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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 17, 1998
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT 
                          AND THE FIRST LADY

                        The South Lawn Pavilion

11:10 P.M. EST

THE FIRST LADY: This has been an extraordinary evening, and I think you will all agree that we have a lot to be grateful for. I want to thank Whoopi and the many wonderful artists who have come together to help us all celebrate the achievements of the Special Olympics over the past 30 years.

Thank you, Loretta, for that very kind introduction. Your many accomplishments, including finishing the Boston Marathon in three hours and three minutes, are truly impressive. (Applause.) But what makes you and all the others such remarkable, global messengers is the courage you have always had to say, yes, I can -- when others are saying, no, you can't. It's a lesson that all of us need to learn and one that Special Olympics teaches us every day. It teaches young people; it teaches those of us who are not so young anymore here and around the world.

I want to pay a special tribute to the founder of the Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. (Applause.) Eunice's life of public service has inspired us all and changed the lives of children and young people everywhere. Eunice, you have given them a most precious gift -- the confidence and skills to overcome the obstacles before them and to reach their fullest God-given potential. And that's something that we want everybody to learn.

It's my great pleasure now to introduce to you a man who has devoted his life and his administration as President to improving the lives of children and families, and to ensuring that every citizen has a chance to fulfill his or her dreams -- my husband, the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. This has been a wonderful night. Hillary and I want to thank all the artists who have graced this stage. They have brought something special to this part of the White House lawn and this beautiful tent that we've never had before. They certainly have helped to put us all in the holiday spirit -- including our good friend, Whoopi, who I thought was terrific tonight, even in the breaks. (Applause.)

I feel very proud to be a part of this special evening, to pay tribute to Special Olympics. Tonight we celebrate 30 years of breaking down barriers and building up hope; 30 years of widening the circle of opportunity; 30 years of helping Americans with disabilities to reach their highest potential. Tonight, we celebrate the victory of the human spirit. We see the power of that spirit every single time an athlete like Loretta runs a race, every time a young person realizes the wonder that he can swim faster than almost anybody else in the pool, every time a parent's heart fills with pride as her child steps with confidence onto the winner's block, and every time a volunteer learns the joy of helping people with disabilities to make the most of their abilities.

As Special Olympics enters its fourth decade, this legacy is being passed from generation to generation, in a circle of hope, as the children of Special Olympics volunteers take their place in the dug outs and on the sidelines, and as former competitors become coaches and mentors to new young athletes. The Special Olympics torch, which began as a small flicker of light in 1968 in Chicago, now burns brightly all around the world as a symbol of acceptance and pride.

Tonight, we thank all of you, every single one of you who have made this possible -- the Shriver and Kennedy families, without whose vision there would be no Special Olympics; the thousands of supporters and volunteers whose dedication sustains that vision; the millions of athletes whose courage inspires and challenges all of us. And we salute the next generation of Special Olympics heroes who will keep that flame alive in the 21st century.

Now, I'd like to ask all the artists here with us tonight to come back on stage and sing just one more song for you, Eunice, and all the rest of us, and for Special Olympics.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 11:16 P.M. EST