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Reagan Salutes Kennedy Center Honorees

December 5, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President-elect George Bush paid a tribute to his ″trusted friend″ President Reagan in a surprise appearance Sunday night at a salute to this year’s winners of the Kennedy Center honors.

Joining a parade of stars ranging from Helen Hayes to Kathleen Turner on the stage of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the finale of the annual gala, Bush looked up toward the presidential box and spoke a few lines from ″Auld Lang Syne.″

The lines were:

″So here’s a hand, my trusted friend;

″Give me a hand of thine;

″We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

″For Auld Lang Syne.″

Bush then joined those on stage and in the audience in singing the traditional song of memories.

From the box, Reagan called back that it was better than winning an Academy Award, an honor he never received or was nominated for during his Hollywood career.

Earlier, at a black-tie reception at the White House, Reagan told the five Kennedy Center honorees that it was ″a night for all Americans to celebrate the glory that you have given us.″

″Your contribution to our national culture has been more precious than the most precious of rubies,″ the president said.

Those honored join 52 others who have received similar recognition since the awards were instituted in 1978.

This year’s honorees were:

- Alvin Ailey, founder of the predominantly black Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which will open its 30th anniversary season at the New York City Center on Wednesday. At 57, Ailey is one of the youngest persons ever to receive the honor. Beverly Sills was 56 when honored in 1985 and Leontyne Price 53 in 1980. Reagan said Ailey had ″brought a new vocabulary to American dance.″

- Comedian George Burns, who starred with his wife, Gracie Allen, in the Burns and Allen comedy show on radio and television from 1932 to 1958. In more recent years, Burns made a comeback in movies, including an Academy Award- winning performance in ″The Sunshine Boys.″ At 92, Burns is one of the oldest persons to receive the honor. Director George Abbott was honored at 95 in 1982 and actress Lynn Fontanne at 93 in 1980. Burns entered the East Room assisted by White House aides at each arm. The 77-year-old president joked that Burns is ″the only man in America older than I am.″

- Actress Myrna Loy, 83, best known for 14 films she made in 13 years with the late William Powell, including the ″Thin Man″ detective series. Ms. Loy also has been active in liberal Democratic politics. In her autobiography, she said of Reagan as president, ″Ronald Reagan has lived up to my expectations, which were not very great.″ Ms. Loy walked to the podium with the aid of a cane. Speaking of Ms. Loy’s many roles, the president, a former film actor himself, said, ″She made it all seem easy, which I don’t need to tell all of you is the hardest thing of all.″

- Alexander Schneider, 80, the Russian-born violinist who moved to the United States in 1938 as a member of the Budapest Quartet and later founded the Albeneri Trio and the Schneider Quartet. Schneider has been a champion of contemporary music. Reagan saluted him for his work in teaching other musicians in addition to his own performing.

- Roger L. Stevens, 78, chairman of the board of trustees of the Kennedy Center from 1961 to 1988, arts assistant to President Johnson from 1964 to 1968, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1965 to 1969 and a theatrical producer who brought works by such writers as Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter and T.S. Eliot to the stage in London and New York. Reagan said Stevens ″brought hundreds of plays to the boards, from popular musical comedies to difficult modern works.″

The Kennedy Center Honors Gala is a fund-raising benefit to support special projects of the center, including performing arts education and public service programs.

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