THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Amman, Jordan) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release February 8, 1999
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON, PRESIDENT GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER, AND PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH, AND THE FIRST LADY TO EMBASSY STAFF Marriott Hotel Amman, Jordan
7:45 P.M. (L)
AMBASSADOR BURNS: President Clinton, Mrs. Clinton; President Ford, President Carter, President Bush; Senator Stevens, Senator Leahy, Congressman Gilman, Congressman Bonior; friends and colleagues: It is a great privilege to introduce you to this gathering of the American Embassy community in Amman.
This is a sad time for all of us who have been touched by the courage and decency and rare integrity of King Hussein. This is an especially sad moment for our Jordanian colleagues, the fine service nationals who have worked so loyally and so professionally for this Embassy for so many years. You honor them and you honor the memory of King Hussein by your presence here this evening.
Let me now ask former President Ford to make a few remarks. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT FORD: Mr. Presidents, First Lady Hillary, my former colleagues in the House and Senate, all of you fine, fine people here representing the United States government in Amman. I'm here to pay tribute to a great, great statesman, King Hussein, and to express on behalf of my wife, Betty, and myself our personal sadness with his passing.
We were very fortunate over the years to have had a number of experiences, officially and personally, with King Hussein, and his wonderful wife, Noor. But I'm here not to talk about those experiences, which we treasure; I'm here to express my gratitude and appreciation for the fine, fine job that embassy people do on a global basis.
Before I went to the Congress 50 years ago, I had no idea what the responsibilities were of an embassy staff. When I first took the oath of office in January 1949, I rapidly learned how important, how vital, embassy staffs are for the United States government and for its people.
I had no idea the service that was rendered all over the world by people working in embassies for our government. You know the problems far, far better than I, but as a young congressman, I rapidly learned how you in your capacities handled problems involving immigration, how helpful you could be to a family that had a G.I. overseas and they wanted to get in touch with him and vice versa -- those personal contacts were invaluable to a family and to a member of a family. And, of course, businessmen on a collective basis, as well as individually, are the beneficiaries of the kind of first-class service that you and your responsibilities can carry out. Businessmen come to Amman, they come to other countries and other cities wanting help for the merchandizing of their products made in the states, how they can improve their service, how they can do a better job in making their products.
I would like to add that the American people as a whole are deeply grateful to all of you for what you do here in Amman and what your associates on a global basis do in other countries and in other cities. The American people, some 267 million, thank you and that's the message I carry to you. And we, as Americans, thank each and every one of you here and all of your associates on a global basis. We've very, very grateful. Thank you. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR BURNS: President Ford, thank you very much. Now, President Carter, could I ask you to say a few words? (Applause.)
PRESIDENT CARTER: I don't think I've ever seen a greater outpouring of the world's appreciation and the world's love for a human being than I've seen today. It's been extraordinary to look down the list of those who might be here when we were on the way in to Amman, and then to arrive here and find that even that long list was exceeded by the actual attendance. It's a true expression of what King Hussein has meant to all of us personally.
I won't repeat what Gerry Ford said, but I want to add my full endorsement of his appreciation to you. I thought just very briefly I would tell you the first time I got to know King Hussein.
Just two weeks after I became President, King Hussein's wife, Alia, was killed. And one of the first things I did was just send my condolences to him. Shortly after, he came to Washington, in April of 1977. His primary purpose was to urge me to be forceful in seeking peace between Israel and Israel's neighbors. We had a daughter named Amy, who at that time was nine years old. I was a peanut farmer who had never met a king; and Amy was certainly a peanut farmer's daughter who had never met any royalty. So we were very assiduous in our training of Amy, what to say -- "Your Majesty," "Your Royal Highness," "Your Highness" -- he had his two sons with him. And when we met the Royal Family the first thing Amy shouted was, "Hi, Prince." (Laughter.) And from then on she and the two young boys got along quite well.
The night after a long day of work, King Hussein and I went on the Truman Balcony and we looked out over the South Lawn and past the Jefferson Memorial, and saw some planes taking off. And he began to tell me about his recent tragic loss, and he began to weep. And we embraced each other. And he said he was just exhausted from his sorrow and from the duties on his shoulders. And I suggested that he spend a couple of weeks in Georgia.
I had two fun-loving young friends down near Brunswick, Georgia, and eventually, King Hussein agreed to go down there. And he hunted and fished and swam, and I gave him, without asking anybody's permission, since I was Commander in Chief, a helicopter to fly around in. (Laughter.) And I think he enjoyed it.
The thing I would like to close by saying is that, some people have commented on the youth and apparent inexperience of the new King Abdullah. But the thing that reassured me from the very first moment I heard that news was that before the American delegation and the Jordanian delegation sat across from each other in the Cabinet Room for serious discussions, King Hussein pulled me aside and said, "Mr. President, I'd like permission for my son to attend all the official discussions." That was future King Abdullah, who at that time was just 12 years old. So I feel that he's well qualified to lead this great nation and these great people. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR BURNS: Thank you very, very much. And I would like to ask President Bush to make a few remarks. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: President, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Ambassador and all the Embassy, thank you all very much for all the arrangements. Handling this many people from out of town is not easy. I told the Admin Officer I would do my level best to see we leave on time. (Laughter.)
To the Jordanian nationals in this great Embassy, let me extend to you our most sincere condolences. You may have noticed the great outpouring of affection in our country for your King, and then when you look around and see the numbers of people that came from all around the world, you can't help but feel the affection and respect for him that was worldwide.
I just wish you all well. And I would conclude simply by saying I share President Carter's confidence in the future of Jordan under your new King. He'll do just fine. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR BURNS: Thank you, President Bush, thank you very much. And now it is my great honor and my great privilege to introduce to you the President of the United States and Mrs. Clinton. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you all. I just want to express our personal appreciation to all of you for the incredible support that you have given to us in this very difficult time, as we have come here to pay our last respects.
I also, on a personal note, wish to acknowledge the deep sadness that the entire American people feel. You see before you four leaders of our country who really represent many, many Americans who could not be here, but whose hearts are with the people of Jordan.
I also hope you know that the friendship between our families on a personal level, and between our countries is very, very deep -- and we will be there in friendship and support in the months and years ahead.
As I was visiting with Queen Noor a few minutes ago, and expressing our personal condolences, I could not help but think how much better off this region and our world would be if not only leaders, but all of us, stopped to think how would King Hussein have acted, what would he have said. If we could bring the same sense of humility and openness and stability to all of our relationships that he brought, and that I saw him bring not only to Presidents, but to every person he encountered, that would be one way to honor the legacy of this extraordinary man and this very great leader.
Thank you, as part of the American community and the Jordanian nationals who work with the Americans here at the Embassy, for representing our country in good times and hard times. We're grateful to you for the service that you give. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin, if I might, by thanking President Bush, President Carter and President Ford, and this congressional delegation for coming on very short notice all the way to Jordan to make a clear and unambiguous statement about our regard and respect and gratitude to King Hussein and the people of Jordan. I thank them very, very much. (Applause.)
I want to thank Ambassador Burns and all of you in the Embassy community for representing us in a difficult and challenging part of the world, in a wonderful country. I thank all the Jordanian nationals who work for the United States. We are honored by your efforts. And when Jordanians and Americans work together in our Embassy here in Amman, they symbolize the partnership that we hope will always exist between the United States and Jordan.
Most of what I would have said has already been said so eloquently by those who have spoken before. I would just like to make a couple of points about King Hussein and about King Abdullah.
First of all, Hussein really did bring people together. You know, I was looking at the four of us -- here we are, two Democrats, two Republicans -- we've agreed on many things, we've disagreed on a thing or two over time. But we know that America's interest and America's heart were close to this King and this country.
I looked at the Israeli delegation today, I could hardly believe my eyes. All the candidates for prime minister were there. (Laughter.) They were all walking together. I don't know if they talk at home, but they were all talking here. (Laughter.) I thought, it was as if Hussein was hugging them all, you know? It was really a beautiful sight. People coming from all around the world, countries that are at each other's throat, here meeting in peace and friendship and the sanctity of the umbrella of this great man. He worked with every American President since President Eisenhower. Amazing thing.
The second thing I would like to say is that he really was driven not by the title he had, but by the responsibilities it bore. And he was ennobled not by the title, but by the strength of his own character and his vision and his spirit. It was unbelievable to me when we talked right before we started this last round of peace negotiations at Wye -- and I knew how ill he was -- he said, well, I would be willing to come down there if you think it would help. I said, if I think it would help? This whole thing is about to come apart; of course, it would help. I said, if you come down they won't have the courage to walk away here without an agreement. And so he did.
And he took a house, and some days he could only work 30 minutes or an hour. But every day we needed him in that long Wye peace accord, he was there. Every day he was needed, he was there. No matter how sick he was, no matter how bad he felt. And his son, the new King, told me tonight, he said, you know, the truth is it put some days on his life because he was doing what he believed in. And all the icy atmosphere of those tense talks would immediately disappear when Hussein walked in the room because all the differences and animosities and grievances seemed small in the face of this very large presence. And it was almost as if the more frail his body became, the more powerful the essence of his spirit was.
Every Jordanian citizen can be proud of that -- can be proud that on every continent, in every country of the world, people said, that is the sort of person we all ought to be.
The last point I would like to make is that I would like to join the previous speakers in saying that I have great confidence in the young King of Jordan. I had a very good meeting with him today. He clearly understands his mission. He said in the most moving way -- he said, I and all of my brothers and sisters have absorbed our father's teaching, we know what we are supposed to do, and I intend to do it. And he said it in a way that exuded the quiet, humble confidence that I saw so often in his father.
And, finally, just on a purely personal note, I was deeply honored to be able to bring Queen Noor's mother and father over on the airplane with me. They are in this audience tonight, because we are leaving from here. And I think we should let them know that our prayers and support are with them, and we are grateful that their daughter, a daughter of America, has been a magnificent Queen of Jordan and a great friend to the people of both countries.
Hillary and I have had so many unbelievable experiences as a result of the great honor of serving in the White House. But among those I will treasure most every day of my life are the times we had with the King of Jordan. He made us all a little better, and he always will.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 8:07 P.M. (L)