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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 24, 1999
                     REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT

The East Room

3:56 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, John. And, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the White House. It's an honor for me to be able to participate in this event. And, Alma, it's a great honor and joy to welcome you back to the White House, with the members of your family -- Michael and Tami and Tracey, and young Morgan and Ryan, and your mother, Dorothy Arrington, and other members of the Brown family, and close friends all.

Secretary Alexis Herman is an honored member of our Cabinet and also a valued ex officio member of this board, and she has talked with me about this year's award winners. And I do want to say a word of congratulations to all of the award winners. I'll mention each of you in my remarks here.

I want to thank Bob Mallett for representing Secretary Daley of the Commerce Department, who is on the way to the Far East even as we speak. But thank you -- and all the others from the Commerce Department who are here today.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by saying that President Clinton, as I'm sure you're keenly aware, wanted very much to be here this afternoon. He cares deeply about these awards, and of course, deeply loved the remarkable public servant after which they were named. All of us did. But President Clinton is closely monitoring events in Kosovo. You know, just moments ago he spoke to the nation and he will address the nation more formally this evening, but I think everybody understands fully what the situation is. But I do want you to know that I bring his heartfelt congratulations to all of today's honorees.

And I might just say a word about the President's comments earlier and what our country is engaged in. As all of you know, Milosevic, the leader of Serbia, has rejected every appeal we and the international community have made for peace. Yesterday morning, he refused once again to pull back his forces and declare a cease-fire, or to sign the peace agreement that was painstakingly crafted by the international community, and signed by the Kosovar Albanians.

Instead, Milosevic has continued and escalated his abhorrent military campaign against innocent families and children. We cannot stand by -- we, the United States; we, the international community -- cannot stand by and watch the senseless and brutal slaughter of innocents. A failure to act in conditions like these would be interpreted by Milosevic as a license to kill. We cannot permit that; we will not permit that. And we will stand for peace and freedom, in the Balkans and elsewhere in the world.

Of course, I'm sure a lot of you feel in your hearts, as I do, that it is a bitter irony that we gather on this day, as we take action to stop the violence and bloodshed in Kosovo, to honor a man who gave his life in the pursuit of peace and freedom in the Balkans. Ron Brown was known for so many good works, so much compassion, so much honor, so much goodwill.

And just this morning the President unveiled the official portrait over at the Commerce Department and he described the Ron Brown that all of us knew and loved -- a man who believed there was no mountain that could not be climbed; a man who believed that American businesses have a responsibility to act in their enlightened self-interest and to help themselves and others, both at home and around the world; a man who believed that what unites us is so much greater than what divides us.

Ron Brown was proud to use the power of the American economy in an effort to help peace take hold in the Balkans, to help a hurting and divided region of the world central to the future of Europe, to build the kind of prosperity and self-government that we sometimes take for granted in our blessed land. Ron Brown loved freedom. He fought for it. He believed in its transformative power. And he knew that we could build a stronger global community around our shared values -- political, economic and religious freedom -- an ever-widening circle of dignity and self-sufficiency for all people.

Of course, he utterly transformed the Commerce Department as well, to bring a new sense of mission to our most fundamental goal, ensuring opportunity for every American.

Today's Corporate Leadership Awards are just one important way that all of us are trying to move forward boldly with Ron's mission. No one was a more forceful advocate for American business than Ron Brown. During his too-short tenure as our beloved colleague in the President's Cabinet, Ron Brown logged countless miles traveling to Capitol Hill and Wall Street, across the country and around the world, helping all kinds of businesses grow, find new markets and to track new customers.

But while Ron understood that business could do good simply by creating jobs and new products, he also believed that business could profit by doing right by their employees and their communities.

The four Ron Brown Award winners that have just been honored here today have shown us what's good for a community and employees can also be good for the bottom line. And by presenting them with these awards today, we hope to challenge all businesses to look to them for inspiration; to look to Anheuser-Busch for proof that protecting the environment can foster good will in a community, and attract customers; to look to BankBoston for proof that millions can be made in bringing credit, basic banking services and new empowerment to the working poor. Look to Cascade Engineering for proof that productivity can go up when you invest in human capital, by helping workers resolve troubles at home, and balance work and family. And look to Seafirst Bank for proof that providing low-income young people with the mentors, the jobs, and the scholarships they need to succeed in the future can lift up and strengthen an entire community.

These four companies have thrived by helping their communities and their employees thrive. They truly embody the best of American corporate citizenship. We need more businesses across America to follow their lead. We're living in a time of unprecedented prosperity. We're proud that these last six years have been very good for American business. We now have the longest peacetime expansion of our economy in history, an economy that some writers are now saying could be the best economy we've ever had in our history.

There's no question that American business is the engine behind all this growth and prosperity, and that itself is a great act of service. And today, there is also a growing national consensus that American business can be a valuable partner in America's efforts to tackle some of our toughest challenges -- like education and job training, health care, child care, race relations and environmental protection, just to name a few.

American business has never been better poised with the resources and the know-how needed to make a difference in our communities. Investing in human capital really is one of the very best insurance policies that our country and our nation can have for a rainy day.

Though he left us decades too soon, Ron Brown did leave America with a clear vision for the road ahead -- a road that expands opportunity, that values the contributions of all Americans, that leaves no one behind. Ron Brown's road is America's road to a brighter and more prosperous 21st century.

I really can't think of a better way to honor the embodiment of his values in America's corporate community than this ongoing award. I want to thank those in the business community who have stepped forward to make possible the presentation and the ongoing presentation of these awards. It really is a great service, not only to Ron's memory, but to our country's future. Let us all move forward to build an America that is not just better off, but better in every way.

Thank you very much, and congratulations, again, to the award winners. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 4:07 P.M. EST