[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[July 10, 1998]
[Pages 1217-1218]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1217]]

Remarks Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the United States
Marine Corps Band
July 10, 1998

    Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Please be seated. Thank you so 
much, General Krulak. Colonel Foley, to the officials of the Pentagon, 
the leaders of our military services, Members of Congress, the Medal of 
Honor winners, and especially to the Ingram family--all of you who are 
here today--it's a great honor for Hillary and I to welcome you to the 
White House on what is not only a very important occasion for our Nation 
but which, as you have heard from my wife and others, is one of the most 
important occasions for me personally since I've been President. We're 
also delighted to have a number of distinguished composers in the 
audience, of music which has been played by our Marine Band.
    And I can't let the moment go by without noticing that this is also 
the birthday of the wife of the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Mrs. 
Krulak, happy birthday to you. We hope you have a great day.
    On July 11, 1798, my predecessor and the first President to live in 
the house just behind me, John Adams, approved the bill establishing 
this band. As a footnote, I might also add it established the Marine 
Corps itself. Of course, the Marines had already been proudly serving 
our people, starting back in 1775.
    Since its founding, the Marine Band's history has been in large 
measure the history of America. The band played at Thomas Jefferson's 
Inauguration in 1801 and hasn't missed a single one since. Jefferson was 
a violin player who loved music almost as much as he loved freedom. He 
named the band ``The President's Own,'' and it has stuck ever since.
    The Marine Band was there to play ``The Marseillaise'' when 
President John Quincy Adams, in 1825, gave the first White House toast 
ever, in honor of General Lafayette and his services to the American 
Revolution. The Marine Band was by President Abraham Lincoln's side when 
he delivered the Gettysburg Address.
    The Marine Band were among the first musicians ever to be captured 
for posterity on Thomas Edison's revolutionary phonograph. The Marine 
Band's broadcasts were a highlight of radio's first years. The Marine 
Band was at MIT in 1949 to accompany Winston Churchill as he proudly 
sang every single word of ``The Marines' Hymn.'' And the Marine Band led 
us in mourning in the funeral procession for President Kennedy.
    You have played for kings and prime ministers in great halls 
overseas, for people in parks and theaters across our country, nearly 
every day, in so many different musical styles, which you've shared with 
us on this day. You've accompanied great artists, from Sinatra to 
Baryshnikov. It is entirely fitting that our Marine Band was among the 
very first class of inductees into the American Classical Music Hall of 
Fame. Through long summers you play in oppressive heat, as you have 
today. And you're always ready to go on Inauguration Day, no matter how 
bitter the cold.
    As time has marched on, you have commemorated changes in band 
leadership by the passing of a cherished symbol, a gold-tipped baton 
owned by your most famous conductor. John Philip Sousa was born just two 
blocks from the band's home at the Marine Barracks here. He was a 
determined young man who joined the band as an apprentice musician at 
the age of 13, after his father, one of the band's trombonists, had 
foiled his plot to run away with the circus. Thank goodness Dad 
    At age 25, after 5 years of touring with orchestras and vaudeville 
shows, Sousa returned to become the Marine Band's director, and he 
served there for 12 years. But until his dying day, he never stopped 
conducting or promoting music education or fighting for composers' 
rights. Just weeks before his death, at the age of 77, Sousa rose at a 
gathering here in Washington to lead this band in his greatest march, 
``The Stars and Stripes Forever.''
    John Philip Sousa's drive, his love of innovation, his desire to 
thrill the crowd while taking musical excellence to new heights, that 
legacy still guides the United States Marine Band. That spirit still 
keeps your music soaring on the edge of a new century and a new 
millennium. No President could fail to be proud to say you are ``The 
President's Own.''

[[Page 1218]]

    Happy birthday. Congratulations to all of you. God bless you, and 
God bless America.

Note: The President spoke at 4:34 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Gen. Charles C. Krulak, USMC, 
Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps, and his wife, Zandra; Lt. Col. Timothy W. 
Foley, USMC, Director, United States Marine Band; and Congressional 
Medal of Honor recipient Robert R. Ingram.