[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1994, Book II)]
[November 22, 1994]
[Pages 2121-2122]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]



Remarks at the State Dinner for President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine
November 22, 1994

    Ladies and gentlemen, President Kuchma, Mrs. Kuchma, members of the 
Ukrainian delegation, diplomatic corps, Ukrainian-Americans, and 
distinguished guests, tonight we meet to celebrate a new friendship 
between our two nations and a new freedom for the people of the Ukraine. 
We also celebrate our peoples' devotion to the shared values that 
produce peace and prosperity. In a time when it is tempting to take the 
easy way out, Ukraine has set for itself the highest goals.
    Mr. President, people around the world admire you for your wisdom in 
leading your country toward a nonnuclear future, a move now heralded 
around the world. And we applaud your courage on embarking on the 
difficult path of economic reform, a path that holds the promise of 
turning the vast resources of your country into real prosperity. As you 
strive to build a peaceful and prosperous Ukraine, we will stand by you 
and work with you.
    The Slavic root of the name Ukraine means ``borderland,'' but the 
independent Ukraine of today is at the very heart of Europe. It occupies 
a central place in our world. Our freedom and your freedom are bound 
together. We share the same desire to build a safer and better world for 
our children.
    Mr. President, you are renowned as the man who ran Pivdenmash, the 
largest aerospace plant in the world. Just as you brought that vast 
operation to the pinnacle of technical excellence, we know you will be 
able to bring the hard work of reform down to earth and that you will 
deploy all your engineering skill to the construction of a new 
democratic nation. I might also add that a democratic Ukraine supports 
the idea of a democratic Russia, which is best for Russia, Ukraine, and 
the United States.

[[Page 2122]]

    Let me close with a story. More than a century ago in the winter of 
1858, the great Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko had just 
returned to St. Petersburg from internal exile in the Russian Far East. 
There he met the acclaimed American black actor Ira Aldridge, who was in 
the city performing Shakespeare. The son of Ukrainian serfs and the son 
of American slaves became fast friends. Theirs was a friendship born of 
shared ideals, above all the dream of freedom for all peoples. It was 
that dream that led Shevchenko to condemn despotism with the line, 
``Freedom knows no dying.'' Ira Aldridge was so impressed by his friend 
Shevchenko that it was said of him that forever after he carried Ukraine 
in his heart.
    The steadfast devotion to freedom that brought Shevchenko and 
Aldridge together has also brought us together tonight. So I ask all of 
you to join me in a toast to President and Mrs. Kuchma, to the growing 
friendship of our peoples, and the bright future of a prosperous and 
free Ukraine.

Note: The President spoke at 8:28 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the 
White House.