Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Reception for Hillary Clinton in New York City

September 11, 2000

Well, if I were showing good judgment, I would say nothing after that. [Laughter] First, let me thank our host and hostess for making us feel so welcome in this beautiful, beautiful place.

I would like to thank all of you for the contributions you have made to America in these last years that I've been privileged to serve as President, because I sometimes think that most of what I did was to get the stumbling blocks out of your way. You did the rest—every one of you, each in your own way.

One of the things that bothers me as I travel around the world today is, I see everywhere I go, in the poorest village in Africa—I can sit with children for 10 minutes, and I see the light of intelligence in people's eyes. I see the energy, the belief, the hope. And I realize that so many times, people like me in positions of responsibility just mess it up for them, if people play games with power and create illusions in the minds of people about false values, and all of a sudden, all these brilliant children grow up and there's nothing for them to do; there's no education for them to get and no dreams for them to fulfill.

And so if I've had anything to do with what any of you have achieved in the last 8 years, I've just tried to make sure that we were doing the right thing so that you would be able to do what you do so well.

And I have to tell you, I think America is profoundly indebted to all of its immigrant people, and there are many people who came here from other countries, not from India, here in this room tonight, and I thank them as well.

But I think I should say a special word of appreciation to the Indian community in the United States which, of all of our more than 200 ethnic and religious groups, ranks first in education and in income, a great tribute to your efforts and to your values.

I loved my trip to India. And when Hillary and Chelsea came home, they told me that if I didn't go to another country before I left the Presidency, I had to go to India. So I did. As you know, I visited more briefly the rest of the subcontinent. I regret that I was not more help to you in the cause of peace, but I will keep trying.

I had to confess to a reporter the other day— I say this out of deference to my good friends John and Margo Catsimatidis, who are here, who have more than a passing interest in Greece and the relationships between Greece and Turkey and the problems in Cyprus. I do believe when I leave office, I will have made progress on every problem I tackled around the world except, so far, I can't say I moved the ball forward on the Indian subcontinent or in Cyprus. But I have tried, and I will keep trying. I promise you that.

I just want to say a couple of words about this election and about Hillary in particular. So many of you were kind to say things when you went through the line, and you wished I could run for a third term and all of that. But this is a country of citizens, and this has always been a country in which the citizens were the most important people.

When Harry Truman went home to Missouri after an enormously important period in our country's history, when he basically organized our world to deal with the cold war, he said that he was resuming his most important title, that of citizen. And so now that my party has a new leader and my family has a new candidate—[laughter]—I suppose my official title should be Cheerleader in Chief instead of Commander in Chief. [Laughter]

But I will say this because I think all of you who have enjoyed great success in our country will identify with it. If you work hard, you also have to work smart. Ideas have consequences. If you have a bad idea, it doesn't matter how hard you work with it; you still won't get good consequences out of it. And the important thing that I think that has been at the core of all my concern about this election is that I think it is easier for a free people to make a mistake when times are good than when times are bad.

The American people took a chance on me and Hillary and Al and Tipper Gore in 1992, but it wasn't much of a chance, because we were in trouble, and everybody knew we had to change and try something new. So they gave us a chance. But we changed the economic policy, the education policy, the health care policy, the environmental policy, the criminal justice policy, and big parts of the foreign policy of our country.

You now have had a test run. And so, yes, I feel especially strongly, obviously, about Hillary. But the thing that matters to me as an American is that we keep changing but that we keep changing in the direction in which we are going, because we still have big challenges out there. There are still too many children living in poverty in this country when they should not be. There are still too many children that don't have excellence of education that they should have. There is still inadequate preparation for the aging of America when the so-called baby boom generation retires. And under present estimates, there will only be about two people working for every one person retired and on our Social Security system. We must not let the aging of America impose a burden on our children and their ability to raise our grandchildren.

So we have these big challenges. We also, as Americans, have not fully recognized the extent to which we are interdependent with the rest of the world. We should be doing more to develop the capacities of Indians within India and other peoples around the world and building trading and other ties with people and working with people more. That's why I came up here and spent 3 days last week at the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, meeting with leaders from all over the world, doing my best to try to create the impression that America does not wish to dominate the world but to work with it so that we can all win together.

There is a very interesting book out today called "Non Zero," by an American writer named Robert Wright. But it might have had some roots in Oriental philosophy. The basic argument of the book, the "Non Zero" book, is that as societies grow more advanced and complex, people inevitably grow more interdependent, both within nations and across national boundaries.

And therefore, notwithstanding the terrible things that happened in the 20th century and the World Wars and the oppression of the dictatorships, the world essentially has continued to grow more interdependent, which means that wisdom dictates that we look for more and more human interaction where everyone wins, which are not, in the parlance of game theories, zerosum solutions, but win-win solutions, where we look for non-zero solutions.

The reason that I think it is important for Hillary to be in the Senate is that for 30 years, starting with the welfare of children and their families, with the need for people to balance work and childrearing with the understanding that the most important work of any society is raising children well, she has spent a lifetime looking for solutions in which everyone comes out better.

Now, the book is not naive, and neither am I. There is a race for President. One person will win, and one person will lose. There's a race for this Senate seat. One will win, and one will lose. But we should vote for the person who will make us all win more, who realizes that we all do better when we help each other and when everyone has a chance. And for all the advances in this country, we can't yet say that is the truth.

One of the things that upsets me from time to time is when some of our critics—and I say it because, regrettably, she's inherited most of my enemies—[laughter]—and probably, maybe she's made one or two on her own, but not many—[laughter]—they'll say, "Well, she wouldn't be up here running for the Senate if she weren't the First Lady." The truth is that if she hadn't been married to me and spent 30 years trying to help other people and do things for other people, she might have been doing this 20 years ago.

So I want you to understand that, yes, I'm biased, but New York could not pick a person who is better suited for the genuine challenges that our State, our Nation, and our world face in the new millennium than Hillary. And I thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:43 p.m. at a private residence. In his remarks, he referred to reception hosts Sant and Daman Chatwal; and John A. Catsimatidis, former president, U.S. Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council, and his wife, Margo.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Reception for Hillary Clinton in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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