Posts Tagged ‘Kennedy Center Honors’

Last night, for the fourth, and final time,  Mme. Secretary and her handsome beau hosted the Kennedy Center honorees at a gala dinner at the State Department.  We  have always looked forward to seeing  the  secretary in her evening wear.  This green gown with its ruching is simply stunning on her.  This year’s honorees are John Paul Jones, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Page, Natalia Makarova, Robert Plant, Dustin Hoffman, and David Letterman.  We also see Mme. Secretary with last year’s honoree, Meryl Streep.

Here are Mme. Secretary’s remarks.


Remarks at the 35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors



Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Merten

Benjamin Franklin Room

Washington, DC

December 1, 2012


Well, we’re going to give everyone a minute to get back from taking a break or sitting down or coming off of the terrace outside. As we begin the program for this 35th Kennedy Center Honors, one of the highlights of the year here in Washington by any measure, and especially exciting this year as we honor a group of legends and icons as diverse as they are talented. We have in our group of honorees tonight a broad cross-section of talent and energy from comedian to chameleon, ballerina to bluesman, and three men so synonymous with rock and roll they need no more description than Page, Plant, Jones. (Laughter.) And I am delighted to welcome back one of last year’s honorees who has graciously agreed to be the MC for the evening, Meryl Streep. (Applause.)

You are all in for a treat. I had the extraordinary experience earlier this year at the Women of the World conference in New York of being introduced by Meryl, and I’ve decided to bring her along every chance I get. (Laughter.) Now, of course, two of the people who make this night so special aren’t with us. It’s the first time they’ve missed the dinner in 35 years. George Stevens, who conceived of the Kennedy Center Honors and produces them each year, and Liz Stevens, who chairs this dinner every year, happen to be in Hollywood. Michael, their son, told me that George wouldn’t leave until the rehearsal was over, so we hope they’re in Hollywood, because he didn’t get on a plane until sometime mid-afternoon.

George is receiving an honorary Academy Award for his lifetime of contributions to film and the performing arts, including these awards. (Applause.) They will be back in time for tomorrow’s gala, but tonight we send our congratulations long-distance.

I am sure, like many of you, I am a fan of all of this year’s honorees. Now speaking personally, who hasn’t, among us, fallen in love with Dustin Hoffman at some point or another? (Applause.) In a lifetime of roles, there really is something for everyone – handsome leading man in The Graduate, handsome leading woman in Tootsie – (laughter) – handsome red panda in Kung Fu Panda – but a lifetime of such exhilarating performances, making you cry, making you laugh, making you think. And we are delighted that he and his beautiful family are with us tonight.

Now Buddy Guy – (applause) – actually, Buddy Guy and Led Zeppelin have been part of the soundtrack of our lives. I grew up with Chicago blues and married Delta blues – (laughter and applause) – and I think my husband is especially happy to be here tonight because he may get to say a few words about Buddy Guy. He’d rather be playing with you, but he’ll stick to talking, I hope. (Laughter.) And then of course, when we were at law school, which seems so long ago, back in the 1970s, a decade of terrible clothes but good music, Led Zeppelin was always coming out of what we called in those days “record players.” And even forty years later, there is something about their music that speaks to the unbound joy and possibility of youth.

Now you may remember that earlier this year, Buddy Guy managed to get President Obama to do a few bars of “Sweet Home Chicago.” And now some of you may be looking a little nervous here, because he may be trying to get one or more of you to do a few bars of something. But it won’t be me; not even Stairway. (Laughter.) But it will be a reminder of how well our President sang that night, which I think was worth a couple of points in the polls, myself.

And of course for Chelsea and me, ballet was a big part of her life. She performed in the Washington Ballet, went to so many ballets over the years. And there is such a great sense of anticipation tonight in being able to honor a ballerina that has meant so much to so many. And I was thrilled to see so many of the greats of ballet here tonight. I think that tomorrow should be a special treat for anyone who loves the ballet as we honor Natalia Makarova and what she has meant to the art. (Applause.)

And then there is David Letterman – (laughter) – the big guy, as they call him. (Applause.) David and I have a history. (Laughter.) I have been a guest on his show several times, and if you include references to my pantsuits, I’m on at least once a week. (Laughter.) I wanted to read you a top ten list to celebrate – (laughter) – Dave’s life of contributions, but unfortunately the State Department does not have a desk officer who covers Wahoo, Nebraska, or wherever the home office is these days. But there I was, being gracious, the hostess of the evening, and Dave and his beautiful wife, Regina, came through. And I greeted her and said how happy we were to have her, and greeted Dave and then said, “Look, Dave, I took my pants off for you.” (Laughter and applause.) And Dave without missing a beat said, “I don’t think you meant to say that.” (Laughter.) And Dave, you’ve got to be reminded that what happens here stays here. (Laughter.)

But Dave is probably wondering what he’s doing in this crowd of amazingly talented – (laughter) – artists and musicians. (Applause.) But let me hasten to add we are not wondering. For all of the teasing over the years that you’ve engaged in and some of us have had the fun of engaging with you, we’ve always recognized that talent. It is hard to do what you do every night, and while you always make us laugh, you also make us think.

So these are performers of exceptional skill, matchless ability; but there’s a common strain running through all of their careers, and that is a willingness to take risks. They have refused to be boxed into one genre or category, and in the process, they’ve inspired a whole generation of artists. That is the great beauty of art. It’s a canvas big enough to hold every crazy idea and find a home for all of the boundary pushers. And all who have worn the rainbow laurels of the Kennedy Center Honors have made it here because they refused to accept the world as it is or the limitations that someone or society tried to place on them. They insist on exploring what could be, they challenge our prejudices, and change our perspectives.

Now, art is a calling that not only celebrates doing things differently, it demands it. And I see this in artists around the world, the desire to create rather than conform. The yearning to share the uniqueness we each hold inside is universal. And art is an outward expression of our common human dignity that certainly we here in the State Department work so hard to defend and uphold every day.

Now, in my line of work, we talk often about the art of diplomacy. I really like saying that because so many of the building blocks for art and diplomacy are the same. We have to be willing to try new things, occasionally take big risks. We strive to find a common language, whether that means riffing on an established theme or improvising in the moment, and at base it is always, always about making people’s lives a little bit freer, even a little bit better in some small way.

So the arts and diplomacy actually do go hand in hand. They play out on world stages and reflect our common need to build bonds of understanding with others. Tonight, we honor an artist who actually braved one of the great schisms of the modern world, because when Natalia defected from the Soviet Union in 1970, she risked everything to have the freedom to dance the way she wanted to dance, a freedom that at the time was only available to her in the West.

And when the Kirov Ballet returned to London 18 years later, their first visit since her defection, she was in the audience on opening night, and a few short weeks later, she was on the stage with them. It was a surprise performance, the first time a Russian defector was allowed to perform with a Soviet troop. The negotiations had been in the works for months. It was only approved by the Kremlin at the last minute. In fact, I’m told the Kirov corps had to borrow Swan Lake costumes from the Royal Ballet.

She, of course, turned in a flawless performance. It was an amazing instance of glasnost brought to light. And for all the political overtones and the tensions, it was first and foremost a beautiful human moment. After a thunderous ovation, the Kirov dancers gave her the honor of the last solo bow. She then turned around and offered her final bow to her former troop. Art and diplomacy, indistinguishable.

So I would like to thank these artists for the moments of connection they have given all of us over the years. Thank you for never stopping to take risks. Thank you for having the courage to create. And so for me it’s a bittersweet night, because this will be my last opportunity to host you here in the State Department, and I want to thank the Kennedy Center for the extraordinary cooperation and partnership that we have had over the years, but particularly these last four years.

And on that note, I want to welcome the Kennedy Center’s chairman, David Rubenstein, to the stage so that he can begin the main event. He’s done a wonderful service for the Kennedy Center, and he’s also done a wonderful service for helping us keep these diplomatic rooms at the State Department so beautiful. And he’s also pretty funny himself. So please join me in welcoming the other



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Well, I wish there were a video of this, but I do not remember DOS ever providing video from this event.   Her remarks, as always,  are witty and informative.  In many repressive regimes artists and entertainers are among the political prisoners, a good thing to remember the next time we enjoy Fred Armisen doing one of his hilarious routines as Barack Obama on SNL.

Remarks at 34th Annual Kennedy Center Honors Dinner at the Department of State


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
December 3, 2011

Good evening, and let me welcome you to the Benjamin Franklin Room here on the 8th floor of the State Department. (Applause.) We have so many wonderful, distinguished guests here. But since this is Washington, let me acknowledge Secretary Sebelius of the Health and Human Services Department. (Applause.) Let me thank the members of Congress who support the Kennedy Center year in and year out. Let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.) And let me acknowledge Mayor Gray from Washington, D.C., who is our host mayor for this event.

This is the 34th time we have celebrated the Kennedy Center Honors, and I am delighted to be here with you again. Some of you mentioned during the receiving line that you always wonder if I will make it. So do I. (Laughter.) Every year I end up flying all night to make it back to this dinner, but I am so grateful I do. (Applause.) And tonight, we have the opportunity to salute the luminous talents of our honorees and their many contributions to the American artistic landscape.

Now, you will hear more about each of our honorees, but I have to tell you it’s pretty exciting for me to be here with Barbara Cook, and Barbara is still knocking audiences off their feet; Sonny Rollins, since I’m married – (applause) – to a sax player; Yo-Yo Ma, who has performed for American presidents for 50 years. (Applause.) That means he started when he was six years old. And I’ve got to tell you, Neil Diamond, who has been in every part of my life. (Applause.) Neil Diamond’s hair alone is remarkable. (Laughter.) And as someone whose hair has occasionally caused a certain comment or two, I think I’m allowed to say that. (Laughter.) And of course Meryl Streep, who has been so consistently brilliant. (Applause.) She’s like a shape changer. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to see. And then when you see it, you go, “Oh, I recognize that.” It is absolutely perfect, and we’re so pleased she could be here.

Now, I will leave the achievements of many of our honorees to our emcee for the evening, the incomparable, absolutely extraordinary Renee Fleming – (applause) – who has been a friend for so many years. And I think we all join with her and her new husband in congratulating them for this wonderful marriage that they have achieved. And we just wish them the very best.

Now, I was told earlier that because I was First Lady for eight years, because I was lucky enough to be married to Bill Clinton, who’s sitting with Sonny Rollins over there, I got to host the Kennedy Center Honors eight years. And this is my third year as Secretary of State welcoming you all here for this fabulous dinner. And I’m always struck by how wonderful it is for us to be able to celebrate the American arts, which have meant so much to all of us, but also means so much around the world.

Now, we know that American music, particularly rock and roll, and American movies really penetrated the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. But it’s also true that as I now travel around the world and meet people who weren’t born during the Cold War, who are now the artists and the activists of their own nations, they still are so influenced by American culture. I think that’s a good thing. I think the freedom, the creativity, the openness – (applause) – that they’re exposed to really gives them a sense of what is possible.

I was just in Burma, and I met with a group of civil society activists, many of whom had just come out of jail with the recent release of 200 prisoners. I met the leading comedian in Burma, who is prohibited from performing by the government still. I met the leading hip hop artist of Burma, who has not been able to perform, because everyone has been threatened who would give him a venue, and this is after these men served five, ten, eleven years in prison. And they are so connected and yearning for what goes on outside of this very closed country. Well, that’s an extreme example, but it’s indicative of what I see everywhere I go.

I remember when I was in India in 1995, and I met with a large group of Indian women who were part of an organization called SEWA, which was almost a union formed to help these very, very poor women organize to be able to demand their rights. And we were meeting in Gujarat province, and we were sitting under a tent, and some of them had walked actually two days to get to meet me. And we talked about their struggle for rights and the problems of survival they faced every single day. And at the end of the meeting, they stood up and sang “We Shall Overcome” in Gujarati. Now, that’s a song made famous because of American spirituals, because of our civil rights movement. It had crossed oceans and decades and languages to unite people. And it was such a beautiful expression of the human spirit.

And I think often about the contributions that all of you who are artists make every day. You may not know it, but somewhere in a little, tiny room in Burma or even in North Korea, someone is desperately trying to hear you or to see you, to experience you. And if they are lucky enough to make that connection, it can literally change lives and countries.

I remember when Vaclav Havel was here for a state dinner that Bill and I hosted, and we asked him, “Who do you want to have come perform at your state dinner?” And he said, “I want Lou (inaudible).” (Laughter.) He said, “Because all those years in prison and all those years behind the Iron Curtain, his music penetrated. And we could identify with the anger and the passion and the extraordinary determination that it embodied.”

So art also becomes more powerful when we experience it together, and I think the Kennedy Center is a real celebration of that. When the artists are chosen, it’s a tribute not only to the individual honorees, but to the American artistic experience. So tonight, when we honor Neil and Barbara and Sonny and Yo-Yo and Meryl, we are not just honoring their individual accomplishments as extraordinary as they are and what they have meant to each of us individually, we are honoring what they stand for and what they mean for the human spirit, for creativity. And what that stands for to me is America. And it makes the world a better place. And it gives to me extra tools that I can use in my diplomacy, because I really believe that the breadth and depth of American creativity is one of the strongest tools that we have.

So for all of those and many other reasons, particularly the individual times that I have enjoyed each of these artists, I am delighted once again to host you. And now I would like to welcome the Kennedy Center’s chairman, David Rubenstein, to the podium, who will, as he has done ever since he became chairman, surprise you that a billionaire can be so funny. (Laughter.) So David, please come join us. (Applause.)

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Traditionally, the Secretary of State hosts a gala reception dinner at the State Department  before the awards ceremony.   The honorees this year are Yo-Yo Ma,  Meryl Streep,   Neil Diamond.  Sonny Rollins, and  Barbara Cook.

Hmmmmmm… just yesterday I made a comment about Hillary and Suu Kyi appearing to be a little star struck with each other.  So I think Meryl  must have been simply awestruck to be honored the same year at the same ceremony as Barbara Cook.   I know she looks like she is keeping her cool, but from a young age Meryl has been a HUGE fan… dating back to Cook’s days on Broadway in “The Music Man.”  Even after winning many awards. Meryl has often spoken of how much she adores Cook.  This must have been an enormous  thrill for her!

WJC was having a grand time, and you can see for yourself that Mme. Secretary was looking simply exquisite!  Top of her game!  Wow!  I love everything about this gown on her, the color, the cut, the fit.  When she hosts these dinners, it always blows me away that she is usually more gorgeous and glamorous than the movie stars.   This year was no different.  Smashing, Mme. Secretary!

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There are not many photos available right now, but these are from this evening’s Gala at the State Department. For the second year, Mme. Secretary hosted this extravaganza looking sumptuous. I am pretty sure the Squire of State escorted her although I have not a scintilla of evidence to that effect. I am simply figuring that I would not let her out on her own looking that beautiful. I am sure the Squire came along to keep her company.

One of the photo captions reads thus:

AP Photo Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, talks with Kennedy Center honorees for 2010 Jerry Herman, Merle Haggard, Bill T. Jones, and Paul McCartney while waiting for Oprah Whitney to arrive for a group photo after at a dinner held at the State Department honoring the recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, in Washington, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010.

Oprah WHO? I have not found any photos with Oprah.  Maybe Oprah intended it that way.  Who knows?  Who CARES?  I do  not miss her in these pics.  Mme. Secretary looks absolutely smashing!  Sir Paul seems to agree.

They refer to Oprah by the wrong last name!  WHO is the most recognizable woman?

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Remarks at the Kennedy Center Honors Dinner

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State

Benjamin Franklin Room

Washington, DC

December 6, 2009

Well, good evening. (Applause.) We are delighted to host this annual Kennedy Center Honors dinner here in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department, a room that has seen many distinguished visitors – kings, presidents, just last month, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church. But this may be the most remarkable group yet: a goodfella, a soprano, and the Boss himself. It sounds like an HBO show, and we’re all in it. (Laughter.) It is exciting to have a chance to take just some time here at the beginning of the holiday season to not only honor our honorees, but to spend just a few minutes thinking about the great country that was each of their wellsprings.

Now, the incomparable Carol Burnett will talk more about the life and work of our honorees, but there are just a few points that I think bear making. One is that this is the first Kennedy Center Honors dinner without Senator Ted Kennedy. And I want to recognize the members of the Kennedy family who are here – Vicki Kennedy and Jean Smith and Caroline Kennedy, and so many wonderful memories. We really miss Ted, but we are so pleased that the Kennedy Center and this program continue on, because – (applause) – Senator Kennedy, like President Kennedy, understood that art has the power to lift our spirits, to draw us together, to speak to the deepest human yearnings for freedom and self-expression, and that indeed, art is a potent force for progress in the world. And we have seen that time and time again.

In fact, during the Cold War, the State Department asked Dave Brubeck to be an ambassador for American culture in countries teetering between democracy and communism. Jazz was so subversive. And with its improvisational energy, it represented the vitality of the American experiment. And it’s often remarked to me, as I now hold this position, how important American culture was to the last great burst of freedom with the fall of the Berlin Wall and all the Velvet Revolutions. For the next generation, it was rock ‘n’ roll that surged through the world, giving voice to young people frustrated by their lack of opportunity and by stagnating political and social systems.

When I was in Berlin last month to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I talked with so many people who were veterans of that extraordinary, iconic, historic moment. And they remembered that in 1988, when Bruce Springsteen played before a raucous crowd of 160,000 East Berliners, the idea of freedom still seemed beyond reach. “I came to play rock ‘n’ roll for you,” he told them, “in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down.” And 16 months later, many of those same young people broke through concrete and concertina wire and claimed their liberty.

Now, it was not the first time that art helped to break down barriers, and it will certainly not be the last. Seventy years ago, the great Marian Anderson was turned away from the stage at Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin. Instead, in one defining moment of the Civil Rights Movement, she stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, just a stone’s throw from this building. Her voice, carrying across the Mall, could not be denied. And Anderson would later mentor a young singer named Grace Bumbry. She was also in the first group of artists honored by the Kennedy Center.

So in every time and every culture, artists have lit the way toward progress. They’ve helped to provide a common language, a fabric that weaves us together as human beings. And I remember walking the dust-shrouded streets of Lower Manhattan in the days after 9/11, when a city that prided itself on being the pulsating cultural heart of the entire world, was suddenly silent. We rightly honor the brave first responders who rushed to help their fellow men and women on that terrible day, and celebrate the quiet heroism of New Yorkers who set about rebuilding their lives and their families.

But not enough has been said about the important efforts of New York’s artists to bring life back to their ailing city. One enduring legacy of that movement is Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Film Festival. Only months after the attacks, more than 150,000 people came back to Lower Manhattan to watch movies in hushed theaters and screening rooms, debating their merits over bottles of red wine in sidewalk cafes and streets and parks that had so recently stood empty. New York was alive again. It was creating again. And indeed, in the years that followed, the festival has remained a fixture of the city’s rebuilt cultural life.

Now, this kind of cultural diplomacy has a significant impact on our relations in the world. And of course, one can’t help but think of the ways that Mel Brooks has made us laugh – (laughter) – made us laugh at things that weren’t funny at all – (laughter) – but by doing so, caused us to feel that even in tragedy and horror – Springtime for Hitler, really – (laughter) – there was still that essential element of our common humanity.

So we celebrate some wonderful artists tonight, but we also celebrate this wonderful country. America’s artists have made our country a beacon of opportunity and inspiration in the world today. I don’t think we’re doing quite enough to break through the barriers that exist now. The same yearnings for human freedom and hope fill the hearts and minds of young men and women the world over, but we need a renewed commitment to reaching out to them with our values and our vitality and our belief in the future.

It may be that America doesn’t pay enough attention to our past. But if you travel as I do, that can be a blessing. You go to countries that can’t get over what happened a thousand years ago. You know you’re in trouble when you say, “Well, how are things going,” and they say, “Well, if it hadn’t been for the crusades, everything would be fine.” (Laughter.) And so – (applause) – we need our artists and we need our arts, and the Kennedy Center has been a beacon for both.

And it is now my pleasure to introduce the Chairman of the Kennedy Center, Steve Schwarzman. (Applause.)

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The Secretary of State hosted a Gala Dinner last night at the State Department for this year’s Kennedy Center Honorees. (She wore my favorite dress in the whole world! Thank you, Madame Secretary!) This year’s honorees are: opera singer Grace Bumbry, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, actor Robert de Niro, rock star Bruce Springsteen, and comedian, director, composer and producer Mel Brooks (yes, folks, Mel actually IS a producer!) No word on whether Bill Clinton also attended, but I hope he was able to spend a little time with Brubeck (and with you-know-who, who is looking hot in that blue dress).

UPDATE: I knew Bill would not miss this!  Here’s a nice article from Associated Press writer, Brett Zongker containing an account of Bill’s contribution to last night’s festivities.

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