SALT LAKE CITY
Singer and songwriter Natalie Cole and acclaimed author and historian David McCullough appeared with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in its Sunday morning broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word" on Dec. 13.
In a mini-concert after the broadcast, Miss Cole sang and did a presentation of "The Christmas Story," as recorded in the second chapter of Luke.
Mr. McCullough presented a reading, "American Christmas Memories," which he had presented also during the three concerts.
Thomas S. Monson, who was in the audience, joined the guests onstage after the mini-concert. He told them that the five most important words in the English language are, "I am proud of you." The two most important words, he said, are "Thank you."
Looking at Miss Cole and Mr. McCullough, President Monson said, "We are proud of you. Thank you."
The two guests made impromptu remarks in response.
Miss Cole said, "I've never been as deeply moved as I have since I arrived here in Salt Lake City."
Referring to a visit to his office a few days earlier during which time she was presented a copy of her family history, she said, "President Monson, meeting you moved me to no end. The presentation of the genealogy was more than I could take. Your church and your people are beautiful people, and I am so glad to know that we share the same faith, the same heart. All your hearts are so good. I [could] feel it every day, as I would wake up, that this is my city. Thank you for your hospitality, your love. … I hope to see you soon. God bless."
Mr. McCullough, who has twice won the National Book Award and twice the Pulitzer Prize, said, "President Monson, I am, oddly, at a loss for words.
"I want to say it is a thrill beyond anything in my experience to have taken part in the last several days here and an honor beyond my capacity at the moment to stand with two such great Americans, you and Natalie."
He expressed gratitude that his wife, whom he called his polar star, the star by which he navigates, was invited to join them onstage. The audience applauded after Mr. McCullough said, "Rosalee and I have been married, this week, for 55 years."
Before concluding, he added, "I just want to say one thing quickly. Toward the end of his life, President John Adams was having a conversation in privacy at his home in Quincy, Mass., with the young Ralph Waldo Emerson who was newly out of Harvard College. The president said, 'I wish to God that there were more ambition in the land.' And then he paused and said, 'By that I mean ambition of a laudable kind: ambition to excel, not to have more power or money or fame, but to excel.'
"And I have felt that these past days in a way that I have never been a party to; this desire of everybody involved in this production to excel. Your great Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of the high achievements of our nation. To me, it stands as a noble attainment, and we've had many of those in our story as a people. I like to think of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Marshall Plan, for example. I would include the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as one of the proudest achievements of our country, an expression of the human spirit for all."