THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
-- 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.
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
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
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
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
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,
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 10:50 A.M. CST