[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 8, 1998]
[Pages 534-535]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Andrew W. Mellon Dinner
April 8, 1998

    Thank you very much, Mr. Laughlin. Mr. Powell, Mr. 
Smith, members of the Board of Trustees, 
members of Congress and our administration, members of the Mellon 
family, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great honor for Hillary and me to 
be here tonight to honor this great legacy of Andrew Mellon and to honor 
all of you who do so much to carry on that legacy.
    I first came to the National Gallery over 30 years ago when I was a 
college student at Georgetown. Over the years, I've come back as often 
as I could. When I came here from time to time as Governor of my home 
State, I confess that on occasion I sneaked out of the meetings of the 
Governors' Association and came to the National Gallery, where there was 
less noise and more light. [Laughter] Hillary and I have been privileged 
to visit here in the last few years to tour the Vermeer and Picasso 
exhibitions, among others.
    It's hard to believe now that the National Gallery is 61 years old, 
founded when our country was in the grip of the Great Depression and the 
world was slipping inexorably toward World War II. But Treasury 
Secretary Andrew Mellon knew that our Nation's work lay, even then, not 
simply in our monetary strength or our military power but in the value 
of our ideas, the creativity of our spirit, the power of our common 
culture. So he and a group of passionate men and women gave this great 
gift to the Nation and established the tradition of partnership that 
endures down to the very day.
    There is no question that Paul Mellon 
carries on this tradition. His generosity has helped to invigorate and 
sustain our entire Nation's cultural and artistic institutions. Having 
already won the National Medal of Arts in 1985, last fall he was awarded 
the National Medal for the Humanities, which Robert Smith kindly accepted for him.
    So tonight I want to thank him again and all the members of his 
family who have participated in giving other Americans, who could never 
have afforded these things on their own, access to this wonderful world.
    When President Roosevelt dedicated the National Gallery, he said, 
``The dedication of this gallery to a living past and to a greater and 
more richly living future is the measure of the earnestness of our 
intention that the freedom of the human spirit shall go on.''
    Today, at the dawn of a new century and a new millennium, it falls 
to us to continue

[[Page 535]]

in that great tradition. Hillary and I have launched the White House 
Millennium Program to encourage all Americans to honor our living past, 
with all its treasures, and to imagine our even more richly living 
future, with the creations and the discoveries yet to come.
    I hope that all of you will find ways to join us in your homes, 
wherever you're from, in the coming months and years as we celebrate and 
commemorate the new millennium. But most of all, tonight I just want to 
thank you on behalf of a grateful nation for your dedication and your 
commitment to our common cultural and artistic life.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:15 p.m. in the West Building at the 
National Gallery of Art. In his remarks, he referred to Alexander Mellon 
Laughlin, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Earl A. Powell III, Director, 
Robert H. Smith, President, and Paul Mellon, Honorary Trustee, National 
Gallery of Art.