The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• William J. Clinton
The President's Radio Address
July 20, 1996
Good morning. This week the tragedy involving TWA Flight 800 took the lives of 230 people. Hillary and I join all our Nation in sending their families and friends our deepest condolences and prayers. We are doing all we can to find the cause of this disaster, and we will find what caused it.

Sixteen of the victims were young high school students from a small town in Pennsylvania, flying to Paris to see some of the world and work on their French. By setting off to expand their horizons and seeking newer knowledge, these students were trying to live up to their Godgiven potential. Now, that's all we can ask of any of our children.

So let us remember the dream these children shared, the dream of making the most of their own lives. As a nation, we should dedicate ourselves to encouraging all our young people to think that way and to making sure that they all have the opportunity to live up to their dreams. Our children have many different strengths and talents and abilities, but every child can achieve something, and together, in so doing, they can all secure a brighter future for America.

That's the lesson we saw come to life so vividly yesterday in Atlanta at the opening of the centennial Olympic games. In the next 2 weeks we'll see and celebrate the heroic efforts and achievements of young Americans who have worked a lifetime to reach their highest potential and make their dreams come true. Our athletes will push the limits of the human body and the human spirit. In doing that, they will inspire people of all ages, but I hope young people especially will learn from their example.

For whether in sports or in everyday life, there's a lesson in what our Olympians have accomplished and in how they've done it. For these are people who were given an opportunity to succeed, but they also made the most of it. They took personal responsibility and did the hard work. For some, it's meant waking up before dawn to run or swim laps or to practice routines on the balance beam. For others, the going was even tougher.

I'll never forget the day that Carla McGhee came to the White House to carry away the Olympic torch to continue its path to Atlanta. Carla was terribly injured in a car accident. It seemed to end her brilliant basketball career. But she came back against all the odds. And now she's playing for our Olympic women's basketball team. She did something no one else could do for her; she didn't give up.

But we also know that every one of our Olympians, in addition to their personal achievements, are a part of a larger community. They are of many different races and creeds and cultures, but they're bound together in mutual respect and shared values. For even in individual sports, no one wins alone. Back there somewhere there's always a lifetime of support from family and friends, from coaches and fans, from teachers and role models. So whenever the "Star-Spangled Banner" is played and a gold medal is being hung around an athlete's neck, you can be sure that the triumph is shared by a larger community.

We're all better off when we work together to help each other realize our dreams, to meet our challenges, and to protect our values. These games really remind us that for all of our differences and all of our American rugged individualism, we are still one American community. We cheer our athletes not because they're men or women, not because of the color of their skin, sometimes not even because we particularly understand every last aspect of the sport they're involved in. We keep cheering them because they're Americans.

These Olympics are about what's right with America. And Atlanta's magnificent effort at hosting the Olympics is about what's right with America. There are some other things that I believe reflect what's right with America at the Olympics. For example, this year 197 nations have teams, and these teams include places that the United States has helped to move toward peace and freedom. And even in places where the work of peace and freedom is not yet finished, at least there's been enough progress for an Olympic team to emerge.

Yesterday I met a young man from Croatia who thanked me for the work that we were doing to try to rebuild that war-torn region. And I couldn't help thinking about Secretary Ron Brown and the business leaders who literally gave their lives as Americans to bring peace to the Croatians. Bosnia now has a team coming back here, something that was unthinkable 4 years ago. Haiti has a team here—South Africa. I met one of the Irish athletes who thanked me for America's efforts on behalf of peace and asked me to do everything I could to bring the peace back. And I met a Palestinian who said to me, "Mr. President, Palestinians are a very old people, but we never had an Olympic team before. Thank you and the United States for helping to bring peace in our area, and please keep working on it."

All these people in their own way reflect something that's good about America. In many other countries there are athletes who studied and competed and got a good education in the United States. We gave them an opportunity to make the most of their own lives, and now they're giving something back to their native lands. They, too, reflect what's right with America.

And most important of all, there are the members of our Olympic team. We will cheer for them when they win, and we'll cry with them when they don't. But we'll always be proud of them. For they are living examples of what dreamers can do with peace and freedom, with opportunity and responsibility, with a commitment to a community coming together, not drifting apart. They will show America at its best on the world stage. And we are very, very proud of them. We wish them all the best.

Thanks for listening.

Citation: William J. Clinton: "The President's Radio Address", July 20, 1996. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=53095.
 
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