Friday, March 04, 2011

President Obama Is A Wendell Berry Fan

...And Berry thanks the First Lady for planting the Kitchen Garden...
Onstage in the East Room on Wednesday, as he presented Wendell Berry with the 2010 National Humanities Medal, President Obama was seen chatting away with the renowned farmer, poet, conservationist and essayist. None of the President's words could be heard, but Berry has now revealed what was said.

The President told Berry that he admires his poetry, the Kentucky native said in an interview with his local paper, Louisville's The Courier-Journal. Berry is the author of more than forty books, and twenty-three of these are poetry. (Above: The President and Berry during the ceremony)

"A great nation should produce great poetry," President Obama said during his remarks before he presented the Humanities Medal to Berry and nine other honorees.

"I’ve never had a president say anything to me before,” Berry said.

A fifth-generation family farmer, Berry has lived in Kentucky his entire life, and said that President Obama is the first president he's ever met.

“To have my work honored is a satisfaction," Berry said. "Because my work has been to so large an extent an effort to promote good care of the land. And, of course, I’m still actively in efforts to do that. I’m glad for whatever notice that effort can receive.”

But Wednesday wasn't Berry's first White House visit during the Obama administration. In 2009, he toured First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen Garden following a meeting with Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass. Berry said that during the reception that followed the medal presentation ceremony, he expressed his appreciation to Mrs. Obama for promoting local foods and gardening.

"I thank you for that garden,” Berry said he told the First Lady.

In addition to the whispered conversation onstage, Berry had one more exchange with the President as they stood together and had a formal photo taken.

“I asked if he got paid extra,” Berry said. “He said this was better than some things he had to do. It was a kind of pleasure.”

*AP photo