Choir “Introduced” President George W. Bush in 2002
The Tabernacle Choir has sung its signature anthem, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at presidential inaugurals, on television specials, at concerts around the world, and on its own Music & the Spoken Word broadcasts. In 2002 the Choir added performing at the Winter Olympic Games to its resume. In addition to singing during the evening Olympic Opening Ceremony on February 8, the Choir sang that afternoon from the steps of the marble staircase inside the Utah State Capitol preceding the address of U.S. President George W. Bush. It was a gold medal performance.
In his 15-minute address President George W. Bush described the Choir’s performance as a “powerful introduction” to his remarks on freedom. He touched on the disaster of September 11, just five months before, and said succinctly, “It’s an important time for us to come together.” He spoke of his gratitude for people from around the world who “expressed their sympathy and their strong support” for America. “They understand that America stands for a great cause and that is freedom. We love, we cherish and well defend freedom at any cost.”
“For centuries the Olympics have reinforced an important lesson,” Bush said. “No matter how wide our political or cultural differences may be, some things are valued and enjoyed the world over. All people appreciate the discipline that produces excellence, the courage that overcomes difficult odds, the character that creates champions. The feeling and emotions that drive the Olympics are not expressed in any one language; they’re expressed with tears and smiles of joy and of pride.”
Michael O. Leavitt, then Governor of Utah who later served in President Bush’s cabinet and is now President of The Tabernacle Choir, introduced President Bush and described how the Olympics brought light to the individual lives of Utahns and to people across the nation saying, the Olympics “lift us up and unite us.”
Long-time Choir member Julie Rohde recalls that afternoon performance: “I remember being so proud to be an American, to sing for our church, to sing to our country and to the world, to have our president there in our Capitol building. It was an amazing feeling to have our Olympic moment.”
Choir member Rob Cundick wrote of his experiences: “The welcoming ceremony for President Bush at the Capitol would normally have been more than enough to look forward to. What a thrill when he turned to the Choir at the conclusion to shake hands with all he could reach!”
The gathering included national and international dignitaries including President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other Cabinet secretaries, Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, Congressmen Jim Matheson, Jim Hansen, and Chris Cannon, President and Chief Executive Officer for the 2022 Winter Olympics Mitt Romney, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annon, and president of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge.