[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 3, 1998]
[Pages 322-324]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Time Magazine 75th Anniversary Celebration in
New York City
March 3, 1998

    Thank you very much. Thank you Walter, 
Jerry Levin, and all the people at Time. 
Tonight Time has paid tribute to the time it not only observed but 
helped to create, the stunning years your founder, Henry Luce, so 
unforgettably called the American Century.
    To me, one man above all others is the personification of our 
American Century: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Now, that choice might have 
pained Henry Luce--[laughter]--but surely he would not be surprised.
    The story of this century we're about to leave is really many 
stories: the ascendance of science and technology, the rise of big 
Government and mass media, the movements for equality for women and 
racial minorities, the dynamic growth and disruptive force of the 
industrial age. But when our children's children look back, they will 
see that above all else, the story of the 20th century is the story of 
the triumph of freedom.
    Freedom: the victory of democracy over totalitarianism, of free 
enterprise over state socialism, of tolerance over bigotry and 
ignorance. The advance of freedom has made this the American Century, 
for in this century America has made freedom ring. The embodiment of the 
triumph, the driving force behind it, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
    Today, with the happy outcome known to all, it is tempting to look 
back and say the victory was assured, inevitable. But it wasn't. In the 
face of the 20th century's greatest crisis, decisively, irrevocably, 
President Roosevelt committed America to freedom's fight. Because of 
that commitment and its embrace by every American leader since, today we 
can say, for the very first time in all of human history, a majority of 
the world's people live under governments of their own choosing, in 
    Winston Churchill said that Franklin Roosevelt's life was one of the 
commanding events in human history. He was born to privilege, but he 
understood the aspirations of farmers and factory workers and forgotten 
Americans. My grandfather came from a little town of about 50 people. He 
had a fourth grade education. He believed that Franklin Roosevelt was 
his friend, a man who cared about him and his family and his child's 
future. Polio put him in a wheelchair, but he lifted our troubled Nation 
to its feet, and he got us moving again.
    He was a patrician who happily addressed the Daughters of the 
American Revolution as ``my fellow immigrants.'' He was a master 
politician, a magnificent Commander in Chief. Yes, his life had its fair 
share of disappointments and failures, but they never broke his spirit 
or his faith in God or his people. Because he always rose to the 
occasion, so did we. FDR was guided not by the iron dictates of ideology 
but by the pragmatism of what he called bold, persistent 
experimentation. ``If one thing doesn't work,'' he said, ``try another 
thing, but above all, try something.'' It drove his critics crazy, but 
it worked.
    He brought joy and nobility to public service as he completed the 
mission of his kinsman

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Theodore Roosevelt, forging a progressive Government for the industrial 
age, taming the savage cycle of boom and bust, giving our citizens the 
economic security and the skills they needed to build the great American 
middle class.
    In our century's struggle for freedom, President Roosevelt won two 
great victories. By confronting the gravest threat capitalism had ever 
faced, the Great Depression, he strengthened economic liberty for all 
time, teaching us that free markets require effective Government, one in 
which individual initiative and the call of community are not at odds, 
but instead are woven together in one seamless social fabric.
    By confronting and defeating the gravest threat to personal and 
political liberty the world has ever faced, he forever committed America 
to the frontlines of the struggle for freedom. He taught us that even 
the expanses of two great oceans could not shield America from danger or 
absolve America from responsibility. He taught us that our destiny, 
forever, is linked to the destiny of the world, that our freedom 
requires us to support freedom for all others, that humanity's cause 
must be America's cause.
    Now we know what came of Roosevelt and his generation's rendezvous 
with destiny. What will come of ours? To this generation of the 
millennium, in President Roosevelt's words, ``much has been given and 
much is asked.'' When Roosevelt ran for President in 1932, he said new 
times demand new responses from Government. He saved capitalism from its 
own excesses, so it could again be a force for progress and freedom. Now 
we work to modernize Government, saving it from its excess of debt, so 
that again it is a force for progress and freedom in a new era.
    As Roosevelt gave Americans security in the industrial age, now we 
work to give Americans opportunity in the information age. As Roosevelt 
asked us to meet the crushing burden of the Depression with bold, 
persistent experimentation, now we must bring the same attitude to the 
challenges and unrivaled opportunities of this era to our schools, our 
streets, our poorest neighborhoods, to the fight against disease, the 
exploration of space, the preservation of the environment.
    As Roosevelt established that security and opportunity for ordinary 
Americans required our leadership and cooperation with like-minded 
people throughout the world, now we must commit ourselves to the common 
struggle against new threats to the security and prosperity of ordinary 
people everywhere. For even more than in President Roosevelt's time, our 
prospects are bound to the world's progress. Like FDR, we look around us 
and see a world that is not yet fully free. The advance of democracy has 
been steady, but it isn't irreversible.
    For our generation, what does freedom mean? Well, at least, the 
long-delayed achievement of President Roosevelt's dream of a Europe 
undivided, democratic, and at peace for the first time in history. What 
does freedom from fear mean? Well, at least, freedom for our children 
from the worry of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. What does 
freedom from fear or freedom from want mean? Well, at least, for the 
world, a fair chance for people in every land to develop their minds, 
find reward in honest labor, and raise their children in peace according 
to the dictates of their conscience.
    America must work to secure this kind of freedom with our allies and 
friends whenever possible, alone if absolutely necessary. We work today 
through the United Nations, which FDR helped to create and which he 
named. I salute Secretary-General Kofi Annan 
tonight for what he has done. Bearing an unequivocal message from the 
international community, backed by the credible threat of force, the 
Secretary-General obtained Iraq's commitment to honor United Nations 
resolutions on weapons inspection. Now the Security Council clearly and 
unanimously has supported the agreement. Iraq must match its words and 
its deeds, its commitment with compliance.
    In the tradition of FDR, America and its partners must make sure 
that happens. And in the tradition of FDR, America must support the 
United Nations and other institutions for global security and 
prosperity, and that means we ought to pay our fair share.
    In the darkest hours of the Second World War, Franklin Roosevelt 
proclaimed, ``We have faith that future generations will know that here 
in the middle of the 20th century, there came a time when men of good 
will found a way to unite and produce and fight to destroy the forces of 
ignorance and intolerance and slavery and war.''
    More than any other 20th century American, Franklin Roosevelt 
fulfilled the mandate of America's Founders. When everything was on the 
line, he pledged our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor to the 
preservation of liberty, the

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pursuit of happiness, the creation of a more perfect Union. The next 
century is now barely 700 days away. It will be many things new: a time 
of stunning leaps of science; a century of dizzying technology; a 
digital century; an era in which the very face of our Nation will 
    Yet in all the newness, what is required of us still is to follow 
President Roosevelt's lead, to strengthen the bonds of our Union, widen 
the circle of opportunity, and deepen the reach of freedom. That is the 
tribute we ought to pay to him. God willing, we will. And if we do, we 
will make the 21st century the next American Century, and a Happy 
Warrior will be smiling down on us.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:59 p.m. at Radio City Music Hall. In his 
remarks, he referred to Walter Isaacson, managing editor, Time magazine; 
and Gerald Levin, chief executive officer, Time/Warner.