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Remarks to the Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies

July 17, 1996

Thank you. Since this has now happened a number of times, I have prepared no fewer than a dozen introductions of Hillary, and some day I'll get to do a few of them. [Laughter]

I am delighted to see you all here. I want to thank Lee Annenberg and all the rest of you who have supported this program so strongly. I also want to say it's a thrill for me personally to see Robert Rauschenberg here again. I had the honor of presenting him the National Medal of Arts in 1993. And when I said—I saw him a minute or two ago, and he said, "You have summoned me here again." [Laughter] And I thought, if only the Congress were as responsive as Mr. Rauschenberg. [Laughter] Thank you, sir, for your generosity to the arts and embassies program. And I'm happy to be here to witness another example of it today.

I'd like to thank Senator Pell and Chairman Gilman for being here. Mrs. Pell, thank you for coming. I'd like to thank all the Ambassadors who are here, especially Ambassadors to the United States from so many other countries. It's a great honor for us and for this program that so many have come here to be with us today.

For 10 years the Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies have graced the walls of nearly 200 of our embassies with over 3,000 great works of American art. To date you've raised over $8 million to fund projects at embassy residences all across the world. On behalf of our administration, and especially those who work in the diplomatic corps who have been daily enriched by your generosity, I want to thank you. This is a remarkable citizen achievement of which all can be justly proud.

We've seen a lot of these projects, as Hillary said. She just returned from, I guess, seeing seven of our embassies on her recent trip. I never cease to be amazed, sometimes outright startled, at what I find when I walk into one of our embassies overseas and I see some new miracle of American creativity that I had never before seen. I've marveled at the precise restorations of priceless murals at our embassy in Madrid, the conservation of treasured paintings at our embassy in London. I know that I've only seen a fraction of them, and I hope I'll have a chance to see a few more in the next couple of years. [Laughter] I look forward to seeing more examples of these works. And I know that they've been highlighted in the book that commemorates your 10th anniversary.

This has not been an easy time on the budgets of those in the Foreign Service, partly for reasons that apply to our whole budget. We have been working hard to get rid of a burdensome Government deficit. We've brought it down 4 years in a row for the first time in a long time, partly because there are those who believe that our diplomatic missions should be funded at lower levels, something with which I hardly disagree, especially at the end of the cold war.

But regardless of the causes, we face significant funding challenges, and the kinds of things that you have made possible would never have been possible without your endeavors. But I'm sure you understand that in the environment today, they are more important than ever before, by far.

And I guess if I could just do anything else here, I just want you to know that it really makes a difference. I want you to believe that the power of private responsibility and public service working together that you've embodied for 10 years really makes a difference. I feel it every time I walk into an American embassy in any part of the world. And I hear so many people comment on it who travel the world and go to our embassies. And, of course, those who work there and those who live in the residences are the most grateful of all.

So let me again say, thank you. We're delighted to have you here. And I'd like to now call Lee Annenberg to the podium.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2 p.m. on the State Floor at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Lee Annenberg, chair, Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies; artist Robert Rauschenberg; and Senator Claiborne Pell's wife, Nuala.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to the Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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