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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 21, 1999
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                        IN AN EXCHANGE OF TOASTS

                             United Nations
                           New York, New York

1:42 P.M. EDT

THE SECRETARY GENERAL: Excellencies, Presidents, Prime Ministers, distinguished friends of the United Nations, it is a great honor for me to welcome you all to the United Nations Headquarters and to host this luncheon in their honor. The fact that so many of you travel to New York each autumn to attend the General Assembly is a great encouragement to us who work here all year round. It shows how much you value this organization as a place to meet to exchange ideas and to work together in tackling international problems. But it also raises hopes around the globe, and we must live up to those hopes if the United Nations is to thrive in the next century.

I think we all realize that our continued success depends more than ever on winning and retaining the confidence of the world's peoples. That is why I devoted my address yesterday to the theme of human security and intervention. People all over the world look to our organization to protect them from things they fear most -- hunger, disease and violence -- whenever the task seems beyond the capacity of local or national institutions, they turn to us.

But, of course, the organization can do little or nothing by itself. Its strength is a strength of its member states, when they agree on what needs doing and resolve to act together for the common good.

In a year's time, God willing, we shall all meet again for the millennium summit. I am sure that on that occasion almost every member state will be represented by its head of state or government, or perhaps both. The expectations placed in us will be all the greater. The millennium summit must go beyond a series of statements. It must take decisions, setting the agenda for the United Nations in the new century with the same spirit of dedication and creativity that marked the founding meeting in San Francisco.

I think we know what the objectives must be: the eradication of poverty, the realization of all human rights for all, and the prevention of armed conflict. But these must no longer be mere slogans; they must be real policy goals to be reached through a strategy to which all member states are committed.

Excellencies, with that aim in mind, let us raise our glasses and pledge ourselves to work closely together during the next 12 months. Let me drink to a better life for all humankind in the new century. Thank you very much.

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Secretary General, distinguished leaders: Tomorrow, we will be exactly 100 days away from the beginning of the new millennium. The calendar tells us how old the world is, but we are thinking about something fresh, something new. And it is altogether fitting that we should be here at the United Nations, which is a very young attempt by the world to make ourselves better and to make our children's future brighter.

I would like to say how deeply pleased I am that the United Nations is being led today by a man of the ability and character of the Secretary General. He continues to speak and act with authority. He said recently that the aim of the U.N. Charter is to protect individual human beings, not to protect those who abuse them. He reminded us that even in these times of phenomenal prosperity, half of all humanity subsists on less than three dollars a day.

So, Mr. Secretary General, I thank you for your leadership and your direction.

Let me say that I'm thinking, myself, also a lot about the future. And I plan to be, at least part of the time, a future resident of New York. Now, when I move here, I will be able to complain about all the traffic jams around the U.N. -- (laughter) -- and all those important people who keep me from getting to my appointed rounds. If I get very upset, I may even write a letter to my United States senator. (Laughter.)

But let me say, again, in all candor, the United States is humbled and honored to host the United Nations. We are honored to be a part of your leadership for peace in East Timor, and in so many other places. And we look forward to going into a new century, to a new millennium, to a new era, with your leadership.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to join me in a toast to the Secretary General, and the United Nations.

(The toast is offered.)

Thank you.

END 1:50 P.M. EDT