Remarks at a White House
we've already said good evening, but maybe I'll say it again. And welcome to
the White House. For the past 8 years, I've had the pleasure of joining with
It was my great fortune to participate in the glory years of an unparalleled form of popular art: the movies. So, I know, both as a participant and spectator, the allure and power of the performing arts. I know also how difficult it is to explain what it is that makes performing such an unforgettable experience. There's one other thing I know about performing: Performers are judged by a more exacting standard. And those who rise to the very top know with absolute assurance that no special favor, no special help, no special anything can account for their success. No, they've made it because the world has judged them and has judged their talents and their energies and has determined in the court of public opinion that they're superior -- or better than superior, that they're great.
Sasha Schneider, the word ``great'' has been applied so often to you that it seems redundant to use it here. But as President, I guess I have a prerogative. [Laughter] As a violinist, you have performed the works of every major Western composer with your fine and delicate touch, which can move with the startling brio of the ``Flight of the Bumble Bee'' or the languorous romanticism of Schubert's ``Death and the Maiden.'' Conductor, teacher, organizer -- you have shared your peerless understanding of classical music in many, many different ways. This century would have been all the poorer without you, and we're all the richer for having listened and learned from you.
And, Alvin Ailey, what can I say about you that has not already been said? You brought a new vocabulary to the dance, a vocabulary of sinuous grace and astonishing rhythmic variety. And like Sasha Schneider, you were not content merely to bring your bounties before us, but also insisted on educating others and bringing them before us as well. And the world of dance has been transfigured by your part in it.
Stevens is not a performer, but literally thousands of performers owe their
careers to him. As a producer, he brought hundreds of plays to the boards,
delightful musical comedies and difficult modernist works alike. He helped
build a national cultural center here on the banks of the
as a performer, the lovely and mysterious Myrna Loy has always conveyed a sense
of great ease and comfort, as though she were possessed of answers to questions
you hadn't even thought of asking in the first place. [Laughter] She could play
Nora Charles, the most sophisticated woman in
then there is George Burns. George Burns -- the only man in
Seriously, when you talk about George Burns,
you're talking about one of the most remarkable Americans of our century, a
living and breathing history of our popular arts, from vaudeville to radio to
the movies and television. And for all I know, he's even made a rock video or
two. [Laughter] It's almost an anticlimax that at the age of 92 he's got the
number one best selling book in
I'm going to do something I shouldn't do, I know, but I just have to do. This man -- 2 years ago when he reached 90, a friend said to him, ``Well, how did it feel to be 90?'' And I have to tell your answer to him. He said, ``In the morning I get up. I go down and out on the porch and get the paper. I look at the obituaries. And if I'm not there, I go in and have a cup of coffee.'' [Laughter]
Well, George, and Myrna, and Roger, and Alvin, and Sasha, this night is yours. But it's a night for all Americans to celebrate the glories that you've given us. And I can't think of a better way to conclude my ceremonial role in these festivities than to pray that God may bless you and keep you all the days of your life.
Note: The President
spoke at in the East Room at the White House. Following the
reception, the President and Mrs. Reagan attended the annual gala at the