THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE ANNUAL DINNER The Washington Hilton Washington, D.C.
8:00 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Ken. And, thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for that warm welcome and for the work you do. It's a real honor for me to be here tonight among so many friends and colleagues who have worked so hard to promote democracy throughout the world. The work of NDI is well-known and highly prized, from Russia and the Baltics, to Mexico, Paraguay, to the African continent and many other places where you are working to breathe life into the idea of democracy. I salute you for that work.
I think the knowledge that so many Americans have of your work and the credibility it has gained in the Congress is one reason that I was able to secure, with the help of some of the people here present, a substantial increase in funding for the National Endowment for Democracy at a time when we were cutting more than half the items in the domestic and the foreign budget. (Applause.)
I would also like to thank you for Brian Atwood, and for the fine job he's done at AID. (Applause.) I am delighted that, tonight, you're honoring two extraordinary leaders -- Korean President Kim Yong-sam and Senator George Mitchell. Their lives have given meaning to the ideals which have inspired so many millions of people around the world who struggle for democracy.
President Kim's valiant efforts since his service as a young assemblyman to bring democracy to Korea are a model to aspiring democrats everywhere. He has certainly paid a price for his devotion to freedom and democracy. And all of us, and all freedom-loving people everywhere in the world should honor the personal price he paid, and then the fact that, once given the chance to govern his country, he lived in office by the ideals he expressed out of office. More should do the same. (Applause.)
I also want to thank the NDI for honoring my good friend, Senator George Mitchell, whose contributions to democracy, whose work for responsive government here at home and whose personal integrity proved once again that politics can be an honorable profession. When I went to the meeting of the Asian Pacific leaders in Seattle on the heels of the remarkable vote for the NAFTA treaty in the House of Representatives, and its following overwhelming support in the Senate; something, which I add, I am convinced is good for democracy in Mexico and throughout Latin America. (Applause.)
George Mitchell made sure that I did not forget that one of my missions was to espouse the cause of human rights in all the countries of the world who seek to be our full partners in moving toward the 21st century, and I thank them for that. (Applause.)
Not long before I came over here tonight, and after I finished the day's work, I went home to be with my daughter for a few moments, and she had a friend from school over and they're studying for an examination around the kitchen table, the way I did so many times when I was her age. And we turned on the evening news because I wanted to see what was on about the airline strike which was settled today, and I thank the parties involved for doing that. And there was a -- (applause) -- there was a special on, as you might imagine, about John Kennedy, since this is the 30th anniversary of his death. And it showed a lot of predictable footage, but I enjoyed watching it all the same. And the people who were commenting on the channels I watched all pointed out that everyone who was old enough to remember could tell you exactly where he or she was at that moment on that fateful Friday 30 years ago.
But the thing that I was most moved by was the comment that, at that time, 30 years ago, the American people believed in their government and believed in their president, and believed in the promise of democracy, to improve the lot of the people of this country and people throughout the world. And, of course, the commentator went on to point out how much more difficult it is today not only in our country, but throughout the world because of economic stagnation, because of the pressures from the middle class, because of the continuing inability of democracy to deliver on some of the deepest hopes and dreams of humankind.
I say to you tonight that if we had more people in public life like George Mitchell and President Kim, the confidence of the people of the world in democracy would go up, and the confidence of the people of the United States and who we are, what we believe in and what we're capable of doing would increase. And so I ask you tonight, as you honor them on this fateful anniversary who ask also of yourselves, what can we do together to make people really believe in the cause for which these men and so many others have given so much. Thank you, and good night. (Applause.)
END8:07 P.M. EST