[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 30, 1998]
[Pages 2102-2103]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at WETA's ``In Performance at the White House''
November 30, 1998

    The President. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, the American musical 
is one of our Nation's most beloved art forms. It's also one of the most 
encompassing. What other country can hum tunes from songwriters as 
varied as George Gershwin, Eubie Blake, Irving Berlin, Fats Waller, Cole 
Porter, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green?

[[Page 2103]]

    And typical of our diverse Nation, the greatest excitement comes 
when America's various musical traditions intersect. When African-
American, Jewish, and European classical traditions come together in the 
songs of George Gershwin, when Thomas ``Fats'' Waller and Andy Razaf mix 
the syncopation of jazz with the forms of popular musical theater, there 
is a new song in the world, a song that could only come from America.
    Tonight we welcome to the East Room, from the musical theater, four 
artists who are at the top of their game. They have lent their voices to 
some of our most favorite American classics, and I'm sure they'll take 
American music to new heights in the next millennium, and hopefully in 
the next few minutes.
    I think it's appropriate that we've gathered here in America's home 
because tonight we're going to hear what these terrific performers sing 
at home, with no one to please but themselves.
    And now please join me in welcoming our emcee for the evening. I 
first met him after I saw his terrific performance in ``City of 
Angels,'' for which he won a Tony. He won another Tony for his role in 
``Chicago'' and sang at both my Inaugurations.
    Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. James Naughton.

[At this point, the program, entitled ``The Singer and the Song,'' 

    The President. Was this great or what? [Applause] Unbelievable. They 
were wonderful. Thank you all. Mr. Naughton, thank you. I think you have 
a whole new career, the ``Righteous Father's Sons.'' [Laughter]
    Well, it's been said that it's easier to understand a nation by 
listening to its music than by learning its language. Tonight we heard 
the energy, the excitement, the very soul of America.
    I want to thank all of our wonderful performers, James Naughton, 
Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jennifer Holliday, and Patti LuPone, and all the 
great musicians and arrangers who accompanied them. This was a very 
special night. They have given us a great gift.
    Thank you all, and good night.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 7:50 p.m. in the East Room at 
the White House. The program was recorded for later broadcast on public