Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to High School Students in Sarajevo

July 30, 1999

I think we should give a round of applause again to Jana Jakic; she did a very good job, I think. [Applause] I would also like to thank your principal, Emina Avdagic. And I'd like to thank the Sarajevo Canton Prime Minister, Mr. Belkic. And especially all the students here on the platform with me, I thank them very much. I also would like to thank the bands that performed before me. I think they were of much greater interest to the students than the President, but I'm glad to see them here. [Laughter]

I'm very glad to be back in Sarajevo, and especially to come to this school to see the rebuilding that is going on. Not long ago the Third Gymnasium was at the center of the cruel war. Today, as we can all see, the building still bears the scars of the past. But thanks to you, it holds the promise of Bosnia's future.

If all of you were to come and visit me in Washington, DC, at the White House, you would see that in the entrance to my office, the Oval Office, there is a picture of a woman in her very damaged apartment in Sarajevo. It was taken at the end of the war, and there is a quotation from the woman at the bottom of the picture expressing her thanks to me and to the United States for our help in bringing the Bosnian War to an end.

Every person from all over the world who comes to see me sees that picture, because I am proud of the role the United States had in bringing this war to an end.

But it is not enough to end a war; we must build a peace. It is not enough to reject a dark past; we must build a bright future. That is why the rebuilding of the Third Gymnasium can symbolize, not only for the students but for all the people of this nation, what we should be doing for tomorrow.

I know that students sent letters to the Sarajevo Canton asking that this school be repaired. One student wrote, "Please think of future generations." This school is a monument to Sarajevo's proud tradition of teaching young people from all backgrounds. Saving this school will save that tradition and will help all young people to have the future they deserve.

I want to thank all those involved in this effort, including the Sarajevo Canton and the city of Stockholm, Sweden; we have a representative from the Swedish Embassy here today; and USAID—and Hattie Babbitt from USAID is here. We are proud that the United States could be part of a genuine international partnership to restore this school to its rightful position.

You know, for so many people who have never been to this beautiful place, Sarajevo is a name associated only with violence. People know World War I started here, and they know how badly the city was shelled during the recent war. Often they do not know that for centuries, and for decades in the 20th century, a spirit of tolerance defined this beautiful place—a place where people lived and worked together, a place where Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and Jews were free to worship God as they chose.

That is the Sarajevo I want the world to know about. If you can draw on the best parts of your heritage to build a united future here, then it can be done elsewhere in Bosnia and throughout this region.

The Dayton agreement in 1995 did not rid Bosnia of all anger and fear or frustrating problems like high unemployment, corruption, and crime, but Dayton did offer all the people of Bosnia peaceful means to resolve their differences and move forward.

I want the world to know what you have achieved in the last 4 years: fair elections, a free press, reformed courts, a new single currency, the beginning of economic growth, better ties with your neighbors, war criminals out of power, nearly twice as many minority refugees returned in the first half of '99 as in any previous period. And though more needs to be done in many areas, especially in helping the economy to grow and in completing minority refugee returns, this is quite a record of accomplishment for the last 4 years, and you should be proud of it.

As all of you know, we had a summit here in Sarajevo today to talk about the future of southeastern Europe. Perhaps the most impressive thing to me was that the Bosnian Presidency spoke with one single, united voice. Two years ago, when I came here, I met with the Bosnian Presidency, and President Izetbegovic was there then. He had two different partners, a Croatian partner, a Serbian partner. And the wounds of war were still very fresh. So we sat around the table together, but they weren't really together. Today I saw three men who were really working together, who really believe that they could do things together. And I was very moved.

We have to bring these kinds of things throughout the Balkans and all of southeastern Europe. Think about what it was like here just a few years ago and realize today that there were 60 delegations—from Europe, North America, Asia, and international institutions— here to talk about how to build a better future for all of southeastern Europe.

We talked about how to lift the economy, how to bring the nations of this region together, and how to bring them closer to the rest of Europe and to North America. The contrast was stark. Remember, Mr. Milosevic tried to build a Greater Serbia based on dividing people and ethnic cleansing. Together we came to talk about building a greater Europe based on including people and healing.

I promised that the United States would do our part. Yesterday we pledged $500 million for humanitarian aid to Kosovo. Today I pledged to ask our Congress to reduce tariffs for most exports to the United States from Bosnia and other countries in the region. I pledged to provide an investment fund of $150 million to encourage Americans to invest here and to help others to set up small businesses.

I pledged to work with our friends here to bring all nations who comply into the world trading system so that we can have more benefits flowing into Bosnia and the other countries in the region. We pledged to expand NATO's political and economic partnerships throughout southeastern Europe. And I asked the Europeans to join with me in helping you economically and politically. It is time to build the peace. The war is over, but we have to build a better peace for Bosnia and all the people of southeastern Europe.

Let me say I hope that before long, Serbia, too, will participate in this economic reconstruction. But I do not believe that we should give reconstruction aid to Serbia as long as it rejects democracy and as long as Mr. Milosevic is in power. We have had enough of ethnic cleansing.

But I want you to understand, I did not involve the United States in Bosnia or in Kosovo to hurt Serbian people. We took a stand for the humanity of all people and against anyone who seeks to use racial, religious, or ethnic differences to promote hatred and crush people's hopes and deny children like those on this stage with me their God-given right to an education and a safe future.

I want this school—this school rebuilt—to be the symbol of all of our tomorrows. And I will do my best to see that the United States is your partner and your friend.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:52 p.m. in the courtyard at Treca Gimnazija (Third High School). In his remarks, he referred to student Jana Jakic, who introduced the President; Sarajevo Canton Prime Minister Beriz Belkic; former Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency Members Kresimir Zubak (Croat) and Momcilo Krajisnik (Serb); current Presidency Members Alija Izetbegovic (Muslim), Ante Jelavic (Croat), and Zivko Radisic (Serb); and President Slobodan Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).

William J. Clinton, Remarks to High School Students in Sarajevo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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