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Remarks by the First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
Ganondagan State Historic Site
Victor, New York
July 15, 1998
Thank you very much, thank you. Thank you so much. I want tothank Peter and Jeanette for helping to arrange this visit and for servingas my host and hostess while I have been here. I want to thank the clanmothers for taking their time to talk and visit with me and share someinformation about their way of life and what they do to preserve that wayof life. I would like to thank the spirit dancers. I enjoyed seeing you;it was too short, but on a hot day like this, as hard as you were dancing,it was probably long enough, and I am glad that you could be part of this,and the musicians as well. Thank you very much for making me feel sowelcome at this important historic site.
I am delighted that, as we heard from the representative from the ParkDepartment here in the state, that this site started in 1987 is here torepresent the many contributions and experiences of the native people ofNew York, particularly the Iroquois Nation. And to understand howsignificant that is, just think for a minute about what it means that I amhere on a tour to Save America's Treasures that is part of the White HouseMillennium Council program.
A millennium ago, we only had the people represented here, in thiscountry. The traditions, the way of life, the experiences of all who werepart of the Iroquois Nation Federation is what is meant to be alive in themillennium, the first millennium, in the world, here in this part of theworld. And I think that's important for all of us who are Americans tostop for a minute and think about the way of life that is represented bythe people whose dances and music we have just seen and heard. Becausewhen we think about and as we work toward the saving of America's treasuresas part the White House Millennium Council's program, I think that one ofour primary missions is to indicate to all American's how diverse and richand deep our history is.
So, on this tour, we started at the Smithsonian and saw theStar-spangled Banner, we went on the see the fort over which that bannerflew in the war of 1812 against the British. We have been in many placesin the last three days. We have honored the work of different Americans:An African-American like Harriet Tubman who fled slavery and led others tofreedom, a young Irish-American woman named Kate Mullany who started thefirst women's labor union in Troy, New York, a beautiful theater, theColonial Theater, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts which had on its stage atone time all kinds of performers representing the full range of the arts inour country. We visited the home of a famous American novelist, the firstAmerican woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, Edith Wharton. We have been inmany different parts of this region of our country, but it is especiallyfitting that we would come here on our tour because how can we think aboutgoing into the next millennium without being respectful and honoring ourpast; which means respecting and honoring the contributions of all of youwho represent the Iroquois Nation.
So it is a great pleasure for me to be here with those who aretraveling with me to learn more about the way of life that has lasted forso many generations. In speaking with the clan mothers, I learned a littlebit about what the clan mothers do, and I was struck by how in keeping itis with the mother of the nation. And her admonitions about how peopleshould think about the decisions they make, and her three pieces of advicethat have stood the test of time are ones that we would all do well to taketo heart. Is this decision one that will lead to peace, is it one thatwill honor Mother Nature, is it one that is good for seven generations?
As we live in this very fast-paced world of ours, and as we move veryquickly from day-to-day and toward the new century and the new millennium,it is sometimes easy to lose track of what is really important. And one ofthe goals of our Millennium Project is to honor the past and imagine thefuture. We are here to do both because I have seen and heard about bothtoday. Yes, we are honoring the past and the traditions of the past,represented in the long house, represented in the generational traditionsthat the clan mothers bring forward, and in the dances we have seen. Butwe are also imagining the future, and we can see that in the faces of theyoung men and women. That is a challenge for every American, regardless ofwhatever background we might come from. How do we honor the past and bringforward the lessons and the values that are important into the present sowe can use them to imagine a future that keeps faith with the past butgives our children the opportunities to fulfill the dreams we havefor them and they have for themselves.
So, I am very honored to be here. I am honored to learn more aboutthis way of life, and I commend you for all you are doing to keep alive thelanguages, the traditions that are such an important part of the experienceand history of America. And I know that those of you who are directlyinvolved in that effort have worked very hard to make it possible for theseyoung men and women to understand how to honor their own past, and I havegreat confidence, based on what I have seen and heard today, that you areimagining and building a future that keeps faith with the past but movesforward into the new century and millennium. Thank you for honoring us bypermitting us to visit with you here today. Thank you all very much.
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