Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at the Anchorage Museum of Art and History

November 11, 1994

Well, let me just say, as I said out at the base, I've been trying for 2 years to get to Alaska, and I finally made it today. And I thank the Governor, the Senator, and the mayor for coming out to meet Hillary and me. I also want to say that this is my first trip to Alaska—now I can say that in the last couple of years I've been to every State in America—and I hope I'll be coming back. But it's not Hillary's first trip to Alaska; she is coming back. She worked here 25 years ago when she was about 6 and violated the child labor law. [Laughter]

So I thought I would just ask her to come up here and say a word, because it's been— this has been a very meaningful trip to her. I was trying to get a little sleep, and when we started—we finally got into the airspace of Alaska, she was beating on me, saying, "Wake up, wake up, look at this, look at this." [Laughter] So I heard the story again for the 500th time—[laughter]—which I love; now I can tell it as well.

So please come up and say a word.

[At this point, Hillary Clinton briefly described her first visit to Alaska and her job there cleaning fish.]

The President. You know, it really is good preparation for Washington. You do need the hip boots and the raincoat, but you have to trade the spoon in for a shovel. [Laughter]

Let me say, what we'd like to do now is just to say hello to everyone. I do want to say again how very proud I am to be here. Let me just make one comment specific, if I might, to Alaska. When I was coming down—I've been so excited about this trip. One of the things that is most fascinating about this country is how incredibly different and diverse it is, from one coast to the other and all places in between, and yet how there are certain ties that bind us together.

About a week ago, or maybe a little—[inaudible]—a week ago now, I was in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It's about as far away from here as you can get and still be in America. And I was the first President since Andrew Jackson to go there, which is appropriate. [Laughter] But I was in the Portuguese Social Club. America has over one million Portuguese-Americans.

Most of them live in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, although there is also a big contingent in California. And I was thinking then, you know, I said, gosh, here I am with Portuguese in Rhode Island, and I'm about to go to Alaska.

And if you think about it, that is the great promise of this country. There is no other nation in the world so well positioned to move into the next century, in which the world gets smaller and smaller, because we already have everybody here. And if we can figure out how to deal with the honest differences we have, in ways that permit us to build unity out of our differences, there will be no stopping this country.

It is astonishing—every place I go in the world, I meet somebody with a relative in the United States. Every place I go, people think they can relate to us, in no small measure because we have welcomed others from all over the world, of different faiths, to our shores. And we still have stood up for our constant values, freedom and democracy.

The most amazing part of the trip I took to the Middle East, when Hillary and I went over there for the signing, that didn't—I don't think it made a lot of impression here at home, and it had the biggest impact, I think, there— the opportunity I had to stand in the Jordanian Parliament and tell those folks that we had millions of Americans that answered the Muslim call to prayer every day and that we respected Islam. We knew there was nothing in their religion that would divide us, that would promote terrorism, that would be destructive of our values, and that the things that we opposed that we saw—the terrorism there in the Middle East is something that we oppose anywhere, anyplace, coming from any group of people. And it was stunning. They had never really thought about it before, that America was a place that all who share our values and obey our laws can call home.

It's our meal ticket to the future, and we have to nourish it. That means that whoever is the President, whoever is in charge of the National Government, even though there won't be always easy answers or perfect answers to these problems, we have to be sensitive to the fact that Alaska is different from Rhode Island, Colorado is different from Florida. The problems are different; the challenges are different; the opportunities are different.

I'm glad to have a chance to be here. And I hope we have a lot of opportunities to work together.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:50 p.m. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Anchorage Museum of Art and History Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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