Remarks by the President on Awarding the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal (12/20/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

Immediate Release                         December 20, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                             Constitution Hall
                             Washington, D.C.

11:32 A.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Senator.  (Laughter and
applause.)  I'm trying to get in the habit here, you know?  (Laughter.)

     If I might, I'd just like to say a word of appreciation to all those
Hillary has mentioned, to the young people who entertained us at the
beginning, who I thought were wonderful.  To the members of Congress who
have supported these endeavors.

     But I'd also like to thank Hillary for what she has done.  She has
been the Honorary Chair of the President's Committee on Arts and
Humanities; a strong advocate for the National Endowment for the Arts and
the National Endowment for the Humanities; the driving force behind our
Millennial Evenings and our campaign to Save America's Treasures, which is
the largest single historic preservation movement in the history of the
United States.  So I thank her for what she has done.  (Applause.)

     It is true, as Hillary said, that this has been for eight years now a
labor of love for me, because of my own personal history with the arts and
humanities.  But each passing year has convinced me more strongly of the
importance of every nation elevating the kind of people we honor today, and
of the fundamental lessons of the human spirit being imparted in the
broadest possible manner.

     I think it is quite interesting that we live in a time where there is
more personal freedom than at any time in human history; where, in the last
few years for the very first time, more than half the people on the globe
live under governments of their own choosing.  But in the aftermath of the
Cold War, it's almost as if an artificial lid had been lifted off the
darker spirits of people around the world when we see this remarkable
upsurge of racial and religious and ethnic and tribal warfare, sometimes
leading to breathtaking numbers of casualties, and so often leading to
hatred and misunderstanding.

     Mostly, if not always, the arts and humanities bring us together, by
making us more self-aware and more human they make us more likely to
understand our neighbors and to be better neighbors ourselves.  And so I
hope that in the years ahead, when we literally have an opportunity never
before seen in my lifetime to build a world of unprecedented peace and
harmony and shared prosperity and inter-dependence, the work we honor today
will become more important to every single American citizen.

     That's one of the reasons that I strongly support the idea of a
National Arts and Humanities Day, which the President's Committee on Arts
and Humanities has recommended.  And if I might, I would also like to
recognize as a group the recipients of the Presidential Awards for Design
Excellence, given every four years by the national government's General
Services Administration, to celebrate excellence in federal design -- the
things your government builds with your tax money.

     They remind us that with a little vision, we need not settle for the
mundane when it comes to the objects, arteries and architecture that the
government places in the world around us.  I'd like to especially thank Bob
Peck, the Commissioner of the Public Building Service, for his role in our
doing better with the federal government's construction.  And I'd like to
just mention the award winning projects.  Most of you will probably have
seen at least one of them, but you might want to look for more as you move
around America.

     The new U.S. Census Bureau National Data Processing Center in Bowie,
Maryland; the innovative U.S. Port of Entry in Calexico, California; the
wonderful refurbished Grand Central Terminal in New York City; the soaring
sweep of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon, Colorado; the Mars
Pathfinder Mission; the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, here in Washington;
the National Parks Service's Park Cultural Landscapes Program; the Westside
Max Light Rail system in Portland, Oregon; and the Mayor's Institute on
City Design, here in Washington.

     I would like to ask the representatives of each of these projects to
stand and be honored by us.  Please stand.  (Applause.)

     Now, the honorees for the National Medal of Arts.

     Maya Angelou once wrote, "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot
be unlived and, if faced with courage, need not be lived again."  Offering
us always the raw truth and the eloquence of hope, Maya has shown our world
the redemptive healing power of art.  Author, actor, poet, professor and,
incidentally, San Francisco's first female streetcar conductor --
(laughter) -- she has literally and figuratively navigated life's ups and
downs.  (Laughter.)

     She has had a great impression on my life and, as all of you know,
wrote a magnificent inaugural poem for our first inauguration in January of
1993 called, "On The Pulse Of Morning."  I re-read it again this morning,
and it still thrilled me.  America owes Maya Angelou a great debt for
keeping us looking toward the morning.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     As a boy growing up on a Tennessee farm, Eddy Arnold learned to plow
fields with teams of mules and to play country music on the guitar.
Fortunately for us, when it came time to pick a career, he made the same
decision that a lot of us young southerners made -- he did not want to work
that hard with the mules.  (Laughter.)  He chose the guitar, and country
music has never been the same.

     In his career, he's made records that broke all records.  His "Bouquet
of Roses" stayed on the charts longer than any country song in history,
even down to today.  And he's had more hits than any other country artist.
He brought music into millions of homes across America.  I told him this
morning when I met him, I could still remember when I was a very young boy
listening to him sing on the radio before my family even had a television.

     He has earned the title, "The Ambassador of Country Music," and we are
honored to honor him today.  Mr. Eddy Arnold.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Now, we honor the greatest male classical dancer of
our time, and one of the greatest forces in American modern dance, Mikhail

     From his 1974 flight to freedom to his reinterpretation of the
classics; from his soaring leaps to his bold forays into new forms, Mikhail
Baryshnikov has taken risk after risk.  And they have paid off -- not only
for him, but for all the rest of us, as well.

     His audiences have grown bigger and broader, and he continues still to
inspire us again and again with a renewed sense of wonder.  Thank you,
Mikhail Baryshnikov.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Since I never had in my whole life more than about a
six-inch vertical jump -- (laughter) -- it was a great thrill for me to
give that award.  (Laughter.)

     And because of my musical life, it is a great thrill for me now to
honor Benny Carter.  A force in the jazz world for over 75 years now.  He
liked to say, "My good old days are here and now."  This attitude, his
enduring focus on the future and the present, and his enduring
extraordinary talents help to explain how he has marvelously, miraculously
continued to compose, arrange, teach and perform music that speaks to the
human soul.

     From the day he picked up his first alto sax, the jazz world has never
been the same.  Benny Carter, your entire life has been a great riff to the
human spirit.  We honor you today, still young, at 93.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  As a young painter just out of art school, Chuck Close
decided to spend an entire year painting a single portrait.  His goal was
nothing less than a new form of realism that would honor people without
embellishment, in all their so- called imperfection.

     That early artistic gamble would pay off, not just for Chuck's career,
but for all of us who have had the provocative, often astounding pleasure
of seeing his art.  Like many people, I am always torn between stepping in
for a closer look and stepping back for a broader perspective.  That
ambiguity is part of what makes his art so powerful, so interesting, so
clearly a reflection of life itself.

     I want to thank you, Chuck, for your friendship to Hillary and me, and
for helping us see in new ways.  Mr. Chuck Close.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:      Believe it or not, the great writer, Horton Foote,
got his education at Wharton -- (laughter) -- but not at the business
school.  He grew up in the small town of Wharton, Texas.  His work is
rooted in the tales, the troubles, the heartbreak and the hopes of all he
heard and saw there.

     As a young man, he left Wharton to become an actor, and soon
discovered the easiest way to get good parts:  write the plays yourself.
(Laughter.)  And he hasn't stopped since.

     Among other things, he did a magnificent job of adapting Harper Lee's
classic, "To Kill A Mockingbird" for the silver screen, and writing his
wonderful, "A Trip To Bountiful" and so many other tales of family,
community, and the triumph of the human spirit.

     Along the way, he's won Academy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize and
countless other honors.  Today, we add this honor for his lifetime of
artistic achievement and excellence.  Mr. Horton Foote.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  In Chicago, there's a booming art and theater scene
that rests, to a remarkable extent, on the shoulders of one man -- Lew
Manilow.  A founder and past president of the city's renowned Museum of
Contemporary Art, Lew has personally donated some of the finest pieces of
contemporary art ever shown at the Art Institute of Chicago.  For 20 years,
he has pursued his vision of reestablishing a vibrant theater district in
Chicago's North Loop.  That vision, too, is now becoming a reality.

     President Roosevelt once said, "The conditions for art and democracy
are one."  Lewis Manilow -- philanthropist, collector, patron -- has spent
his entire life creating those conditions and sparking Chicago's theater
renaissance.  I can also tell you, he is a remarkable person and a good
friend.  Mr. Lew Manilow, thank you very much.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  For 30 years, National Public Radio's Cultural
Programming Division has turned a small slice of the nation's airwaves into
a stage big enough to hold the world.  From the mechanics on "Car Talk" --
(laughter) -- to the music of "Carmen," NPR covers it all, enlightening and
entertaining us around the clock.

     I don't know how many years our family has gotten up every morning to
NPR blaring away on Hillary's radio.  NPR plays a unique role in America's
cultural and intellectual life, examining with wit and wisdom the myriad
facets of the human condition, our national life and the state of the
world.  We are a better, more humane nation, for the efforts of NPR.

     NPR President Kevin Klose will accept this medal, on behalf of his
colleagues.  And we thank them all.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  The art of Claes Oldenburg has a deceptively simple
purpose.  He once said his aim is to "face the facts and learn their
beauty."  For nearly a half century, this pop art pioneer has done exactly
that.  His sculptures and happenings begin in commercial culture, but
quickly blur the lines between painting and performance, art and actual

     With his partner in art, and in life, Coosje van Bruggen, Oldenburg
has made monuments to the mundane:  a towering clothes pin in a
Philadelphia plaza; a massive match book on a hill in Barcelona; a buried
bicycle in a Paris park.  Together, they have transformed every day objects
into enduring art -- and added, I might add, a welcome sense of whimsy to
our public places.  He's touched us all in that way, and we are grateful.
Thank you.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  When Itzhak Perlman plays his violin, he takes us to
places we have never been, where melodies linger in our hearts long after
the music has stopped.  From his concerts behind the Iron Curtain to his
classical recordings, to his collaborations with jazz and pop performers,
Itzhak Perlman makes music for the sheer joy of it, reminding us that pure
beauty can help us all to transcend ourselves and our differences.

     I must say, in all the times I've ever seen him perform in person, or
on television, I am always struck by the sheer energy, courage and
happiness with which he has embraced life, without pity or regret.  He is
an astonishing musician, and we thank him for sharing his gifts with us.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  As a boy in New York City, Harold Prince went to
Broadway shows with his family every weekend.  It wasn't long before the
plays his family came to see were his.  (Laughter.)  By the age of 30, he
had already produced four hit shows.  Over a lifetime, he brought to the
stage musical plays and operas that have earned him a record 20 Tony
Awards.  From "Westside Story" to "Fiddler on the Roof" to "Phantom of the
Opera," Hal Prince's work has made America and the world sing.
     Today, we give our regard to Broadway's Prince.  Thank you, Hal

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Few performing artists are instantly recognized by
only their first name.  But when you mention Barbara, the whole world knows
her voice, her face, her capacity to touch the deepest chords of our being.

     From the moment she won her first vocal competition at a Manhattan
club when she was still a teenager, Barbara Streisand has been without
peer.  Whether on stage, screen or in the director's chair; whether in
musicals, comedy or drama, she has been a singular presence.  She won the
Oscar, the Grammy, the Emmy, the Peabody, because she has a great mind, an
enormous creative capacity, a huge heart and the voice of a generation.
I'm glad we have this one honor left to give her, and I thank her for all
she has given us.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  And now, the winners of the National Humanities Medal.

     If there is a common critique of the social sciences, it is that their
leading voices talk often to each other, but rarely to the rest of us.
This has never been the case with Robert Bellah.  For decades now, he has
been raising issues at the very heart of our national identity, and
rejecting the easy answers.  Like Alexis de Tocqueville, whose legacy he
has studied, Robert Bellah understands the tension between two of America's
core values, individuality and community.

     His studies on the moral and religious underpinnings of American civic
life has helped us to know better who we are as a people, and where we are
headed as a nation.  And through some very difficult periods in our
nation's life, he has reminded us that for all our enshrinement of
individuality, we can never make the most of our individual lives unless we
first are devoted to our shared community.

     Thank you Robert Bellah, for priceless gifts.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Scripture tells us to be "doers of the word, not
hearers only."  William Davis Campbell is a doer.  He has devoted his life
as a preacher and writer to breaking down racial barriers.  A member of the
National Council of Churches, he was the only white minister asked by Dr.
Martin Luther King to attend the first Southern Christian Leadership
Conference.  From bailing demonstrators out of a Selma jail, to escorting
nine black students to Little Rock Central High School, he was an unsung
hero of the civil rights struggle.

     He has also authored 16 books, including his remarkable memoir,
"Brother to a Dragonfly."  Will Campbell said to me today when I met him,
he said, "You know, I'm just another yellow dog from Mississippi."
(Laughter.)  And I said, "Well, there's not many of us left down there
anymore."  (Laugher.)  There don't have to be many, as long as there's
someone at every critical time for our country like Will Campbell.  He
represents the best of what it means to be an American, and we thank him.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Producing great television documentaries is a passion
Judy Crichton comes by honestly.  As a girl in the 1950s, her father, a
pioneer network producer, taught her to believe in the power of television
to communicate the grandeur and tragedy of history, and to illuminate the
great issues of the day.

     In her own career as journalist, writer and producer, she has stayed
true to that belief.  Traveling from war-torn African jungles to dusty
historical archives, she has produced documentaries that not only have won
prestigious awards, but very large audiences.

     And in creating and producing the PBS series "The American
Experience," she set a new standard for what television documentaries can
be.  With talent, passion and purpose, Judy Crichton has elevated a medium
she loves and lifted all those who watch it.  We honor her today.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  In a poem called, "The Dream Keeper," Langston Hughes
once wrote: "Bring me all your dreams, you dreamers.  Bring me all your
heart melodies that I might wrap them in a blue cloud-cloth, away from the
too-rough fingers of the world."

     David Driskell is a modern day dream keeper.  As one of the world's
foremost authorities and collectors of African American art, he has devoted
his life to keeping alive the dreams of hundreds of artist and art lovers.

     In doing so, he has helped to lift the veil on the struggles and
triumphs of a people and a nation yearning to be free.  His vision,
creativity, scholarship, mentorship and passion have touched the core of
what it means not only to be African American, but to be human in a
too-rough world.

     Hillary and I thank him for helping to bring us the first work by an
African American artist into the White House.  Henry Ossawa Tanner's "Sand
Dunes At Sunset, Atlantic City."  For that and for more than four decades
of excellence in art, we are proud to honor him today.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Earnest Gaines was born on a sugar cane plantation
near New Roads, Louisiana, a town where, as he once put it, "There were
places you couldn't go, things you couldn't say, questions you couldn't
ask."  At least that was the case until he took up writing.

     It wasn't until the age of 15 that he first stumbled on the public
library and discovered Hemingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner.  After that, he
was never caught without a book in his hand or a writing pad in his bag.

     His best-selling book, "The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman," made
him an icon in black literature.  His last work, the remarkable "A Lesson
Before Dying," won him a National Book Critics Circle Award.

     His body of work has taught us all that the human spirit cannot be
contained within the boundaries of race or class.  Mr. Earnest Gaines.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Of all those whom we honor today, none has traveled
farther to be with us than Herman Guerrero.  He flew 10,000 miles from his
home in the Northern Mariana Islands.  The son of a baker, he has led the
effort to preserve and promote the rich history and culture of his beloved
islands -- particularly the legacy of the Chamorro people, who were nearly
wiped out by Spanish colonists in the 17th Century.

     "Education and the humanities," he once said, "allows the people of
the Northern Marianas to rediscover their identity."  By honoring the past,
Herman Guerrero is moving the Northern Mariana Islands into the future.
Today, we thank this baker's son for raising the hopes and dreams of his

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  America has been blessed with many outstanding
musicians, composers, writers, producers, arrangers, conductors, actors,
mentors and humanitarians.  But there is only one person in our lifetime
who has displayed all these talents in unparalleled excellence.

     For more than 50 years, Quincy Jones has stood as a true renaissance
man of music, defying all the labels, daring to explore the entire musical
spectrum -- from bebop to hip hop, from pop to jazz.  The breadth of his
musical repertoire is only matched by the bigness of his heart.  From South
Central LA to South Africa, he has emerged as one of the leading
humanitarians of our time, especially in his work to uplift and inspire
young people.  He is an American treasure.  And he is my friend.  And I am
honored to join all of you in saluting him today.  Mr. Quincy Jones.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Barbara Kingsolver writes with beauty and wisdom about
the ethnic and cultural divides that challenge humanity.  She offers in
novels and essay a compelling vision of how they might be healed.  From
Indian reservations to inner cities to the forests of the Congo, she writes
about our limitations and our capacity to overcome them.

     Above all, she reminds us of the value of hope, telling us not to
admire it from a distance, but to live right in it, under its roof.  I have
rarely seen an author that I thought had a more direct impact on people who
read her works and loved them, including the two women in my home.  So
Barbara Kingsolver, we thank you for challenging our heart and keeping us

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Edmund Morgan is one of the foremost historians of our
colonial beginnings.  As an author and an educator, he has shed new light
on our history, from the tyranny of slavery, to the intellectual sparks
that set off the American Revolution.  Historians and general readers alike
have savored his clear writing and clear thinking, and his knack for the
human touch, the anecdote or detail that brings history alive for every

     For more than 50 years now, he has brought America's own history alive
for millions of us.  And millions of us are grateful.  Mr. Edmund Morgan.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Toni Morrison once said, "The best art is political
and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and
irrevocably beautiful at the same time."

     For more than 30 years, she has been following her own advice.  And in
so doing, she has blessed us with some of the most powerful, unflinching
and beautiful stories imaginable, while winning a Nobel Prize, a Pulitzer
and a beloved following of readers.

     Hillary and I are fortunate to be among her readers and her friends.
But Toni Morrison has not only earned an honored place on Americans'
bookshelves, she has entered America's heart.  She is, in so many ways,
remarkable.  I don't know how many times I've heard her say something or
seen something she's written and thought, gosh, I wish I had thought of
that.  (Laughter.)

     I'm glad we thought to honor her today.  Miss Toni Morrison.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Like many of us, Earl Shorris first encountered the
works of Socrates and Plato as a freshman in college.  The only difference
between him and most of us is, he was only 13 years old at the time.

     That kindled a lifelong passion for the humanities, a passion he has
helped to pass on to others from all walks of life.  He knows the
humanities mean the most as a part of people's daily lives, not locked away
in some ivory tower or secret closet.  His Clemente Program in the
humanities has inspired thousands of young people from hard-pressed
communities to pursue a college education.  Earl Shorris once said, "People
who know humanities become good citizens; they become active, not acted

     Today, we honor him for many things, but most especially for his work
as a champion of the humanities and as a very good citizen.

     (The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  When Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve was a young girl, she
came across an old, 20-volume encyclopedia called, "The Book of Knowledge."
She read every one of those tomes, cover to cover, twice.

     In the years since, her love of words and a deep pride in her Native
American heritage have propelled her to write more than 20 books of her
own, including several about her Lakota Sioux people.  A gifted teacher and
story teller, she has devoted the past three decades to educating children
and others about Native American culture, to breaking down stereotypes and
replacing them with knowledge and understanding.

     Her stories have helped us to better define the American experience,
to understand the Native Americans who were here before the rest of us had
the good fortune to have our ancestors arrive.  We thank her for sharing
her timeless wisdom.

     (The medal was awarded.)  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  Ladies and gentlemen, we thank you for joining us
today to honor these remarkable people.  And I want to thank them again for
their remarkable work.

     For eight years now, Hillary and I have had the honor of presiding
over this ceremony.  I don't think we've ever had a more stellar group of
honorees.  But in each and every one of those eight years, I have again
felt the profound importance of preserving human freedom, so that people
like these will be free to think and speak, create, to do their work, to
lift our better selves and lead us away from dark alleys and wrong paths.
We thank them, and we thank God that our country is a place where people
like them can flourish.

     God bless you all, and happy holidays.  (Applause.)

                          END                   12:15 P.M. EST

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