View Header


                     Office of the Press Secretary
                        (Little Rock, Arkansas)
For Immediate Release                                 September 27, 1997
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                        AT ULTIMATE CLASS REUNION
                         Hot Springs High School
                          Hot Springs, Arkansas           

12:17 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) What a beautiful day. What a beautiful setting. I want to thank all of you for being here. I thank my dear friend, David Pryor, for his introduction, for continuing to play golf with me. (Laughter.) And I forgive him for leaving Washington. It is a poorer place for his absence. He's served us so well there, and he graced the United States. (Applause.)

Thank you, Congressman Dickey, for being here today and for reaching across party lines, always with personal kindness, and I might say, always to stick up for our beloved state when it's under assault. We thank you for that. (Applause.)

Thank you, Governor McMath, who was a hero of my childhood, a hero of my young manhood, and he's still my hero. I'd like to be able to give a talk like that today. (Laughter.) I was just over visiting with my 86-year-old aunt who graduated a year ahead of Sid McMath at Hot Springs High School; she was class of 1930. And I said, "Aunt Janet, do you want to come on over to the high school?" She said, "No, I don't get around all that well and I've heard you give a lot of speeches." And I said, "Well, it's not just me, it's David Pryor and Jay Dickey and the Mayor will be there." And I said, "Oh, Sid McMath is going to be there." And she said, "My God, he's the best-looking man and the best speaker I ever heard in my life." (Laughter.) She said, "I'll be there." (Laughter.) I don't know whether she's here or not, but she said she was coming.

I thank Governor McMath. I grew up as a child here living on the stories of how the GIs came home from World War II and took over the city government and the county government and cleaned it up and moved it forward. And I remember how Governor McMath stuck by Harry Truman when he was the first President who really advocated equal rights for all Americans, and he integrated the military, and he said we were going to have to get along together and go forward together. And it is in that tradition, I think, that so many of us try to serve. So I'm glad to see him.

And I want to say a special word of thanks to Helen Selig for being willing to run for mayor and serve of mayor of our hometown, because you have been unbelievable. Thank you so much. (Applause.) We thank you.

I thank David and Keeley for being willing to co-chair this effort. Asking people for money is always a thankless effort, but they've made it about as attractive as you could make it, I think, today. If you haven't been through here, I hope you will go.

I want to thank all the members of my class who asked me to get involved in this, but especially the people who were my leaders so often when we were in high school: Phil Jamison, Jim French, and Carolyn Staley. I want to thank all the former teachers who are here. I see Mrs. Spurlin, Mrs. Irons, Mrs. Leuben, a lot of other people -- I'm sure Paul Roots here -- see if I make any mistakes he can quote back to me later on. (Laughter.) But all the former teachers from Hot Springs High School, thank you for being here. And I'll bet you we have a very good representation from my class. Who's here from the class of '64, raise your hands. (Applause.) That's the most timid response I ever got. (Laughter.) Judge Woods, thank you for coming.

Ladies and gentlemen, one of the things that has most bothered me as Hillary and I have worked in education over the last 20 years now, and as I have become President and had the chance to travel around the country and go into schools of all sizes and shapes all across America, is the dramatic decline in the offerings in the arts -- in music, in other performing arts, in the visual arts.

We have so much evidence that children who have difficulties in their lives, the children who may come from disadvantaged backgrounds but may have a spark of mathematical ability, for example, do much better if they're given access to a music program. We have so much evidence that children who may have been emotionally scarred in some way may find a healthy and positive and wholesome way to get out of it if they're given a chance to be in a theater program, or to paint, or to do something else that gives some positive outlet to their energies and their feelings.

And we ought to be raising whole people. What we really want -- since we know that over 90 percent of society's work can be done by over 90 percent of us -- what we really have to raise are people that are whole, that are good, that have good values, but that are at peace with themselves, that are free to make good lives for themselves and, therefore, make a good future for our country.

So I think this is important because it's the kind of thing that ought to be done by people everywhere, to give our children a chance to have a full life. Here, it's even more important because we have so many people with artistic gifts who come here to live; some of them come here to retire. When I walked in all the rooms there, I saw people of all ages doing all different kinds of things. And it will make us an even better magnet. It will be a wonderful complement to the music festival, to the documentary film festival, to the school of math and science. It's something that makes, again, our town special. So I thank you for all of that.

Let me also say, the only thing I'm not sure I like about this is, I really don't think I'm old enough to have anything named after me. (Laughter.) I thought you had to have at least one leg in the grave before they would name anything for you. (Laughter.) But if it helps raise another nickel, I accept and I thank you. I'm profoundly honored.

Let me also say to all of you that if we really want to recover all the resources of this community and you want it to go into the next century with all the things that can happen here -- if you go back to the 19th century, there's hardly a community anywhere within 500 miles that has a more unique history and that has more unique manifestations of that history still around, over the last 100 years or so. But if we want it to be that way, we're going to have to find a way to pay to develop it.

And David and Keeley have stuck their necks out, and we need to support them, both individually and corporately. They need help from our businesses and help from people who can afford to do it in accordance with their ability to pay. And I will do what I can to help to raise the funds as well.

But we also need a large number of small contributions by people who may just be able to give a modest amount. But I want this to be the people's house. I want you to feel when we get this done that's it's not might name there, that it's yours, every one of you if you contribute to it, when you go through these doors. And your children and your grandchildren and your parents and your grandparents may be there. That's what we're trying to do.

Finally, I can't help saying after what Governor McMath did there are a lot of people I'm sure we all wish were here today. I know Governor McMath wishes the men who fought in the second world war with him who didn't come home were here. All of us wish that our parents were here. We wish are teachers who aren't living anymore were here. I wish our four classmates who died in Vietnam and the others who have died since then were here.

But I guess most of all, I wish Johnny Mae Mackey were here. (Applause.) And apparently, so does Carol Wilson. So I would like to ask Johnny Mae's incarnation to come up here and lead us in a little round of Hullabaloo. (Laughter and applause.) Thank you all so much. God bless you. Let's make this a success, what do you say? (Applause.)

Cheerleaders, cheerleaders, come on. I swear, this is living evidence of a comment that I made the other day that our cheerleaders still all can fit in their uniforms. Here they are. (Laughter.) Come on. Now, for those of us who were here when Johnny Mae Mackey ran this school -- (laughter) -- you know, everybody that came out of this high school and went in the Marine Corps during the period that Johnny Mae Mackey ran the school found that it was a step down in discipline and order. (Laughter.) So try to visualize those magic days, now.

END 12:27 P.M. CDT