In January 1969, just before his inauguration as president, Richard M. Nixon attended a concert in his honor at Constitution Hall. The program consisted entirely of works by American composers, including Howard Hanson, then the director of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. Hanson's choral work “Song of Democracy,” a setting of two excerpts from poems by Walt Whitman, was the last number of the evening. Here is New York Times music critic Harold Schonberg's commentary on the event, which featured the National Symphony Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:
“Song of Democracy” is not a very original or strong piece, but it makes a big brave sound in its concluding measures, and the well-trained Mormon Tabernacle Choir had a lusty time with it . . . Mr. Nixon listened intently, but grinned his way between numbers. At the end of the Hanson work, he was determined to be the first to applaud. He brought his fist down in a great downbeat, anticipating the conductor's by a good half measure.
Afterwards, Schonberg reported, Nixon left the presidential box to congratulate Hanson personally.