Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing Bill Concerning the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

January 23, 1964

Members of the Kennedy family, Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

It gives me great pleasure to approve this bill which renames the National Cultural Center the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and authorizes Federal participation in its financing.

President Kennedy was actively concerned in the progress of the plans for this project. He was, himself, a man of a very inquiring mind, a distinguished historian, a master of language, and a lover of excellence wherever it appeared. He delighted not only in the classic forms through which our civilization has found expression, but also in the popular arts of today, with their variety, their humor, and the capacity to touch the lives of all of our people. He and Mrs. Kennedy often talked to me about this Center, and I participated in many meetings with them concerning it. They approved the design of the building.

The President expressed the hope that he might see it completed during his term of office. It is, therefore, I think, entirely fitting that the Center should be named in his memory, and should be dedicated anew to the great purposes for which it was originally conceived.

By this bill, Federal funds are provided to match money donated by private sources. The Center will become a fine example of cooperation between citizens and their government. Thousands of Americans acting as individuals, as members of corporations or labor unions, or as trustees of foundations, at the President's request and at the request of many others, have already made substantial contributions. Foreign governments have also shared the cost. I am told that the Board of Trustees will continue their fund-raising efforts and that they hope to start construction this year so that the Center may be completed late in 1966 or early in 1967•

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is not simply a Washington building. It is a national institution. The vitality and the well-being of the people is closely related to their capacity to always produce a high level of art and to enjoy it, and to appreciate it.

So in signing this act, I am aware of its far-ranging consequences. I am confident we have chosen well that the institution now given the breath of life will have a long and distinguished future. All those who worked in this cause can now know that they are not only honoring the memory of a very great man, but they are enriching our whole American life.

Personally, I would like to express my own deep gratitude for the promptness with which the Congress acted on this matter. It gives me great satisfaction to sign this bill this morning.

Now if I may have your attention, I am going to ask the very able junior Senator from Massachusetts to make a brief response.

Note: The signing ceremony was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House at 10 a.m. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, on behalf of Mrs. John F. Kennedy and other members of the family, thanked the President and the Members of Congress for "making this day possible," adding that the Cultural Center was "something extremely close to the President's heart and to Jackie's heart as well."

The bill (S.J. Res. 136) as enacted is Public Law 88-260 (78 Stat. 4).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing Bill Concerning 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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