Remarks at a White House Reception Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Folger Shakespeare Library

April 22, 1982

Thank you, Jane and Dr. Hardison and friends of the Folger. I don't know; you've brought back a little nostalgia. I could date myself completely and tell you that once in college I played in ``Taming of the Shrew'' done in modern costume, and my wardrobe was plus-four knickers. [Laughter] I also, however, think that if anyone had been reviewing plays at that time in that college, I might have gotten something like the line that was once given about an actor who played King Lear and said he played it as if someone else had played the ace. [Laughter]

But it's a real pleasure for Nancy and me to take part with you in this celebration of Folger Library's 50th or golden anniversary. I value my membership in the Order of the Folger as a great honor.

In the ``Merchant of Venice,'' Shakespeare wrote of a small candle and of how far it throws its beams. And as we look about us in this troubled world, with its tensions and complexities, a collection of literature and art -- however rare and great -- may seem a very small candle indeed. But access to the masterpieces of our language opens a door to the great minds that gave them birth.

This light that you sustain throws its beams across our land, adding to the perspective, understanding, and character of our people. All Americans can be proud that the finest collection of Shakespeare's work is on this side of the Atlantic. It belongs to mankind, but it's possessed and cared for by us, through the Folger Library. Henry and Emily Folger's gift of 50 years ago is today a priceless treasure which must be preserved and enlarged, as the inheritance of Americans, in generations to come.

You've worked hard and contributed much so that the Folger may maintain its high standards despite growing financial pressures, and for that the country thanks you. But just as important has been your dedication to sharing the Folger treasures with all of our people -- the constantly changing exhibits of the library and the excellence of Folger Theatre productions serve not only Washingtonians but the thousands of our countrymen who visit here every year.

Your decision to take exhibits on tour around the country, however, represents perhaps your finest undertaking. As your collection moves from one of our cities to the next, millions more will be able to share at firsthand this wealth that is their heritage.

It's been said that a true classic enriches the human mind, augments its treasures, and pushes mankind forward another step. Think of the riches bound in the volume upon volume of classics in your charge.

Someone once pointed out to me that all the complexities and the troubles of the world -- and yet there at hand, simply by opening the covers of books, we could find from the past the answers to every one of the problems that beset us, if we would only turn to them and heed those words.

Imagine the fortune in ideas those books hold and the progress we can measure by understanding them. The energy in your one little candle has the power to light the world.

I'm grateful for the honors that you have given me this afternoon and wish you continued success in bringing another 50 years of insight and enlightenment to our people. And, Jane, even if it isn't pure gold -- [referring to the key to the library] -- if it was, Dave Stockman would have gotten it by now -- [laughter] -- this ensures that I can keep it, and I thank you all very much. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 5:30 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Prior to his remarks, the President was inducted into the Order of the Folger by Jane Weinberger, chairman of the Folger trustees, and Dr. O. B. Hardison, Jr., director of the Library. As Dr. Hardison read a scroll, Mrs. Weinberger presented the President with a key to the Library and a medal in recognition of the President's contributions to the arts and culture of America.