Fine Art is Good Business, Good Citizenship
July 1, 2010
Remarks by Ralph W. Shrader, Booz Allen Hamilton Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, at the opening of “Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Last Friday, in a photograph on the front page of the Washington Post, six soldiers were running to a helicopter carrying a wounded comrade. It was a riveting image of courage and the price of freedom.
I had just been reading Virginia Mecklenburg’s stunning catalog for this exhibition, and was struck by the endurance of war and peace, love and fear. Compelling images -- whether from a digital camera in 2010 or brushstrokes in 1943 – show us that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are dearly earned.
Norman Rockwell had a unique gift and with it he rallied and united our nation. His themes of citizenship, honor, and friendship align with Booz Allen’s mission and values, and drew us to be part of this great exhibition of his work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
I firmly believe that fine art is good business and good citizenship. Norman Rockwell understood this perhaps more than anyone. And, for a time, his work was under-appreciated -- because his art was his business, because the adjective “commercial” was applied as a prefix to his paintings and illustrations.
There’s no question that this exhibition -- hung in the nation’s capital, in America’s museum, featuring the great collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg -- raises Norman Rockwell’s work to its rightful place as fine art.
Fine art is good business. Whether our business is a large company or small beauty shop, whether we make movies, teach children, or play sports, Norman Rockwell paid tribute to each of us – to our honorable work, our good sportsmanship, and sense of fun.
Fine Art is good citizenship. Whether we’re an elected official, a civil servant, or loyal citizen, Rockwell celebrated our dedication, responsibility, and national pride.
When I was a young boy growing up in Miami, Florida, my grandfather would frequently take me out to the local minor league baseball games. He always wore a baseball cap, so I did, too. But, when the game began, he took off his cap, stood tall, and covered his heart when the national anthem was played -- – and taught me to do the same.
Standing proud, standing free. Norman Rockwell captured it for all of us in “Freedom of Speech.” I love all of the paintings and illustrations in this exhibition and the stories behind them. But, none more than “Freedom of Speech.” The Wall Street Journal called it a Masterpiece. Business and Art – together.
Thank you, Wayne, Betsy, and Virginia. The dedication and partnership of the museum’s staff has been exceptional. And, thank you, George and Steven – for your vision and generosity in bringing Norman Rockwell here to Washington, and to a new generation.