THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Kearney, Nebraska) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release December 8, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT "A FOREIGN POLICY FOR THE GLOBAL AGE" ADDRESS TO THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA Cushing Health and Sports Center University of Nebraska at Kearney Kearney, Nebraska
9:58 A.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Didn't Casey do a good job? (Applause.) She was great. I'd like to thank Chancellor Johnston for her kind remarks and the honorary degree. And thank you, President Smith, and members of the Board of Trustees, to both the students and the other members.
Thank you, Governor, for your welcome. And I thank the other state officials who are here. I am especially grateful that my long-time friend and former colleague as governor, your retiring Senator, Bob Kerrey, flew down here with me today -- thank you, Bob, for your service. (Applause.) Along with our former Nebraska Congressman, Peter Hoagland, thank you for coming with me. I congratulate Ben Nelson on his election to the United States Senate -- (applause.) Governor Morrison, thank you for being here today.
And I want to say a special word of thanks to my great friend, your former Senator, Jim Exon, who persuaded me to come here and to come to Kearney -- (applause) -- he said -- should be here. (Applause.)
When I came in here and I looked at this crowd, one of my staff members joked that we had found a building in Nebraska that would hold every single Democrat -- (laughter and applause) -- and a few charitable Republicans, to boot. (Laughter.)
Let me say, I'm glad that I finally made it to Nebraska. There were a lot of signs outside that said, you saved the best until last. (Laughter.) And I saw the patriotism and the spirit of the people, all the children holding the American flags. It was very, very moving, coming in. All the schools were let out and there were hundreds and hundreds of people along the way, and it made us a little bit late; and for that, I'm sorry. But I did actually stop and we got out and shook hands with one group of schoolchildren there just to thank them for being in the cold. So I thank them for that. (Applause.)
I was also reminded at the airport that we are literally in the heartland of America. A gentleman at the airport gave me a sweatshirt that had a little map of Nebraska with Kearney, and it had a line and it said, "1,300 miles to New York and 1,300 miles to San Francisco."
Most Americans have probably forgotten this, but back in the 1870s, there was actually talk of relocating our nation's capital away from Washington, D.C. to a more central location. And a local publisher in this community, named Moses Henry Sydenham, launched a national campaign to nominate Kearney for the nation's capital. He promised to rename it "New Washington," and to use the real estate profits to pay off the national debt. (Laughter.)
Critics of his proposal asked him what in the world he would do with all those big, fancy buildings in old Washington. He said it was simple: he would turn them into asylums. (Laughter.) Well, history took a different course, except for that part about turning those buildings into asylums. (Laughter and applause.) I have occupied one for the last eight years.
And we are finally paying off the national debt, which is good -- (applause.) Thank you. But since half of Washington is in Kearney today, maybe we should think again about moving the capital. I rather like it here. (Laughter and applause.)
I want to say again, I thank the people of this community for a wonderful welcome, and all of you in the university community especially. I also want to say again, how impressed I was by what Casey had to say. Because I came here today not just to keep my promise to visit Nebraska, but to keep working on something at the very end of my term I have been trying for eight years to do, which is to persuade ordinary, hard working American citizens in the heartland of America that you should be concerned about what goes on beyond our nation's borders, and what our role in the rest of the world is.
Because the world is growing smaller and smaller and more interdependent. Every Nebraska farmer knows that. And, indeed, when Senator Kerrey and I visited the units of the Nebraska Air National Guard out there, we asked them where the guardsmen were. We found out that you have some Nebraska guardsman now still in Kosovo. So we are personally affected by it.
But I don't think I have still -- people say I'm a pretty good talker, but I still don't think I've persuaded the American people by big majorities that you really ought to care a lot about foreign policy, about our relationship to the rest of the world, about what we're doing. And the reason is, in an interdependent world, we are all directly affected by what goes on beyond our borders -- sure, in economics, but in other ways, as well -- and by what we decide to do or not do about it.
This is an immensely patriotic community. That's one thing Bob Kerrey kept saying over and over again -- look at all those people holding the flag; these people love their country. (Applause.) But what we have to do is be wise patriots. This country is still around after 224 years because our founders not only loved our country, they were smart -- they were smart enough to figure out how to give us a system that, as we have seen in the last few weeks, can survive just about anything. (Laughter.)
And I want to ask you again today, just give me a few minutes to make the case in the heartland about why there is no longer a clear, bright line dividing America's domestic concerns and America's foreign policy concerns; and why every American who wants to be a good citizen, who wants to vote in every election, should know more about the rest of the world and have a clearer idea about what we're supposed to be doing out there and how it affects how you live in Kearney. Because I think it is profoundly important.
Let's start with a few basics. Never before have we enjoyed at the same time so much prosperity and social progress with the absence of domestic crisis or overwhelming foreign threats. We're in the midst of the longest economic expansion in our history, with the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, the lowest welfare rolls in 32 years, the lowest crime rates in 27 years; three years of surpluses in a row and three years of paying down the national debt for the first time in 50 years; the highest homeownership and college-going rate in history.
Today, we learned that the November unemployment rate was 4 percent, staying at that 30-year low.
Now, this is good news for America. But there is good news beyond our borders for our values and our interests. In the last few years for the first time in all human history, more than half the people on the face of the earth live under governments that they voted for, that they chose. (Applause.)
And more and more, even in nations that have not yet completely embraced democracy, more and more people, especially young people, see our creative, entrepreneurial society with more and more personal freedom as the model for the success they want. Last month, I went to Vietnam where America fought in a very difficult war for a long time, where Senator Kerrey earned the Medal of Honor and nearly 60,000 Americans died, and 3 million Vietnamese died on both sides of the conflict.
So I was interested to see what sort of a reception that I would get and the United States would get, because the government there remains in the hands of a communist leadership. And, frankly, some of them didn't know what to make about America showing up. But everywhere I went, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City -- formerly Saigon -- tens of thousands of people appeared out of nowhere. Not for me, for America; for the idea of America. Sixty percent of the people who live in Vietnam are under 30. Because of the tragedy of the war, only 5 percent are over 60.
But the ones under 30 like what they know about America. They want to be our partners in the future, and they want to have the chance to build the kind of future they think young people in this country have. That is a priceless gift. (Applause.)
So the first thing I want to say, especially to the young people here is, that we should all be grateful that we are so fortunate to be alive at this moment of prosperity, military and political power, social progress and prestige for America.
But the really important question is, what do we intend to make of this moment? Will we be grateful, but basically complacent, being the political equivalent of couch potatoes? Will we assume that in this era of the Internet, freedom, peace and prosperity will just spread? That all we have to do is kind of sit back, hook the world up to AOL and wait for people to beat their swords into shares on the Nasdaq? (Laughter.) Or will we understand that no change is inevitable -- change is inevitable, but the particular change is not. And we have to actually make some decisions if we're going to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges before us.
To put it in another way, the train of globalization cannot be reversed. But it has more than one possible destination. If we want America to stay on the right track, if we want other people to be on that track and have the chance to enjoy peace and prosperity, we have no choice but to try to lead the train.
For example, you all applauded when I said more than half the people in the world live under governments of their own choosing for the first time in history. We'd like to keep that process going. But we know that democracy in some places is fragile and it could be reversed.
We want more nations to see ethnic and religious diversity as a source of strength. You know what the Chancellor said when the choir was singing? I said, boy, they're good. She said, they got a lot more rhythm since I came here -- we're laughing. (Laughter and applause.)
Casey talked about her Hispanic heritage. I was shaking hands with these kids out on the street and about the third young boy I shook hands with was of Asian descent. This is a more interesting country than it has ever been. (Applause.) Everywhere I go -- I mean, you can't be President anymore unless you understand the concerns of at least 50 different groups.
It's an interesting thing. For us, this is a big plus, even though we still have our problems with hate crimes and racial or religious or other instances. But, basically, our diversity has come to be something that makes life more interesting in America, because we realize that what unites us is more important than what divides us, that our common humanity anchors us in a way that allows us to feel secure about our differences, so we can celebrate them. And this is important. (Applause.)
I don't like to use the word "tolerance" in this context, because tolerance implies that there's a dominant culture putting up with a subordinate one. I don't really think that's where we're going as America. I think we're going to the point where we say, here are our common values, and if you sign on to those, we respect you, we treat you as an equal and we celebrate and find interesting the differences.
Now, that's what we would like for every place. And we know that if everybody deals that way, that America's going to do very well in the global society of the 21st century, because there's somebody here from everywhere else. And that's good. You know, we're going to do very, very well, as the world becomes more interdependent. So that's the outcome we want.
But all we have to do is read the paper everyday to know that old hatreds die hard. And their persistence, from Bosnia and Kosovo to the Middle East to Northern Ireland to the African tribal wars to places like East Timor, have in our time led to hundreds of thousands of deaths. And countries being impoverished, for 10 years or more, because people couldn't give up their old hatreds to build a new future together.
So how this comes out is not at all inevitable. We want global trade to keep our economy growing. Nebraska farmers like it when people open their markets and the most efficient farmers in the world can sell their food to people who need to buy it. But it is possible that financial crisis abroad could wreck that system, as farmers here found out when the Asian financial crisis hit a couple years ago. Or that alienation from global capitalism by people who aren't a part of it will drive whole countries away. We want global trade to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, from India to China to Africa. We know if it happens, it will create a big market for everything American, from corn to cars to computers. And it will give all of us new ideas and new innovation and we'll all help each other in constructive competition.
But the gap between rich and poor nations could continue to widen, and bring more misery, more environmental destruction, more health problems. More and more young people in poor countries just checking out of wanting to be part of a global system, because they think there is nothing in it for them.
We want advances in technology to keep making our lives better. I went last year to that annual show in Chicago of all the latest high-tech gadgets. And I held in my hand, in my palm, a little plastic computer -- with a complete keyboard that I held in my hand, that also was connected to the Internet. And I was getting CNN on those tiny little -- I don't see well enough in my old age to even use the thing, it's so small, and my hands were too big to effectively use the keyboard, it was so small. Very exciting.
But the same technological breakthroughs that put that computer in the palm of my hand could end up making it possible to create smaller and smaller chemical or biological or nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. And all the things we're learning about computers will be learned by people who, because they belong to organized crime units or narco-traffickers or terrorists, would like to pierce our secure networks and get information or spread viruses that wreck our most vital systems.
So I'm a wild-eyed optimist. (Applause.) But I've lived long enough to know that things can happen that are not necessarily what you want. And that every opportunity brings with it new responsibilities because the organized forces of destruction can take advantage of them, all these opportunities, too.
A long time ago, one of your citizens, William Jennings Bryan, said, "our destiny is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved." We have to continue to achieve America's destiny. And the point I want to make is that it cannot be achieved in the 21st century without American citizens who care about, know about and understand what is going on beyond our borders and what we're supposed to do about it. (Applause.)
Now, for the last eight years, I've had the honor of working with people in Congress, principled people of both parties, like both your senators, Bob Kerrey and Chuck Hagel, to try to make a choice for American leadership in the post-Cold War, global information age. I think it's been good for America and for people around the world. And as I leave office, I think America should continue to build a foreign policy for the global age based on five broad principles, which I would like to briefly state and explain.
First, everything we want to achieve in the world, just about, depends upon maintaining strong alliances with people who share our interests and our values; and adapting those alliances to meet today's and tomorrow's challenges. For example, our most important alliance with Europe is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. It was organized to defend Europe against the Soviet Union in the Cold War. When I became President, the Cold War was over and the alliance was in doubt. What's it for, anyway? Who's going to be in it? What's it supposed to do?
But the values that we shared with Europe and the interest we shared were very much threatened when I became President by a vicious, genocidal war in Bosnia. Our European allies were aiding the victims heroically, but unintentionally shielding the victimizers by not stopping them. And for the first time since World War II, America was refusing to help to defeat a serious threat to peace in Europe. But all that's changed. America decided to lead. Our European allies decided to work with us. We revitalized the NATO alliance. We gave it new missions, new members from behind the old Iron Curtain; a new partnership with Russia.
We finally ended the war in Bosnia, we negotiated a peace that grows stronger, steadily. When ethnic cleansing erupted in Kosovo, we acted decisively to stop that and send almost a million people back home.
Today, the Serbian leader who began the Balkan wars, Slobodan Milosevic, has been deposed by his own people. (Applause.) And instead of fighting something bad, we're trying to finish something worthy -- a Europe that is united, democratic and peaceful, completely for the first time in all human history. That takes a big burden off America in the future and give us a big, big set of economic and political partners to deal with the world's challenges.
Now, here's the decision for today. Do we believe that we did the right thing or not? If we do, we have to stay the course, keep expanding NATO, keep working with the Russians, keep burden-sharing to do what needs to be done. I don't think most people know this, but in Kosovo today, we provide less than 20 percent of the troops and the funds; but we would not be there as an alliance if the United States had not agreed to do its part. America cannot lead if we walk away from our friends and our neighbors.
The same thing is true in Asia. We fought three wars in Asia in the 20th century. Huge numbers of Americans died there, from World War II through Korea, through Vietnam. What should we do now that the Cold War is over, but the future is uncertain? What we have done is to decide to keep our troops in the Pacific, to renew our alliance with Japan; we sent ships to keep tensions from escalating between China and Taiwan, we stood by South Korea and diminished the nuclear threat from North Korea, and we supported the South Korean President's decision to seek to end 50 years of tension on the Korean Peninsula, for which he justifiably won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Should we withdraw from Asia? I don't think so. I think we ought to stay there, modernize our alliances, and keep the peace so we don't have to fight any more wars in the 21st century. (Applause.)
The third thing I want to say about the alliances is that the 21st century world is going to be about more than great power politics, which means we can't just think about East Asia and Europe. We need a systematic, committed, long-term relationship with our neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean, with South Asia -- next to China, the most populous place on earth -- and with Africa, where 800 million people live.
One of the most -- (applause) -- yes, you can clap for that, that's all right. So I think that's important. We've been estranged from India for 50 years. Do you know how many people live in India? Nine hundred and eighty million. In 30 years, India will be more populous than China.
In Silicon Valley today, there are 700 high-tech companies headed by Indians -- 700, in one place. This is totally off the radar screen of American policy during the Cold War. So I would encourage all of you who, like Casey, are involved in some sort of international studies, not to just think about America's traditional concerns, but to think about what we're going to do with Latin America and the Caribbean, with sub-Saharan Africa, and with South Asia, because a lot of our future will be there.
So, beyond alliances, the second principle is that we have to build, if we can, constructive relationships with our former adversaries, Russia and China. One of the big questions that will define the world for the next 10 years is, how will Russia and China define their greatness in the 21st century? Will they define it as their ability to dominate their neighbors, or to control their own people? Or will they define it in a more modern sense, in their ability to develop their people's capacity to cooperate with their neighbors, to compete and win in a global economy and a global society.
What decision they make will have a huge impact on how every young person in this audience lives. It will define what kind of defense budget we have to have, how many folks we have to enroll in the armed services, where we have to send them, what we have to do. It's huge. Now, we cannot make that decision for Russia or for China. They'll make that decision for themselves. But we can control what we do, and what we do will have some impact on what they decide.
So we should say to them what we've been trying to say for eight years: if you will accept the rules and the responsibilities of membership in the world community, we want to make sure you get the full benefits, and be a full partner, not a junior partner. We also have to say, we have to feel free to speak firmly and honestly when we think what you do is wrong, by international standards.
When we've worked together with Russia in a positive way, we've made real progress. Russia took its troops out of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, and put them in joint missions with NATO, something nobody ever thought would happen. We're serving together in Bosnia and Kosovo. Russia helped us find a just end to the war in Kosovo. They worked with us to eliminate 5,000 nuclear warheads from the old Soviet Union, and safeguard those that are still there.
Now, do we agree with everything in Russia? No. We think there has been too much corruption at times. We don't agree with wars in Chechnya, we think were cruel and self-defeating. We don't agree with backsliding on the free press that we see. But we need a little perspective here. When I went to Moscow for the first time as President, in 1993, people were still lining up for bread, recovering from inflation that got to 2,500 percent. Many people were predicting that an impoverished Russia would go back to communism or turn to fascism.
Since then, Russia has had five -- five -- free elections. And every time, people have voted to deepen democracy, not to weaken it. The economy is growing. Now, are the positive trends inevitable? No, but they are more than possible. And it's in our interests to encourage them.
The same thing is true in China. We have tried to encourage change by bringing China into international systems, where there are rules and responsibilities, from non-proliferation to trade. That's what I think will happen with China coming into the World Trade Organization. It is a statement by them, by agreeing to the conditions of membership, that they can't succeed over the long run without opening to the world. It is a declaration of interdependence.
It increases the chance that they'll make a good decision, rather than a negative one, about what they're going to do in the 21st century world. And if China goes on and follows through with this, they'll have to dismantle a lot of their old command and control economy, which gave the Communist Party so much power. They'll open their doors to more foreign investment and more foreign information, and the Internet revolution. Will it inevitably bring freedom? No, but it will increase the chances of China taking the right course.
So I believe if we stay with this course, one of the most profoundly positive changes the generation of young people in this audience will see could be the change that ultimately comes to China. And I told you the Vietnam story, I felt the same thing in Shanghai. I felt the same thing walking in little villages and talking to people who were electing their mayors for the first time in China, where there are, at least now, a million local villages electing their local officials. So, alliances, constructive relations with Russia and China.
The third thing we have to recognize is that local conflicts can become world-wide headaches if they're allowed to fester. Therefore, whenever possible, we should stop them before they get out of hand. That's why we've worked for peace in the Balkans between Greece and Turkey, on Cyprus, between India and Pakistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. That's why I'm going back to Northern Ireland next week, the land of my ancestors. (Applause.) And it's why we've worked so hard to make America a force for peace in the Middle East, the home of the world's three great monotheistic religions, where God is reminding us every day that we are not in control.
But we have made a lot of progress. We've seen a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. We saw a sweeping agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and progress toward implementing it over the last eight years. But what's happened is, they're down to the hedgerows now and the hard decisions, and they've gotten to those fundamental identity questions, where they have to decide what I was talking about earlier. Is it possible for them to look at each other and see their common humanity, and find a solution in which neither side can say, I have vanquished the other. Or have there been so many years of history welling up inside them that neither side can let go. That is the issue, and we will continue to work on it.
But the main point I want to make to you is, you should want your President and your government involved in these things, and you should support your Congress if they invest some of your money in the cause of peace and development in these hot spots in the world. (Applause.)
And let me say again: this is not inconsistent with saying that people ought to take the lead in their own backyard. I think most Americans feel if the Europeans can take the lead in Europe, they ought to do it; the same thing with the Asians in Asia and the Africans in Africa.
What I want you to understand is that we have unique capabilities and unique confidence-building capacity in so many parts of the world that if we're just involved a little bit, we can make a huge difference. Our role was critical in the Balkans, but it was also critical in East Timor. Do you remember when all those people were getting killed in East Timor? You saw it on television every night. And people that couldn't find it on a map, all of a sudden were living with it every single night.
We provided about 500 troops to provide support for the international operations the Australians led there. But it made all the difference. We're training peacekeepers in Sierra Leone. They don't want us to go there and fight, but they want us to train the peacekeepers.
We've been involved in trying to settle a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea that has claimed over 60,000 lives, that most people don't know much about, but could cause us a world of trouble. And besides, it's just tragic.
We had 10 people -- 10, total -- in the jungle when we settled the conflict between East Ecuador and Peru and got them to agree -- but they couldn't agree to let it go unless we, America, agreed to send 10 people into a remote place on the border of these two countries, because they knew we could be trusted to do what they had agreed ought to be done. Now, you ought to be proud of that for your country. (Applause.)
But the only point I want to make is, we should do things with other people, and they ought to do their part in their own backyard. But we're in a unique position in history now. There is no other military superpower or economic superpower, and we can do some things because we've maintained a strong military nobody else can do.
And I'll be gone in a few weeks, and America will have a new President and a new Congress, but you ought to support them when they want to do these things, because it's very, very important to the stability and future of the world.
One other thing I want to say. We ought to pay our U.N. dues and pay our fair share of peacekeeping operations. (Applause.) Now, nobody in the world benefits from stability more than we do. Nobody. Nobody makes more money out of it. Just think about pure, naked self-interest. Nobody. And when we pay for this peacekeeping -- I'll say more about it in a minute -- but we get more than our money's worth out of it. And when we walk away from our responsibilities, people resent us. They resent our prosperity, they resent our power and, in the end, when a whole lot of people resent you, sooner or later they find some way to manifest it.
When we work with each other and do things that we don't just have to do in the moment, we build a common future.
The fourth point I would like to make to you is that this growing openness of borders and technology is changing our national security priorities. People, information, ideas and goods move around more freely and faster than ever before. That makes us more vulnerable first to the organized forces of destruction, narco-traffickers, terrorists, organized criminals -- they are going to work more and more together, with growing access to more and more sophisticated technology.
Part of the challenge is just to get rid of as many weapons of mass destruction as possible. That's why we got the states of the former Soviet Union outside Russia to give up their nuclear arsenals, and we negotiated a world-wide treaty to ban chemical weapons. That's why we forced Iraq to sell its oil for money that can go to food and medicine, but not to rebuilding its weapons. And I think the other countries of the world that are willing to let them spend that money rebuilding their weapons systems are wrong. And I hope that we can strengthen the resolve of the world not to let Saddam Hussein rebuild the chemical weapons network and other weapons systems that are bad.
It's why we negotiated a freeze on plutonium production with North Korea. Now, dealing with terrorists is harder, as we have seen in the tragedy of the USS Cole. Why? Because terrorists, unlike countries, cannot be contained as easily and it's harder to deter them through threats of retaliation. They operate across borders, so we have got to strengthen our cooperation across borders. We have succeeded in preventing a lot of terrorist attacks. There were many planned during the millennium celebration that we prevented.
We have arrested a lot of terrorists, including those who bombed the World Trade Center and those who were involved in several other killings in this country. And make no mistake about it: we will do the same for those who killed our brave Navy personnel on the USS Cole. (Applause.)
But the most important thing is to prevent bad things from happening. And one of the biggest threats to the future is going to be cyberterrorism -- people fooling with your computer networks, trying to shut down your phones, erase bank records, mess up airline schedules, do things to interrupt the fabric of life.
Now, we have the first national strategy to protect America's computer systems and critical infrastructure against that kind of sabotage. It
includes, interestingly enough, a scholarship for service program to help students who are studying information security and technology, pay for their education if they will give us a couple of years' service in the government. It's really hard to get talented people in the government, because we can't pay them enough. You've got 27-year-old young people worth $200 or $300 million if they start the right kind of .com company, it's pretty hard to say, "come be a GS-13," you know? (Laughter.)
But if we can educate enough people, we can at least get them in their early years, and that's important. We funded this program for the very first time this year, thanks to bipartisan support. And let me say, I'd also like to congratulate the University of Nebraska -- some of you perhaps know this, but Nebraska has set up a new information assurance center which is dedicated to the same exact goal. We need more universities to follow your lead. This is going to be a big deal in the future, a big deal. (Applause.)
There are other new things you need to think about in national security terms. Climate change could become a national security issue. The last decade was the warmest in a thousand years. If the next 50 years are as warm as the last decade, you will see the beginning of flooding of the sugar cane fields in Louisiana and the Florida Everglades; you will see the patterns of agricultural production in America begin to shift. It's still cold enough in Nebraska, you'll probably be all right for another 50 years. (Laughter.) I mean, we laugh about this -- this is a serious thing.
Already, in Africa, we see malaria at higher and higher levels than ever before, where it used to be too cool for the mosquitos. This is a serious problem. And the only way to fix it is to figure out a way for people to get rich without putting more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. In other words, we have to change the rules that governed the Industrial Revolution. And you can play a big role in that, too.
Why? Because scientists today are researching more efficient ways of making ethanol and other biomass fuels. (Applause.) I always supported that, but the real problem with ethanol, you should know is, is that the conversion ratio is pretty low. It takes about seven gallons of gasoline to make about eight gallons of ethanol. But scientific research now is very close to the equivalent of what happened when we turned crude oil into refined gasoline, when we cracked the petroleum molecule.
In other words, they're very close to figuring out how to change the conversion ratio from seven gallons of gasoline to eight gallons of ethanol to one gallon of gasoline per eight gallons of ethanol. When that happens, everybody is all of a sudden getting 500 miles to the gallon, and the whole future of the world is different. And you don't have to use corn, either. You can use rice hulls, you can use grasses on range land. You can do anything, you can do this. This is going to be a big deal.
If I were -- no offense, Mr. President, if I were the President of the University of Nebraska, whatever I was spending on that, I'd double it. (Laughter and applause.) Because if we can do this one thing, if we can do -- or you could ask the Department of Agriculture to give you some more money, because we've got some more -- (laughter) -- because the Congress gave us a lot more money this year.
We're all laughing about this, but you think about it. One-third of this problem is transportation. It's an issue. Some people made fun of us a few months ago when we said we considered AIDS a national security issue. You know why? In some Southern African countries, it is estimated that half of all the 15-year-olds will die of AIDS. There are four African countries which, within a couple of -- a few years, there will be more people over 60 than people under 30.
It is estimated that AIDS will keep South Africa's GDP income 17 percent lower than it otherwise would have been ten years from now. That obviously makes it harder for them to preserve their democracy, doesn't it, and to give jobs to their children. So that's why we're involved in this international AIDS effort, for a vaccine for more affordable medicines, for better care. It's an important foreign policy issue. Our effort to relieve the debt of the world's poorest countries is a very important foreign policy issue.
Our efforts to help people rebuild their public health systems, they all collapsed, and a lot of the countries of the former Soviet Union, they now have the highest AIDS growth rates in the world because they don't have any public health systems anymore. And all these things will affect whether these countries are breeding grounds for terrorists, whether the narco-traffickers in the places where drugs can be grown will get a foothold; whether we can build a different future. So I hope you will think about that.
The last thing I want to say is that the final principle ought to be we should be for more open trade, but we have to build a global economy with a more human face. We win in the trade wars, or the trade -- not wars, the trade competition. And I know that Nebraska is more -- I have not persuaded my fellow Americans of that either, entirely, but in Nebraska, because of the agricultural presence here, has been generally more pro-free trade.
But these 300 trade agreements, from NASA to the World Trade Organization and many others that we negotiated, 300 of them, have given us the longest economic expansion in history. Over 25 percent of our growth is tied to trade now.
Here's the problem: the benefits have not been felt in much of the rest of the world. Eight hundred million people still go hungry every day. More than a billion people have no access to clean water. More than a billion people live on less than a dollar a day. Every year, 6 million undernourished boys and girls under the age of five die. So if the next President and the next Congress want to spend some of your money to relieve the burden of the world's poorest countries and debt, if they'll put the money into education and health care and development, if they want to spend some money fighting AIDS, if they want to expand a program that we have done a lot with -- the microcredit program, which loans money to entrepreneurs in poor countries; we made 2 million of those loans last year -- if they want to double, triple or quadruple it, I hope you will support that.
If they want to close the digital divide so that people in, let's say, a mountain village in Bolivia can be hooked up to the Internet to sell their rugs that they knit to Bloomingdale's in New York, I hope you will support that. You know why? Bolivia is the poorest country in the Andes, but they've done the best job of getting rid of the narco-traffickers. And so far, they don't have a lot to show for it, because they're still the poorest country.
And it would cost us a pittance of what it cost to deal with the drug problem once these drugs show up in America to help those good, honest poor people who are so proud and honorable that they do not want to tolerate the narco-traffickers to make a decent living from their efforts. (Applause.)
Anyway, that's what I want to say. We've got to keep building these alliances, we've got to try to have constructive relationships with Russia and China. We've got to realize there are other places in the world that we haven't fooled with enough. We have to understand the new security challenges of the 21st century. We have to keep building a global economy, because it's the engine of the global society, but we have to do more to put a human face on it.
Fifty years ago Harry Truman said something that's more true today than it was when he said it. Listen to this: "We are in the position now of making the world safe for democracy if we don't crawl in the shell and act selfish and foolish." We still haven't fully -- you probably all say you agree with that, but there are practical consequences.
For example, Congress agreed this fall to fund our obligations to the U.N. But because Congress hasn't finished the overall federal budget, the agreement is at risk, and Congress has got to send me the money pretty soon, or if it doesn't, literally, the very future of the United Nations will be in jeopardy. How would you feel if you picked up the paper and the Secretary General of the United Nations said, I'm sorry, we're going to have to close down for a few weeks because the United States won't pay its dues.
What will that do to us? They share the burden with us of keeping the peace, fighting hunger, protecting the environment, advancing human rights. Listen to this. When you hear people say America spends to much, just listen to this: right now, at a time when we are the world's only superpower with the strongest economy in the world, less than one in every 800 United Nations' peacekeepers is an American -- less than one in 800.
Less than 2 percent of our men and women in uniform are involved in ongoing military operations abroad of any kind. Our annual global budget -- for everything from diminishing the nuclear threat to preventing conflict, to advancing democracy, to fighting AIDS -- is no more than what Americans spend each year on dietary supplements -- in my case with mixed results. (Laughter.) I want you to laugh about it, because I want you to remember that this is a big deal.
We must not squander the best moment in our history on small-mindedness. (Applause.) We don't have to be fearful. We've got the strongest military in the world, and in history, and we're going to keep it that way. We don't have to be cheap. Our economy is the envy of the world. We don't have to swim against the currents of the world. The momentum of history is on our side, on the side of freedom and openness and competition. And we don't have the excuse of ignorance, because we've got a 24-hour global news cycle. So we know what's going on out there.
We can no longer separate America's fate from the world any more than you could celebrate Nebraska's fate from America's, or Kearney's fate from Nebraska's. So that's what I came here to say. I hope that in the years ahead the heartland of America will say, America chooses to be a part of the world, with a clear head and a strong heart; to share the risks and the opportunities of the world; to work with others until ultimately there is a global community of free nations, working with us, for peace and security, where everybody counts and everybody has got a chance.
If we will do that, America's best days, and the world's finest hours, lie ahead.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 10:50 A.M. CDT