Public Papers

Remarks at a Reception for Participants in the Very Special Arts International Festival


Thank you, Jean, for that warm introduction; and Barbara and I are just delighted to be here. I'm only sorry that the six puppies are not here. [Laughter] We'd have had a heck of a good time with them. But, Jean, thank you for all you do -- you and everyone else involved in this Very Special Arts program.

Let me tell you how pleased that Barbara and I are to have front-row seats for a program like this. I'll tell you, I used to be a Kenny Rogers fan -- I've got to admit it -- and I still am. But I'm also a Phong Sak fan -- [laughter] -- Phong Sak Meunchanai, the son of Thailand -- what a magnificent performance! Maybe it's not such a long journey from the streets of Thailand, of Bangkok, to the South Lawn at the White House. It tells us all that there's no limit to how far we can go or what we can achieve. And here at the White House, we're very privileged -- every President is -- to have the great artists come to this magnificent home, the people's home. And it's a special treat for us to see, Jean, so many talented young people, from across the country and around the world, bring your art, your special abilities, here to Washington. And I only wish that every performer here -- and I know there's a lot -- could have performed right here on this stage.

You're all well on your way to the kind of life that I want to see for every American: a life of independence and opportunity and productive involvement in our mainstream. And that means a commitment on society's part to end discrimination, to increase access and opportunity in our schools, on the job, and in every aspect of our society. You guys don't let any disabilities stand in your way, and so it's up to us to make sure that discrimination doesn't stop you. And Federal law must protect individuals with disabilities, and I'm going to do my level best to see that it does.

I want to share, in conclusion, just one little story told to me by Jean Kennedy Smith about a blind young man, a sculptor. Jean met him in Ireland several years ago, and she watched as this sightless boy sculpted a face from clay, a marvel of detail, masterful expression. And what Jean said made an impression on me: ``Art gave that boy the power to see for the rest of us.'' And that's true -- all art is a vision that comes from within; and each of you has a very special talent to make us see what you see, feel what you feel, hear what you have to say.

And so, share your gift, and it will grow. And you've made this a very, very special afternoon at the White House. Thank you, and God bless each and every one of you. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:43 p.m. on the South Portico at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Jean Kennedy Smith, founder of the Very Special Arts Foundation, and Phong Sak Meunchanai, a participant in the Festival who sang prior to the President's remarks.