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President and Mrs. Bush Attend Presentation of the 2008 National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals

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Location: Washington, DC


President and Mrs. Bush Attend Presentation of the 2008 National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals
East Room

MRS. BUSH: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this White House for this special occasion -- the presentation of the National Medals of the Arts and the National Humanities Medals. These medals recognize great contributions to art, music, theater, literature, history, and general scholarship. Congratulations to all of this year's recipients, and to the proud family members and loved ones who are here with you this afternoon -- we're happy to have you all.

Congressman Chris Shays is here, I believe -- right there in the very front; hey, Congressman. Congressman Jim Cooper. Thank you both for joining us today.

For more than 40 years, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities have inspired our creativity and helped shape our national identity. Their diverse programs are supporting libraries, museums, and art institutions across the country. And they're helping make America's finest art and scholarship accessible to all.

Today's event is an opportunity for me to give their leaders and staff of these cultural organizations my heartfelt thanks. To Dana Gioia, the Chairman of the NEA, thank you very much for your great work. (Applause.) To Bruce Cole, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, thank you so much, Bruce. (Applause.) Anne Radice, the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, could not be with us today, but she's been a steadfast advocate for education and the cultural life of our nation, and we thank her for her work. (Applause.) To Adair Margo, the Chairman of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, thank you very, very much, Adair. (Applause.) And thanks also to Bob Martin, who was the head of the Institute of Museum and Library Services for our first four years here. Thank you very, very much, Bob. (Applause.)

Just in case you don't know, the Institute of Museum and Library Services has a library -- librarian as its head, and then next they trade out with the Museum Director as its head. So Bob, the librarian, was head of the NEA -- Institute of Museum and Library Services for the first four years we were here, and now Anne Radice is the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Our Founding Fathers believed that democracy demands wisdom. And we know that wisdom demands great arts and cultural resources. Today's ceremony honors men and women who serve as custodians of our history, patrons of our culture, and authors of America's artistic legacy.

Recipients of the National Medal of the Arts represent the breadth of American creativity and the depth of the human spirit. This year's honorees include a sculptor, a jazz master, a versatile actress, and the first black choir to perform at the White House. They've given us heroes with spider sense -- (laughter) -- and songs that are "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." (Laughter and applause.) Our art medalists have supported dance and music, and they've helped preserve the legacy of one of our greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Thanks to each of you for inspiring us with your talent and your commitment to the arts.

Recipients of the National Humanities Medal help shape the narrative of our past, and they write the story of our future. Today, we honor a biographer of our Founding Fathers and a scholar of modern urban life, a radio host in Chicago, and an author of literature for young people. We honor two students of Lincoln, philanthropists in science, education, and art, and a museum dedicated to one of our most beloved artists. Thank you for enriching our nation's vibrant culture.

The men and women we recognize with this year's medals have entertained, educated, and simply amazed us. In the process, they have taught us more about ourselves and the shared ideals that make us all Americans. Their achievement reminds us that freedom of expression is the hallmark of any democratic society -- and the foundation of our nation's greatness. Congratulations to all of the honorees. (Applause.)

Now, it's my pleasure to turn the stage over to Dana Gioia, Bruce Cole, and Adair Margo. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

* * * * *

MILITARY AIDE: 2008 National Medals of Art.

Olivia de Havilland. (Applause.) The 2008 National Medal of Arts to Olivia de Havilland, for her persuasive and compelling skill as an actress in roles from Shakespeare's Hermia to Margaret Mitchell's Melanie. Her independence, integrity, and grace won creative freedom for herself and her fellow film actors.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Accepting for Fisk University Jubilee Singers, Hazel O'Leary and Paul Kwame. (Applause.) The 2008 National Medals of Art to Fisk University Jubilee Singers, for historical contributions to American music. Through two centuries, with talent and pride, they have preserved the African American spiritual for audiences throughout the world.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Accepting for Ford's Theatre Society, Wayne Reynolds and Paul Tetreault. (Applause.) The 2008 National Medals of Arts to Ford's Theatre Society, for presenting the theatrical arts to our nation's capital, and for helping to preserve the memory of our nation's 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Jesús Moroles. (Applause.) The 2008 National Medal of Arts to Jesús Moroles, for his enduring achievements as a sculptor of stone. His granite monuments grace America's landscape.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Henry W. Jones, Jr. (Applause.) The 2008 National Medal of Arts to Henry W. Jones, Jr., for his exemplary artistry as a jazz pianist and composer spanning well over a half century. His versatile performances blend swing with elegance and sophistication.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Accepting for José Limón Dance Foundation, Carla Maxwell. (Applause.) The 2008 National Medal of Arts to José Limón Dance Foundation, for innovative contributions to American modern dance. Through its company and institute, the foundation has brought skill and dramatic movement to both classic and contemporary works.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Stan Lee. (Applause.) The 2008 National Medal of Arts to Stan Lee, for his groundbreaking work as one of America's most prolific storytellers, recreating the American comic book. His complex plots and humane super heroes celebrate courage, honesty, and the importance of helping the less fortunate, reflecting America's inherent goodness.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Accepting for the Presser Foundation, Robert Capanna. (Applause.) The 2008 National Medal of Arts to the Presser Foundation, for providing financial aid to generations of musicians, music teachers, and students, and for inspired patronage of music libraries.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Robert Sherman and Richard Sherman. (Applause.) The 2008 National Medal of Arts to the Sherman Brothers, for unforgettable songs and optimistic lyrics that have brought magic to the screen and stage. The Sherman Brothers' music has helped bring joy to millions.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: The 2008 National Humanities Medals.

Gabor Boritt. (Applause.) The 2008 National Humanities Medal to Gabor S. Boritt, for a distinguished career of scholarship on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era. His life's work and his life's story stand as testaments to our nation's precious legacy of liberty.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Richard Brookhiser. (Applause.) The 2008 National Humanities Medal to Richard Brookhiser, for helping reintroduce Americans to the personalities, eccentricities, and noble ideals of our Founding Fathers. His works of biography and history have rendered vivid and accessible portraits of the early days of the Republic.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Harold Holzer. (Applause.) The 2008 National Humanities Medal to Harold Holzer, for engaging scholarship on that crucible of our history, the American Civil War. His work has brought new understanding of the many facets of Abraham Lincoln and his era through the study of image, word, and deed.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Myron Magnet. (Applause.) The 2008 National Humanities Medal to Myron Magnet, for scholarship and visionary influence in renewing our national culture of compassion. He has combined literary and cultural history with a profound understanding of contemporary urban life to examine new ways of relieving poverty and renewing civic institutions.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Albert Marrin. (Applause.) The 2008 National Humanities Medal to Albert Marrin, for opening young minds to the glorious pageant of history. His books have made the lessons of the past come alive with rich detail and energy for a new generation.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Milton J. Rosenberg. (Applause.) The 2008 National Humanities Medal to Milton J. Rosenberg, for bringing the world of ideas to millions of listeners. Combining a scholar's understanding and a teacher's openness, he has made a home in radio for elevated conversation and profound thought.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Accepting for John Templeton Foundation, John Templeton, Jr. (Applause.) The 2008 National Humanities Medal to John Templeton Foundation, for opening new frontiers in the pursuit of answers to mankind's oldest questions. The Templeton Foundation has been the catalyst of groundbreaking work in scientific, religious, and philosophical exploration of the deepest concerns of the humanities and the human race.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Accepting for the Norman Rockwell Museum, Laurie Norton Moffat. (Applause.) The 2008 National Humanities Medal to the Norman Rockwell Museum, for studying and honoring the life, work, and ideals of an icon of American art. The museum has been the careful curator of the archives, illustrations, and benevolent spirit Norman Rockwell bequeathed to the nation.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Robert H. Smith. (Applause.) The 2008 National Humanities Medal to Robert H. Smith, for his profoundly wise stewardship and generous support of our nation's premiere institutions of historical, artistic, and cultural heritage. He has been a farsighted benefactor and a civic leader for all seasons.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Thomas A. Saunders, III, and Jordan Horner Saunders. (Applause.) The 2008 National Humanities Medal to Thomas A. Saunders, III and Jordan Horner Saunders, for their wise leadership and philanthropy on behalf of higher education, the study of art, and greater understanding of American history. They have enriched our culture and ensured a lasting legacy for future generations.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Congratulations to our recipients. Welcome, the families and friends here at the White House.

The Presidential Citizens Medal was created nearly four decades ago to recognize Americans who have performed exemplary service to our nation. It is among one of the highest honors that can be conferred on a citizen. As President, I rarely have the opportunity to surprise anybody. (Laughter.) It is tough to be stealthy -- (laughter) -- with a security detail that comprises a 20-car motorcade. (Laughter.) That makes me especially pleased to present the President's Citizens Medal to four outstanding -- and unsuspecting -- leaders in the arts: Bruce Cole, Dana Gioia, Adair Margo, and Bob Martin. (Applause.) Please do not rush the stage. (Laughter.) Remember the big security detail? (Laughter.)

As leaders of our government's cultural institutions, each of today's recipients have made lasting contributions to American life and civic culture -- and each is greatly deserving of this honor.

As Chairman of the National Endowment of Humanities, Bruce Cole has encouraged the study of American history through the "We The People" program -- and has helped preserve America's rich heritage for future generations.

As Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, Dana Gioia has combined his passion as a poet and his skill as a businessman to enrich the lives of Americans -- from young readers to soldiers returning from war.

As the Chairman of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities -- and a fellow Texan -- (laughter) -- Adair Margo has rallied support for American cultural institutions -- and has used the arts to strengthen our relationships with nations from Mexico to China.

As former Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Bob Martin has helped preserve our treasured collections and bring libraries and museums into the 21st century with new technology. He's helped recruit and train a new generation of librarians to replace the many skilled library professionals who are preparing to retire. I know of such person preparing to retire. (Laughter.)

Bob Martin's successor, Anne Radice, could not be here. This is a stealthy ceremony. (Laughter.) She's doing something else. But nevertheless -- (laughter) -- in appreciation of her service, she will be presented the Citizens Medal, as well, and is probably wondering why she was not notified. (Laughter.)

Each of today's honorees understands that encouraging individual creativity and freedom of expression through the arts and scholarship strengthens and enhances our great country. And so I want to thank them for their service. I congratulate them. And now I ask the military aide to read the medal citations.

MILITARY AIDE: 2008 Presidential Citizens Medal.

Bruce Cole. (Applause.) The Presidential Citizens Medal to Bruce Cole. Bruce Cole has inspired Americans to have a deeper commitment to the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. He used America's artworks and 21st century technology to make America's achievements, ideals, and stories more accessible to the people of our nation. The United States honors Bruce Cole for his work to strengthen our national memory and ensure that our country's heritage is passed on to future generations.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Dana Gioia. (Applause.) The President Citizens Medal to Dana Gioia. A distinguished poet and educator, Dana Gioia has helped strengthen the role of the arts in our country. He has advanced some of our most treasured traditions, expanded public support for the arts and arts education, and increased the understanding and appreciation of the arts among our nation's youth. The United States honors Dana Gioia for his dedication to fostering creativity and expression and for helping preserve America's rich artistic legacy.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Adair Wakefield Margo. (Applause.) The Presidential Citizens Medal to Adair Wakefield Margo. Adair Margo is devoted to the demonstrating the power of the arts to enrich the mind and the heart. As a public servant, art gallery founder, author, and educator, she has helped expand the understanding of international art in our society. The United States honor Adair Wakefield Margo for her many contributions to the cultural fabric of our nation and for her commitment to deepening our appreciation for the ideals that bind all people together.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Robert S. Martin. (Applause.) The Presidential Citizens Medal to Robert S. Martin. Robert Martin has dedicated his career to the management of libraries. As a librarian, archivist, administrator, and educator, he has demonstrated a strong commitment to lifelong learning. The United States honors Robert Martin for his leadership in strengthening libraries and museums across the country.

(The medal is presented.) (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Once again, Laura and I thank you for coming. I hope you have found this day as joyous as we have. Congratulations. God bless. (Applause.)


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