Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at the Olympic Dinner

May 01, 1996

Thank you very much. Thank you so much. President Walker, thank you for your remarks and for your work, and to Dick Schultz and Jim Hardymon, Steve Green, Anita DeFrantz, and others who are responsible for this dinner tonight. To the Members of Congress who are here, and Mr. Michel, it's good to see you again. I miss you. I'm glad you're here—I'm glad you're here.

I want to thank the Vice President and Mack McLarty for the work they have done on the Olympics and all those others in our administration who have undertaken this endeavor, I must say, with great joy and energy. As the Vice President mentioned, Hillary had the honor of representing our country at the Olympics in Lillehammer and of being in Greece in Olympia with our daughter when the Olympic flame was lit to be brought to the United States. Our experience with the Olympics has been one of the great highlights of our service here in Washington and in this great office.

I'd also like to say a special word of appreciation to the men and women up here on the stage with me, particularly those who were with me today earlier and the Vice President, over at Eastern High School in the Champions in Life program, for truly so many of them have been an inspiration to young people all across the country who may never be Olympic athletes but can be Olympian in their citizenship and character and the contribution they give to this country, and who drew inspiration and strength from what was said for them today.

I want to thank Billy Payne and Andy Fleming and all those who have worked so hard to make the Atlanta Olympics and the Paralympics a great success, but also those who won the competition for the 100th modern Olympics to be in Atlanta. It's a great honor for the United States. And when opening day comes, I believe that the United States will measure up to that honor, that the world will see America achieving a new national best.

The spirit of the United States Olympic Committee was basically born with Dr. William Milligan Sloane, who helped to rekindle the modern Olympic Games and who was so dedicated to getting his team to Athens for the 1896 Olympics that he gave up his own ticket, and his wife's, so that the last 2 of the 13 American team members could go. He didn't even get to see the spectacle he had made possible. Now, I know a lot of you have given very generously to these Olympic Games, but at least you're going to get to see them unfold.

The legacy that Dr. Sloane left us has been richly fulfilled by this U.S. Olympic Committee. When our athletes line up at the starting blocks or face off in the wrestlers' circle or the boxing ring or the basketball or the tennis court, we will see the best in the world. But we have to thank not only them for their dedication, their coaches, their trainers, their families, their friends but also the United States Olympic Committee. Here in America we do it our way; the Government does not finance the Olympic teams. Everyone pitches in and does his or her part, businesses, communities, universities, neighbors, friends, and families.

So not only our athletes but also all of you who have anything to do with the Olympics are part of Team U.S.A. And on behalf of the American people, let me thank you for making Team U.S.A. possible. We are very proud of you.

Not very long ago I had the privilege to spend a few hours with Billy Payne, walking around the Olympic stadium and some of the facilities and being briefed. Andy Fleming was there; others were there. And I'm telling you, they have done a magnificent job down there, and I am in awe of the level of organization, preparation, and execution we are seeing. I am very proud of every aspect of this Olympics, and I will be bursting with pride when the games begin. I hope in some way I can communicate to the American people and to people all over the world what the spirit and character of the Olympics mean, what the standard of excellence within honorable rules set by these Olympians and the Paralympians mean to the United States.

I also want to thank those who were there with me at Eastern High School today, who reminded those young people that no one really makes it alone and that every achievement is worthy of respect. That's what I want the world to see at the Olympics this summer. And if I could leave you with that thought—you know, when this country gets together, when we reach across all the lines that divide us, when we say, in spite of our differences of color or creed or region or station in life, we really are one nation, helping each other to achieve our individual dreams—when America does that, we are never defeated. And I believe this summer the world will see one America, a place where individual dreams are realized through common efforts, where all Americans who want to work hard are being given a chance to succeed, where different points of view and different heritages are undergirded by shared values that keep this great country strong and secure and give it its character and its future.

I thank you, all of you, for contributing to that and for making America's team still the envy of the entire world. Good luck, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8 p.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to LeRoy T. Walker, president, and Dick Schultz, executive director, U.S. Olympic Committee; James F. Hardymon, chairman and CEO of Textron, Inc.; Steve Green, chairman and CEO of Samsonite; Anita DeFrantz, member, International Olympic Committee; Bob Michel, former House minority leader; Billy Payne, chief executive officer, Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games; and G. Andrew Fleming, chief executive officer, Atlanta Paralympic Organizing Committee.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Olympic Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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