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Remarks by President at Pritzker Awards Dinner

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 17, 1998


The South Lawn

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr Piano,congratulations and thank you for your marvelous remarks. ProfessorScully, thank you for the almost breath-taking education in such ashort few moments. I thank J. Carter Brown and the prize jury andJay and Cindy Pritzker and indeed the entire Pritzker family for thisprize and for their many contributions to our nation.

Frank Lloyd Wright once said that every great architectis necessarily a poet. He must be a great original interpreter ofhis time, his day, his age. Lorenzo Piano has certainly done that,and we congratulate him and thank him for his many gifts to our age.(Applause.)

Your creations will endure as some of our century's mosttimeless gifts to the future. As Hillary said, we have invited allthe American people to take part in a national celebration of thecoming millennium, challenging individuals and communities across ourcountry to think about what values and heritage we carry with us intothe future, what gifts we want to leave to the future, what kind ofmillennium we want to build. I invite all of you to lead us in thatcelebration.

Professor Scully once said that architecture is thecontinuing dialogue between the generations. Well, tonight I thankall of you who have shaped that dialogue and I ask you to help totell the American story in a new century. Our buildings, ourmonuments embody our frontier spirit, our exuberance, our optimism,our determination. In honoring the past, you can help us to imaginethe future that will continue to be full of all those good qualities.

Let me say tonight I listened carefully to what everyoneelse said. I couldn't remember -- I couldn't believe that ProfessorScully remembered the story I told him about the Jefferson Monument.I don't believe anyone pointed out that while James Hoban as arelatively unknown young Irish architect actually built this WhiteHouse, he did it by defeating an anonymous plan presented by ThomasJefferson. (Laughter.) But it is just as well, because Mr.Jefferson was the architect of something even more important than theWhite House -- he built the American creed. (Applause.)

I might say parenthetically, in America ever since then,all politicians have tried to convince people that they werearchitects. If you listen to them speak long enough, you will beconvinced that we were all born in log houses that we builtourselves. (Laughter.)

But on a serious note, think of the American creed -- wehold these truths to be self-evident, that we are all created equal,endowed by God with the right to life, liberty, the pursuit ofhappiness. We have bounded together ourselves because we cannotfully pursue, protect, or enhance these rights alone as individuals.And we dedicate ourselves to form a more perfect union.

In other words, we dedicate ourselves to an act ofcreating and building that will never be finished. An architectconceived of that.

And I say that to you tonight on the edge of themillennium because Hillary and I and the members of ouradministration who are here, many in the Congress and others, we'veworked very hard these last five and a half years to build a goodhouse for America where everybody has a home, where we share the samefoundation and the protection of the same roof and the same walls,where we respect our differences and value our unity.

And now together we have to build at least thefoundations for America's home and the world's home in a new century.Yes, it will need steel and stone and wood and glass and light andair and trees and garden, music and quiet; it also will need a lot ofvision and hope. The longer I serve in public life, in many ways themore idealistic I become, but I see day in and day out that the worldis composed of builders, wreckers, and idlers. And most people inpolitics are either builders or wreckers. All of you are -- bynature, instinct, training, and will -- builders.

The country and the world needs its builders, those withimagination and hope and heart who understand that with all thedifferences that exist in the world, our common humanity and ourcommon relationship to the eternal and to our earthly home is far,far more important.

In the end, that is what we have honored tonight, andAmerica is in your debt. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)

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