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Balanchine & The Presidential Medal of Freedom

On this day in 1983, Balanchine was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. These are photos of Suzanne accepting the award on his behalf, as MR. B was in the hospital at the time, just months before passing. What follows are excerpts of President Reagan's speech:

"This medal is given to those who have risen to pinnacles of achievement in their fields. It's a recognition of their accomplishments, hard work, and dedication for America and for humanity. The recipients of this award have touched all our lives with their contributions, strengthening the fabric of our society and improving the quality of our life.

"The men and women that we honor today come from across our land -- some, children of immigrants; some, immigrants themselves; many from humble beginnings. But they all share a quality that Carl Sandburg once summed up so well when he wrote, 'Man is born with rainbows in his heart.'

"Accepting the medal for Mr. Balanchine is Suzanne Farrell, principal dancer of the New York City Ballet and his student.

"The genius of George Balanchine has enriched the lives of all Americans who love the dance. Since he arrived in America as a young man in 1933, he has entertained and inspired millions with his stage and film choreography. Major among his greatest contributions as a ballet master are the founding of the first American classical ballet company, the great New York City Ballet, and the School of American Ballet. Throughout his career Mr. Balanchine has entertained, captivated and amazed our diverse population, lifting our spirits and broadening our horizons through his talent and art."

Photos by Kightlinger, 1983. Accessed from the Reagan Presidential Library


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