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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                        (Little Rock, Arkansas)
For Immediate Release                                     April 27, 2000

                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                            Bowen Law School
                         Little Rock, Arkansas

1:03 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Derrick, and thank you for your great speech. Mack, thank you for being here. I must say, when Mack was speaking, he was laying it on so thick, I had to lean over and pinch Bill to make sure he was still breathing. (Laughter.)

I said, Bowen, are you still alive? Is this is a eulogy? And he said, I guess if Mack ever does run for office, I'll have to support him now. (Laughter.) Chairman May, Dr. Sugg, Dr. Hathaway, Dean Smith, thank you for your wonderful comments. To all the elected officials and former officials who are here -- Secretary Slater, Senator Lambert, General Pryor, Senator Bumpers, Congressman Berry, Mayor Dailey. To Bill and Connie and your wonderful family and to all of you here who are responsible for this, I want to thank you on behalf of Hillary and myself for naming this law school for Bill Bowen.

I was looking out in this audience today. There are hundreds of people I know by first name in this audience. I counted over 20 people who were members of one or more of my administrations as governor in some form or another, and many lawyers here whom I have admired since I was a very young man. But as a person who's spent most of his life in politics, it's somehow reassuring to me to know that this law school is being named for a brilliant man who spent the last 30 years trying to avoid practicing law. (Laughter.) And seemed to me to have succeeded in an outstanding fashion. (Laughter.)

Senator and Mrs. Pryor, it's nice to see you. I didn't see you all over there. But I want to say that by the time Bill Bowen agreed basically to make it possible for me to run for president -- and I say that in all sincerity -- I was profoundly concerned about what would happen if I were to undertake a campaign in 1991, and I wanted to know that the office would continue to operate and that things would go well, and that if I needed to make a decision or come home, somebody with enough sense to know would tell me and get me on a plane forthwith.

I'd known Bill Bowen for a long time by then. By then, for a better part of two decades, he had been a friend of mine, an advisor, a supporter and a banker. I remember, I had been attorney general about two months when the Arkansas Jaycees named me one of the outstanding young men of the year; I knew I didn't deserve it and I found out later that Bill Bowen and Mack McLarty got it done. So I'm still trying to live up to it. And, unfortunately, I outgrew the title before I lived up to it. (Laughter.)

By the time 1991 rolled around, there was only one thing Bill Bowen hadn't done for me: He hadn't actually been a full-time member of our administration. And so I asked him to become the chief of staff, as Mack said. He actually took about an hour to agree, and that's a long time for Bowen. You know how he makes decisions. (Laughter.) But after all, I was asking him to turn his entire life upside down. But he did it. And he performed in an absolutely superb way.

From the time I set foot outside Arkansas to seek the presidency, I knew that the state and the State House would be in good hands. I never worried about whether decisions would be made in a timely fashion, whether anything that should be done was being done, whether there was some problem that should be brought to my attention that wasn't. I never worried about any of that.

And so I can honestly say, my friend, Bill, if it hadn't been for you, I could not have done it. And I hope you're proud of what has happened in America for the last eight years. Because your decision to be a selfless public servant made it all possible, and I thank you for that. (Applause.)

One of the things that bothers me is that people in elected office sometimes get all the credit for what so many people do. So I hope you'll think about that tonight, Bill. More than 21 million people with new jobs, longest economic expansion in history. Today, my staff gave me -- just before I came up here -- today's economic report shows that in the first quarter of the 21st century, our economy grew at a rate of 5.4 percent. That means for the last year, our growth rate has been the highest it's been in over 15 years. And that's an astonishing thing.

And I'd also like to tell you that I think my life with you in Arkansas had something to do with the economic policies we put in place up there. Somebody asked me the other day, when we passed the longest economic expansion in history, and everybody was celebrating, they said, "Well, what was the major contribution you made to the new economic policy, Mr. President?" And I said, "Arithmetic." (Laughter.) I brought arithmetic to Washington.

And you're all laughing, but you're going to be asked to decide this year whether to continue arithmetic, or return to some other theory, and I think we now have evidence with both, and I hope that arithmetic will prevail. (Applause.) And I thank you, Bill Bowen, for what you did to make it possible.

I'd also like to thank you as the President for your service to America in World War II, for flying the Hellcats and Wildcats, for waging freedom's fight. I'd like to thank you as a former Governor, for always being there for the cause of the education of our children, and for the economic development for people and places who were left behind in the 1980s. Places like Althemier and Hope.

And I'd like to thank you, too, for being willing to come back and help out this law school. And for the role you all had in deciding to build this building here around the old university building, to make a contribution at once to tomorrow's lawyers and to historic preservation, and to the character of the McArthur Park Area, which is so important to me and to so many others in this audience.

You could have done something else with the last couple of years of your life. And no one would have been able to criticize you. You could have decided that after succeeding as a lawyer, a banker, a public servant and a public citizen, you didn't need to prove that you could succeed as a law school dean. But it is true that of all the people I know, no one embodies the continuing energy and imagination for tomorrow any better than you do. So I wasn't surprised when you agreed not to grow old, but to help the young. (Laughter.)

I told somebody one time that Bill Bowen made me look absolutely passive -- (laughter) -- and that I didn't believe anybody could possibly be as aggressive as he was and still be likeable -- (laughter) -- but he managed to do it. And I think today answers the question why. Because I always had the feeling that whatever he was pushing for was something that was going to be good for everybody else, too. And through a long and rich life, it's always been true.

Thank you Connie, for your friendship. I thank all the members of the Bowen family, for loving him and keeping the rough edges sanded, and giving him the anchor that every person needs. But most of all, Bill, I thank you for being my friend, for being a good citizen, for being a good man, and for being a very powerful example.

Ladies and gentlemen, our honoree, Bill Bowen. (Applause.)

END 1:13 P.M. CDT