Good morning. This week we're reminded once again that miracles are born of hope. Seven thousand miles from our shores, in a land divided for over 300 years by the most pervasive form of racial hatred and violence, blacks and whites participated in free elections that elevated Nelson Mandela to the Presidency of South Africa.
Democracy's triumph in that distant land owes much to our own history and our own people. For over two centuries we have led the world by example, showing how human beings of different complexions, ethnic origins, and religious beliefs can come together under the great umbrella of freedom.
Yet, ironically, as we hear the call of liberty sound around the world, we find our own freedoms tested here at home, not by the enemies of totalitarianism and oppression but by those of cynicism, intolerance, incivility, and violence here at home.
Today I'm speaking to you from Mount Helm Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis, courtesy of WIBC Radio, not far from the site where Senator Robert Kennedy spoke in 1968 just moments after learning that Reverend Martin Luther King had been assassinated. On that awful night 26 years ago, Robert Kennedy beckoned Americans of all races to show compassion and wisdom in the face of violence and lawlessness. Many cities in America erupted in flames after Dr. King was killed, but here the citizens of Indianapolis heeded his call. Once again, it is time for us to heed those words, time to build up instead of tear down, time to renew our faith in freedom and to refurbish our own democracy.
During the next few weeks we'll be reminded of moments in our history like that one in April of 1968 when Americans joined together to overcome great challenges. On Tuesday, we'll celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which gave Americans of all races equal access to our Nation's public schools. A few weeks later, I'll travel to Europe to represent all Americans as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of D-Day, a day on which we thank an entire generation for risking their lives so that democracy would not fall victim to tyranny.
Celebrating these great occasions is important, but not enough. The pride we feel as Americans must inspire us to renew the society we live in today. It must inspire us to overcome racial, social, and political divisions and the sheer weight of violence that threaten the very freedoms we've worked so hard to secure. After all, our Nation's motto is, E Pluribus Unum— out of many, one.
That's why our administration has worked hard to restore our economy, to reward work by bringing down the deficit and increasing investment and trade and creating more jobs; why we've worked hard to empower all our people to compete and win in a global economy through lifetime education programs; why we've worked to strengthen our families through the Family and Medical Leave Act, tougher enforcement of child support orders, tax breaks for lower income working families with children; why we've worked to bring our diverse culture together with the most diverse and excellent national administration in history and a real commitment to our civil rights laws; and why we're working so hard to create a safer America with the Brady bill and the crime bill now before Congress, with its ban on assault weapons, it's 100,000 more police officers, its more punishment and more prevention to give our young people something to say yes to.
But in the end, all our progress as a nation depends more on the attitudes and the values of our citizens than by the actions of our Government. In Washington, DC, recently, the residents of a local housing project became so fed up with drug dealers and gangs that they put up a big fence around the complex and stationed guards at the entrances to keep unwanted visitors at bay. In other words, poor people in a housing project did what a lot of wealthy Americans have been doing in their neighborhoods for some time. Now their children can play on the lawn again, and people can visit each other on outdoor benches. One resident called it the freedom of the nineties. Well, I applaud that community for refusing to give in to criminals who tyrannize the neighborhoods with their guns and took their children's freedom away.
But I wonder what it says about our country and our democracy when freedom has come to mean that we barricade our children from the outside world in order to protect them from harm, that we install floodlights and foot patrols in the backyards of our homes to feel secure. That isn't the kind of freedom our Forefathers conceived of 200 years ago, not the kind of freedom that Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy gave their lives for, not the kind of freedom that Nelson Mandela dreams of in a land newly introduced to democracy and looking to us for support.
As we reflect on the recent events in South Africa and celebrate times of renewal in our own history, let each of us find within ourselves the courage to overcome old animosities that get in freedom's way. And I hope each of us will find a reservoir of hope deep inside that will help to lead our Nation to a brighter and better future.
Thanks for listening.