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Roth's Acceptance Speech


On Manifest Destiny

Philip Roth Receives Inaugural Yaddo Artist Medal

- At our May 14th New York City Benefit at the Edison Ballroom, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Roth captivated the audience as he received the inaugural Yaddo Artist Medal. To loud applause, he declared "my manifest destiny was Yaddo."

The honor of presenting the award to Roth went to fellow Yaddo author Alison Lurie, who has known Roth for more than 50 years.

“It's a great pleasure for us to begin a new tradition by presenting Philip Roth with the first Yaddo Artist Medal,” said Yaddo President Elaina Richardson.  “It's long been our custom to award a medal for achievement and service to two graduating seniors at Saratoga High, and we'd wanted for some time to expand on that tradition in a way that reflected our core history, and century-long commitment, to encouraging, supporting, and inspiring the work of artists and writers. The Yaddo Artist Medal will be awarded annually at our New York City benefit to an artist of outstanding talent whose achievements and commitment to their field exemplifies Yaddo's own tradition of  excellence and community. In this way, we hope to pay tribute to all the artists who have been part of the Yaddo story since our founding in 1900.”


The Yaddo Artist Medal was designed by award-winning Yaddo artist James Siena and produced by Walla Walla Foundry in Walla Walla, Washington. The process began by creating a 3D model based on designs submitted by Siena. A combination of machining, etching, and hand finishing was used to fabricate the medal to achieve the highest possible level of detail in the finished piece.

In addition to the artist honoree, The New York Racing Association, Inc., was recognized as our corporate honoree at the May 14th event. NYRA, a long-standing and generous supporter of the residency program and operator of Saratoga Race Course, has been a neighbor to Yaddo since we welcomed our first artist guests in 1926.  In addition to the annual Yaddo Stakes race, which has been a summer tradition for decades, last year, as part of the 150th anniversary celebration for the Saratoga Race Course, NYRA named a special race on Whitney Stakes Day in honor of Yaddo's designation as a National Historic Landmark. 

Roth had his first residency at Yaddo in 1964, returning six times over the next eight years. During those visits, Roth wrote most of Portnoy’s Complaint, The Breast, and The Great American Novel. He dedicated The Breast to Yaddo as “the best friend a writer could have.” One of the most decorated American writers of his era, Roth’s first book, the 1959 collection Goodbye, Columbus, won the National Book Award for Fiction. He has since received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal in Fiction. A two-time recipient of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Roth has been recognized with the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 1997 he won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. Recently Roth received the National Humanities Medal at the White House and was named the fourth recipient of the Man Booker International Prize. Last year France bestowed upon him its highest recognition, Commander of the Legion of Honor.

Siena is a New York-based artist whose complex, rule-based linear abstractions have situated him firmly within the trajectory of modern American art. His artwork is driven by self-imposed, predetermined sets of rules, or “visual algorithms,” which find their end-result in intensely concentrated, vibrantly-colored, freehand geometric patterns. Siena works across a diverse range of media, including lithography, etching, woodcuts, engraving, drawing, and painting.

View photos of the event on our Facebook page. Read Roth's acceptance speech here.