The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
January 29, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks on the National Endowment for the Arts
The Old Post Office Building
Washington, D.C.

11:30 A.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Dana Gioia, for your warm welcome. Dana once said that he's the only person who became a poet by way of Stanford Business School. (Laughter.) We're thankful that he did.

President Bush and I appreciate your leadership at the National Endowment for the Arts, and your vision. Thanks also to Hank Jones and the gifted musicians that were here today, and thanks especially to Tracey and Timothy for your wonderful performance of Shakespeare. You have a great teacher. President Bush and I are pleased that Rafe Esquith is the recipient of the National Medal of the Arts. You can see the way that he has broadened and strengthened the education of his students by the study of Shakespeare.

Thanks also to Jack Valenti, who is my honorary co-chairman of the Shakespeare in America program and the Sally Mae Fund and to all of the cultural institutions and organizations that are represented here today that support the arts and art education in America.

The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to bringing great American works to ever community, large and small, across our country. American Masterpieces will introduce Americans to the best of their cultural and artistic heritage. This program will sponsor presentations of great American works across all art forms, reaching all 50 states. For the first time, the Arts Endowment will create educational programs that reach every level of students, elementary level and secondary age students.

American arts are a reflection of our history and of the creativity of the human spirit. An appreciation and an understanding of the arts is vitally important for every American, especially for children, who will be the painters and the musicians and the actors of tomorrow. Through studying the arts, children express themselves as they learn about the world around them. The arts are critical building blocks for a child's development. Drawing helps improve writing. The study of music helps with memory. And theater brings stories and history to life. Othello, Romeo and Juliet are being brought to life in towns across America through the Shakespeare in America communities program. This theater tour exemplifies the Endowment's commitment to artistic excellence and to arts education.

In Fayetteville, Arkansas, students studying Shakespeare are learning -- students from Latin America and Japan are learning English. For many people in the Tipton Housing Authority in Georgia, this is their first opportunity to see live theater. High school students in neighboring counties of Waycross and Blackshear were so excited about the program that they declared a day in October William Shakespeare Day.

After a class saw a performance and met with the actors, the teacher said what resulted was, and I quote, "the most exciting, insightful and wise conversation I've ever had a class engage in. No class I've ever taught has understood this play so well or has been this emotionally engaged with the characters.

President Bush and I want every child to be excited about the arts. The President -- and this is my big announcement -- has proposed an $18 million increase in the 2005 budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. (Applause.)

I'm proud that this is the largest annual increase in more than 20 years. This additional funding will enable NEA to develop the American Masterpieces Program without cutting current projects. The total NEA budget will also include $53 million for safe arts organizations and underserved communities.

Art, in all its disciplines, is the world's greatest facilitator. It allows us to enjoy life and all of its pursuits. Our founding fathers believed that democracy demands wisdom. The study and enjoyment of the arts helps build greater appreciation of our rich history and artistic legacy.

Shakespeare once said, we know what we are but know not what we may become. With programs like Shakespeare in American Communities and the new American Masterpieces, there's no limit to who our children can become or what works of art they'll create.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 11:35 A.M. EST

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