Good morning. For my family, and I hope for yours as well, this is a time for reflection, renewal, and rededication. At the start of springtime, nature reminds us of new beginnings and forgotten beauty, and most Americans celebrate holy days of redemption and renewal, from the Christian Easter to the Jewish Passover to the Muslim Ramadan.
Tomorrow on Easter Sunday, those of us who are Christians celebrate God's redemptive love as manifested in the life, the teachings, and the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Easter symbolizes for us the ultimate victory of good over evil, hope over despair, and life over death.
At this season, we're reminded that Americans are a people of many faiths. But most of all, we are a people of faith. The Bible I carry to church on Sunday says, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen." America is a special nation because it is the product of that kind of faith in the future to which so many have held fast in spite of fearsome obstacles and great hardships. Always we have believed that we could do better, conquer injustice, climb new mountains, build a better life for ourselves and a future of infinite possibility for our children. Always we have believed we can keep the promise we call America.
Last Thursday I visited the Zamorano Fine Arts Academy, an outstanding public school in San Diego, to sign Goals 2000, the new education law which challenges all our schools and all our students to meet the highest standards of educational achievement by setting worldclass educational standards and promoting grassroots reforms to achieve them in every school for every student. That school reflects the marvelous diversity that is now America. The students there come from at least six different racial and ethnic groups. Like our Nation, they can trace their heritage to every continent, every country, every culture.
As I thought of the parents, the students, and the teachers at that school, I couldn't help but believe that the things that make them different from each other are ultimately far less important than the things that bring them together: their love of learning, the joy they share in arts and athletics and family and friends, and their dreams of the future in which they can make the most of the gifts that God has give them.
The greatness and glory of America is that we define ourselves not by where our families came from but by our common values, our common goals, our common sense, and our common decency. Two days from now, we'll honor the memory of a man of faith who stood for and struggled for what is best about America. On April 4th, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his life for every American's right to live and work in dignity. In his last Sunday morning sermon, one week before Easter, speaking in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, 26 years ago, Dr. King reminded us that time is neutral; it can be used constructively or destructively. Dr. King used his time on Earth as well as anyone. He was only 39 when he died. He never held public office, but no one ever did more to redeem the promise or stir the soul of our Nation. In spite of unearned suffering, unreasoning hatred, and unprovoked violence, he never lost faith that he and we would overcome the frustrations and difficulties of the moment.
A quarter century later, each of us faces the challenge to use our time creatively and constructively. For this is a time of historic, sometimes wrenching, social and economic and technological change. The fabric of our society has been strained by the hopelessness caused by the flight of jobs from too many of our communities and the fear and suspicion resulting from the epidemic of crime and violence, especially among our young people.
And at this time of uncertainty, there are demagogs of division who would set us against one another. Too many powerful forces today seek to make money or even more power from our common misery, when what we most desperately need is to work together to solve the problems that plague us all and to build a stronger American community.
There's much that we can do as a nation to prepare our people for these changes and to do better. We can, we must create more jobs, finally provide health care security for all our people, improve our education and training so that we can compete and win in this global economy, and make our people safer in their homes, their streets, and their schools. But we must also, each and every one of us, accept greater personal responsibility for ourselves and our families and extend a hand of friendship to our neighbors.
We must raise our own children with responsibility and faith. We must reject those who would divide us by race or religion. We must always remember that, as Dr. King declared the night before he died, "Either we go up together, or we go down together." Essentially, all human condition can only be transformed by faith, faith in ourselves, faith in each other, faith that we can do better if we hold firm to the ultimate moral purpose in life, keep our eyes on the prize, and refuse to be dragged down.
I have issued a proclamation asking Americans to observe this Monday, the anniversary of Dr. King's tragic assassination, as a day of reconciliation, a day when we look beyond hatred and division and commit ourselves anew to reducing crime and violence and bringing out the best in each other. Some Americans may use that day to teach their children about the meaning of the life and death of Dr. King and his legacy and lessons for our time. Others may answer the call of the organization he founded, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and turn on their automobile lights as part of a national day of witness against violence. Still others may make a commitment to work with their neighbors to keep their communities free from crime and drugs and guns.
In our own lives, in our own way, this Monday and on every day of this year, let us rededicate ourselves to the spirit of Easter, of Passover, of Ramadan; to the mission of Martin Luther King; and to the common values that must make America a land of limitless hope and opportunity for all of our people for all time to come.