For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 9, 2003
Mrs. Bush's Welcoming Remarks at In Tune with History
The East Room
Welcome. Thanks for joining us to celebrate the history of music in the White House and in America. Thanks to the DC school choral group for the excellent performance. Today, you too become part of the great musical heritage of the White House. Thanks also to Henry Dudley, Hugh Sidey, Dr. Seale, Dr. Kirk and members of the White House Historical Association. And thank you, John and Sara, for producing a remarkable documentary that tells America's story with tempo and tune.
Since the first notes of Yankee Doodle were played here by the Marine Band two hundred years ago, music has defined the spirit of the White House and the spirit of our country. From the patriotic sounds of the Marine Band to jazz, the blues, country and rock and roll, music has bound us as a culture and a country. And the music played in the White House has reflected the times and challenges of our growing republic.
Since the days of President Adams, the Marine Band has marked the milestones of America with music -- from the Gettysburg Address to the funeral procession of President Kennedy. Charlie Corrado, who is here with us today, started playing the accordion and the piano in the Marine Band in 1962. He played for President Kennedy's last birthday party. Charlie, thanks for making beautiful music here for the past 41 years. And thanks also to Colonel Foley for your talent and artistic direction as director of the United States Marine Band.
As the Marine Band has been the highlight of many moments, the music played here has also inspired many traditions in the White House. It has been said that President Hayes did not like to stay up late -- reminds me of my favorite President. So right after dinner he would cue the Marine Band to play "Home Sweet Home" hoping that his guests would take the hint and go home. I will have to tell George to try that one.
During the Coolidge's first Christmas here, Grace Coolidge invited a church choir to sing while the Marine Band played on the north portico. Soon people began to gather outside the fence. So Mrs. Coolidge invited the public onto the lawn, starting a new tradition to open the White House to the public during the holidays. President and Mrs. Hoover first began the tradition of entertaining heads of state after dinner in 1931. At the most recent state dinner for Philippine President Arroyo, opera singer Susan Graham sang Gershwin in this very room.
Her accompanist played on the Steinway & Sons piano which is in the Grand Foyer right outside this room. This beautiful instrument was presented to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938. The paintings on the case of the piano represent five forms of American music which were favorites of FDR, including folk and cowboy music. Since the days of President Madison, there have been at least two pianos in the White House, sometimes three or four.
President Roosevelt loved swing music while the Eisenhower's enjoyed show tunes. The Kennedys established the White House as a center of the cultural arts scene by inviting renowned performers and composers and creating youth concerts. To share the music performed here with the world, President and Mrs. Carter created a series of televised concerts called "In Performance at the White House".
President Bush and I have continued this tradition with gospel groups Jump-5 and the Blind Boys of Alabama, who played during our Salute to Gospel Music. We enjoy hearing songs from home in the White House and fellow Texan Lyle Lovett performed here for the National Governors Association Dinner in February. I caught the President tapping his toes when BB King gave a rousing performance during a celebration for the Special Olympics.
The artists who perform at the White House reflect the depth and breadth of American culture and history -- and their music reminds of us of the diversity that makes America strong. Franklin Roosevelt said, "The inspiration of great music can help to inspire a fervor for the spiritual values in our way of life; and thus to strengthen democracy... Because music knows no barriers of languages. music can make us all more vividly aware of that common humanity which is ours." As it enriches our lives, music shapes our culture and our country. Notes and song connect as us citizens, generations and Americans. And as we will see and hear today, music holds the story of our past and our future.
I would now like to introduce someone who knows a great deal about our past and loves sharing it. As a young boy growing up in Iowa in the 1930's, Hugh Sidey must have enjoyed the swing sounds of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. He has lived a remarkable life and after reporting for 45 years about the American Presidency, he has amazing stories to share. He was in Vienna for President Kennedy's historic meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, and he traveled with President Nixon to China. He is a witness to history. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Hugh Sidey.