were up here on the hill watching him [Stu Gildred] on a cutting horse out here demonstrating cutting a calf out of the herd. And he leaned over while he was doing it and took the bridle off of the horse—no reins—just the horse, nose to nose that horse—that's the principle of cattle-cutting—nose to nose with that calf, kept it from rejoining the herd.

And I want you to know that I leave here inspired. I can't wait to get back on Capitol Hill. [Laughter]

Note: The First Lady spoke at 1:31 p.m. prior to the concert at Rancho Sierra Grande.

The performance was filmed for broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks of the President and the First Lady at the Final Program of the "Young Artists in Performance at the White House" Series in Santa Ynez, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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