January 2, 1988

Thank you very much. I just, in the last few minutes, have made a decision to tell you a little incident in the world of the theater and entertainment. I have told it on a couple of occasions, but I don't know that anything could be more appropriate for that story than this occasion and this beautiful place.

It was some years ago, and someone in the entertainment world had violated the social codes to such an extent that there was quite a hue and cry about it. But it spread to where it was being leveled against all the people in the world of entertainment, and they charged show people with being childish in their thinking, childish in their attitudes -- complete children in their ways.

And it remained for a columnist named Irvin S. Cobb to respond. And Irvin said: ``If this be true, and if it also be true that when the curtain goes up on eternity all men must approach the gates bearing in their arms that which they have given in life, the people of show business will march in the procession carrying in their arms the pure pearl of tears, the gold of laughter, and the diamonds of stardust they spread upon what might otherwise would have been a rather dreary world. And when at last they reach the final stage door, the keeper will say, `Open. Let my children in.'''

Tonight marks the inauguration of a bright new home for the preservation and development of culture in America, a special place to house the lively arts. It also marks the inauguration of an award presented by the American people to honor a lifetime of service and achievement. It's appropriate that the first award should go to a gentleman who has practiced the liveliest of arts -- comedy -- for over six happy decades. Bob Hope has given generously of his valuable time and voluble talent in support of worthy causes, perhaps more than any human being alive today.

Part of the responsibility of my current job is being Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces. As such, I have a special place in my heart, as do all Americans, for all that Bob Hope has done to entertain our servicemen and women overseas, especially in times of conflict and crisis. Bob recently returned from the Persian Gulf, where he let some of our finest young people know how much we love them and how proud we are of the job they are doing. So, you see, this award is not only in recognition of accomplishments past but is also an incentive to future generations to be inspired to carry on the tradition established by Bob Hope.

America has always been a land of optimism and opportunity -- a grand combination that has seen us through trying times. Bob Hope has chronicled those times on radio and television and in motion pictures and, through his perceptions and sense of humor, has given us the most precious gift of all: the gift of laughter.

It is my pleasure now to present this award to the man whose name is a description of his life, and where there is life, there is Hope.

Note: The President spoke at 8:50 p.m. in the McCallum Theatre for the Performing Arts at the center. Following his remarks, he presented Bob Hope with the first America's Hope Award.