National Humanities Medal

The Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art was one of ten recipients of the National Humanities Medal this year, an honor that was presented by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush yesterday at a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House.

From left to right: Robert M. Edsel, James Reeds, President George W. Bush, Seymour Pomrenze, Harry Ettlinger, and Horace Apgar

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 16, 2007)

Robert Edsel, author of Rescuing da Vinci and President of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art stated, “This is an extraordinary honor for the Monuments Men Foundation. It underscores the importance of our work to recognize the contribution and preserve the legacy of these remarkable men and women who saved so much of our cultural heritage during World War II.” Mr. Edsel accepted the medal on behalf of the foundation and was accompanied by four of the twelve living “Monuments Men.”

The Monuments Men Foundation was created to raise public awareness of the 345 or so men and women from thirteen nations, many of whom were museum directors, curators, and educators, who protected monuments and other cultural treasures from the destruction of World War II. By 1945, these heroes of civilization tracked, located and later returned more than 5 million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. The foundation intends for their rich legacy to serve as a beacon for the preservation of such treasures in future armed conflict and to finish the task of locating and returning some of the hundreds of thousands of stolen and missing works of art and documents to the victims of the greatest theft in history.

The National Humanities Medal is the highest honor given for excellence in the Humanities field. Inaugurated in 1997, the award honors individuals and groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities. Medal recipients do not compete for this award but are specially selected by the President for their life-long achievements in their diverse areas of expertise. Last year’s foundation recipient was The Hoover Institution.

“The winners of the humanities have also made great and lasting contributions to our society. These men and women have shaped our understanding of the past, chronicled stories of tyranny overcome by liberty, and helped preserve our cultural treasures for future generations”

President Bush stated during his introduction of the recipients at yesterday’s ceremony.

The Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art is joined by the following 2007 National Humanities Award recipients:

  • Dr. Stephen H. Balch, scholar, Princeton, N.J.
  • Russell Freedman, author, New York, N.Y.
  • Victor Davis Hanson, military historian and author, Fresno, C.A.
  • Roger Hertog, philanthropist, New York, N.Y.
  • Cynthia Ozick, author, New Rochelle, N.Y.
  • Richard Pipes, author and historian, Cambridge, M.A.
  • Pauline L. Schultz, curator and author, Hixson, T.N.
  • Henry Leonard Snyder, scholar, Kensington, C.A.
  • Ruth R. Wisse, scholar, Cambridge, M.A.

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush stand with the recipients of the 2007 National Humanities Medal Thursday, November 15, 2007, in the East Room of the White House. Photo by Chris Greenburg.

For more information about The Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, please visit www.monumentsmenfoundation.org. For further information, contact: Christy Fox, Phone: 646-246-3743 Email: christyfox1@aol.com


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Transcript from Award Ceremony

East Room
Office of the Press Secretary
November 15, 2007
10:03 A.M.EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Good morning. Laura and I welcome you to the East Room for a joyous event — the presentation of two sets of important awards: the National Medals of the Arts and the National Humanities Medals. These medals recognize great contributions to art, music, theater, writing, history and general scholarship.

We congratulate the medalists. We welcome your families; we thank your loved ones for supporting you. And on behalf of a grateful nation, we honor your great talent and accomplishments.

Obviously, I’m pleased to be here with my wife. (Laughter.) I am proud to be here with Mrs. Lynne Cheney, as well. I thank the members of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives for joining us as we honor our fellow citizens. I’m so pleased to welcome Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts; and Dr. Bruce Cole, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities. Thank you all for coming and thank you for your leadership. I’m proud that a fellow Texan, Adair Margo, is the Chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, has joined us.

Our honorees represent the great strength and diversity of the American culture. The winners of the arts include a Native American poet, an orchestra conductor, a composer of choral music, a pioneer of electric musical instruments, and a man whose last name is synonymous with fine American craftsmanship. Our honorees have created some of the emblematic images of our time, supported museums and theaters, and helped nurture young talent.

The winners of the humanities have also made great and lasting contributions to our society. They include scholars and historians and a philanthropist. These men and women have shaped our understanding of the past, chronicled stories of tyranny overcome by liberty, and helped preserve our cultural treasures for future generations.

Your accomplishments remind us that freedom of thought and freedom of expression are two pillars of our democracy. These freedoms have helped our nation build some of the finest centers of learning in the world. They’ve helped inspire new movements in art and literature. And they’ve helped fill our libraries and museums and theaters with great works for all our citizens to enjoy.

America is committed to supporting the arts and humanities. For more than four decades, the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities has helped enrich our culture and deepened our appreciation for the ideals that bind us together as Americans. Some interesting programs that are run out of these important institutions, like “We the People” and “American Masterpieces,” that expose a new generation of Americans to American history and literature and art. And Laura and I strongly support these programs.

It is now my privilege to present the National Medals of Art [sic], and the National Humanities Medals. Once again, I congratulate our honorees, because in your work we see the creativity of the American spirit and the values that have made our nation great. And so now I ask the military aide to read the citations.

MILITARY AIDE: The National Medals of Arts Recipients:

Eric Kunzel. The 2006 National Medal of Arts to Eric Kunzel for his innovative achievements as a conductor. His remarkable “Pops” performances of classical and popular music have expanded the appeal of both and brought great music to millions. (Applause.)

Morten Lauridsen. The 2007 National Medal of Arts to Morten Lauridsen for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical power, beauty, and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide. (Applause.)

N. Scott Momaday. (Applause.) The 2007 National Medal of Arts to N. Scott Momaday for his writings and his work that celebrate and preserve Native American art and oral tradition. He has introduced millions worldwide to the essence of Native American culture. (Applause.)

Roy R. Neuberger. (Applause.) The 2007 National Medal of Arts to Roy R. Neuberger for his longstanding personal patronage of America’s young and emerging visual artists. His keen eye and generous support have enriched American art. (Applause.)

Craig Noel. (Applause.) The 2007 National Medal of Arts to Craig Noel for his decades of leadership as a pillar of the American theater. As a director of hundreds of plays and a mentor to generations of artists, his work has inspired audiences and theater producers across the nation. (Applause.)

Les Paul. (Applause.) The 2007 National Medal of Arts to Les Paul for his innovation as a musician, his pioneering designs of the electric guitar, and his groundbreaking recording techniques that have influenced the development of American jazz, blues, and pop music, and inspired generations of guitarists. (Applause.)

Henry Z. Steinway. (Applause.) The 2007 National Medal of Arts to Henry Z. Steinway for his devotion to preserving and promoting quality craftsmanship and performance, as an arts patron and advocate for music and music education; and for continuing the fine tradition of the Steinway piano as an international symbol of American ingenuity and cultural excellence. (Applause.)

George Tooker. (Applause.) The 2007 National Medal of Arts to George Tooker for his paintings that combine realism and symbolism, transforming scenes of American life into iconic images. His metaphysical works reveal man’s journey from despair to triumph. (Applause.)

Dr. Tim White and John Clayton. (Applause.) The 2007 National Medal of Arts to the University of Idaho Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival for preserving and promoting the uniquely American art of jazz, educating teachers and young musicians, and for continuing to explore diverse cultural connections forged by Lionel Hampton in the collaboration with the Nez Perce. (Applause.) Andrew Wyeth. (Applause.) The 2007 National Medal of Arts to Andrew Wyeth for a lifetime of paintings whose meticulous realism have captured the American consciousness, and whose austere vision has displayed the depth and dignity of American life. (Applause.)

The 2007 National Humanities Medal recipients:

Stephen H. Balch. (Applause.) The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Stephen H. Balch for his leadership and advocacy upholding the noblest traditions of higher education. His work on behalf of scholarship and a free society has made him a proponent of reform and a champion of excellence at our nation’s universities. (Applause.)

Russell Freedman. (Applause.) The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Russell Freedman for his recounting of the history of our nation’s struggle for liberty. With great insight and creativity, he has awakened young readers to our nation’s ongoing quest for justice for all. (Applause.)

Victor Davis Hanson. (Applause.) The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Victor Davis Hanson for his scholarship on civilizations past and present. He has cultivated the fields of history and brought forth an abundant harvest of wisdom for our times. (Applause.)

Roger Hertog. (Applause.) The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Roger Hertog for his enlightened philanthropy on behalf of humanities. His wisdom and generosity have rejuvenated the institutions that are the keepers of American memory. (Applause.)

Cynthia Ozick. (Applause.) The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Cynthia Ozick for her literary criticism, which has traced the shifting currents of American arts and letters. In her criticism and essays she has been a lifelong advocate and practitioner of moral clarity and literary excellence. (Applause.)

Richard Pipes. (Applause.) The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Richard Pipes for his peerless scholarship on Russia and Eastern Europe and for his dedication to the cause of freedom. He has shaped and sharpened our understanding of the contest between liberty and tyranny. (Applause.)

Pauline L. Schultz. (Applause.) The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Pauline L. Schultz for her stewardship of a precious trove of local historical knowledge. She has been a collector and curator of facts and artifacts that capture a century of human experience on Wyoming’s high plains. (Applause.)

Henry Leonard Snyder. (Applause.) The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Henry Leonard Snyder for his visionary leadership in bridging the worlds of scholarship and technology. His direction of massive projects in the digital humanities has opened new frontiers in cataloguing and preserving ideas and documents for future generations. (Applause.)

Ruth R. Wisse. (Applause.) The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Ruth R. Wisse for her scholarship and teaching that have illuminated Jewish literary traditions. Her insightful writings have enriched our understanding of Yiddish literature and Jewish culture in the modern world. (Applause.)

Robert Edsel, Seymore Pomrenze, James Reeds, Harry Ettlinger, Horace Apgar, Jr. (Applause.) The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Monuments Men Foundation for the preservation of art, for sustained efforts to identify and recognize the contributions of the scholar-soldiers of the Second World War. We are forever indebted to the men and women who, in an era of total war, rescued and preserved a precious portion of the world’s heritage. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: My wife. (Laughter and applause.)

MRS. BUSH: Congratulations to each of the award winners today — the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Humanities Medal Award winners.

For more than two decades, the NEA and the NEH have recognized some of our country’s most influential artists, philanthropists, authors and scholars. We know our country’s arts are diverse when we can celebrate a theater director who specializes in England’s bard, and an institute dedicated to the uniquely American art of jazz.

Our culture is vibrant when we honor a custodian of history in rural Wyoming, and a founder of a start-up daily newspaper in the heart of New York. Through your efforts, you’re building on the artistic and cultural traditions that define us as a nation, and that bring us together — our people of so many backgrounds — by expressing our shared ideals.

Thank you for your dedication to your arts, to your field of study, and to our country. And thank you especially to Adair Margo, Bruce Cole, and Dana Gioia for your outstanding work at our federal cultural agencies.

Congratulations to each one of the honorees. Thank you to your family and friends who are with you today. And now may I invite you to celebrate with a reception in the Dining Room. (Applause.)

END 10:28 A.M. EST