Music and the American Presidency: A Virtual Fireside Chat with U.S. Presidents

JIMMY CARTER: …I was able to see the impact of Bob Dylan‘s attitudes on young people. I was both gratified by and involved emotionally in those changes of attitudes.(1)

GERALD FORD: Artur Rubinstein has given something more than the joy of music-he has given the joy of life itself… His country, the United States of America, is proud to proclaim him as a giant among artists and men.(2)

HARRY S TRUMAN: Josef Lhévinne is my favorite-the greatest pianist since Liszt.(3)

JIMMY CARTER: …I’ve also been close to the country-music folks in Georgia as well as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The first large contribution I got-$1000-was from Robert Shaw, the music director of the orchestra.(4)

RONALD REAGAN: While country and western music isn’t classical, it is classically American.(5)

GEORGE BUSH: Mickey Gilley was good.(6)



(1) From Robert Scheer‘s Interview with Jimmy Carter published in Playboy Magazine, November 1976. Reprinted in Conversations with Carter, edited by Don Richardson (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publications, 1998), p. 49.

(2) From Gerald R. Ford’s “Remarks upon Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Artur Rubinstein,” April 1, 1976 collected in the Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1979), 1: 881-82; reprinted in Music at the White House: A History of the American Spirit by Elise K. Kirk (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986), p.334.

(3) From a quote by Harry S Truman which appeared in Leviero’s March 19, 1950 column in The New York Times; reprinted in Music at the White House: A History of the American Spirit by Elise K. Kirk (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986), p. 257.

(4) From Robert Scheer‘s interview with Jimmy Carter published in Playboy Magazine, November 1976. Reprinted in Conversations with Carter, edited by Don Richardson (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publications, 1998), p. 50.

(5) From remarks by Ronald Reagan at the Final Program of the Young Artists in Performance at the White House” Series in Santa Ynez, California, March 7, 1982; archived on the Official Web site of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

(6) From an October 12, 1987 entry in George Bush’s diary titled “The Big Day”; reprinted in All The Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings (New York: Scribner’s, 1999)