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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 23, 2000
                  FOR ROCK THE VOTE - 10TH ANNIVERSARY

THE PRESIDENT: I am honored to be a part of Rock the Vote's 10th anniversary celebration. And it is with great pride and appreciation that I accept this year's Rock the Vote Award. Thank you.

From our first days as a nation, the right to vote meant the right to participate and to be heard. Although it's often taken for granted, we must not forget that generations of Americans before us had to fight to gain that right. When blacks and women won the right to vote; when we outlawed the poll tax and literacy tests in the South; when the voting age was lowered to 18; and when we finally recognized the voting rights of the disabled, more Americans gained the opportunity to realize what Lyndon Johnson once told us: "Voting is the first duty of democracy."

That's why Rock the Vote was founded, and why you're all here today -- to help more young Americans fulfill that right, and to recognize the power and the impact of their votes. Your dedication to protecting freedom of speech, educating people about the issues that affect them, and motivating them to register and vote, has helped countless young people across our country.

With your help, we've transformed voices into action. Year after year, starting with the Motor Voter bill, which you first championed, you've worked with our administration to make sure that young people get involved and stay involved -- and to remind them that voting is not only a right, it is a solemn, profound responsibility. Now we approach the first election of the 21st century, and it is more important than ever that young people get out and vote.

I congratulate all tonight's award recipients. And I thank Rock the Vote for all you have done in these ten years. Thank you for the work you do every day still, to help young people build the more perfect union of our Founders' dreams.

This is the most hopeful moment in the history of America, in terms of our ability to shape the future. It will only be done in a right and helpful way if the young people of America seize their opportunity to have their voices be heard. You can take a lot of pride in your contribution to that great moment.

Good night, and God bless you.