THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate ReleaseMarch 23, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN DISCUSSION WITH MEMBERS OF PANCHAYAT
12:45 P.M. (L)
Q I have a question to ask. There is a stereotypical image of theIndians all over the world as backward people. You have been in India fora few days. How would you respond to this? Do you think we are backward?(Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: No. But what I hope my trip will do is to help peopleall over the world see India in a more complete way. There are many peoplehere who are poor, but you are proving that democracy can be used to liftthe poor; can be used to end discrimination against women and keep children-- girls and boys -- in school; and can be used to bring people ofdifferent tribes and casts together.
That is very important to me and to my family, my wife, who has beenin Indian villages, and to our whole administration.
What I think you should know is that the problems you have here areproblems that people have faced all over the world. My own country becameindependent from the British Empire in the 1780s, and it was almost 150years before women could even vote. It was almost 100 years before theslaves were freed, and more than another 100 years before they acquiredequal rights, African Americans, under our laws.
And today, all over the world, there are wars where people are beingkilled -- in Africa because they're of different tribes; in Bosnia andKosovo because they were of different tribes and religions. So if in Indiayou can prove that people can lift themselves from poverty, and at the sametime, end discrimination against women and they're girl children, and learnto work together across tribal and cast lines because of democracy, youwill give the world the greatest gift it could have now.
The only other thing I would like to say is I believe that thecomputer will make it happen more quickly if it is used wisely and put inevery village in this country. And I think that those of us who would liketo be good partners and to help you must also listen to what you have saidtoday.
The biggest public health problems I think in India and many othercountries throughout the world are based on the fact that there's notenough clean water and too much of the soil is washing away or blowing awayin the wind.
And the last thing I would like to say is I hope you will not loseyour enthusiasm and your spirit when things don't change as fast as youwould like. I know it is easy to get discouraged. I know there is stillinjustice and unfairness. But what you are doing is astonishing. And youhave a chance to overcome problems that are still crippling other places inthe world more quickly because you have these institutions of democracy.You must believe in them and use them, and not give up when you'refrustrated and cannot succeed in a short time.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)