[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[September 29, 1997]
[Page 1269]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the National Arts and Humanities Medals Dinner
September 29, 1997

    Ladies and gentlemen, I want to begin the dinner by saying a special 
word of welcome to all of you.
    Frequently in this room, it is my privilege on behalf of the people 
of the United States to offer a toast to a visiting leader of another 
nation or to showcase our culture to the world. Tonight it is my 
privilege to honor the leaders of that culture, our artists and scholars 
and those who support their work.
    Our economy is measured in numbers and statistics, and we got some 
more good numbers today, and for that I'm very grateful. But 
nonetheless, in our childhood, at the end of our lives, and in the most 
important moments in between, we know that our own enduring worth and 
the enduring worth of our Nation lies in our shared values and our 
soaring spirit.
    Lewis Mumford once wrote, ``Love, poetry, disinterested thought, the 
free use of the imagination--here are the sustaining values of a living 
culture.'' Through the work you do and the lives you lead, you are 
sustaining our living culture and swelling the chorus of American 
    I have to note, sadly, as many of you must doubtless know now, that 
we lost one of those great voices today when Roy Lichtenstein passed 
away. Two years ago I had the great privilege of giving him the award 
that I was able to bestow on several of you today. He was especially 
valuable and treasured by us here in the White House because of his 
support for our Arts in Embassies program.
    The point I think he would like me to make tonight is that every one 
of us, each in our own time, has just a little time, whether we live a 
short or a long life by conventional standards. Therefore, it falls to 
every one of us to make sure that there is a next generation of artists 
and scholars who have the opportunity to learn and to create, so that 
the next generation of ideas can take root and grow.
    So tonight, as we celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of the 
men and women we honor here, let us also rededicate ourselves to that 
future mission.
    Now, I ask you all to join me in raising our glasses in a toast to 
the 1997 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal 
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:43 p.m. on the State Floor at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to artist Roy Lichtenstein, 1995 
National Medal of Arts recipient.