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Remarks at First Day of School Festivities in Moscow, Russia

September 01, 1998

Thank you all very much. I am delighted to be here not only with my wife, who has worked for better education in our country for many years, but with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, our American Ambassador here, and five Members of our Congress. I thank all of them for being here. We are delighted to join you on this day.

I would also like to thank Vice Mayor Schantsev and Mr. Muzikantskiy from the Moscow City School Board for joining us. I would like to thank your principal; Ms. Garashkova; and most of all, I want to thank these fine students, Konstantine Sokolov and Valentina Smirnova. I think they did a fine job, and you should give them applause. You should be very proud of them. [Applause]

Now, in the spirit of the day, even though Konstantine's English is very good, I thought I should try to say something in Russian, like privet [hello]. How's that? Is that good? [Applause] Or S novym uchebnym godom [Happy New School Year]. Is that good? [Applause]

In America this is also the first day of school for many students. I understand that some of you have studied in America. I hope more of you will do so in the future, and I hope more Americans will come here to study. And in the meantime, perhaps more and more of you can meet on the Internet.

I know that Russian students love to read and are proud of your country's great writers. A teacher here in Moscow asked her first-grade class why they thought reading was important. One girl stood up and answered, "You can read any book. You can read Pushkin." No one in the first grade in my country is reading Pushkin. [Laughter] Now, another student answered the same question in a different way. He said, "If you can read, you can read a fax." [Laughter]

So whether you want to be a business person reading a fax, a writer, or a teacher, or pursue any other career in the modern world, a good school will help you get there. In a world where people are working closer and closer together, a good school, with its languages and its learning about other countries, is very important. Because more and more of our jobs and lives depend on computers and technology, more and more of us have to read well, do mathematics, and know other subjects good schools teach.

In the past, America and Russia too often used our knowledge in opposition to each other. But things are very different now. Today, we use what we know to work together for new jobs, better health care, a cleaner environment, the exploration of space, the exchange of ideas, art, music, videos. Our countries are becoming partners, and more and more of our people are becoming friends.

Your country is going through some difficult changes right now, and I know things aren't always easy for a lot of people. But I also know that in times of crisis the Russian people have always risen to the occasion with courage and determination.

The challenges of this new global economy and society are great, but so are the rewards. For those who have good schools, like this one, with teachers and parents who work hard to help children learn, and with that learning and the new freedom you have in Russia, all of you will be ready for that future, and you will do very well.

So I say to all the students here, learn as much as you can about as many subjects as you can and about other people. And imagine what you would like to see happen in the future, for yourselves, your nation, and the world. And always keep those dreams with you, for in the new century, you will be able to live those dreams.

Thank you. Spasibo.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:25 p.m. in the auditorium at the 19th Elementary School. In his remarks, he referred to Deputy Mayor Valeriy Schantsev of Moscow; Aleksandr Muzikantskiy, chairman, Moscow City School Board; Galina Bezrodnaya, principal, and Natalya Garashkova, assistant principal for English language programs, 19th Elementary School; and students Konstantine Sokolov and Valentina Smirnova, who spoke at the festivities and presented gifts to the President and Mrs. Clinton.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at First Day of School Festivities in Moscow, Russia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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