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Remarks to the Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies

June 08, 1995

One of these days we're going to have an days. [Laughter] Lord only knows what will hapevent where I have to be introduced by the pen—[laughter]—but it will be another adven-First Lady when we've had one of those other ture.

I am delighted to see all of you here. I'm glad to be here with our friend Lee Annenberg and with Ann Gund and with all of you who support this important work.

Let me say that this has been an interesting day at the White House. We swore in 263 police officers earlier today. We've had all kinds of people in here from all over America. But mostly we have been celebrating the liberation of that fine young Air Force captain from Bosnia.

Sometimes I read even in the American press from time to time that we don't seem to be doing anything in Bosnia and we don't seem to have exerted ourselves. You should know that we have over 1,000 American troops on the border of Bosnia in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to make sure that conflict doesn't spread. We have 200 Americans in the hospital unit in Croatia. And we have flown the longest humanitarian airlift and the largest one in history, larger than the Berlin airlift, to guarantee food and medicine to people in the besieged areas of Bosnia. And perhaps most importantly of all, people like that fine young captain have been flying for a couple of years now to keep the war out of the air. And for all of our frustrations and feelings of anxiety and anger, in 1992 there were about 130,000 civilians killed, a staggering number, in that troubled land. Last year there were under 3,000.

So I ask you to remember as we celebrate this liberation that a lot of people stick their neck out every day, and the results have been important. If you look at Northern Ireland or South Africa or the Middle East, the lesson of this time is that it's very difficult to enforce peace on people that want to keep fighting with one another, but what you try to do is to keep it within some bounds of humanity, keep working on diplomacy until they spend their destructive energies and start trying to build again.

And once in a while the risk becomes apparent, as it was in the case of this brave pilot. And for 6 days he held out against a lot of attempts to find him and to shoot him and capture him. And he represented the best in our country. He told me today when we visited on the phone—I talked to his parents last night at 1:30 a.m., and they asked me if I was going to call him. I said, "No, you call him. I'm going to bed. I just wanted—[laughter]—I wanted you to know he was home safe." But he told me today that he was on the ground between 3 and 5 minutes before armed people made it to his parachute. He had 3 to 5 minutes to find a place to hide and begin this incredible odyssey that I'm sure some day will be a very great movie that all of us will think is suitable for everyone to see. [Laughter]

Let me say on behalf of all of our administration and especially the people who work in America's diplomatic efforts, we are profoundly grateful for what you do. By putting American art in our embassies around the world, you are part of our public diplomacy, you expose an important part of the essence of America to people all around the world. And it couldn't happen without you.

I also want to thank you because you have put, I think, now over 2,200 works of American art in more than 170 countries, raised over $7 million to fund projects at embassy residencies in Beijing and Cairo and Rome and London, Singapore, Tokyo, and Warsaw. And I've been to a lot of those places, so I am one of the chief beneficiaries of your efforts. And I thank you for that.

You couldn't do it alone. The State Department couldn't do it alone. This represents one of those remarkable partnerships between the public and the private sector in America that almost nobody knows about but everyone takes for granted when they benefit from it.

We're having such a raging debate in this country today about whether public is bad and private is good, whether all of our efforts should be directed at correcting personal conduct or at changing economic or political direction. I think these debates make for very interesting print and maybe news coverage at night, but they don't conform to the real-world experience of most people.

Most of us, I think, all of our lives have felt that when people get together in some sort of constructive partnership, that's what works best. And I think one of the most frustrating things to me about going to work every day, in this otherwise exhilarating environment, is knowing that what comes across to the American people are these polarized choices and conflicts and rhetorical battles which don't reflect the way any sensible person would run his or her family or business or charitable organization or hospital or church or you name it.

You have done what I think is best about America. You have taken the world as you find it, worked together in a real spirit of partnership, recognized that there is a personal responsibility and opportunity and also a public responsibility in this area. I wish we had more of it, and I'm glad we've got you. Thank you very much.

I have a lot to be grateful to Lee Annenberg and her fine husband, Walter, for, but not so long ago we were here to announce that the Annenbergs had decided to donate a staggering sum for the purpose of trying to improve public education in this country. I think there is no more noble cause. And because of what they have done, all across America people are doing things differently, striving for global standards of excellence in grassroots community schools. And for that and for this and for so much else, the country owes a great debt of gratitude to Lee Annenberg, and I am very pleased to introduce her now.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:17 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Leonore Annenberg, chairperson, and Ann Gund, vice chairperson, Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies.

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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