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A Gem from Jennifer Homans


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 While navigating my way through Jennifer Homan's Apollo's Angel's, I discovered this delightful passage: "John F. Kennedy also made the arts a priority. His wife was a prominent figure at cultural events, and the glittering celebrity ethos of the White House gave new glamour and sheen to the performing arts everywhere; she sent a jet to escort Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn to the White House for tea". 

 

Edited by altongrimes
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JFK was one of the few presidents to make a point of praising the arts:

“The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of the nation, is close to the center of a nation's purpose - and is a test to the quality of a nation's civilization.”


From JFK's Eulogy for Robert Frost:

"The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state… In pursuing his perceptions of reality, he must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role…

If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our Nation falls short of its highest potential. I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth… In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society — in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation."

A few more quotes are pictured here:
https://medium.com/the-kennedy-center/john-f-kennedy-quotes-on-the-arts-aa35ad4cc2b7

Edited by pherank
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I am filled with wonder at pherank's above response. I want to find the highest mountain (or the White House) and proclaim aloud John F Kennedy's words concerning the arts. My God, I had no idea that our President said such a glorious thing. In a sense, his words are also an arrow through my heart at such a time as this as the nation now finds itself perhaps fighting for it's very life. God forbid. But oh the wonder of John F. Kennedy's words: " The artist becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state .." Glorious !

 

 

 

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In private life JFK preferred show tunes, but it is certainly true that the higher arts were celebrated in his administration to a degree not really seen since, largely thanks to the efforts of his wife. Kennedy once feared that Jacqueline would be too rarefied for the larger public to embrace, but she proved to be hugely popular.  In those days when the US was on the rise the Kennedys presented an example to be aspired to. It would be different today. 

She was a comfort to Andre Malraux during a difficult time in his life and he responded by sending the Mona Lisa to the United States for exhibition on loan to her - personally.

Regardless of President Kennedy's personal preferences, his understanding that spotlighting the high arts was beneficial in ways both practical and enriching to the country as a whole is something that we may not see again. 

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