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White House Cultural Highlights

"I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit."

-- John F. Kennedy


January 20 ''Camelot'' opens in Washington as John Kennedy is sworn in as president, instructing Americans to ''ask what you can do for your country.''

January 21 Bernstein's "Fanfare for JFK," written for the new President, premieres at the inaugural gala with the composer conducting. Pianist Earl Wild, currently a Columbus resident, performs Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

March 9 President Kennedy sends a letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of House urging early enactment of legislation on the proposed National Cultural Center.

May 3 The Air Force Pipers and the Drum and Bugle Corps perform on the South Lawn after the first state dinner for President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia.

July 11 The Kennedys hold the first White House state dinner away from the White House, at Mt. Vernon, to honor the Pakistani President, complete with the National Symphony Orchestra playing Mozart, Debussy, Gershwin, and Morton Gould. 

August 22 Jackie Kennedy sponsors the first "Concert for Young People by Young People," performed by the Transylvania Youth Orchestra from the Brevard Music Center on the White House South Lawn.

November 13  Pablo Casals plays for a state dinner honoring Governor Luis Munoz-Marin of Puerto Rico. Broadcast nationally by NBC and ABC radio, a recording was distributed commercially by Columbia.


January 19 The Kennedys fete the 80-year-old Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky, who calls the two "Nice kids."  

February 20 25-year-old black mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry makes her American debut at the White House after a state dinner.

April 29 The White House honors 49 Nobel Prize winners, prompting JFK to comment upon the "most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

May 11 André Malraux, the French Minister of Cultural Affairs, is honored at a White House dinner with entertainment by the famous Stern/Rose/Istomin Trio performing the complete 45-minute Schubert Trio in B Flat.

September 11 Mrs. Kennedy unveils Edward Durell Stone's model for the National Cultural Center.

October 16 The President proclaims November 26 through December 2, 1962, National Cultural Center Week.

November 19 Following a tour of Latin America under President Kennedy's Cultural Exchange Program, The Paul Winter Jazz Sextet gives the first jazz concert in the White House.

November 29 During Kennedy's "National Culture Center Week," a closed-circuit television broadcast airs to raise funds on behalf of the National Cultural Center.


February 21  JFK broadens the scope of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to include persons who had made especially meritorious contributions from just "(1) the security or national interests of the United States or (2) world peace, to (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

June 4  The Opera Society of Washington, with Columbus' own Clara O'Dette in the chorus, performs for the President of India.

June 12 Kennedy issues a statement establishing the Advisory Council on the Arts.

October 26 President Kennedy remarks on the importance of the arts at Amherst College.

November 13 President and Mrs. Kennedy join 1,700 children on the South Lawn for a performance by the Pipes and Drums of the Black Watch of the British Army.

November 25 At the request of Mrs. Kennedy, the Marine Band led the funeral procession of President John F. Kennedy.

December 6  Cellist Pablo Casals, contralto Marian Anderson, and pianist Rudolf Serkin are given Kennedy's Presidential Medal of Freedom, the first musicians ever recognized for this award. John and Jackie Kennedy had studied, revised, and approved the design submitted for the medal which was handed out to all 31 recipients.

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