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Remarks at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Landmark for Peace Memorial in Indianapolis, Indiana

May 14, 1994

Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, now we're all being tested by a little rain. Those of us who grew up in farming areas know that rain is a gift from God. It's going to help us all grow a little.

Let me say how honored I am to be back in Indianapolis with your Governor, your mayor, the prosecutor who supported this fine project. I'm glad to be here with Congressman Jacobs and the other Members of Congress and with Senator Lugar, who was the mayor here that fateful night in April in 1968 so long ago. I thank Mrs. Kennedy and Senator Kennedy and Martin and Dexter King for coming here, as well as others from Indiana that came down with me, Congressman Roemer, Congressman McCloskey, Congressman Lee Hamilton.

Let me tell you, folks, even in the rain I can say in a much more brief manner what I would have taken longer to say if it hadn't been raining, and it is this: I sought the Presidency because I was inspired by what you just saw on that screen when I was a young man, and I believed we could do better. I believed that we could build a country where we would go forward instead of backward and where we would go forward together, where people would deal with one another across the bounds of race and region and income and religion and even different political parties and philosophies with respect and honor, to try to pull this country together and push our people forward.

We just have witnessed a miracle in South Africa. We hope we are witnessing a miracle in the Middle East, as the Palestinians cheer and the police officers move into Jericho and they try to take control of their own destiny.

Everywhere in the world people have looked to us for an example. And I ask you today, have we created that miracle here at home? What you saw in Robert Kennedy's speech was a miracle that night. He was advised not to come here. The police said, we're worried about your safety. Cities all over America erupted in flames when Dr. King was killed. But a miracle occurred here in Indianapolis. The city did not burn because the people's hearts were touched. Miracles begin with personal choices.

Yes, I would like to say to you, the things I can do as your President to create jobs, to empower people through education, to reform the welfare system, to give health care to all Americans, to pass this crime bill, these things will change America. Oh, yes, they will. But in the end, America must be changed by you, in your hearts, in your lives every day on every street in this country. And you can do it.

In our Nation's Capital, just a few days ago, there was a news story about people living in a poor neighborhood who got sick and tired of seeing their children shot and living in fear, so they put a big fence up around their neighborhood. And they hired guards, just like they were rich folks in a planned development. And they got exactly the same result: people could go outside and sit on the park benches, and the children could walk and play. And one of the men was interviewed. He said, "I guess this is freedom in the nineties." Is it freedom in the nineties when we have to put up walls between our own people even as we celebrate the walls coming down from Berlin to South Africa? Is that our freedom? Are we going to live in a time when all of our political dialog becomes a shouting match? You heard what Diane said. That's absolutely true. "If you preach hate, you can get a talk show. If you preach love, you'll get a yawn."

What we have to decide today is whether we are going to live by the spirit that animates this park and this project. I want to thank the Indiana Pacers. I want to thank your prosecutor. I want to thank everybody who's responsible for this gun buy-back program. But when they melt that metal down and they make this statue to the memory of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, you ask yourselves, why don't we keep giving these guns up? Why don't we keep melting them down? Why don't we make a monument to peace where all of us can live together, not with walls coming up but with walls tearing down, so we can go forward together.

God bless you, and thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10 a.m. at the Martin Luther King Memorial Park. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Evan Bayh of Indiana; Mayor Stephen Goldsmith of Indianapolis; Jeffery Modisett, Marion County prosecutor; Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy; Martin Luther King III and Dexter King, sons of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Diane Simon, wife of Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon, whose team spearheaded the memorial project.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Landmark for Peace Memorial in Indianapolis, Indiana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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