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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 20, 1997
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

The South Portico

5:35 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please be seated. I want to welcome the Green Bay Packers and their fans here, and send a special welcome to the congressional delegation from Wisconsin, Senator Kohl, Senator Feingold, the members of the House. And I see we also have some interlopers from Michigan and Minnesota who claim to be the -- (laughters) -- fans of the Packers. It's still snowing in all those places, according to the coach, so -- (laughter) -- you guys have got to stick together.

I want to thank Robert Harlan and Ron Wolf and Coach Holmgren for being here, and, of course, Brett and Reggie and the whole team. I got a lot of good advice when we were up in the White House having our pictures taken from the players about my knee therapy, and I appreciate that. (Laughter.) What I need is some advice about how to make sure it never happens again.

Congratulations on bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay, for the first time in almost 30 years. (Applause.) I had two indications this was going to happen. The first was my very early visit with the Packers at the stadium -- I could see that this was a team on a mission. The second was that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who used to be president of a little school in Wisconsin, told me that they were bound to win. And I'm glad to see you here, Secretary Shalala. Thank you.

Let me say that, for all of us who are football fans, this was a great year because of all the things that the Packers did, including having the best Packer defense in 35 years and the best in NFL. I'd like to congratulate Fritz Shurmur and his whole team and say that we're glad that you recovered from the injury that you sustained during last year's playoffs. And if you want to come here and teach us how to play defense in the White House, we need it as bad as the Packers do.

I congratulate Reggie White on his sacks in the Super Bowl and on being the all-time NFL leader in sacks. And I also think the Packers offense deserves a lot of credit. Brett Favre won his second consecutive NFL MVP award. And I congratulated Antonio Freeman on that 81-yard record touchdown catch when I saw him in the line. It was a very exciting time. That long pass, the long pass to Andre Rison. And also, even though he's not here today, I don't think any of us will ever forget that Desmond Howard was the first special teams player ever to be a Super Bowl MVP. It was a great Super Bowl by a great team and a team effort, and I congratulate you. (Applause.)

I would also like to say something not just as President, but as a citizen. In a world where professional athletics becomes, it seems, in sport after sport more and more transient, where players, quite properly, have to look out for themselves in what may be a relatively short life span as professional athletes, and people move from team to team and then teams move from town to town, the Green Bay Packers are something special, unique, old-fashioned and heartwarming.

The team is owned by ordinary citizens from all walks of life. The profits get poured back into the team. The players and the coaches have a unique relationship with the fans, which all of us who watch the games even on television can tell. Whether the fans are lining up in the winter to shovel snow so the games can be played, or the players are volunteering in the community, it really means something to the rest of the country to see the relationship between Green Bay and the Packers and to know that, come what may, it will be there next year and the year after that and the year after that. And I thank you for that. It's a good example that the rest of us should remember in all forms of human contests and endeavor. (Applause.)

Let me say, finally, I want to express my admiration for Coach Mike Holmgren. He has one of the toughest coaching jobs in the world. Green Bay is a wonderful place to be, but the expectations are reasonably high. (Laughter.) I can't think of anybody who could have done a better job in fulfilling the legacy of Vince Lombardi, meeting the expectations of the people of Green Bay and creating the kind of atmosphere on this team that is palpable even to an outsider -- mutual support, teamwork and always looking out for the ultimate goal and the welfare of the team and its success. This championship has earned him and his team their rightful place in history.

And, Coach, I hope that you will always, always be proud not only of the team, but of what you were able to do to infuse the kind of spirit that it takes to get people to work together and play together through the tough times as well as the good times.

Congratulations to all of you, and welcome again to the White House. (Applause.)

END 5:42 P.M. EDT