I spent more time reading the newspaper this morning than I normally have time to do. By that I mean I actually read, not just skimmed, the numerous articles chronicling the violence in our society, domestically and internationally. A Saturday newspaper filled with stories of man’s inhumanity to man.
It was with this bitter aftertaste that I made my way to my computer to check today’s e-mails. A friend sent me the link to an important closed-circuit television address, probably long forgotten by most, by John F. Kennedy officially inaugurating and supporting a National Center for the Arts. It is a speech written with humor and knowledge and most importantly delivered with the conviction of a statesman about the importance of the arts in society. That was the kick-off of an important call to Congress and the Nation to start an organized national campaign to support and recognize the “…artist’s struggle to express beauty in form, and color, and sound, to the extent that they write about man’s struggle with nature, or society, or himself, to that extent they strike a chord in all humanity.” It is that chord that gently informs and instructs and by which the human race learns not to repeat the ills of past mistakes, and gives hope to a tired civilization.
Most of us know, either through personal memory or history, that President Kennedy’s dream for humanity took a sharp turn in the event of November 22, 1963. The National Center for the Arts has become his “living memorial” known now as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The interior lobby is pictured below. The Center is now the home to the National Symphony Orchestra, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet and many theatrical productions, and chamber and concert presentations.
One of the most unique expressions of gratitude to the artists that provoke us to a higher thought and teach us about the unity that binds us as a civilization rather than the differences that would try to divide us, is the two important awards that the Center bestows each year. The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was given to Billy Crystal in October this year and preserved through video taping. It has aired twice on PBS. The most prestigious award, The Kennedy Center Honors has been awarded to outstanding contributors in theater, dance, music and film since 1978. This year’s event, the largest fund raising event presented by the Kennedy Center, will be held December 2nd and will air on CBS on December 26 at 9:00 PM (EST). Let’s all of us honor the honorees by watching and sharing in their special night.