Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Dinner

April 13, 2000

Thank you. Thank you very much, Senator Torricelli, Senator Inouye, Senator Akaka, Senator Johnson, ladies and gentlemen. I think I would like to begin by thanking Jayne for that beautiful prayer and for agreeing to serve on the Indian Arts Board recently; thank you very much. And I would like to thank all of you for your presence here and your support for our Senators and our Senate candidates.

I don't know whether Bob Torricelli is right about what other people will remember as defining moments of my administration, but I certainly will remember my trip to Pine Ridge, and I'm very much looking forward to being at Shiprock on Monday afternoon with Kelsey Begaye. Thank you for being there with us in continuing our efforts to bring empowerment and opportunity to Native Americans. We will be there Monday to talk about closing the digital divide, how to bring the power of the computer to lift people up rather than keep them down, in education and economic development and health care and so many other ways.

I have to tell you that my association with the Native American tribes of our country has been one of the most important aspects of my Presidency, to me. I always thought that the United States had something—to put it politely—less than a nation-to-nation relationship, and that sometimes, that the existence of that relationship had been used by the United States to run from our own responsibilities for the health, the welfare, the future of the Native American children and the people of our country.

And for 7 years and 3 months now, I've done everything I knew how to do to increase economic opportunity, to increase the quality of health care, to increase the support for the educational institutions, and, particularly in the last couple of years, to try to increase not only the voice and the respect for the tribal people and your leaders in our National Government's decisions and the right to make your own decisions but especially to try to bring more economic opportunity. And I will continue to do that for as long as I am in this office, and then when I'm not President anymore, I will have more time to work on fewer things. And one of the things I intend to work on when I'm not President anymore is the economic empowerment of people who had been left behind in this country and around the world.

I believe in the potential of all people. I believe that intelligence is equally apportioned among all races and ethnic groups. But opportunity isn't. And I believe that we have done a lot of things over the last 120 years that at least I, for one, wish we could go back and undo in our relations with the Native Americans. But I'm proud of what—not only of what our administration has done but what our party has tried to do. I'm proud of the leadership of Senator Inouye and Senator Johnson, Senator Akaka. I'm proud that Senator Torricelli is leading this group and that you have joined us.

But the last thing I would like to say is that in the end, the most important thing of all is empowerment and respect, and I have tried to have a Bureau of Indian Affairs that would move beyond where it had traditionally been on that score. I have tried to see that a lot of other decisions were made differently. But your participation in this endeavor and in others like it as citizens is also a form of empowerment, and for that I am profoundly grateful. I'm glad for the progress we've made. I'm glad for the things we've been able to do. I think this year we'll have a good year on education, on health care. I think we'll pass this new markets effort that will help get more investment into all the people and places that have been left behind in this remarkable recovery.

But the most important thing for me is that I hope when I leave office there will have been a fundamental seismic shift in the relationship between the United States Government and our tribes and our tribal governments throughout the country and a dramatic increase in the level of respect and independence and cooperation and partnership that you feel from your Government. I hope it will never, ever be the same. And if that is true, then in large measure, my service will have been justified. And again, if it hadn't been for you, it would not have been possible. So I ask you to keep it up, keep going, and give me every chance I can to be helpful, not only for the next 9 1/2 months but for the rest of my life.

Thank you very much. Thank you all. Senators, thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:10 p.m. in the Georgian Room at the Phoenix Park Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Senator Robert G. Torricelli, chair, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; Jayne G. Fawcett, Vice Chairperson, Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut, who gave the invocation; and Kelsey A. Begaye, President of the Navajo Nation.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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