Remarks at a White House Reception for Performers in and Sponsors of the Ford's Theatre Benefit Gala

March 21, 1981

It's our pleasure to host you all here tonight, and I know that we all look forward to the performance that's going to follow at Ford's Theatre.

You know, one of the great benefits we found of living here is you get to be a part of the great history of this beautiful city. Now, I used the word ``benefit'' there. For some who are among us tonight -- [laughter] -- you realize that that word has a very singular meaning. A benefit in the entertainment world is any occasion where the actors are performing without pay. [Laughter] And I learned at first hand that on such occasions, if you don't sing or dance, you usually wind up introducing someone who does. [Laughter]

I remember one such occasion when there were seven of us lined up to introduce Nelson Eddy singing ``Shortenin' Bread.'' [Laughter] And if you did that enough, that usually led to your being an after-dinner speaker. And as that went on, you could talk your way right out of show business into another line of work. [Laughter]

Tonight, in this room, everyone is deserving of a thank you -- not only these fine talented artists who are going to perform for us tonight but all the rest of you who are here because you are generous patrons, not alone of charities but of cultural and artistic activities and in the preservation of historic treasures. And you're carrying on a tradition that is uniquely American, because in this land we have maintained by private and voluntary contributions more orchestras, more opera, more ballet, more nonprofit theater, more libraries, and other cultural activities than all the rest of the world put together.

So, may I just take advantage of this moment and my position to thank you on behalf of all Americans. And Nancy and I are greatly honored to welcome you to your national home. Thank you all very much for what you're doing.

Note: The President spoke at 5:25 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.