THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release November 28, 2000
REMARKS BY MRS. CLINTON
AT "AN INVITATION TO THE WHITE HOUSE"
BOOK PARTY RECEPTION
The East Room
6:15 P.M. EST
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you so very much, Carl. And since we are
talking about and celebrating books, certainly Carl's books make the White
House and the people who have lived here come alive. And his recent book
about First Families tells stories that I'd never heard before that he
documents about the events and activities of the Presidents and their
families over the last 200 years. And so I thank him for his love of this
house, and his understanding that it was families who lived here -- not
just Presidents, but the people who were around the President, and not just
immediate families, but often extended families who were really part of
making the history come alive.
I want to thank J. Carter Brown for his friendship and support
and his great advice over the last eight years, as we have taken on new
challenges, broken some new ground together. And he has been, as he always
is, an exemplary leader when it comes to the arts and culture of America.
And his love of this house now over the decades is really unparalleled
because he has been a part of all of the major work that has been done
since the Kennedy administration.
I also want to thank the President and our daughter, Chelsea, for
making this house a home. And certainly without the President -- I can
speak for myself -- (laughter) -- none of us would be here. (Laughter.)
And so for not only his leadership in the last eight years, but for his
constant joy and excitement about this house and his history, I am very
grateful, because he makes it come alive every day.
And to our daughter, I thank her for so many things, but
certainly for making this house a home in every sense of the word.
This is going to be a lot of thank-yous because this book
represents an extraordinary combined effort by so many people, many of whom
are here with us today. I thought about producing this book a couple of
years ago, because, for me, there were so many untold stories. Every time
I walked the halls I thought of the history that had happened in the past.
But I also was so conscious of the history that was being made, and the
care and the love and the attention to detail that was paid to the house
and all of the activities that occurred here.
And when I began thinking about how to share that, we have done
our best to open the house to people from all walks of life, from all over
our country and the world -- not only the more than 1.5 million visitors
who come through here every year, to the only home of a head of state
anywhere in the world that is open to that kind of visiting by tourists and
curious passers-by alike, but also to what happens inside the walls of this
house -- what we've tried to do to hold conferences and convenings and
meetings, get-togethers of people who were joined by a common desire to
make life better for foster children, or for the victims of disease or war,
who saw an opportunity to cross the lines that divide us as a nation and
find common ground.
And I also wanted to share a little bit of what it's like to live
here as a family -- the informal moments, the parties that we've held, the
4th of July picnics on the roof, and the surprise birthday parties for the
President in the back of the house that are trumpeted by the Chief of Staff
and the Deputy riding horses in, to the amusement of the rest of us.
In many ways, this house has always represented the best of
America, and has always symbolized America's democracy, as it was so well
named "the people's house." But I think in today's world, it's especially
important for us to recognize that we have come of age as a nation in this
last century. And so we wanted to represent to the entire world the best
of American cuisine and arts and culture and entertainment. So we have,
Bill and I, attempted to do just that.
I know I will leave some people off, and I apologize ahead of
time, but there are people I'm just compelled to thank publicly for their
contributions, starting with Carter and Carl, who wrote the preface and the
introduction. But let me also thank everyone from Simon & Schuster,
including our hardworking editor, Sydny Minor; Carolyn Reidy, who is the
President of the Simon & Schuster trade division; the publisher, David
Rosenthal; and the CEO who is with us, Jack Romanos. I have enjoyed
working with them, and I thank them for their commitment to this project.
I also want to thank those outside the White House who lent a
hand with the research and the text, including Cheryl Mercer and Christine
Hagstrom, Carol Beach and Maggie Williams.
Now, within the house there is a division of labor which is
necessary because there is always so much to do. As Carter said, imagine
your home if 1.5 million people walked through it every year. The wear and
tear on the house, the need to organize the morning tours, and then quickly
turn the East Room back into a showcase for a Conference on Culture and
Diplomacy, such as happened here, or a last-minute press conference to
announce some international development. No house of any kind, and
especially a house with 132 rooms, could run without the dedicated
leadership of a staff that is without parallel anywhere in the world.
I want to thank Gary Walters, who is the Chief Usher. I want to
thank our chefs, Walter Scheib and Roland Mesnier, whose delicious recipes
are in this book. We've talked a lot about how the book makes you sense
what it's like to live at home with history, but there's also recipes that
you can use. (Laughter.) Because they represent bringing the best of
American cuisine, and certainly making it impossible for -- at least I
should speak for myself -- for those of us who enjoy that cuisine to stay
in exactly the kind of shape one would want to be. (Laughter.) But I have
enjoyed every mouthful and every calorie of the experience.
We know also that the house has been lovingly cared for by the
curators, one of the real innovations that Mrs. Kennedy brought, which was
to have a professional curatorial staff. And I just have to thank and
single out Betty Monkman, who is our Chief Curator, whose beautiful book
goes into detail about the extraordinary furnishings and furniture of the
house has made it just a joy to be here; and her staff, which is so
talented and hard-working.
One of the pleasures of living in the White House is being
surrounded by beautiful flowers all the time. And some of the arrangements
are featured in this book, particularly the ones that I struggled over with
our Chief Florist, Nancy Clarke, and her fabulous staff, to make decisions
about centerpieces for state dinners.
I want to thank also the field generals who really put this
together, and I have been blessed by having two of the best organized, most
delightful, hardest working people you'll ever meet in your life, to serve
as the Social Secretary of the White House -- starting with Ann Stock, who
has been my friend and has done the most extraordinary job for me during
the first term; and followed by Capricia Marshall who has carried on with
that tradition; as well as the deputies, Sharon Kennedy, Kim Widdess and
their predecessors who turn on a dime, and know exactly what has to be done
to make something work.
The First Lady's staff, affectionately known as Hillary Land in
this White House -- (laughter) -- has been unbelievable. I am taking far
too much of the spotlight because it is these people who have made it
possible for us to do the policy and the work of the renovations, and
travel around talking about the important issues that really matter here
and around the world. My two Chiefs of Staff, Maggie Williams and Melanne
Verveer, have been better than the best. No one could have balanced more
balls, done more things, and carried it off with more grace. And I'm so
grateful to them.
And I particularly want to mention in regard to this book,
Shirley Sagawa, who really shepherded the project, my Deputy Chief of
Staff, who made this happen with persistent grace. And Mary Ellen McGuire,
her assistant, who has been absolutely indispensable. I want to thank
Laura Schiller, who was a fabulous wordsmith and helped immensely with the
text; Ellen Lovell, who is my right hand when it comes to historic
preservation and cultural activities; and Matthew Nelson, who lent his
talents, as well.
Now, we could not have done this without the extraordinary work
of the White House photographers who capture every moment, past or present.
And when I say every moment, I mean every moment. No matter how bad a hair
day, or how little sleep has occurred. (Laughter.) It may not always be
good for the ego, but it is great for history that these records are kept.
I want to thank all of our previous White House photographers, and I want
to thank our present crew, headed up so ably by Sharon Farmer, including
Ralph Alswang and William Vasta and David Scull and Barbara Kinney, who did
some wonderful work that's included in this book.
But I also want to thank the people who run the photo labs and
organize the photographers. Organizing even one photographer is a very
hard job. (Laughter.) These are independent, artistic-minded people.
(Laughter.) And you want them to take a picture of you standing with the
head of state -- they see a shaft of sunlight across the chandelier, that's
what they want to record. So it's a constant negotiation. And the people
who have organized and run that have really been doing yeomen's and
yeowomen's work, and I want to thank Marilyn Jacanin and Janet Phillips and
the staff in the photo lab, who literally helped us go through thousands of
pictures for this book.
Now, we also include work from other talented photographers,
including Robert Clark, Romulo Yanes, Todd Eberle, whom I want to thank for
chronicling all the rooms of the White House, which will go into the
Clinton Library and will be a wonderful record for what the house looked
like when we were here; Diana Walker, and Alison O'Brien.
I want to thank the food stylists. I never knew how difficult it
was to photograph a plate of food. It is not moving, it is not talking --
(laughter.) It is very hard to photograph. And Marianne Sauvion and Grady
Best have made these recipes come alive and look as good as they taste.
I particularly want to thank the Committee for the Preservation
of the White House who have worked, as Carter said, tirelessly to make the
decisions. And believe me, it took many, many hours of discussion to
figure out how to do the rug, to accurately reflect the time and the period
and the colors. And that is true many times over in all of the rooms. And
I particularly want to thank Kaki Hockersmith who had gone to great efforts
to work on the public and private rooms, and has done just a fabulous job.
And, of course, I want to thank particularly the American people,
who gave the President the privilege of serving, and the rest of us came
along for the experience. And what an extraordinary time it's been. It
has been not only unique, which it is in every time with every presidency,
but it has been an opportunity to really share our lives and all the ups
and the downs and the ins and the outs with the American people. And every
day has been a blessing, because we have felt that we were really
privileged to be here.
And as Bill said, I don't think that any of us have ever walked
into this house without that sense of awe overcoming us. And if you ask
why I would write this book, I suppose the answer is that that sense of awe
is something I want to share. Because, for me, the history that has been
written here that has really changed the course of America and the world
for the better is something that I want everyone in our country to
You know, not everybody even with a 1.5 million visitors a year
will be able to come to the White House. But I hope that either through
purchasing this book or going to the library, people will have a chance to
see what we see and which I hope will never be taken for granted. Even
after living here for eight years, I can still remember my first glimpse of
the White House as a young girl, visiting Washington with my family. And
we didn't go on the tour; we stood outside and peered through the gates, as
I often see people from my windows doing. And I think back to what it felt
like when I was 10 years old, peering through those gates, thinking about
the people who lived there and what had happened in the years before I was
Now, some of the rooms that you've seen on this tour have, of
course, changed over time. As Carter said, it used to be the custom that
exiting Presidents and First Families would take parts of the White House
with them, or auction them off, so there wasn't any sense of continuity, as
there is today. But it's equally true that tastes have changed. When we
redid the State Dining Room, there were, I have to say, some purists among
us -- not me, but others -- who said that we should go back to the original
Teddy Roosevelt renovation.
So I called Betty Monkman and I asked for the pictures. And I'm
getting older and I don't see as well as I used to, so I was peering at
these pictures and so I put on my reading glasses. And I think I said to
Betty or whoever was standing near, are these heads on the wall?
(Laughter.) We called for enlargements, and there surrounding the diners
in the State Dining Room were the head of a moose and the head of an elk
and head of nine other big game -- (laughter) -- that President Roosevelt
had bagged and wanted to share with his guests. (Laughter.)
And we had a couple of very vigorous discussions in the Committee
for the Preservation of the White House because there were those who
thought we should call the Smithsonian and call Teddy Roosevelt's Library
and ask for the return of the heads. (Laughter.)
But there's a certain -- I haven't done it often, but there's a
certain privilege of position that goes with being First Lady. (Laughter.)
There are -- not that you would notice -- there are some down sides in
being First Lady -- (laughter) -- but every once in a while you can say,
I'm sorry, no heads on the wall. (Laughter.) And people will say, well,
we really don't want to upset her, we won't bring back the heads.
Now, the Blue Room used to be red, and the Red Room was once
yellow. But the colors that you see now are pretty much the colors that
have stayed the course over the last more than a hundred years. But it's
not so much the color of the room, or really even what's on the walls as
the ideals and values that are passed on and live within the White House.
We know that this house is a symbol of our democracy. It's a
living museum for the best in American art. It's a place for entertaining
in the best traditions of American cuisine and culture. It's a house of
ideas that generate all kinds of energy that we then take out into the
larger world and try to put to work for the betterment of the people and
our country. And every First Family has tried to honor the traditions of
this house. And we certainly have done that as well.
I hope that this book in some small way conveys that. And I hope
it also shows how important it is to recognize the people who keep it going
behind the scenes. All of the staff, the more than 90 people who love this
house as though it were their own; who come to work every day prepared to
serve the President and the country, and who take such pride in that
service. And that's why throughout this book, you'll see faces that are
not in the headlines, there will never be a book or movie, perhaps, about
them. But they are the ones who really keep the White House looking the
way it looks and running as it does.
I've donated the proceeds from this book to the White House
Historical Association, which does an excellent job in conveying to the
public information about the house and educating people. I know that Bob
Breedan couldn't be here today, but Neil Hortsman is, and I want to thank
them for the work they've done, and most recently, the extraordinary
symposia and celebration that we held in this room, where we had four
former Presidents all speaking, their spouses, and Lady Bird Johnson. And
it was a particularly poignant moment to demonstrate the continuity of the
American presidency, the resilience and strength of our institutions. And
it was something that I think meant a great deal to Americans. And I thank
the Historical Association for doing that.
I hope that this book will also inspire young people to learn
more about our history, and they will also learn by looking at Betty
Monkman's wonderful new book; also David Finn's beautiful pictures of the
White House Sculpture Garden, which he developed and worked on, along with
Phillippa Polskin and Shannon Crownover. And they produced a pamphlet that
really illustrates the work that we've tried to do on the arts.
Each of you will be receiving a copy of the book, along with a
copy of that pamphlet. And the Save America's Treasures Project that was
previously mentioned, as well, which was done with the National Trust for
Historic Preservation and the National Geographic, brings to life 50 of the
nation's great landmarks, buildings and artifacts. This one gets a book of
its own, but each of those deserves the attention that is paid to it.
Now, as Bill and I prepare to leave this house, we're obviously
overcome by quite a bit of retrospection and memory and nostalgia. I think
neither of us wants to sleep for the next weeks because we don't want to
miss a moment. And we keep seeing things that we've seen a million times
in different ways.
At the end of the book, I wrote about the children's garden,
which is at the end of the South Lawn over by the tennis court, and the
small pond which is there. It's surrounded by little handprints made by
the grandchildren of First Families who have lived at this house. Now,
every First Family has left their handprints on this house in some way or
another. That's what I have tried to convey in this book -- the
contributions and the ongoing commitment and love that this house inspires.
But I could spend many lifetimes and never fully recapture or,
indeed, repay the honor and privilege it has been for my family to spend
the last eight years here, at home with history, in the people's house. So
I thank all of you for coming. I look forward to greeting you after the
program. I hope you'll stay and talk and eat and walk around and look at
everything you can see here on the State Floor.
The chefs have prepared some of the recipes from the book, and I
guarantee you they taste as good as they look. So, with that, let me not
only thank you, but in some small measure, express our gratitude for the
privilege that this book represents, and for the extraordinary strength
that this house represents whenever its picture is shown anywhere, anytime
in the world, as to what truly democracy means, here in this venerable
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 6:40 P.M. EST