THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO 1994 AMERICAN WINTER OLYMPIC ATHLETES
The East Room
2:34 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. the First Lady, thank you for coming out here, in this case, not warming up but trying to cool down the crowd -- (laughter) -- while I was trying to get out of the Oval Office. To all of our distinguished guests, and especially to the Olympians.
Let me say, first of all, that the Olympics for me, like most Americans, is primarily a personal experience; not something I experienced as President, but something -- I'm just another American, cheering for our teams. I'm proud of the fact that we brought home more medals than any U.S. Winter Olympic Team in history. I'm proud of the astonishing achievements of this -- Olympic team and the fact that at least two of the athletes won four gold medals.
I was elated and a little resentful, frankly, when my wife and daughter were able to go to Lillehammer and I couldn't. But you can bet your last nickel that all of us will be in Atlanta -- (applause) -- our friends from Georgia there. (Applause.)
There's not much I can add to what the First Lady and the Vice President have said, except to first say how terribly impressed I was at the reports I got from Hillary and Chelsea about their contacts with the Olympians from the United States; about what kind of young people we sent over there and what kind of courage they had and the efforts that they made. It made an incredible impression on me.
And, second, to tell you what I said when I started -- I experience the Olympics primarily as a citizen. I was -- as a matter of fact, I may have endangered the national security, because I stayed up every night until you went off the air. (Laughter.) I saw every last event. I saw every last interview. I heard the Star Spangled Banner played every time it was played. I did it first when I was alone and then, when Hillary and Chelsea came back, we did it together. And I want to say something very personal about it.
What you did there just by getting there I hope with all my heart was communicated to the children that you visited when you went to the schools. And I thank you for that. And if I could ask you just for one thing, it would be to try to take some of your time -- and I saw from the television portraits of some of you, that a lot of you have done this already -- but to try to take some of your time for as long as you can just to find some way to expose yourselves to the young people of this country. Because so many of them have so many troubles; they have so many difficulties; they have no one to cheer them on or spur them on or get them up at 4:00 o'clock in the morning the way some of you had to to become what you wanted to be. And yet, by seeing you they can imagine themselves in the light of your life.
And I can tell you that I work hard up here every day, all of us do, trying to find ways to pull this country together and
push this country forward and give our people the opportunities to live up to their God-given capacities. But in the end, this country is great because of what happens inside people's spirits, and in families, and in communities.
And there are many of those young people who you could reach better than I ever could. And because of what you have done, they will see that there are things that they could do. Because of what you became, there are things that they can become.
I thank my friends, Florence Griffith-Joyner and Tom McMillen, for their leadership of our Council on Athletics and Physical Fitness; and all the others who have never forgotten the power of example in a positive way. Just never forget that. All of us as Americans are elated at just the very thought that we could send people to the Olympic Games and what you had to do. You will probably never know, and most of you will probably never see the results of the people you may have influenced just by visiting these schools in the last day. But I plead with you to keep doing it, because there are a lot of young people out there that we need for America's future. There are a lot of young people out there who will be making decisions about their lives in the next couple of years who literally may be profoundly affected just by seeing you standing in their classrooms or walking their halls or having a simple conversation with them.
You are the embodiment of what the rest of us try to create every day. I hope you'll never forget it, and always give a little of it back to the next generation of young Americans.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
(Gifts are presented to the President.)
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know if I have the courage to get on this. (Laughter.) When I got this jacket, the Vice President, never one to pass up an opportunity to keep me humble, said, "They also have a "luge suit" for you. (Laughter.) Nothing he says ever has one meaning. The other meaning was, "think how much thinner you would look in it." (Laughter.)
This is wonderful. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
(More gifts are presented.)
END2:41 P.M. EDT