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President Celebrates 200th Birthday of U.S. Marine Corps Band

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 10, 1998


The South Grounds

4:34 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Pleasebe seated. Thank you so much, General Krulak. Colonel Foley, to theofficials of the Pentagon, the leaders of our military services,members of Congress, the Medal of Honor winners, and especially tothe Ingram family -- all of you who are here today -- it's a greathonor for Hillary and I to welcome you to the White House on what isnot only a very important occasion for our nation, but which, as youhave heard from my wife and others, is one of the most importantoccasions for me personally since I've been President.

We're also delighted to have a number of distinguishedcomposers in the audience of music which has been played by ourMarine Band. And I can't let the moment go by without noticing thatthis is also the birthday of the wife of the Commandant of the MarineCorps. Mrs. Krulak, happy birthday to you. We hope you have a greatday. (Applause.)

On July 11, 1798, my predecessor and the first Presidentto live in the house just behind me, John Adams, approved the billestablishing this Band. As a footnote, I might also add itestablished the Marine Corps itself. Of course, the Marines hadalready been proudly serving our people, starting back in 1775.

Since its founding, the Marine Band's history has beenin large measure the history of America. The Band played at ThomasJefferson's inauguration in 1801 and hasn't missed a single onesince. Jefferson was a violin player, who loved music almost as muchas he loved freedom. He named the Band "the President's Own," and ithas stuck ever since.

The Marine Band was there to play "The Marseillaise,"when President John Quincy Adams, in 1825, gave the first White Housetoast ever, in honor of General Lafayette, in his services to theAmerican Revolution. The Marine Band was by President AbrahamLincoln's side when he delivered the Gettysburg Address.

The Marine Band were among the first musicians every tobe captured for posterity on Thomas Edison's revolutionaryphonograph. The Marine Band's broadcast were a highlight of radio'sfirst years. The Marine Band was at MIT in 1949 to accompany WinstonChurchill as he proudly sang every single word of the Marine's Hymn.And the Marine Band led us in mourning in the funeral procession forPresident Kennedy.

You have played for kings and prime ministers, in greathalls overseas, for people in parks and theaters across our country.nearly every day, in so many different musical styles, which youshared with us on this day. You've accompanied great artists, fromSinatra to Baryshnikov. It is entirely fitting that our Marine Bandwas among the very first class of inductees into the AmericanClassical Music Hall of Fame. Through long summers you play inoppressive heat, as you have today. And you're always ready to go onInauguration Day, no matter how bitter the cold.

As time has marched on, you have commemorated changes inband leadership by the passing of a cherished symbol: a gold-tippedbaton owned by your most famous conductor. John Philip Sousa wasborn just two blocks from the Band's home at the Marine barrackshere. He was a determined young man who joined the Band as anapprentice musician at the age of 13, after his father, one of theBand's trombonists, had foiled his plot to run away with the circus.Thank goodness Dad succeeded.

At age 25, after five years of touring with orchestrasand vaudeville shows, Sousa returned to become the Marine Band'sdirector, and he served there for 12 years. But until his dying day,he never stopped conducting or promoting music education or fightingfor composers' rights. Just weeks before his death, at the age of77, Sousa rose at a gathering here in Washington to lead this Band inhis greatest march, the "Stars and Stripes Forever."

John Philip Sousa's drive, his love of innovation, hisdesire to thrill the crowd while taking musical excellence to newheights, that legacy still guides the United States Marine Band.That spirit still keeps your music soaring, on the edge of a newcentury and a new millennium. No President could fail to be proud tosay, you are "The President's Own."

Happy birthday. Congratulations to all of you. Godbless you and God bless America. (Applause.)

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