WASHINGTON, D.C.—The John F. Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts awarded the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors to
five distigushed American artists, selected by its board of
trustees "for their lifetime contributions to American
culture through the performing arts." Recipients honored
at the 28th annual national celebration of the arts, December
4, 2005, are: singer Tony Bennett; dancer and teacher Suzanne
Farrell; actress Julie Harris; actor, director and producer
Robert Redford; and singer Tina Turner.
President George W. Bush and Laura Bush pose with the Kennedy Center honorees, from left to right, actress Julie Harris, actor Robert Redford, singer Tina Turner, ballet dancer Suzanne Farrell and singer Tony Bennett, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2005, during the reception in the Blue Room at the White House.
Since their inception in 1978, the Kennedy
Center Honors have redefined America's perception of its
artistic legacy and reinvented the way this nation rewards
its artists. The Honors are America's equivalent of a knighthood
in Britain, or the French Legion of Honor--the quintessential
reward for a lifetime's endeavor. At the same time, the
annual addition of new names to the roster of Honors recipients
charts the international standard of excellence set by America's
artists, as well as the aesthetic inspiration provided by
artists of other nations who have achieved prominence on
The President and the First Lady received
the Honorees and members of the Artists Committee, who nominate
them, along with the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees at
the White House prior to the gala performance.
information about the 28th Annual Kennedy Center Honors
available on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing
Following is a transcript of remarks by
President Bush welcoming the 2005 Kennedy Center Honorees
to the White House:
The State Floor
December 4, 2005
5:13 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Thanks
for coming, and welcome to the White House. The annual reception
for the Kennedy Center Honors is always a memorable event,
and Laura and I are happy you all could join us. We extend
a special welcome to this year's honorees, and to their
families and friends.
The Kennedy Center Honors are presented
for exceptional accomplishment in the performing arts. Once
again, the Center has selected five extraordinary Americans
for this high distinction. Each of these honorees, in a
lifetime of achievement, has set a standard of excellence
that is admired throughout the world. All of them have earned
a unique place in the cultural life of the United States
and a special respect among their fellow Americans.
The first Kennedy Center Honors were presented
in 1978, to a group that included the eminent choreographer,
George Balanchine. And on that stage that evening, dancing
in tribute was the great Suzanne Farrell. Together, Balanchine
and Farrell gave the world of ballet one of the rarest and
most successful collaborations in history. He created masterpieces
just for her. And no one epitomizes the style and grace
of Balanchine choreography as much as Suzanne Farrell.
She first came to New York from Cincinnati.
In only after a year at the American School of Ballet, she
made her professional debut in 1961. Before long word began
to circulate there was something new -- someone new, someone
very special at the New York City Ballet. When she took
the stage as Dulcinea in Don Quixote, she became a sensation.
In that performance, a reviewer said, Suzanne Farrell was
"absolutely flawless, technically impeccable, light
as a bubble, perfect in line and style."
In hundreds of performances over a 28-year
period, Suzanne Farrell was never known to depart from that
standard. This was a ballerina who had it all -- grace,
strength, and the ability to act, turn and jump with perfection.
During classes, Balanchine often coached dancers with three
words: "Do like Suzanne." (Laughter.)
In performances as diverse as "Agon,"
"Theme and Variations," "Scotch Symphony,"
and "Clarinade," she had a mesmerizing effect
on her audiences. Watching her was said to be "one
of the sublime experiences of an era." One admirer
said that Suzanne was a dancer who "made audiences
sweat." This remarkable lady is now guiding a new generation
of dancers as the leader of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet.
In the words of one of her dancers, Suzanne
"inspires you. You want to give her everything you
have because she meets you each step of the way." She
does this every day with the spirit and the patience and
the guidance of a truly lovely woman. She is widely appreciated
as the greatest ballerina this country has produced, and
the United States of America is proud to honor Suzanne Farrell.
Julie Harris discovered very early in life
she loved to act. And the world discovered that she was
better at the craft than almost anyone else. Fifty years
ago, when her beautiful face was on the cover of Time Magazine,
the story inside offered the confident and accurate prediction
that she would be a star "for the rest of her life."
Julie Harris has excelled in every forum
she has attempted, from historical drama to tragedy, to
musical comedy, to Shakespeare. She is known for one of
the most hauntingly loving -- lovely voices in theatre,
and she stands nearly alone in the depth and range of her
talent. She became a star on Broadway at age 24, playing
a 12-year-old girl in "The Member of the Wedding,"
and was nominated for an Oscar when she played the same
role for film. Whatever age or personality or struggle the
role calls for, Julie Harris can fill it, with meaning and
feeling and complete believability. She has thrilled audiences
as St. Joan of Arc, and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Florence
Nightingale, Queen Victoria, and Emily Dickinson.
Her greatest admirers, perhaps, are her
fellow actors. Boris Karloff said Julie "is always
in complete control of herself, just as a fine pianist is
always the master of his music." The screen pioneer,
Ethel Barrymore, put it even more simply. She said, "That
girl can do anything." (Laughter.)
The most respected actress in American theatre
received five Tony Awards, more than any other performer
-- plus a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in
the Theatre. She has also won a Grammy and three Emmys,
and has appeared in many television plays and motion pictures.
In her career, Julie Harris has starred with Robert Redford,
George C. Scott, Lauren Bacall, Shelley Winters, and Sir
Lawrence Olivier. She's the girl who appeared opposite James
Dean in the "East of Eden."
Julie Harris has been called Broadway's
"tiniest tower of strength," a woman of deep intelligence
and discipline. She is known, as well, for her gentle spirit.
As one stage manager put it, Julie Harris is "an angel,
everyone loves her." It's hard to imagine the American
stage without the face, the voice, and the limitless talent
of Julie Harris. She has found happiness in her life's work,
and we thank her for sharing that happiness with the whole
There was a time when Robert Redford thought
his life's work might be as a baseball player. (Laughter.)
He went to college on an athletic scholarship, but his interests
soon turned to the arts and eventually to acting. Years
later, when he was hitting home runs, as the character,
Roy Hobbs, a reviewer of the film said this: "Robert
Redford reminds those who need reminding that he is one
of the perfect male film stars, extraordinarily handsome,
effortlessly fascinating, and enormously talented. His role
here gives us ample chance to see another kind of 'natural'
in his element."
For more than four decades, Robert Redford
has been one of America's most watchable and credible actors.
From early appearances and televised plays and on Broadway,
he moved easily into the film and into film history. We
all remember his finest dramatic roles -- with Barbra Streisand
in "The Way We Were," with his notebook in "All
The President's Men," on the election trail in "The
Candidate," and in the Utah wilderness as "Jeremiah
Johnson." Paired with Paul Newman in two legendary
films, Robert Redford also proved to be an actor with flawless
comic timing, and he earned an Oscar nomination for his
role in "The Sting."
In his capacity to grow and to excel as
an artist, Robert Redford has shown very few limitations.
In 1980, he decided to try working behind the camera. The
result was "Ordinary People," and it won him the
Oscar for best actor [sic]. Soon afterward, he founded a
workshop for independent American filmmakers at Sundance,
which has done so much to encourage and teach emerging filmmakers.
Robert Redford is a public-spirited man,
a Westerner who cares about the issues. He knows what he
believes and he's not afraid to tell people. (Laughter and
applause.) Over the years he's had a strong influence on
public policy. (Laughter.) And it doesn't hurt -- (laughter)
-- and it doesn't hurt that he's quite a charismatic guy.
(Laughter.) One time he found himself speaking in front
of a group of people in a profession he didn't think too
much of. So he stepped to the mike and gave them a piece
of his mind. When he finished, one of the people he had
just scolded rushed right up and said, "Did you really
make the jump off the cliff in 'Butch Cassidy'?" (Laughter.)
When Robert Redford speaks you hear more
than an actor or director. You hear the voice of an active,
passionate, committed citizen. His family can be proud that
this man they love is one of the most familiar faces in
the world, one of the biggest names in movies, and an all-time
favorite of his fellow Americans. Congratulations. (Applause.)
Tina Turner's life began in Tennessee in
a town called Nutbush. (Laughter.) I've never been there,
but -- (laughter) -- I've passed a few sign wavers who apparently
want me to know about it. (Laughter.) As a girl, she worked
in the cotton fields and sang in the church choir. In her
amazing journey, Tina Turner went on to sell tens of millions
of records, and earned a place in the Rock and Roll Hall
She's written music classics and a best-selling
book. And a movie about her life was nominated for two Oscars.
As a performer, Tina Turner is known to "transcend
age, gender, race and social status." On one of her
tour stops in Texas, a concert reviewer described an audience
that included "college students and biker chicks wearing
jeans and leather vests, ten-gallon-hat-wearing cowboys,
and finger-snapping grandpas." (Laughter.) Everyone
was there for the same reason -- to see one of the greatest
live entertainers ever to come out of the United States.
Tina Turner, it has been said, "commands
the stage with the sheer force of her full-throttle voice
and magnetic presence." People stand in wonder at the
natural skill, the energy and sensuality, and the most famous
legs in show business. (Laughter.) Behave yourself. (Laughter.)
Her voice has been described as combining
"Otis Redding's husky break and James Brown's growl
with some of Aretha Franklin's soaring cadences." She
moves better and faster than dancers less than half her
age; she does it all in four-inch high heels. (Laughter.)
She first became a star in the "Ike
and Tina Turner Revue." She made music history with
a rendition of "Proud Mary" that no artist could
ever hope to match. It won the Grammy, and still wins her
In the 1970s, the brave lady had to start
over again, on her own. It was a hard time. All she owned
in the world was her stage name and her God-given talent.
These, combined with her persevering character, led to a
phenomenal solo career. A single album, "Private Dancer,"
sold more than 12 million copies, and the year it was released
won her three Grammys. She has produced a string of hits
that are familiar across the world, including "What's
Love Got To Do With It?," and "Simply The Best."
She has played before some of the largest concert crowds
ever assembled, and each time every eye is trained on the
stage, not wanting to miss a single note or a single move
by this electrifying artist.
There's nobody quite like Tina Turner, and
in the arc of her life, there is so much to admire -- the
incredible musical gifts, the inner strength and the moral
courage. She's a woman of achievement, and elegance, and
class. And it's an honor to welcome you to the White House.
Tony Bennett once said, "What I try
to do is give a performance and have everybody say, 'God,
I love that song.'" Well, he's known that satisfaction
throughout his career. When you hear the title of a Tony
Bennett song, all at once you can hear the man singing it
-- "Fly Me To The Moon," "The Good Life,"
"The Best Is Yet To Come," "Just In Time."
This son of New York made his singing debut
as a little boy in 1936, standing beside Mayor LaGuardia
at the opening of the Triborough Bridge. Much time has passed,
and at this point, the Triborough Bridge is showing some
age. (Laughter.) The little boy who sang that day is still
looking pretty good. (Laughter.)
Perhaps his biggest professional break came
in the late 1940s, when he was opening for Pearl Bailey
in Greenwich Village, and she introduced him to Bob Hope.
When he learned this young man's name was Anthony Dominick
Benedetto, Mr. Hope said, "That's too long for the
marquee, let's simplify it and call you Tony Bennett."
Soon he was one of the great nightclub singers,
performing through the years with the likes of Duke Ellington,
and Count Basie, and appearing on the "Tonight Show,"
as Johnny Carson's first guest. When Tony recorded "I
Left My Heart In San Francisco," he won his first Grammy,
and the song took him from the clubs to Carnegie Hall. From
that day to this, he's been playing to sellout crowds. He's
won a total of 11 Grammys and a lifetime achievement award.
And it's a symbol of his endurance that
this man who was making records when Harry Truman lived
in the White House has become a favorite of the MTV generation.
As one newspaper declared, "Tony Bennett has not just
bridged the generation gap, he demolished it." (Laughter.)
The vocal style and interpretive skill of Tony Bennett are
without equal. And no other singer is held in higher regard
by his fellow entertainers. B.B. King once said, "To
be near him is a highlight of my life. I've met two Presidents
in office, I've met the Pope, Pavarotti -- and Tony Bennett."
(Laughter.) Frank Sinatra declared that Tony Bennett was
the best singer in his lifetime.
His vocal talent and love for music came
from his dad, John Benedetto, who passed away when Tony
was 10 years old. In his memoir Tony writes that John was
a "very poetic man, full of love and warmth, who sang
with a gentle, sensitive voice I can still hear." Tony's
mom, Anna, undoubtedly saw those same qualities in her son.
He called her, "my one guiding star." And in a
long life, Anna watched her boy rise to the top and remain
Tony Bennett is also a very talented painter,
whose work is widely exhibited and admired. He's a deeply
committed humanitarian. He's a man of character who served
in the U.S. Army in World War II, and he marched for civil
rights with Martin Luther King, Jr.
Of his career, Tony Bennett has said, "The
audience has been beautiful to me." And the sentiment
is entirely mutual. Everybody likes the man. He's been aptly
described as "the kind of celebrity who cabdrivers
call by his first name." We're joyful that he remains
a friendly presence in American life, an entertainer still
at the top of his game, and a voice we love to hear. Tonight
our nation honors Mr. Tony Bennett. (Applause.)
Each of these honorees has enriched our
culture and reflected credit on our great country. It's
a true pleasure to be in their company, and to let them
know just how much they mean to the people of the United
States. Congratulations. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
END 5:32 P.M. EST