Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at the Dedication of William Jefferson Clinton Elementary Magnet School in Sherwood

January 04, 1995

Thank you very much. First of all, I want to thank Mario. He gave a pretty good speech, didn't he? I mean—[applause]—give him a hand. He looked fine. He spoke with confidence and strength. And he was brief. He's going to win a lot more elections if he keeps doing that. [Laughter]

Jackye Parker, thank you for making Hillary and me and all of us feel so welcome today. Reedie Ray, thank you for your leadership on the school board and for your comments. To my old friend Bobby Lester, thank you for your heartfelt remarks and for your lifetime of devotion to the children of our State. To the teachers and the parents, the district officials, all of you who are here; to the mayors of Little Rock and North Little Rock, of Jacksonville and Sherwood; to the county officials, I'd like to say a special word of welcome and thanks for their attendance. To Governor and Mrs. Tucker, thank you for being here and for your leadership of our State. I thank my dear stepfather, Dick Kelley, for coming here today. I am glad to have him and the Clinton connection here. And I thank my pastor, Reverend Rex Horn, for coming. Thank you for being here, and many others I probably should introduce.

I just was in the media center named for Hillary, and we met with a representative group of students who asked us questions, everything from whether Socks really sleeps in the White House to how I handle criticism. So if I forgot to introduce someone, we'll see how I handle criticism when this is over. [Laughter]

This is a wonderful way for us to start the new year. I've had a great stay at home, and this is a great way for me to leave Arkansas to go back to begin work with the new Congress and facing our new future.

You know, I was apprehensive when I heard that you were going to name this school after me. Most people don't have a school named after them until they're not around anymore. [Laughter] And here I am, apparently healthy and able to enjoy it and very, very happy about it and proud of it. I'm proud of it because so much of my work as Governor of this State and so much of my work as President of our country is tied to education and to the absolute necessity for all of our people to be able to learn and learn and learn.

I thank you for making this dedication a family affair, for naming the multipurpose room for my mother, and especially for naming the library and media center for Hillary, because as Mr. Lester especially knows, she worked very, very hard to take all the districts in our county here out of court and put them back in the business of teaching our children and to help create these magnet schools which could be a magnet for the imagination and the potential of all the children of this area without regard to their race or their background or their family circumstances.

I thank you for your mission, which is a real picture of America's future, core knowledge, technology with a special emphasis on communications. If you think about it, we all need more core knowledge in a society where success is based on what you know and not just how hard you work. We all need to master technology because our society is changing so fast. When these children are our age, they will be dealing with things in technology that we cannot even imagine now.

And we all need to learn how to communicate with one another better, because while we want to be independent, we know that we are dependent on one another for our common success. And unless we can understand each other and communicate our deepest feelings and values and convictions, we won't be successful.

You know, when I was a Governor here, I had a very clear sense that Arkansas needed to work on two things above all others. One is to create more jobs and to be more competitive in getting jobs into this State. The other was to provide for the education of our children and the training of our adults so that we could compete and win in this tough global economy. It took a long time to do it. I am very proud of the work that Governor Tucker and the others at our State level and all the folks at the local are still doing in that regard.

The day before yesterday I heard something that was music to my ears when one of the Governor's economic development officers told me that the toughest problem they're facing now in recruiting new industry is trying to convince people from other States and other countries that there really will be enough people here to fill those new jobs, because we have the lowest unemployment rate we've had in nearly 20 years. That is a wonderful, wonderful circumstance.

And I want every one of you to know, as I'm sure you do, that that didn't happen overnight. The credit goes to thousands, indeed tens of thousands of people, who worked for years and years and years to turn our State around economically and to build our State up educationally.

If you think about where America is today, poised on the 21st century, that is what we need to be doing in the United States. And we need to understand that just as our State couldn't turn all of its challenges around overnight, neither can the United States. But unless we begin and unless we stick at the task and unless we refuse to be diverted, to be jerked from one end of the spectrum to the other, and keep our eye on the future, we cannot succeed.

These children deserve a future that is worthy of the work being done by the teachers, the parents in this school. That's what they deserve, and we've got to give it to them.

I have worked hard for 2 years to try to clean up some of the problems I found when I became President. We have taken now $11,000 in debt off of the family—every family in Arkansas by reducing the deficit—$11,000 off of these children's future. We have expanded the ability of Americans to sell our goods and services to other countries, more than ever before. And we now have more than 5 million new jobs in our country.

But we know that a lot of folks are still struggling with the same problems we dealt with here for so many years: how to get and keep a good job, how to provide health care and education and other necessities for their families, how to make sure their children have a good education. And so, as I leave to go back to Washington, I'm going back to challenge the Congress to do what is necessary to guarantee the future of the next generation of Americans, and this present—of this generation of Americans as we move into the 21st century. I want them to adopt what I call a middle class bill of rights, to keep the American dream alive by promoting education and strengthening family. And I hope the Congress will adapt and accept that challenge.

You know, anybody can come up and say, "I want to give you a tax cut," and make people happy in the short run. What I want to do is reduce taxes for people to invest in the education of their children and their own training and skills, so we can go forward and grow this economy.

So I say to all of you—I got a question from one of the students today that I want every grownup here to think about as we think about what we want for our country. One of the students asked me when we were in the other room meeting, he said, "How did you not give up on your dreams of being President?" So I ask all of you, first of all, do you have a dream, and second, how are you going to not give up on it, just like the young student asked me?

My dream for our country is that when we go into this next century we will still be the strongest country in the world, leading the world toward peace and freedom and democracy and prosperity. My dream for America is that the American dream will still be alive, the middleclass dream that if you work hard and obey the law you can make the most of yourself, you can do anything you want to do.

When I was born in this State right after World War II and nearly everybody in Arkansas was very poor, mothers and fathers were giving their children that dream. And we ought to give it to this generation of children.

So I say to all of you: Let's take the lessons of the children. Let's pay attention when people are talking to us. Let's listen to all sides of the argument. Let's be good citizens and discuss the great challenges facing our country. Let's discount all the politics of personal destruction and enhance our ability to think about what is true, what is fair, and what is important. Let us take responsibility for the future of this country and commit ourselves to economic opportunity and to education and to doing that in a way that strengthens the American community, so that we come together instead of being more and more divided.

To the students I say: This is a beautiful building. I am honored that my name is on it. I am honored that a room is named for my mother and that a room is named for my wife, who worked so hard for your education. But the really important thing about the building is you. It's what you do here every day. I want you to learn and learn and learn.

I want you to say no to the bad things that will face you. Say no to violence and no to drugs and no to people who want to take your future away from you.

But more importantly, I want you to say yes: Yes, I have a dream for what I can be. Yes, I'm going to live out my dream. Yes, I'm going to do everything I can in this school to learn and to grow, to be a good person, to have a great life. That's what education is all about. I want you to be good people and have great lives. Then, having my name on this school will be the greatest honor any person could ever have.

Good luck. God bless you, and thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:44 a.m. in the cafetorium. In his remarks, he referred to Mario Hood, president of the student council; Jackye Parker, principal; Reedie Ray, president of the board of education; and Bobby Lester, superintendent of schools.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Dedication of William Jefferson Clinton Elementary Magnet School in Sherwood Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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