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Remarks Welcoming President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine

November 22, 1994

Mr. President, Mrs. Kuchma, members of the Ukrainian delegation, representatives of the Ukrainian-American community, distinguished guests: It is indeed an honor to welcome to Washington the leader of one of the world's youngest democracies and oldest nations. To have you here with us today, Mr. President, is to be reminded that we live in an era of wonders, a time when peoples long denied hope are having age-old dreams fulfilled, a time when the unstoppable power of men and women who wish to be free has been demonstrated anew.

The rebirth of Ukraine as an independent state after centuries of rule by others is one of the most inspiring developments of our time. For ages Ukraine was divided by competing empires, then subjugated to czars and commissars. Despite efforts to create an independent Ukraine, dictators, terrible famines, and relentless oppression all combined to deny your people the right to shape their own fate. Despite these ordeals, the Ukrainian people have endured, preserving hope and their identity and contributing greatly to the glories of European civilization. Now, finally, Ukraine has reclaimed its independence and its place as a pivotal state in the new Europe.

We congratulate you, Mr. President, and all Ukrainians on your remarkable achievements in the almost 3 years since regaining your freedom. You held a historic referendum and began the hard work of reform and building democratic institutions. Above all, Ukrainians are weathering the immense difficulties of political and economic transition. In the face of continuous hardship, you have shown patience, bravery, and the ability to overcome all obstacles, an ability your young athletes, like Oksana Baiul, showed so spectacularly in the Olympic competition.

We honor you, Mr. President, in our Nation's Capital as the man who is leading a Ukrainian renaissance. Your boldness in the face of daunting problems reminds us of one of our greatest leaders, Franklin Roosevelt, who provided leadership in a time of great hardship in the United States. Like him, you inherited a nation in the throes of economic depression. And like him, you have lighted the darkness and created hope.

You have blazed a path ahead on the two most critical issues for the future, economic reform and nuclear weapons. Thanks to your leadership, Ukraine is making the hard choices that will ensure the prosperity Ukrainians deserve. And thanks to your vision and that of the Ukrainian Parliament, you are removing the threat of nuclear weapons and laying the groundwork for an era of peace with your neighbors. I salute the courage you have shown.

America will stand with you to support your independence, your territorial integrity, and your reforms. We are bound together by a dedication to peace and a devotion to freedom. The flame of that commitment to freedom was kept burning during the cold war by nearly a million Ukrainian-Americans, some of whom are with us here today, who never forgot Ukraine and who are today contributing to its reawakening. Now that your country is again free, all Americans are determined that the flame of Ukrainian freedom will burn ever brighter. We will stand with you.

Seventy-seven years ago today, Mr. President, on November 22d, 1917, another generation of Ukrainian leaders declared the independence of Ukraine. It was a tragedy that civil war and bolshevism doomed that new state while it was still in its infancy.

Today we are pleased and honored to welcome you, the leader of a Ukraine that is conquering the challenges of independence, poised to fulfill its hopes, a nation that will grow into one of the great nations of Europe. And we say, Vitayemo. Welcome.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:08 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Welcoming President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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