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Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 05/25/2011

Bill Clinton, Yo-Yo Ma celebrate Sidney Harman at memorial service

Paul Harman sings a Sinatra song — one of his dad’s favorites — at the close of the memorial to his father, Sidney, as the rest of the family looks on. (Kevin Allen)

Sidney Harman’s memorial Wednesday had almost everything: music, dance, Yo-Yo Ma, Bill Clinton, Stephen Breyer, most of Washington’s A-list . . . himself included.

The multimillionaire businessman, who helped plan this service before his death at 92 last month, appeared in a video taped last year: “I tell you, somewhat immodestly, I am my own invention.”

Entrepreneur, arts patron, philanthropist, raconteur, and orator (okay, a bit of a showoff: He recited everything from memory) was celebrated as a “polymath . . . and even knew what that word meant,” Walter Isaacson told the crowd gathered (where else?) at Sidney Harman Hall downtown.

Yo-Yo Ma performs Bach the memoral. (Tony Powell)
Guests (including Nancy Pelosi, Alan Greenspan, Susan Collins, Steny Hoyer) were greeted by Harman’s widow, former Congresswoman Jane Harman, a slideshow and a Sinatra soundtrack. Family and friends praised his devotion to his wife, Shakespeare and fun. Said Clinton: “He never forgot what mattered and — for all his great gifts — he never forgot the aspiration, the love of family, and the dreams that he shared with all others, including the humblest of those who worked for him.”

The two-hour tribute included performances by Ma, the Washington Ballet, the Dance Place Step Team, and actors (led by Avery Brooks) quoting Harman’s favorite passages from the Bard, Einstein, Lincoln and more.

But the highlight of the celebration was “Sidney on Sidney,” a sampling of Harman inteviews. “I get up every morning determined to change the world — also to have a hell of good time. Sometimes, that makes planning the day a little difficult. Coming at life that way and engaging it, wrapping your arms around it, that’s what makes you young at 90.”

Read earlier: Arts patron, industrialist Sidney Harman dies at 92, 4/13/11

By  |  10:00 PM ET, 05/25/2011

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