THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY IN BRIEFING ON MILLENNIUM PROJECT
The Map Room
MRS. CLINTON: Please be seated, and welcome to the Map Room. Some of you have been here before for these briefings, and I welcome you back. And to those of you who have not, I'm delighted you could join us.
I started doing this I don't remember when, a few years ago, because I thought that there were some issues and activities at the White House or out in the country that could use some additional information and opportunity for the press to learn about. And I've really enjoyed them and have been very pleased at the interest and continuing follow-up that they have produced.
But I don't think I've ever been more excited about any event -- or briefing, certainly -- than the one we're about to have today, because this is the beginning of a multipronged effort on behalf of the priorities that the President has set for the commemoration and celebration of the millennium, under the theme of "honor the past and imagine the future." We've been working very hard in the last month, ever since the announcement was made at the Archives, to put some real substance on our goals and to provide ways for many Americans to participate.
So today we have with us a number of people who will not be speaking, but are here because of the role they played in helping to prepare us for the kickoff of all of these activities. And I just want quickly to introduce them. First let me introduce Ellen Lovell, who is the Director of the White House Millennium Council. Some of you may know Ellen from a previous incarnation as Senator Leahy's Chief of Staff and then as the Director of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities, which she supervised the writing of a fabulous report about where we needed to be going culturally in our country and, in it, had some excellent suggestions about how we could use the millennium to advance American culture and history and arts. So I immediately stole her and put her to work on this, first on my staff and then in the newly created office about the millennium.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta is her assistant, and he is a White House Fellow, a neurosurgeon. I figured we needed a lot of help. (Laughter.) And we are delighted to have had him assigned to this effort for his commitment and his knowledge.
You will be meeting and hearing from, in a minute, Richard Moe, the President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation; and Rebecca Rimel, who is the President of Pew Charitable Trust. But they have with them some of the people who have actually made this happen. I just want to acknowledge them: Elizabeth Wainger, is the Director of Communications for the National Trust; Ed Norton, the Vice President for Public Policy of the National Trust; David Morris, the Director of Public Affairs for Pew; Tracey Ziemer, who's a Special Assistant to the President at Pew.
And then one of the most exciting aspects of what we're going to be doing tonight at the White House is that there have been a lot of firsts in the White House for the last 200 years. I was interested in learning that, for example, all of us remember the extraordinary concert that Pablo Casales gave when the Kennedys were here. One of the reasons we remember that is it was the first concert ever broadcast live from the White House. So it wasn't just something that happened that people then later reported on. It was something that Americans could be part of themselves.
Well, tonight, we're going to have, thanks to the sponsorship of Sun Microsystems, Inc., a cybercast of the first White House lecture. And we'll hear more about that in a minute. But it is an historic, an extraordinary first. There's never been, obviously, anything like this done from the White House East Room before. But I'm very excited because, as you'll hear, we already have an enormous amount of interest. People are going to be not only watching it on downlinks at locations all over the country, but will also be actually following it on their computers.
And with us are Greg Papadopoulos and John Leahy from Sun Microsystems, Inc., and Rhonda Lee Thomas from the Exortium Group, who has worked with them in order to do all of the technical pieces that are necessary for something like this.
Now, ever since -- I guess for the last several years, people have known that we were going to be celebrating something called the millennium. They weren't quite sure whether that meant 2000 or 2001. I think that decision has been made for easy reasons and commercial implications. It just seems like a better idea to do it in 2000. Some of the experts might argue and say that's not really when it happens. But what we decided to do in sort of typical fashion, is we decided to start celebrating in '98 and go all the way through 2000, until New Year's Eve 2001, to try to make it clear that this is a turn of a century, it's a turn of a millennium. But more than that, it's an opportunity for us to take stock of who we are as Americans, what we believe in, what we want to carry into the next century -- not only individually or through our families, but in our local communities and certainly as a nation.
When the overall theme of the White House Millennium Program was chosen -- honor the past, imagine the future -- the President wanted people to think about what gifts we would give to the future, to leave a legacy for future generations. So we're inviting states and communities and nonprofit organizations and federal agencies and individuals to do just that. And there's already been a significant outpouring from around the country of people who were planning not only their own celebrations, but what they might do that will have lasting value.
The significance of the year 2000, though, is not only that it marks the century and the millennium. It is the 200th anniversary of the White House, the 200th anniversary of the first meeting of Congress in the new Capitol building, and the 200th anniversary of the Library of Congress. So we have these three major institutions of our government, of our history, all celebrating bicentennials at the same time. So it gives us a chance to really think about and highlight our democracy by using the White House, by using the Capitol, by using the Library of Congress.
This is also an international event. We spent some time talking with the Blairs about the plans that Great Britain has. You know, they're investing in their infrastructure, they're renovating cultural institutions, they're creating new town greens and they are building the largest dome in the world in Greenwich. But it's not only Great Britain, it's other countries, as well. And I think this is going to be kind of interesting and maybe even fun for Americans to follow. And I know that many of the networks are going to be covering a lot of these events.
Iceland, for example, is celebrating the 1000th anniversary of Leif Erikson's voyage to the new world. I know they're gathering in some large plane at midnight on some day -- (laughter) -- I don't know. I may get to go. France will have a series of symposia all over the country and then ending, of course, as you might expect, with a grand celebration in Paris. Germany will host the World's Fair Expo 2000 in Hanover. So there are many of these kinds of activities -- and there's a very serious effort underway to have an inter-faith event in Jerusalem, which I think many of the people I know -- Christians, Jews and Muslims -- are spending an enormous amount of time and effort trying to plan and pull off. So we here in the United States have been thinking hard about what we will do.
Now, we know that there will be many people who are going to be celebrating the millennium in many different ways and there will be many millennial products, I would assume. You'll be able to brush your teeth, I suspect, with millennial toothpaste -- (laughter) -- or chew millennial chewing gum. But we wanted to try to do something that would involve as many Americans as possible and, by doing so, to honor the past and imagine the future.
So tonight we'll launch one of our White House programs, Millennium Evenings at the White House. These are lectures and cultural events that will showcase our founders -- as we will do tonight -- some of our great thinkers and visionaries, some of the ideas that have really made not only America, but the world, what it is today at the end of this millennium.
We begin the Millennium Evenings tonight with a great American historian. We surveyed American historians and one name kept coming back, that if we were going to start with a historian -- which is what we wanted to do -- we should choose Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Bernard Bailyn. He's viewed as a creative force, an original researcher, an elegant writer. He's won Pulitzer Prizes, Bancroft Prizes. His book, "Ideological Origins of the American Revolution," probably did more to make it clear what was going on, what was the atmosphere that created these ideas that these extraordinary people were able to draw on. And he went back and read the pamphlets and other writings that Americans were reading, starting in the 1740s.
He also became convinced that it wasn't just the great men of history, but it was the average American who made a difference. And he conducted a very long study of who the Americans were, where they came from, by studying the patterns of immigration of the 18th century. Those of you who are able to attend the lecture tonight I think will find him very provocative and I hope give us all something to think about, about who we are.
The second Millennium Evening will be March 6th, when Professor Stephen Hawking, the world renowned physicist from Cambridge University, will lecture in the East Room on Creativity and Science in the 21st Century. I don't know if any of you have ever actually seen Stephen Hawking lecture -- or if you read his book, "The History of Time," which is the best selling science book of all time -- but you might remember, if you have seen him, that he is completely paralyzed. He speaks through a computer generated voice, and he gives the most amazing lectures and answers questions in ways that are just beyond imagination.
Now, tonight's lecture will be heard and discussed at 110 colleges in 40 states via satellite. It is cosponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with support from the Howard Gilman Foundation and Sun Microsystems. Tonight features the first cybercast from the White House, so that Internet users all over the United States and the world will see and hear the lecture, and they will be sending us questions. So some of the questions that will be asked of Professor Bailyn will not just come from the audience that's in the East Room, but will come via the Internet from anyone who wishes to ask one.
I hope that in the next three years we'll have an extraordinary series of these Millennium Evenings. One will be New Masters for the New Millennium, which we are producing in cooperation with the Kennedy Center, which will showcase existing well-known masters with young up and coming talent and give us an idea of where we're going.
Now, in addition to the Millennium Evenings, which we kick off tonight, I wanted to unveil in greater detail what the President referred to in the State of the Union. And that's our effort to save America's treasures. The President's fiscal '99 budget includes funds for the National Archives to re-encase the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, all of which are endangered.
I had not realized how much at risk so many of our most important documents, monuments and other historical patrimony happen to be. But I started looking into it last spring and I was shocked at what I found. We are, I think as the President mentioned, at risk of losing the Star-Spangled Banner. But we have -- we're on the way, I hope, to salvaging that. You know, the flag that flew over Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key's poem that became our national anthem. That's the highest priority millennium project at the Smithsonian.
But it's not just in Washington, not just at our Archives or at the Smithsonian that we are faced with pending losses. Large numbers of artifacts at Gettysburg Battlefield are undocumented and disintegrating for lack of proper storage. Thomas Edison's laboratory and house in New Jersey -- the father of modern science -- are in dire condition. Our prehistoric sites, particularly places like Mesa Verde, are disintegrating because they are not properly preserved. Many of the films, photographs and historic recordings that document the 20th century are deteriorating and have to be transferred to more stable condition. We have 80 million brittle books in libraries and other collections that are at risk of not making it into the next century.
We can't save everything, we know that. So we're going to have to prioritize. And that's why the President proposed a millennium fund -- $50 million in each of the next two fiscal years to stimulate a national effort we're calling, Save America's Treasures. The fund would be administered through the Department of the Interior; half would be allocated for the most urgent preservation projects of regional and national significance; half would go to the states through the divisions of historic preservation.
But there will also be a parallel private effort, which we actually believe will raise more money than the federal share. And that will be administered and run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There will be a high level advisory committee that I've already begun to speaking people. And Dick Moe, who you'll hear from in a minute, has also reached out to people who are very excited about being part of this.
So we think the public-private partnership will enable us to involve literally millions and millions of Americans, from school children to corporate executives.
Now I'd like to ask Richard Moe, who's the President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to explain to us why we are undertaking this effort, and to talk about the trust's role in the partnership with the federal government.
MR. MOE: Thank you very much. First of all, I want to commend the First Lady and the President for making our heritage the focus of this millennium program. It's very appropriate that on the eve of a new century that we recognize our heritage and try to find ways to preserve it and use it for the future.
We in the preservation movement are enormously excited about this. I was telling the First Lady before we came in, we had a board meeting in Savannah last week and people are already eager to participate in this, and there are literally thousands of preservationists all over the country who are trying to find ways, who want to find ways to participate in this.
In my view, I think this program has the potential to be the single most significant public/private effort to preserve America's heritage in the nation's history. As it's been designed and scoped out by the First Lady and others, this is designed to reach out and involve all kinds of people in all kinds of ways.
Let me just say a word about what the National Trust is and how we hope to participate. The National Trust was chartered by the Congress nearly 50 years ago to be the nation's leading private historic preservation organization. While we have received federal funds from time to time, we are essentially a private organization. And we hold historic sites all over the country, like Decatur House across the street, the Woodrow Wilson House, James Madison's Montpelier in Virginia and others all over the country. But we're also very programmatic, and through our loan funds and our grants and regional offices and a myriad of programs, we try to help and work with state and local organizations, and individuals, to save America's heritage. That's the business that we're in. And one of the tools that we use most effectively is every year we issue a list of the 11 most endangered historic sites in America. And there is so much competition to get on this list, because America's heritage really is at risk.
The National Trust is very pleased to have been asked by the First Lady to help translate the vision of the millennium program into reality. And our role will really be twofold: to coordinate a public education campaign; and to coordinate the private committee that she mentioned, that will direct funds to the most urgent preservation needs identified at both the national level and in the states.
The millennium program aims to keep our history alive -- and it's not just the landmark buildings and documents that tell the stories of the famous, but also the streets in the older neighborhoods that are a part of every community in America. We owe it to our children and our grandchildren to pass on this legacy -- because, unfortunately, too much of our legacy ends up at the landfill. There is really an urgent need here. So much of our heritage is at risk -- whether it's buildings or battlefields or landmarks, as well as documents and artifacts and other objects that are also a significant part of our history and that express who we are as a people. These places and objects are being lost every single day.
So the millennium program comes at just exactly the right time. There are simply not enough public funds to address all of these needs. The millennium program can help to mobilize the resources and the public attention that are necessary to make America's past a living part of its present, and to leave a meaningful legacy for the future.
The strength of the millennium program, and I think the genius of it, is that it reaches out to all Americans -- from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all parts of the country -- to join together in creative and really energetic ways to save our heritage. And we all have a stake in that heritage. The public and private sector simply must join together to ensure that it is passed on to the next generation.
The millennium program reminds us not to take our heritage for granted. We have so much as a nation to be proud of and, yet, so much of our heritage is at risk. Some of these places and artifacts are in our national parks, some are in state parks, some are in private hands; but many of them are in serious trouble. These include the places that tell the story of the very earliest Americans, such as the First Lady mentioned at Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon and other prehistoric sites; the places where Americans fought and died, the Civil War battlefields, the USS Constellation in Baltimore; the places that celebrate American inventiveness, such as the Thomas Edison Factory in New Jersey, where more than half of Edison's inventions were developed; the places where the struggle for civil rights and equality were waged, like Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas; and the places that tell the story of the diverse people and cultures that really are America.
I just can't emphasize enough how important it is to have the direct involvement of the First Lady in this effort. I've discussed this program with her. I know how deeply she feels about it, how committed she is to it. And all of us who care about preserving our heritage are deeply in your debt for your leadership and your commitment to this millennium program.
The First Lady has challenged Americans to honor our past as we imagine the future. We are confident that Americans are going to accept this challenge as an opportunity to build a better nation for the next century, and we're very honored to be a part of this effort. Thank you.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, we couldn't do it without the extraordinary work that you and the trust have done. Rebecca Rimel, who is president and CEO of the Pew Charitable Trust, which is headquartered in Philadelphia, will be telling us today about a great gift that Pew is making, and we hope will spur other foundations, other corporations, other philanthropists, every American to follow suit.
MS. RIMEL: Thank you. And I echo our appreciation on behalf of all Americans for your leadership. Life is about milestones and all of us have those. One that immediately comes to mind is turning 50, not that any of us would know what that's like. (Laughter.) We all experience it in different ways. For some of us, it brings a sense of celebration; we celebrate it. For others, we might dread it. But one thing is for certain, when that little letter comes from the AARP -- (laughter) -- you know it's a sure thing.
As with the millennium and as with 50th anniversaries, it provides a time to look back. It provides a time for reflection. It provides a time for us to count all of our blessings. And it also provides a time for us to reassess our accomplishments and our priorities and our values. But anniversary celebrations are also about looking forward. It's a chance to reaffirm our commitments, our private commitments and our public ones. It's a chance to reassess how we're going to use our talent, our time and our treasures to try and achieve our individual goals and our collective goals for a brighter and better tomorrow.
Well, that's exactly what we've been about at the Pew Trust over the last two years, because this year is our 50th birthday. And we, like all Americans, have a lot of blessings to count. We live in a strong and healthy and vibrant and free democracy. We live in a society that supports innovation, entrepreneurship, aspiration, creativity. And we also live in a place that values freedom of speech as well as freedom of action, and protects it. In fact, we also live in a country that values volunteerism, philanthropy, civic virtue, the habits of a democratic court, and also an active independent sector without which organizations like mine wouldn't exist.
Our trust founders, the women and men that gave us our resources, had very strong convictions and very strong values. First and foremost, they believed that every American, including themselves, had a strong moral obligation to give back. We also had a strong obligation to protect the freedoms and the foundations on which this great experiment in democracy is built. They, like many people of their generation, reminded us often through their word and their deed that the privilege of citizenship does carry with it certain rights, but it carries a very long list of responsibilities -- individual and collective responsibilities for the social good.
So it's in celebration and with enormous pride in America's past, and also great faith in its promise, that the Pew Charitable Trust has launched a series of projects to really protect our most important national icons. We're doing this as part of renewing our Pledge of Allegiance, if you will, and showing our love and affection for all that makes this great country so special.
Our commitments began with the rebuilding of a new Liberty Bell Pavilion in Philadelphia and the restoration of arguably America's most important and historic square mile, Independence Park. We're doing this in collaboration with the city, the state of Pennsylvania, private donors, the National Park Service and others. And as we prepare for the millennium, we're delighted today to announce partnerships beyond that for the restoration and protection of our most important touchstones as Americans -- the Charters of Freedom, as the First Lady said: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence and the Star-Spangled Banner.
In collaboration with the National Archives, our federal partner will be providing the remaining $800,000 to the Archives for prototyping and research for new encasements for our founding documents. We're doing this to make sure that they're protected for public viewing for generations to come. And I'm delighted today to announce for the Star-Spangled Banner, arguably the most important symbol of American freedom here and around the globe, that the Trust will be providing $5 million for the restoration of the flag. We do this with great pride and as a way of giving back to a country that's given each of us so much.
But the work is not over. For the flag project an additional $13 million is needed. Five additional million will go for endowment, another $5 for interpretation and education and a new appropriate home within the Smithsonian. So we need a lot of partners. We need public sector partners. We need private partners. We need individuals and institutions to step up to the plate, to dig deep in their pockets, because this challenge is ours. We've never been in a better position as a country to take on this mandate.
But then partnership is what it's all about, isn't it? Caring and sharing is what being American is all about -- joining hands to help one another; holding firm in our commitments and our beliefs; standing tall and strong under adversity; and, most of all, I believe, exercising wise stewardship, strong but compassionate leadership and grace as we face the future.
Thank you very much.
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you so much, Rebecca. And I'm just thrilled with these major commitments, and particularly the commitments to the Archives and to the Smithsonian for the Star-Spangled Banner. And I think that that in and of itself --
Q Why does that take $5 million?
MRS. CLINTON: It takes -- as Rebecca said, it's going to take $13 million altogether, Helen; but the $5 million is for the restoration itself. Do you want to explain that?
MS. RIMEL: First of all, it's huge, as you know. It can't be moved out of the building for a whole range of reasons -- security and the like. It has to be taken down very carefully, kept flat, and then a whole restoration laboratory has to be built around the flag. And in fact the people that donated the flag had only one criterion -- that the flag could never be out of view from the public.
So you're going to be able to see the flag as it is painstakingly restored. People are going to have to lie on their stomachs on large, if you will, scaffolding, as they painstakingly clean each fiber and restore it. So you'll be able to sit and watch, and hear interpretation, and you'll be able to understand the history of the flag. Children will love it. Probably adults will be mesmerized. (Laughter.)
Then it goes back up and the largest piece of glass that has ever been made is going to be made for this to go over the flag to protect it. It will have a lot of educational materials, obviously interpretative materials for school children and adults, and clearly for those on the Internet as well. And then $5 million, as I mentioned, is for endowment, to make sure that it is preserved for the next millennium.
Q When will that start and how long will that take?
MS. RIMEL: They're estimating three years for the project, and it will start, I assume, once they know about this announcement, which they do today, right away -- though I want to reemphasize that $5 additional million before they can actually get underway is required. And we are very hopeful, and actually have structured our pledge as a challenge to the American people, to say, this is the first $5 million we need. We need $5 million more. And wouldn't it be fabulous if we got that right away.
MRS. CLINTON: And one of the things we're going to try to work out is where people can make their contributions. I think that that could come to the Trust.
MR. MOE: Yes, indeed. (Laughter.)
MRS. CLINTON: So part of what we're hoping -- if you've ever tried to give the federal government money, you know it's very difficult. They will take it, but you can't -- they'll take it if it goes to the IRS, but if you're trying to give it to the flag you have to find the foundation that the Park Service has or the Smithsonian has, whatever. But anyone who reads what you say or hears what you say, they can make a contribution to the Trust. You know, Bill and I are going to make a contribution, and we hope every American will make a contribution, so that we can certainly take care of what needs to be taken care of with the Star-Spangled Banner.
But that gives you an idea of how complicated and expensive and time consuming a lot of this preservation work is. The person-hours required to do that is just overwhelming.
Before we get to other questions, which I want to in a minute, I want to be sure to call on Greg Papadopoulos, representing Sun, because, as some of you may know, I'm not very computer literate, sort of putting it mildly. But I've been sort of picking up some of the language, trying to sound a little more knowledgeable than I actually am. So I know about surfing. (Laughter.)
But now there is a new word that I've had to learn because of what Sun has done, and that's "streaming," which I have no idea what it means. (Laughter.) So would you tell us what it is you're doing in the East Room tonight.
MR. PAPADOPOULOS: Okay, all right, I'll try to keep this intelligible. That is so cool. (Laughter.) This is not going to sound nearly as neat as -- (laughter). But what I'd like to do is really things: give you an overview, kind of reiterate what is going to happen at a high level; try to get into a little bit about how we're pulling this all off; and then, if I can sort of extrapolate to the future, because I think there is something really very exciting that this all represents.
So first, what's happening, as you know, Sun Microsystems will broadcast the lecture live from the East Room. And there really are their two ways that people will experience it. It will be through satellite downlink, as you've heard, through universities and junior colleges. And that's all around the country. But the second way will be where really individuals or small groups can get together and listen directly via the Internet. And for this experience, really people can be anywhere, and that's just not here; it can be anywhere around the globe. You can be at home. You can be at school, at libraries. If you're in my hometown of Palo Alto, you can go into City Hall and get onto a free public Internet terminal and do it that way.
But the thing that is really cool about that is not just that this is the way that you can experience it, but then you can -- there are two things about it. You can interact with it, and we'll also be archiving it. And I think it's actually the second part that is the most interesting, because it really gets archived instantly and you can view it at any time.
For the interactive part, people will be able to send in e-mail questions. And then as this lecture series progresses, we'll have more advanced sort of interactive chat that can go on, and really get sort of discussion that goes on at the same time. And those sessions are open to everyone. I mean, it's really grass-roots participation in these kinds of events.
As far as the archiving side is concerned, the lectures in their entirety will be immediately available on the Web, but they also become part of this sort of universally accessible cultural history. We're publishing, and that's -- you have to really understand that it's not just the event, but the event is happening and being published at the same time. You can appreciate that; that's sort of publishing history as it happens. And I'll get more on that in a second.
Let me give you some of the technical details. And if you want to follow up with questions, that's fine. The live video feed will come from standard four-camera setup in the East Room, and then these will be satellite uplinked, and then downlinked in the traditional satellite way that you all are familiar with. But two of downlink sites will be very special sites. There will be a site in Dallas, Texas, and another site in Cupertino, California. And what these sites will do is take the live video feed from the satellite downlinks, and they will broadcast them, publish them to the Web.
And this is where the streaming technology comes in, because what you need to do is to convert the video from the professional broadcast video you get from satellite into a format that people can view on the Web, which is a lot -- you know, in variable bit rates. We'll actually be running it at several quality levels. And remember, we'll be recording it at the same time.
So basically, these two sites -- the Dallas site is provided by Audionet, and they will publish in what's called the Real Networks video format. And the Cupertino site is provided by GTS, and they'll publish in a Java-implemented format.
But between the two, we'll be able to support for this first lecture about 10,000 viewers. And I'll just note that all of this is being served off of Sun computers at these sites, and, just as a footnote, that Sun really was responsible for building the backbone of the Internet, and most of the Internet is served from Sun computers.
But all of this technology really isn't important to people accessing it, because you don't want to have to know any of this to make this work, believe me. It's hard for us; it's really, really simple for people who want to get to it. You just point your Web browser at either the White House home page, the Millennium Project home page, or Sun's home page. And I can give you those URLs if you want them.
There is absolutely no software you need to install. It will come up. You'll see the Millennium banner. You'll see Professor Bailyn and the transcripts, or you can hear the audio as it goes on. And you'll also be able to send e-mail from any of these home pages. So if you can use the Web at all, you can participate in this event.
How many does that include here? Okay.
So much for the details. I'd like to close with a little bit of speculation, and pardon me if I get a little passionate about this. I think this is really very cool. (Laughter.) I learned the distinction between pre-history and history -- in high school, I think is where I learned this -- is what's recorded. And until very recently, what we recorded was really very highly selective and it had really precious little to do with the context of the individuals at the time that we did that. And recordings as artifacts -- whether you write them down, right -- were really difficult to replicate and would fade and deteriorate over time, as we know. And so, really, historically recording has been very expensive. It's been selective. And it's been fragile.
And where we are now, I think technologically enabled now -- this is our -- you know, the information era is something very profound. That both reporting and publishing about anything has become really cheap to do. It's durable. It's pervasive. And I think it's fundamentally democratic. Anybody can do it. So we can not only record what we like, but anybody anywhere can publish their comments. And I think that's a very rich context for the individual to capture history.
And then really it's this foundation of digital computing and the communication revolution; it's fundamentally that as everything comes digital -- from text, video pictures, audio -- as recorded it really has an indefinite life, because you can copy digital. Once it's out on the Net, too, you can't take it back. So it's there.
I would say that it's hard to know you're in the middle of a revolution when you're experiencing it, but I think this is a watershed. And my bet is that historians in the next millennium will really look back at sort of our moment in time as the beginning of, if you will, digital history; that really where a generation's legacy doesn't fog or diffuse over time.
I'd just like to thank the millennium project and Mrs. Clinton for -- this is really very progressive. I'm very excited about it. (Laughter.) But I really think we are contributing a legacy here, and it will be one that a thousand years from now people are going to be able to look at.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, thank you, Gregg. And I don't understand half, if three-quarters of what you're saying, but I am thrilled -- (laughter) -- because my daughter understands it and many people in the White House understand it. But more importantly, it is the signature of what we're going to be doing as we move into the next century.
So I would just conclude and then ask you for questions, that part of the real impetus for us to do this -- and I think you got a flavor of it from everything that has been said -- is that here we are at a time in our history where our economy is strong, we're the undisputed leader of the world by nearly any measurement you can imagine, we seem to be moving out of the kind of divisiveness and pessimism that marked previous years that really you could say that if it was not begun by, it certainly was accelerated by President Kennedy's assassination, by Bobby Kennedy's and Dr. King's assassinations, by our involvement in Vietnam, by Watergate, by the kind of intense shocks to the system that our country experienced. We are regaining our confidence. We are looking to the future. And it is an extraordinarily rich time to take stock of who we are as Americans.
Because during the last 30 years, certainly, there's been a tendency for people to withdraw, to become more connected by identity in ways that might not be directly related to being part of the American experience, but more connected to a more separatist kind of view of who they were and how they define themselves. And I've sensed as I travel around the country, as I talk with people, that there's a great yearning to be Americans again -- not hyphenated Americans, but Americans.
But what does that mean? We have to respect the diversity that makes us who we are. We have to be willing, as the President has urged us, to be honest about racial issues and the unfinished business of race in this country. But I sense that we are really making progress together on that as a nation.
So how do we define ourselves as Americans for the next century? We've always defined ourselves based on shared ideas, common values, and our history, our common experience. But that is often in danger of being forgotten with the kind of instantaneous pressure of the Information Age. And as I travel around to university campuses, as I talk to professors, one of their biggest concerns is that so many of our young people have such a limited understanding of how we got to where we are and what our history is. So we're hoping to really contribute to what I think is a national conversation about the meaning of being an American.
And I'm very excited by it. I think it has extraordinary potential for knitting us together as a nation as we move forward. And that is probably our biggest remaining challenge -- to bring everybody into the American experience, to give everybody a chance to feel that they are part of this great adventure, and move with confidence into this future that Gregg described while honoring and taking care of the past, which Dick and Rebecca have so eloquently spoken to.
So I'd be glad to answer any questions, as would any of the other participants.
Q Mrs. Clinton, this may seem like an obvious question, but why do all of these good things to celebrate the millennium? In a secular nation isn't the year 2000 a little like the car odometer turning over?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I think that that is a fair question, but I think that it's an event in history that is going to be marked. I mean, it's not something that we made up; that there has been an increasing interest in it and it will be marked by big parties in Times Square and people flying to try to be on the dateline when the millennium changes. But it also gives us a framework in which to think about these larger issues. And certainly some may attribute religious meaning and significance to it, but I think others see it as a way of looking back and saying, where were we as human beings a thousand years ago? Where were we as Americans 200 years ago? What have we learned in this human journey we've been on? What have we learned as Americans?
So I think there will be, whether we did anything here at the White House or not, an extraordinary amount of attention paid to this passage, so I think it gives us a good reason to try to seize this opportunity to talk in more American terms about where we've been and were we're going as a nation.
Q Have you looked back at all to what happened a hundred years ago and made any judgments if you have?
MRS. CLINTON: I'd like Dick to talk about that, too, and Rebecca as well. Yes, we have. We've looked back 100 years, we've looked back 200 years, we've looked back 1,000 years. In fact, I think -- I'm hoping that one of our Millennium Evenings will be a discussion by scholars about what was going on 1,000 years ago. We weren't around as a nation, but many interesting actions, including Leif Erikson, who I do think got here -- (laughter) -- spoken like a true Scandinavian. (Laughter.) So we do want to look at that.
But I think you've heard the President speak a number of times about how he's ruminated over the comparisons with the turn of the last century, and there are striking comparisons. And I'm not an historian or scholar in this, but certainly, based on my own reading and conversations, you have this rather significant move from the agricultural to the Industrial Age. I mean, it has been gaining steam and it had been affecting people's lives, but certainly straddling that century change between the 1800s to the 1900s made it very clear that we were moving into a different age. And people were dislocated, they were confused, they were caught in transitions that were bigger than themselves. Transportation began changing. You had the move from the very solid, regulated train to the beginning of the automobile age, where people could do anything they wanted. I mean, think of the difference that that made in how people saw themselves.
So you had economic changes, you had political changes. Many people point to Teddy Roosevelt as straddling that time, and I think that's a very fair description because he understood that we couldn't continue to do business as we had, that we had to be worried about the concentration of power, we had to be worried about the environment. You had these immense social changes -- the immigrant movements were the most obvious of that, but the rise of progressive movements against child labor, against other kinds of misuses of power. So there was a lot of very good, rich happenings there that I think we should look back and consider.
But let me ask Dick if he wants to comment on that.
MR. MOE: Well, no, I think that's right. I'm not an expert in this area, but I think it's clear that we have celebrated different milestones in the history of this country in different ways, whether through expositions or different kinds of celebrations. But think it's important to keep in mind that we're still a relatively young country and we're still making this up as we go along. And I can't agree enough with what you said about the opportunity that the millennium presents because this really is a moment and a time when change
(End of side one of tape)
(Begin side two, same speaker in progress) --
David McCullough, the historian and a trustee of ours, is fond of saying that America is in danger of becoming an historically illiterate country. And unfortunately, that's true. There are a lot of things contributing to it. This millennium project is an opportunity to bring history alive to Americans all over the country in ways that have great significance and that will serve future generations as well. So that's really the brilliance I think of this millennium project, is that it takes advantage of a coincidence on the calendar to really cause us to reflect, to preserve and to look forward at the same time.
MS. RIMEL: -- to say that we share a David McCullough comment on the board of Monticello, Mr. Jefferson's home, and once a year we have the privilege of dining where he did. And that really does provide the context of how young a nation we are. And I remember David saying that it's times like this, when we're blessed with so much, that other countries and other men and women have built cathedrals. And it will be interesting to ask ourselves what cathedral did we build when we were so blessed. Was it a quality education for every child, access to health care, to deal with some of our toughest problems be they conversations and resolutions about race or other matters.
But it does seem to me that we use these events both to look back and to look forward. I'm often reminded also of conversations with my own board -- the members of family. And they sit for lifeterms, and many of them, several of them have been there for now 50 years. And when we're dealing with a contemporary issue and they'll look sort of at the portraits of the founders and say, gee, what would they have done in these circumstances. The longest-standing member of our board says, they wouldn't have asked us this question, they would say, we have good minds, we have good intentions and we ought to do the best with the resources we have so that we really can be wise stewards for the future.
So I think in looking back it does prepare us. I think we do use, to your question, dates and times and events to make us stop and pause and think about how we want to be better than we might be had we not --
Q Mrs. Clinton, how do you think the President is bearing up under the present current history and headlines?
MRS. CLINTON: I think he's doing very well, Helen.
Q Is it hard?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, he's working on a lot of very important things and it's no secret that he's spending a lot of time talking with leaders around the world and consulting with his political and diplomatic and military advisors about the situation in Iraq. And that's the primary thing on his mind right now. That's what I see him spending his time on and worrying about.
Q Are you surprised, gratified perhaps, at the public response to this situation?
MRS. CLINTON: No, Bill, I think, for some of the reasons that we've just been talking about, Americans are very satisfied about what has been happening in the country in the last five years. And there's good reason, there's evidence for them to be satisfied, which I think is what you're referring to.
If we just sort of scroll back and think about the circumstances when the President took office and the way we were viewed around the world, with our huge deficit, we were being criticized and made fun of by many of our friends and allies because we seemed not to be able to get our financial house in order. We'd seen many people make loud speeches about doing something to decrease the crime rate, but it kept going up. The welfare system was everybody's favorite whipping boy, but we didn't get any progress in helping people get off dependency or getting them the child care and the health care they needed. Our education system was under a lot of challenge. I think that you can certainly go back and look at how many, many Americans felt about their prospects individually and about our prospects as a country.
And I think that for a number of reasons, but principal among them, not only what my husband has accomplished as President, but the way in which he has done it -- his constant optimism, his good humor in the face of extraordinary challenges and obstacles, his willingness to continue to reach out and work with people who had very strong opposition -- had made very strong opposition to him has sent a signal to the American people about what is important. And I think that it's an inspiration to me, personally, to see my husband get up every day and do the work he was elected to do, and be focused on trying to continue the work he has begun on the budget. And we now have for the first time in years an opportunity to address issues that we couldn't put on the national agenda because of all the other difficulties we had -- principally, budgetarily.
I think that it's been my experience just growing up in America and being privileged to travel to every part of the country that Americans are smart, fair-minded, savvy people, and I think that they see things for what they are and they draw their own conclusions, and they know the evidence of their own experience, and they are satisfied that life is better, our country is stronger, and we're in a good position to go into the next century. And those are some of the reasons why I think you're seeing the responses that you referred to.
Q Since you made the remark last week about the vast right-wing conspiracy have you seen further evidence that this is what's happening in this particular case?
MRS. CLINTON: I've seen some articles that some of your publications have written and some news programs that some of your networks have run, and I have found them to be quite interesting.
Q Do you want to retract that --
Q Has any information come to you about anything new?
MRS. CLINTON: I think there's a lot of information out there that I commend all of you for the work you've been doing to bring to public light.
Q What did you say to Dick Scaife when he came to visit --
Q What did he say to you?
MRS. CLINTON: I was pleased to invite everybody to the White House who had contributed to the endowment fund, and that included all the people who had contributed when President Bush was here.
Q Mrs. Clinton, you've thought a lot about the Gulf War syndrome and the medical problems our veterans have faced. With the situation heating up in Iraq do you think the American people can rest comfortably that there won't be a repeat of some of the health problems the veterans faced if, in fact, we do wind up having troops there?
MRS. CLINTON: Matt, I think that's a really important question and I don't know that I'm qualified to answer that. But I really hope that you will follow up and talk with some of the people here in the White House, the Pentagon, the VA and other places who have studied this. Although we have not reached any definitive conclusions about what happened to literally thousands of our troops in the Gulf, and not only American troops, but troops from our allies who were there, who seem to have some health difficulties that go beyond what has historically been reported as a result of exposure to combat or high stress, I'm convinced that something happened.
And whether it was the blowing up of oil wells or exposure to chemical or biological agents, or whatever it might be -- and we're going to have to continue to investigate that -- I think what's driving the President and our allies and everyone who is reluctantly but firmly taking this stand against Saddam Hussein is that we know, based on the U.N. inspections, that he has continued his research and development of biological and chemical weapons. We know he is without conscience and has used such weapons against his own people. And for whatever perverse psychological reasons, he seems intent upon this standoff with the larger world community over our efforts to try to protect not only existing human beings, but future generations from this kind of warfare.
Now, anytime you go after biological and chemical agents it is very difficult. I mean, you could go through an airport security device today holding a vile of anthrax and nobody would stop you if you said, oh, it's something I use for -- I'm a painter and I use it to mix my paint, or it's part of my medication that I mix. It wouldn't probably even set off the alarms.
And so we are facing an extraordinary threat from this man. And I can't stress too much how deeply concerned the President is. And how you try to reason with someone who defies reason, and then how you strategically try to prevent him from having the capacity to do such damage to people are very difficult challenges. And, of course, implicit in your question is how do you strike against places that may hold such agents that if they are released into the air or the water system could cause extraordinary damage, at least to the population in Iraq, if not further.
So those are some of the issues that I hear my husband talking to people on the phone about, he's having meetings about, he's trying to educate himself about biological and chemical warfare and agents so that he can be a full participant in the decisions that are made militarily if that is necessary. But I just cannot stress enough what a serious matter this is for the world.
And, of course, we all hope that diplomatic efforts will be successful. We hope that our friends and allies in the Gulf and around the world who have entre into Iraq might possibly be able to persuade Saddam Hussein of the seriousness of this if he will not listen to the United Nations Security Council or certainly to the United States. But something will have to be done. It cannot be permitted to continue.
Q I just wanted to ask you about something that Gregg said. He's obviously an Internet enthusiast. But when he talked about some of the aspects of the system -- the fact that you could say something and you can't take it back, how it's so available to everyone and instantaneous, he's raised some issues that have been issues for us in the last few weeks in our business. And I wonder if you think that this new media is necessarily an entirely good thing. And also, as somebody who has been through this crucible, in the next millennium how would you like to see this new and ever more interesting -- (laughter) -- handled of things like the issues like the personal lives of public figures.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, Kathy, I think that's one of these issues that Dick was referring to, that we're going to have to really think hard about. And I think that every time technology makes an advance -- when you move to the railroad, or you move to the cotton gin, or you move to the automobile, or the airplane, and now certainly as you move to the computer and increasing accessibility and instantaneous information on the computer, we are all going to have to rethink how we deal with this, because there are always competing values. There's no free decision that I'm aware of anywhere in life, and certainly with technology that's the case.
As exciting as these new developments are -- and I think Gregg's enthusiasm is shared broadly by Americans and people around the world -- there are a number of serious issues without any kind of editing function or gate-keeping function. What does it mean to have the right to defend your reputation, or to respond to what someone says?
There used to be this old saying that the lie can be halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. Well, today, the lie can be twice around the world before the truth gets out of bed to find its boots. I mean, it is just beyond imagination what can be disseminated. So I think we're going to have to really worry about this, because it won't be just public elected officials. We've seen some cases where somebody who had a grudge against a girl's mother because the family wouldn't let him date her put out on the Internet that the family were child abusers. Totally private people, never stuck their toe in public life. It can be done to anybody, and it can get an audience, and it can create a falsehood about somebody. And certainly it's multiplied many times over if you happen to be in public life.
I don't have any clue about what we're going to do legally, regulatorily, technologically -- I don't have a clue. But I do think we always have to keep competing interests in balance. I'm a big pro-balance person. That's why I love the founders -- checks and balances; accountable power. Anytime an individual or an institution or an invention leaps so far out ahead of that balance and throws a system, whatever it might be -- political, economic, technological -- out of balance, you've got a problem, because then it can lead to the oppression people's rights, it can lead to the manipulation of information, it can lead to all kinds of bad outcomes which we have seen historically. So we're going to have to deal with that. And I hope a lot of smart people are going to --
Q Sounds like you favor regulation.
MRS. CLINTON: Bill, I don't know what -- that's why I said I don't know what I'm in favor of. And I don't know enough to know what to be in favor of, because I think it's one of those new issues we've got to address. We've got to see whether our existing laws protect people's right of privacy, protect them against defamation. And if they can, how do you do that when you can press a button and you can't take it back. So I think we have to tread carefully.
Q -- one of the balances, though, in this new digital age is that you can have direct communication. You're celebrating that tonight -- people can log on from anywhere. In that spirit, have you thought any more about a direct and frank conversation by the President with the country about these allegations?
MRS. CLINTON: I'm not going to add anything to what the President has already said. And I think that any of you who think hard about this issue would have to agree that he's taken the right position. So I'm not going to add to that.
Q Do you think this will be indefinite, Mrs. Clinton? I mean, is there any sense that at some point he might --
MRS. CLINTON: As I said when I was on television a few weeks ago, I just wish everybody would take a deep breath. We've already seen how so much of this charge and countercharge does not withstand the scrutiny of much attention at all. And I don't anticipate that this will evaporate, but I anticipate that it will slowly dissipate over time by the weight of its own insubstantiality.
So I just advise everybody to just take a deep breath and watch this develop. And I think some of the developments of the last week or two should certainly give anybody pause about what is really going on here.
Thank you very much, folks.
Q -- you just talked about, the story getting around the world twice -- several of the people who work around the President have gone into -- been called in to testify. And there's the prospect that people, particularly security or those who were institutional White House people -- has that changed your relationship with the people around you? Does it make it more difficult to be around White House stewards, Secret Service agents?
MRS. CLINTON: No. And I just regret deeply that this kind of activity is going on. But I have seen it for five years, certainly for the last four years. I've seen a lot of people dragged into this matter, having to hire lawyers, running up legal fees for no good reason. And I regret that deeply. But it certainly doesn't affect our relationship.
Q Well, do you think the special prosecutor is outside of the checks and bounds --
MRS. CLINTON: Interesting question, Helen. (Laughter.)
Q For the next millennium lecture. (Laughter.)
MRS. CLINTON: Any ideas you have for millennium lectures let me know. I would be glad to hear them.
Thank you all very much. Thanks.