William Jefferson Clinton

Lifetime Achievement Award
2001

Not until President William Jefferson Clinton Took office in 1993 had a chief executive played the saxophone at his own inaugural ball. But music's been a major part of President Clinton's life from the time he was a young boy, and since then he's been personally committed to creating a prominent place for arts and culture in the lives of individuals, communities and the country as a whole.

President Clinton began public life in 1976, when he was elected Attorney General of his home state of Arkansas. Two years later, at age 32, he became the state's governor, one of the youngest in our national history. In the fall of 1991, he announced his candidacy for Presidency of the United States, and was sworn into office in 1993. Since that time, President Clinton has supported thousands of programs that celebrate the diversity of our nation's culture and the creativity of our artists.

"The arts challenge our imaginations, nourish our spirits, and help to sustain our democracy," the President says, and together with his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton has been a leading advocate for public arts support and arts education for all children. Just this past year, with the President's urging and unflagging dedication, the National Endowment for the Arts received its first budget increase since 1992, creating more opportunities to connect communities with the vitality and creativity of America's living heritage. This was the culmination of a decade-long fight in which the President led the charge to protect our nation's continuing investment in arts and culture, despite efforts by Congressional opponents to eliminate our federal cultural agencies altogether. In 1997 alone, during the most severe Congressional threats of the NEA's elimination, the President issued no fewer than five Statements of Administrative Policy promising to veto the entire Interior Appropriations bill if it did not contain funding for the arts.

Over the past eight years, President Clinton has elevated the importance of arts and arts education in the nation, as evidenced in his Administration's legislative initiatives and budgets as well as policies to identify a role for the arts in many of our nation's federal agencies from the Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development to the Departments of Justice and Labor. Upon taking office, President Clinton quickly revitalized the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, appointing the First Lady Honorary Chair and former Indiana Congressman John Brademas Chairman.

One of President Clinton's most significant cultural initiatives during his tenure has been to create the White House Millennium Council in 1997, in which Mrs. Clinton took a highly active leadership role in bringing national attention and much needed preservation funds to our nation's rich cultural heritage. With the motto "Honor the Past and Imagine the Future," to guide the Administration's initiatives, President and Mrs. Clinton kicked off several programs including Millennium Evenings, Save America's Treasures, Millennium Communities, Millennium Trails and the Mars Millennium Project.