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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal Award


The President. Now, officially, welcome to the White House. I'm delighted to see Bill Reilly here, our head of the environment; John Frohnmayer, the arts; and so many others. I might single out Rex Scouten, the curator of the White House, sitting behind you. Some know him, but Barbara and I have great respect for him.

As early as 1909, the Presidents, including Taft, Harding, and Franklin Roosevelt, have presented the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects to the best of the world's architects; and I am honored and very pleased to continue this tradition.

Architecture holds up a mirror to the soul of any nation; and American architecture, with its rich variety of styles and regional differences, is as diverse and as dynamic as the American people themselves. We recognize that the quality of our lives is shaped by the quality of the environment we create. We understand that the spirit of our country can be seen in our architecture. From the majestic monuments of this, our capital city, to the gentlest main street in smalltown America, our buildings speak to us of who we are, where we have been, and where we're going.

In the spirit of celebrating the best of our nation's architecture, we are here to honor a very special architect, Fay Jones, who has dedicated his life to shaping the American landscape, to making our country a better place to live through the power of the creative mind.

Through humble materials and simple forms, Mr. Jones has created architecture of great power and space. His reverence for the land and his respect for the inner needs of the people who visit or dwell in his buildings give his architecture rare beauty and dignity. In the Nation's heartland, in places like Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Picayune, Mississippi, he has built masterworks of design that touch the heart as well as the mind. Grounded firmly in his Ozark roots, Fay Jones has created a truly American architecture that is respected the world over.

I would also like to recognize the other distinguished architects here with us today who are past recipients of the Gold Medal Award: Mr. I.M. Pei, Pietro Belluschi, Arthur Erickson, Joseph Esherick.

I am very pleased now to present the Gold Medal to Fay Jones. Mrs. Jones, would you please join me for the presentation. Do I do the honors here?

Mr. Damianos. Yes, indeed.

The President. All right, sir. I don't want to mess anything up, but here we go. Congratulations, sir.

Mr. Jones. Thank you, Mr. President. To be so honored by one's peers and to have this medal presented by you is really the honor of a lifetime. And I'm sure that architects everywhere are pleased that you have now reestablished a tradition, after over 50 years, of having this medal presented at the White House by the President. And certainly we applaud your recognition of the very important and vital role that architects must play in improving our living environment, an environment that should be more supportive and more healthful and more beautiful.

This medal, of course, I know signifies and represents a great deal; and I know I shall spend the rest of my life trying to live up to the challenges that go with something like this. [Laughter] So, to all who've had a part in my selection for this signal honor, for this medal and what it represents, my sincerest thanks and my deepest, deepest appreciation. Thank you very much.

Mr. Damianos. Mr. President, if I could steal a few minutes. Mr. President, I'd like to thank you on behalf of the American Institute of Architects because this is a very special occasion. I'm not going to steal anybody's thunder; I think all the good words have been said. However, you may know already that Teddy Roosevelt helped us establish this medal some years ago. Now, he wasn't able to award it, but I'm sure he'd be delighted that we're able to do it again. And it does represent the highest form of excellence that we have. We are trying to reach the public more than we ever have before, and you're certainly giving us that opportunity. And we thank you very, very much.

The President. Well, it's a pleasure. For those of you who may be here for the first time, this is the Nobel Prize won by Teddy Roosevelt, and this is the Roosevelt Room. And if you didn't know it, you could guess from looking at the pictures. [Laughter]

Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:12 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to William K. Reilly, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; John E. Frohnmayer, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts; and Sylvester Damianos, president of the American Institute of Architects.

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