Remarks Following a Performance Reopening the National Theatre

January 23, 1984

I know I speak for Nancy when I say this has been an evening of thrills from the moment that we walked through the theater doors. The show we've just seen is one of those big, bright Broadway productions that starts on a peak and then keeps on going up. [Laughter]

And before I say anything else, I want to thank the very talented ``42nd Street'' cast. Watching them sing and dance as they did made me wonder if I was seeing the reason why my own career in show business took a different turn. [Laughter]

The National Theatre opened, as you were told, on this site in 1835 when the occupant of the White House was Andrew Jackson. Americans perched on the roof and peered through the windows of this building to watch the horseback inaugural parades of McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt. They saw the face of the National when they watched newsreels of the inaugural parades of Wilson, Coolidge, and F.D.R. -- parades that took place when American admirals still wore cockeyed hats. And through all those years, the National was staging productions that entertained and delighted the people of this city.

In recent years, though, the National fell on hard times. Some even talked of tearing her down. And then a year and a half ago, an army of designers, electricians, and carpenters went to work to save it. They cleaned the exterior. They've refurbished the interior, as we have been able to see tonight, installed a new lighting and a sound system, and added a whole new building four stories high for dressing rooms and storage. And they did it all without a penny of government money. [Laughter]

And tonight we're among the lucky first to enjoy the results. A special thanks to J. Adams, the chairman of the National Theatre, to the Schuberts, Gerald Schoenfeld and Bernard Jacobs, and, of course, to Carol Laxalt and Betty Wright, the cochairmen of tonight's gala. I know we want to applaud everyone who had a hand in this wonderful restoration. With this reopening, downtown Washington has a splendid theater and a living link with the past.

And speaking as two who live in the neighborhood -- [laughter] -- we're all delighted. One more thing: Now that the National has reopened, even those of us in Washington will be able to hear ``The Lullaby of Broadway.''

Thank you. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 9:25 p.m. at the theater.