Accessibility links

Bush Welcomes Iraqi National Symphony to White House - 2003-12-10

President Bush has welcomed members of the Iraqi National Symphony to the White House. Mr. Bush was in the audience when the Iraqis performed Tuesday night with Washington's National Symphony Orchestra.

They played far from the tensions of Baghdad, in a grand concert hall at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The conductor of the Iraqi orchestra says when he looked out at the audience there were tears in his eyes. "When I saw the public of Iraqi and Americans enjoying us in our concert, it made me cry," he said.

It was the end of a long journey for Mohammad Amin Ezzat and his musicians. They stopped playing when the war began last March, and only resumed rehearsals in June.

The State Department found the money to bring them to the United States for their hour-long performance, and various American charitable foundations are raising money for new instruments and sheet music.

President Bush hailed the spirit of the orchestra members at the White House, noting that they represent the multi-ethnic culture of Iraq. "It's very interesting that the Iraqi Symphony is made up of people who are Shia and Sunni and Armenian and Kurdish," he said. "They work for one thing and that is a unified sound, a beautiful sound."

Mr. Bush said that is the kind of country that is now emerging in Iraq, a country where people of different backgrounds can work together and recognize each other's rights.