[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 26, 1998]
[Pages 623-625]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Dinner
April 26, 1998

    Thank you. Thank you very much. Let me see, we have now seen a 
magnificent musical rendition of a wonderful novel. We heard two fine 
speeches. If I had any sense, I would sit down. [Laughter]

[[Page 624]]

    When Bob was talking about that obscurity is forever, I think the 
Vice President is too sensitive. I thought he was talking about being a 
former President, not being a--[laughter].
    I want to thank the Kogods and the Smiths and all their family members for having us in this 
magnificent home, for giving us a chance to look at all the wonderful 
art, for being in this beautiful tent. I'm delighted with the weather, 
and I'm delighted with the company. I want to thank the leaders of our 
party and the cochairs of this event tonight.
    As you leave here--and the Vice President has already said a lot of 
the things that I think should be said about what it means for a party 
to be 150 years old. But let me say, when Hillary and I were in Chile 
recently, someone, I think on her staff, got us a copy of a speech which 
Theodore Roosevelt gave in Chile after he left the White House in the 
early part of this century, a speech which I have to say I believe the 
members of his party ignored. But it's brilliant speech about how in 
politics, if you want to really matter, you have to be faithful to 
eternal values, but you have to always be willing to lift the dead hand 
of history off your politics, always be willing to do whatever is 
necessary to advance the expansion of freedom and opportunity for 
people, and never to be paralyzed by what you used to do when it no 
longer makes sense.
    It's really quite a brilliant speech, and I read it when I was in 
Chile, thinking, that's what I think, and that's what I think our party 
    What I would like for you to think about, leaving here tonight, 
basically are just three things. Number one, in terms of what we're 
going to do in the next 2\1/2\ years, in order to continue to win 
Presidential elections, win back the Congress, and become the dominant 
party in the country again, I think we not only have to continue to win 
with an aggressive, specific agenda; I think we have to also keep 
pushing the big ideas--that we do believe in opportunity for everybody; 
we do believe that we should expand the reach of human freedom; we do 
believe that we're stronger as a diverse country.
    And there are two or three really simple things that I would like to 
mention that to me are quite important. And frankly, I haven't succeeded 
yet in convincing huge numbers of the American people that this has to 
be a part of our thinking. The first is that it no longer makes sense to 
have a clear, bright line between what is an American domestic policy 
and what is a foreign policy. Now, if I had succeeded in doing that, we 
wouldn't have some of the disputes we still have in our country today, 
and there would be more support in our country for paying our U.N. dues, 
investing in the International Monetary Fund, being responsible citizens 
in every way.
    I think the American people know we're living in an interdependent 
world, but it's not such a high priority that politicians for their own 
purposes don't feel they can--they still feel free to walk away from 
some of our responsibilities in the world. And I think that's a great 
mistake, because I can tell you--you know, I believe that every nation I 
have set foot in as President, I was doing something that was good for 
the American people and their future and our children's future.
    You do not have to be a Jewish-American or an Arab-American to know 
that the children of our country will have a brighter future if there is 
peace in the Middle East. You don't have to have come out of central 
Europe to know that the children of our country will have a brighter 
future if there is peace in Bosnia. You don't have to be Greek or 
Turkish to know that we'd be a whole lot better off if we'd resolve the 
problems over Cyprus. You don't have to be Indian or Pakistani to know 
that it would be an ultimate disaster if those two great nations went to 
war over Kashmir, when they could go to peace and change the whole 
future of the 21st century by their numbers and their ingenuity.
    This is elemental, and as Democrats we have got to continue to push 
the fact that our children live in a smaller and smaller world and that 
we cannot any longer just look at the outlines of the United States on a 
map and say only those events which occur within that border and only 
the people who live within those borders bear directly on our lives, our 
future, and our imagination.
    The other thing I'd like to say is that I think that we have got to 
learn to stop thinking of ourselves as the environmental party and start 
thinking of the environment as a part of all of our other policies. I 
think we will never have the kind of country we want unless we say we 
can conquer the problem of climate change as we grow the economy. We 
dare not think of

[[Page 625]]

some--we can't even have health policy unless we have environmental 
policy. We have to learn to think in a more integrated fashion.
    This may be late at night, and you may think that's esoteric, but 
I'm telling you, I'm about through with my public service as an elected 
official. Most of my service as President is over, and I'm thinking 
about the things that will shape what our children have to live with for 
30 or 40 years.
    And the last thing I want to say is what the musical was about 
tonight is still the most important thing. We have to got to inculcate 
in our people both the pride in their own heritage, beliefs, and 
convictions and a fundamental respect, even a celebration, of people who 
are different from them. It is a great opportunity for the United States 
that we are the most diverse democracy in the world.
    Now, as a factual matter, both Russia and India also have huge 
numbers of different ethnic groups, languages, and religions within 
their borders, but the difference is, largely those people live in 
geographically separate parts of the same country. Here, we're the most 
mixed up, if you will--I don't mean addlebrained--[laughter]--I mean 
intermixed--diverse democracy in all of human history.
    And if there is one thing I have learned as President that I did not 
really know when I took office in the way I know it now, it is that when 
people fight and kill each other or live in paralyzed isolation because 
of their ethnic, their racial, or their religious differences, they do 
not do it because of some dark content of human nature, some inevitable 
hard hand of history. They do it because they don't have leaders who 
stand up and say, this is the right thing to do; that is wrong to do; we 
must not live apart; it is wrong to kill and hurt and maim people.
    So when you go home tonight, I hope you'll remember the play for the 
rest of your life, the musical. I hope you will always be proud you were 
here. But remember, there is a reason we're still hanging around after 
all these years: because we've still got the same values we started 
with, but we never let the dead hand of history keep us from making the 
changes necessary to make the American dream more real for more people 
in a more profound way in each new age and time.
    And if we leave with that and we continue to fight for that and we 
remember the three specific things I said tonight, then 150 years from 
now a bunch of other people will be having a nice dinner celebrating the 
300th birthday of the Democratic Committee. [Laughter]
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:41 p.m. at a private residence. In his 
remarks, he referred to dinner cohosts Arlene and Lauren Kogod and 
Clarice and Bob Smith.