THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release December 5, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
VIA SATELLITE TO 7TH ANNUAL TEAM HARMONY RALLY
12:14 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Josh, for that
introduction. Your father would be very proud. I also want to thank Jon
Jennings, Donna Harris Lewis, and Joyce Zakim. To Rick Rendon, thank you
for helping to organize Team Harmony VII. I also want to send you
Hillary's best wishes. As Josh said, she's a big fan of Team Harmony and
the great work you do.
And, finally, I'd like to thank all the students from throughout New
England for taking part in what I am told is the largest gathering of young
people against racism, hatred and bigotry. And, of course, I welcome our
friends from Belfast and Johannesburg.
The great thing about this modern world we live in is that we can have
a conversation like this across the oceans and continents. And it's just
the beginning. When I look ahead to your future, I see a time when we'll
have unbelievable scientific discoveries. I believe your children will be
born, literally, with a life expectancy of about 100 years. We're
unlocking the secrets of the human genes, you will be citizens of the world
in ways that no one else has ever been because of the way the Internet is
bringing us together.
But even though we live in the most modern of worlds, the biggest
problem we face, as all of you have been discussing, is perhaps the oldest
problem of human society: people are afraid of those who are different
from them, because of things like race, religion or sexual orientation.
And they go from fear to distrust; then it's easy to slip from distrust
into dehumanization and from dehumanization into violence.
I saw all this when I was a child. I grew up in the southern part of
the United States when it was completely segregated and where racial
differences meant everything. I went to a segregated school. It was
common to sit at segregated lunch counters; to ride even in segregated
sections of the bus; to go to movies where the seating sections were
divided, black and white.
But, lucky for me, when I was a little child I lived for a while with
my grandparents and then spent a lot of time with them afterward, and my
grandfather did not believe in this. He was a small grocery store owner,
most of his customers were African Americans. He taught me, through his
example -- and my grandmother, as well -- that segregation and
discrimination were wrong and it was important that all people be able to
live in dignity and respect. There is no greater lesson in life.
I think we can figure out how to solve all our other challenges as
people if we can only work this one big challenge out -- establishing the
right kind of relationships with one another. That's why in the years I've
been President I've worked so very hard to bring us together as one
America, and to work throughout the world to help ensure that all people
have dignity and an equal shot at life; to work against racial and ethnic
and religious discrimination, from Northern Ireland to the Balkans to the
Middle East. We've come a long way on our journey toward reconciliation
and understanding and mutual respect, but we've still got a long way to go.
And young people, like you, have a very big role to play.
What is the heart of the challenge? I think it's pretty simple. I
think we have to do a better job of teaching young people to value
themselves as inherently worthy and good, But not to value themselves by
comparison to others.
Of course, we all belong to groups and cliques and organizations.
That's a good thing, not a bad thing. Everybody wants to belong to some
group or another. But it is very important that young people be taught,
and then that young people teach, that God did not create any of us better
than any others.
There are people in life, unfortunately, who just can't feel good
about themselves, unless they've got somebody else to look down on. It is
our responsibility to confront this, and to stand against it. The life we
live today is far more interesting, because our societies are more diverse.
Differences make life exciting. All our nations are richer, our future
will be more exciting because of our differences, as long as we understand
clearly that the most important thing we share is our common humanity.
Now, that's what Team Harmony is all about. So, I wanted to take a
few minutes and speak with you, listen to you, and urge you to keep talking
and listening and reaching out to people who are different from you. You
may be surprised by what you learn, but you will be confirmed in your
instinct that our common humanity is the most important thing.
Not long ago, Hillary sponsored one of our millennial events at the
White House. And we invited one of America's top scientists involved in
unlocking the mysteries of the human genome. He told us that all humans,
genetically, are 99.9 percent the same. Then he said that the genetic
differences among people of the same racial groups are greater than the
differences between different racial groups. So, we're getting a message
here. Science is reaffirming what our faith and our values tell us. We do
have more in common than that which divides us.
So if you can do something about violence and fear among young people,
if you can deal with this oldest problem of human society, if you can make
sure diversity is our greatest strength, then your generation will have the
brightest future in all human history. You'll have the chance to solve
age-old problems, to cure diseases, to give people opportunities they never
could have had before. And we must do our part. We're very proud of your
leadership in doing yours.
Again, I thank you for Team Harmony, I thank you for your care and
concern. I thank you for giving me a chance to come by and visit for a few
minutes. And now I'll be glad to take your questions. Thank you very
MR. MASSO: Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us this
afternoon with Team Harmony. My name is Jose Masso. We have a young woman
here who would like to ask a question of you, Mr. President.
Q Hello, Mr. President. My name is Rachel -- and my question is,
what advice can you give to the youth of Team Harmony on continuing all the
work you have done towards creating one America?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm sorry, but I couldn't hear the question.
Q What advice can you give to the youth of Team Harmony, on
continuing all the work you have done towards creating one America?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Well, first let me say that I
think that the middle school and high school years, in some ways, are the
most important time to do the work that Team Harmony advocates and
You know, even though I'm not young anymore, I can still remember when
I was your age. I can remember the kinds of things young people worry
about. But I'm very grateful that because of my parents and grandparents,
I never felt that for me to be okay, I had to think that someone else
wasn't okay, for me to feel important, I had to believe someone else was
not important, or was insignificant. I'm very grateful to my family for
teaching me that, and I think that is the central message that young people
have to teach each other. You've got to reinforce the idea that everybody
counts, that everybody deserves a chance, and that we all do better when we
help each other.
And the other point I want to make about that is that in middle school
and high school, peers have such an enormous influence over their fellow
students. If you're here at this conference and you believe in what you
all are talking about, I hope when you go back home, you will make sure
that in your school there is a systematic effort to share these ideas and
values with other young people, because so many of you can have more
influence on your friends and classmates than just about anybody, even the
President of the United States.
And the most important thing of all is still to get people to be proud
of their own racial, ethnic, religious heritage, and at the same time,
being absolutely convinced that other people's different heritage is worthy
of respect, because the most important thing is our common humanity.
There ought to be a systematic effort to do that in every school in
America, and in every school in Northern Ireland, and in every school in
South Africa, and wherever else in the world this is an issue.
Q -- (inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think you asked me what I hope will come out of my
visit to Northern Ireland. And what I hope will happen is that it will
encourage the political leaders and the people of Northern Ireland to
continue working to overcome their differences and keep moving forward on
the Good Friday Accord.
So much has already been accomplished. A local government is in
place that represents all the people; cease-fires are holding; progress is
made in putting the paramilitary arms beyond use. Significant work is
being done in the vital areas of human rights, police and judicial reform.
We're seeing a lot more investment from America and other countries in
helping to create good new jobs.
But if this momentum is not maintained, then the gains would be put at
risk. The peace process everywhere is a bit like riding a bicycle -- both
legs have to keep pedaling to keep moving forward and straight. And if
they don't, then the bicycle could veer off course. And that's not in
So, let me say, we've all got to realize what's at stake here. It's
easy to just focus on one part of this process, or one issue, and to
complain. The difficult, but far more important task is for everyone to
keep his or her eyes on the big picture, and to work through the issues.
The hard way offers the hope of peace and progress for all sides. The easy
way could lead to a cycle of recrimination and potentially even to a return
of violence and the Troubles.
Now, I hold no illusion that my visit is going to solve all the
problems. That is something the parties and the governments have to do.
But I have taken a deep and genuine interest in supporting the peace
process since before I took office. And when Prime Minister Blair and
Prime Minister Ahern and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister all
told me that if I were to visit it might help, I said, sure, I'll do
whatever I can. I have worked on this now for eight years; I care about it
But I would just say to all of you who are watching, we have come so
far. In a troubled world, the progress in Ireland has been a beacon of
hope, and we have got to finish the job. (Applause.)
MR. TATELMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. President. My name is Elliot
Tatelman, and we're now going to take you to South Africa and ask South
Africa what questions they would have for the President.
Q My name is Hloni Mongola. I am 15 years of age. It's an honor
to speak to you, Mr. President, and I hope that you answer our question in
a positive and a significant way. I'd like to ask you two questions,
that's if you don't mind. You know that South African youth struggled
against apartheid, and they won, which we are appreciative of that. Now,
we suddenly found out that there are no jobs, and AIDS is killing our
people. We want to find out how you advise us, the youth of Africa, on
solving this problem.
And the second question is this: You realize that most of the youth
in Africa admires you. We would like you to give us three of your best --
THE PRESIDENT: I can't hear you, but I think you asked me a question
about South Africa and the AIDS issue. So I hope you can hear me. Let me
talk first about AIDS.
I am very concerned about what it could do to South Africa and,
indeed, to many other countries throughout the African continent. We have
to work together to fight this epidemic. It threatens all South Africans,
Americans, the young, the old, black and white. We are working hard here
to support your efforts in South Africa, with a dramatic increase in
funding for international AIDS programs.
But, frankly, the youth of South Africa have a critical role, as well.
First, you have to remember that AIDS is 100 percent preventable. You must
educate yourselves and educate others and talk about this disease no matter
how hard it is. If you and all your classmates do this, you can protect
yourselves and an entire generation. Meanwhile, we have to keep working on
care, making the medicine more affordable, on prevention, on a cure. We
have to work on all that. But don't forget, before medicine, this is still
100 percent preventable. And that's something that those of you involved
in this conference in South Africa could have a big impact on.
South Africa's new political freedom is an inspiration to all of us in
America and, indeed, to people throughout the world. And I know that the
economic challenges are enormous, especially in terms of unemployment.
There are differences between what the government can do and what you can
What I would urge all of you to do is to concentrate on getting a good
education and learning skills that increase your country's productivity.
You're the first generation to really understand computers, to have access
to learning how to run the small enterprises needed to build South Africa's
rural economy, to have access to the language skills needed to help your
country trade with the rest of the world.
If you take advantage of these opportunities, you will take South
Africa a long way toward being a stronger country with a better economy,
with more opportunities for young people and a greater chance to prosper in
the global economy. I also think you should do whatever you can to
encourage all the other young people you know to stay in school.
And, finally, let me just say one thing. The AIDS issue and the
economic issue are related. Money the government has to spend on AIDS is
money that can't be spent on education and economic development. And if
you lose large numbers of a whole generation, they won't be out there in
their working years, contributing to the wealth and strength of your
So, again, I implore you -- we'll do what we can to help, but you make
sure that every young person -- every young person -- is committed to doing
what it takes to avoid HIV and AIDS. You make sure that you stay in school
as long as you can and to keep your friends in school. And if you do that,
then we'll do what we can to work with your government to create economic
opportunity and to bring whatever miracles modern medicine can produce to
deal with the terrible horrors of AIDS. We'll get through this, but you
have to do your part, as well.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Let me say to all of you, I want to thank you for the honor of
addressing you. But I want to thank you even more for the work you're
doing and the great spirit with which you're doing it. Nothing is more
important to our future. I intend to keep working with you in the years to
come. Even though I won't be President, there still may be a thing I can
do to help you along the way.
And to all my friends in Belfast, I look forward to visiting you very
soon. Keep up the work toward peace. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, before you go, we would like to make a special
presentation to you. On behalf of the Team Harmony Foundation, I'd like
to thank you for being a part of today and for your lifelong commitment in
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, thank you.
Q Mr. President, for all you have done, to further race relations
here in the United States, through your initiative, One America, we would
like to thank you. (Applause.)
Q And now we have someone in Belfast, correct?
Q President Clinton, for all you have done to promote peace amongst
the people of Northern Ireland, we thank you. (Applause.)
Q And now, our friends in South Africa.
Q President Clinton, for being a friend to South Africa, and for
your commitment to our freedom and our future, we would like to thank you
very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, we proudly present you with the Team Harmony
lifetime achievement award. Here it is. Thank you Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
END 12:40 P.M. EST