Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Hollywood Tribute to the President in Los Angeles

August 12, 2000

Thank you so much. I want to thank all the people Hillary mentioned, all the other wonderful entertainers who are here in the audience tonight, all of our friends and supporters. There are so many things—I'd like to say something about everyone. I do have a confession to make. When I was in Aachen, Germany, the other day to receive the Charlemagne Prize, the ceremony began in Charlemagne's Church, built in the 8th century. And you can actually sit in the place where Charlemagne sat, and you can actually see the throne on which Charlemagne was crowned. And at that very moment, I really thought Shirley MacLaine was sitting right next to me. [Laughter]

I would also like to thank the members of our family, some of whom are here tonight, some of whom, like my mother and Hillary's dad, aren't here anymore. I'd like to thank my mother-in-law and my stepfather, Dick Kelley, my brother and his family, Hillary's two brothers, our wonderful nephews, my wonderful sister-in-law, Maria. And all these times over the last 8 years, they shared a lot of the joy, which was their perfect right, but they also had to take a lot of the bullets, which they shouldn't have. And I'm really glad that they're here with us tonight.

I was looking at those movies up there, interspersed with all the entertainment and the wonderful, wonderful things that were said. And by the way, the people that produced this show and conceived it did a fabulous job, and we ought to give them a round of applause, too. [Applause]

And I was thinking how quickly it all passed and what an absolute joy it was. I want you to know that for me this was not only the greatest honor of my life but every day, even the bad days, were good days, as long as I remembered who hired me and what I was doing there.

There were some days when the cost of doing business seemed reasonably high at the end of the 20th century, but it was still a joy. Because of you and the other Americans who gave me a chance to serve, I had a chance to save lives and lift lives. I hope I made some little kids and forgotten people think that they still counted. I hope that around the world, fewer people will die of AIDS, fewer children will grow up poor, fewer people will die in battle. I hope that here at home, now that we have this unbelievable prosperity, the American people will decide this year to make the most of it.

That's the last thing I'd like to ask you. I've often wondered why I love music and movies so much. And Franklin Roosevelt once said it was necessary for the President to be America's greatest actor. When I read it, I had no clue what he meant. Now I understand all too well. [Laughter] I think it is because public life and politics are more than reason, and progress is more than policy. It helps to have a pretty good mind. It helps even more to have a strong constitution and a reasonably high pain threshold. But in the end, the most important thing is to do the people's business from the heart.

For in the end, it is the life we share with people whom we'll never know, many of whom have to struggle every day, perhaps that get into a wheelchair to move around or to keep body and soul together or to keep their kids out of trouble. But the difference between them and us is actually quite small.

I used to tell people in some of the dark days, when they'd say, "Don't you sometimes regret that you ever got into this?" I'd say, "Lord, no. Just a few twists in the road, and I could be home doing real estate transactions in a musty loft."

This has worked out wonderfully, because America is better off. I want you to remember that for me it was an affair of the heart, that every slogan I ever used was something I believed. I still believe we should put people first. I still believe that everybody counts; everybody ought to have a chance; we all do better when we help each other. I still believe we ought to build bridges instead of walls. I still think we should never stop thinking about tomorrow.

And more than anything else, I feel gratitude. But more than anything else, you should feel, if you really believe what was said and what we celebrated, that the best is yet to be. It is a rare thing when a country has a chance to build a future of its dreams for its children.

When Hillary decided to run for the Senate after half a dozen New York Congressmen asked her to do it, and she stirred around up there and decided she kind of liked it and that she wanted to do things that still needed doing that she had worked on all of her life, I was really proud of her, because we could have spent more evenings like this, and we could have simply spent the last year celebrating and enjoying the good fortune that our country has had, perhaps in some measure because of our efforts.

But she took all those things I've been saying all these years to heart. So after 30 years of helping other people and fighting for good causes, she decided to run for office. I hope you'll help her win, and I thank you for your help tonight.

And I just want to say one thing about the Vice President and Joe Lieberman. I couldn't top what Red Buttons said. I wish I'd written it down. I might actually crib it Monday night when I speak. [Laughter] Al Gore is a good person, a brilliant person, a hard-working person. But the reason you ought to be for him is he understands how to keep this magical prosperity going and how to spread it to the people that, I regret to say, are still left behind.

He understands the future. He was talking about global warming when we ran in '92, and people were still making fun of him. Now even the oil companies admit that it's real. He understands the implications of the Internet because he helped to take it out of being a private province of a handful of physicists.

When we became President and Vice President, there were only—listen to this—50 sites on the World Wide Web. Today, there are 10 million or 20 million. He understands the magical promise of the human genome but doesn't want anybody to have a little gene map that costs them their health insurance or their job. And I want somebody in the White House that understands the future, because it's really unfolding fast.

And picking Joe Lieberman showed a lot of judgment, as well as a lot of character. Hillary and I met Joe Lieberman when he was 28 years old, running for the State Senate, not so long after he had been a Freedom Rider in the South, helping black people to register to vote, when it was still very segregated. I've known him a long time. He also is a brilliant man, who is a little bit of an iconoclast and not afraid to think differently. And we need some of that in the White House, too, because it's awful easy to get hidebound there and to stay with the conventional wisdom.

But the most important thing is, to me anyway, they want to take us all along for the ride. And they think the people who worked this stage tonight whose names we'll never know deserve the same chance we have to send their children to college and to build the American dream for their families. They think in the arena of citizenship there are no backup singers, that everybody should have a starring role, and that's real important to me.

So that's the last thing I'd say to you. Whoopi said it right; I'm not going anywhere except to a different line of work. I'll try to be a useful citizen, and I'll try to hang around. But it's in your hands now. And the best thing you could do to honor me is to go out to everybody you can find between now and November, through every network of influence you have, and say, "Hey, the best is still out there, and the problems are still out there, and the challenges are still out there."

And those of you who are at least as old as I am know that the kind of chance we have today to build the future of our dreams for our kids maybe—maybe—comes along once in a lifetime, and nothing stays the same.

So thanks for the honor. Thanks for the memories you gave me tonight. But don't stop thinking about tomorrow.

God bless you, and thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:15 p.m. at a private residence. In his remarks, he referred to entertainers Shirley MacLaine, Red Buttons, and Whoopi Goldberg; and the President's brother, Roger Clinton, mother-in-law, Dorothy Rodham, and brothers-in-law Tony and Hugh Rodham.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Hollywood Tribute to the President in Los Angeles Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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