[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 2, 1998]
[Pages 494-497]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at Goree Island, Senegal
April 2, 1998

    Thank you, Mr. President, for that 
magnificent address. Thank you so much.
    Now, all my friends will have to tell me if the translation is 
working. Yes, it's working? [Applause] Hurray!

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    Mr. President, Madame Diouf, the ministers and officials of the Senegalese 
Government, Governor, Mayor; to the students who are here who have sung to us and 
with whom we have met from the Martin Luther King School, the John F. 
Kennedy School, the Miriama Ba School here on Goree Island, and the 
Margaret Amidon Elementary School in Washington, DC; the residents of 
Goree Island, the citizens of Senegal, my fellow Americans and our 
delegation, ladies and gentlemen. I'd also like to say a special word of 
thanks to the curator, Boubacar N'diaye, who toured me through the Slave House today. Thank 
you, sir.
    Here, on this tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean, Africa and America 
meet. From here, Africa expands to the east, its potential for freedom 
and progress as great as its landmass. And to the west, over the 
horizon, lies America, a thriving democracy built, as President Diouf 
said, through centuries of sacrifice.
    Long after the slave ships stopped sailing from this place to 
America, Goree Island, still today, looks out onto the New World, 
connecting two continents, standing as a vivid reminder that for some of 
America's ancestors the journey to America was anything but a search for 
freedom, and yet still a symbol of the bright new era of partnership 
between our peoples.
    In 1776, when our Nation was founded on the promise of freedom as 
God's right to all human beings, a new building was dedicated here on 
Goree Island to the selling of human beings in bondage to America. Goree 
Island is, therefore, as much a part of our history as a part of 
Africa's history. From Goree and other places, Africa's sons and 
daughters were taken through the door of no return, never to see their 
friends and families again. Those who survived the murderous middle 
passage emerged from a dark hold to find themselves, yes, American. But 
it would be a long, long time before their descendants enjoyed the full 
meaning of that word.
    We cannot push time backward through the door of no return. We have 
lived our history. America's struggle to overcome slavery and its legacy 
forms one of the most difficult chapters of that history. Yet, it is 
also one of the most heroic, a triumph of courage, persistence, and 
dignity. The long journey of African-Americans proves that the spirit 
can never be enslaved.
    And that long journey is today embodied by the children of Africa 
who now lead America, in all phases of our common life. Many of them 
have come here with me on this visit, representing over 30 million 
Americans that are Africa's great gift to America. And I'd like them to 
stand now. Please stand. [Applause]
    A few hours from now, we will leave Africa and go on home, back to 
the work of building our own country for a new century. But I return 
more convinced than when I came here that despite the daunting 
challenges, there is an African renaissance.
    I will never forget as long as I live the many faces that Hillary 
and I have seen in these last 12 days. In them, I have seen beauty and 
intelligence, energy and spirit, and the determination to prevail. I 
have seen the faces of Africa's future: the friendly faces of the 
hundreds of thousands of people who poured into Independence Square in 
Accra to show that Africans feel warmly toward America; the faces of the 
children at the primary school in Uganda, whose parents were held back 
by a brutal dictatorship but where today opportunity of education is 
offered to all of that nation's boys and girls; the faces of the women 
in Wanyange village in Uganda, once ordained to a life of continuing 
struggle, now empowered--along with 10,000 other Ugandans and women and 
men in Senegal and virtually every other country in Africa--by 
microcredit loans to start their own businesses, small loans which 
people repay and which repay them by giving them the opportunity to live 
a better life.
    I will always remember the faces of the survivors of the Rwandan 
genocide, who have the courage now not just to survive but to build a 
better society.
    I will never forget the face of Nelson Mandela in his cell on Robben Island, a face that betrays a 
spirit not broken but strengthened, not embittered but energized, a man 
used his suffering to break the shackles of apartheid and now to reach 
toward reconciliation.
    I remember the faces of the young leaders I have met: young leaders 
of the new South Africa; young leaders who want to build a continent 
where the economy grows, but where the environment is preserved and your 
vast riches that nature has bestowed are no longer depleted; young 
leaders who believe that Africa can go forward as a free, free 
continent, where people--all people--enjoy universal human rights. I 
remember their faces so well.

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    I remember the faces of the entrepreneurs, African and American, who 
gatherer with me in Johannesburg to dedicate Ron Brown Commercial 
Center. I thank you, Mr. President, for mentioning our friend Ron Brown, 
for it was he who first told me that I had an obligation as an American 
President to build a better partnership with Africa.
    Already, we import about as much oil from Africa as we do from the 
Persian Gulf. We export more to Africa than to all the former Soviet 
Union. And Americans should know that our investments in sub-Saharan 
Africa earn a return of 30 percent, higher than on any other continent 
in the entire world. But our trade and investment in Africa is but a 
tiny fraction of what it could be, and, therefore, of what it could 
produce in new jobs, new opportunities, new wealth, and new dreams for 
Africans and for Americans. The faces I saw will spur us to do better.
    Mr. President, I remember the faces of the 
Senegalese soldiers yesterday, whom we saw training with Americans but 
led by Africans, in an African Crisis Response Initiative dedicated to 
the prevention of violence, to the relief of suffering, to keeping the 
peace on the continent of Africa.
    Most of all, I will always remember in every country the faces of 
the little children, the beautiful children, the light in their eyes, 
the smiles on their faces, the songs that they sung. We owe it to them, 
you and I, to give them the best possible future they can have.
    Yes, Africa still faces poverty, malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, 
unemployment, terrible conflicts in some places. In some countries, 
human rights are still nonexistent and unevenly respected in others. But 
look across the continent. Democracy is gaining strength. Business is 
growing. Peace is making progress. The people and the leaders of Africa 
are showing the world the resiliency of the human spirit and the future 
of this great continent.
    They have convinced me of the difference America can make if we are 
a genuine partner and friend of Africa, and the difference a new Africa 
can make to America's own future.
    Everywhere I went in Africa I saw a passionate belief in the promise 
of America, stated more eloquently today by your President than I ever 
could. I only wish every American could see our own country as so much 
of Africa see us, a nation bearing the ideals of freedom and equality 
and responsible citizenship, so powerful they still light the world; a 
nation that has found strength in our racial and ethnic and religious 
diversity; a nation, therefore, that must lead by the power of example; 
a nation that stands for what so many aspire to and now are achieving, 
the freedom to dream dreams and the opportunity to make those dreams 
come true.
    I am very proud of America's ties to Africa, for there is no area of 
American achievement that has not been touched by the intelligence and 
energy of Africa, from science to medicine, to literature, to art, to 
music. I am proud to be the President of a nation of many colors, black 
and white, European and Latino, Asian and Middle Eastern, and everything 
in between. We have learned one clear lesson, that when we embrace one 
another across the lines that divide us, we become more than the sum of 
our parts, a community of communities, a nation of nations. Together, we 
work to face the future as one America, undaunted, undivided, grateful 
for the chance to live together as one people.
    To be sure, our work is not finished and we have our own problems. 
But when we began as a nation, our Founders knew that, and called us 
always to the work of forming a more perfect Union. But the future 
before us expands as wide as the ocean that joins, not divides, the 
United States and Africa. As certainly as America lies over the horizon 
behind me, so I pledge to the people of Africa that we will reach over 
this ocean to build a new partnership based on friendship and respect.
    As we leave this island, now is the time to complete the circle of 
history to help Africa to fulfill its promise not only as a land of rich 
beauty but as a land of rich opportunity for all its people. If we face 
the future together, it will be a future that is better for Africa and 
better for America.
    So we leave Goree Island today mindful of the large job still to be 
done, proud of how far we have come, proud of how far Africa has come, 
determined to succeed in building a bright, common destiny whose door is 
open to all.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 4:25 p.m. in the front courtyard of the 
Goree Island History Museum. In his remarks, he referred to President 
Abdou Diouf of Senegal and his wife, Elizabeth; Gov. Yande Toure of 
Dakar; Mayor Urbain

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Diagne of Goree Island; and Boubacar (Joseph) N'diaye, curator, Slave