THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release December 9, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT WILLIAM J. CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CENTER DESIGN UNVEILING
The Roosevelt Room
12:40 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I want to begin by saying
how glad I am to see all of you here. I want to thank my two Arkansas
Cabinet members, Rodney Slater and James Lee Witt, for being here. And
thank you, Skip Rutherford, for al the work you've done. And I want to
thank the other Arkansans here who have tried to help us get this off the
ground, including Mack McLarty and Joe Ford and all the local officials.
And I want to say a special word of appreciation, obviously, to Jim
Polshek, and all the people in the architectural firm who worked on this;
and to Ralph Applebaum, who is not here today, but I will say a few more
words about why that's important.
I want to thank Hillary and Chelsea, who have spent a lot of time
on this, working with me, trying to imagine what we wanted to do and how we
wanted to do it. And I want to thank Terry McAuliffe, who is sitting here
trying to make sure we can pay for it, as Jim reels off all these things
we're going to do. (Laughter.)
Since President Roosevelt started a presidential library -- and
he had the only presidential library, actually, where the President worked
in the library while he was President, because he built it in 1939 and he
actually used it whenever he went home to Hyde Park, until his death in
1945. There have been 10 presidential libraries. I have actually visited
seven of them, myself. And I've looked at the plans and the scheme of the
other three. And I've tried to lift some of their best ideas in this
But basically what I wanted to do was to, first of all, have a
building that was beautiful and architecturally significant, that people
would want to walk in 100 years from now; but one that would also work --
would work for average citizens. Ninety percent of the people who come to
presidential libraries are people who come as visitors. They want to see
the museum; they want to know what happened in this point in our history
related to everything else and how it relates to the present and the
And the challenge for any architect is that you've got to protect
all these documents, and they have to be in buildings that don't get overly
exposed to the light. So if you put all that stuff in one building, you
have to have a lot of solid walls. And so the thing that we were able to
work out that I'm really pleased about is we're protecting all the
documents in the back there, and we don't have to worry about that
interfering with the enjoyment of the people who actually come to see the
museum and the building and participate in all of that.
So I think that's really the thing that will make it
fundamentally more interesting and more enjoyable for all the people --
plus the fact that we -- thanks to the good people of Little Rock, we've
got enough land here to have a park, which will always be accessible to the
local citizens, as well as to all the visitors. And I'm very, very pleased
I also want to say that it was very important to me to try to
faithfully present the history of this time. And I want to say a special
word of appreciation to Ralph Applebaum. Some of you know he did the
Holocaust Museum here in Washington, which I think is the finest museum of
its kind anywhere in the world. And I was elated when he agreed to do
I also want to say, since we'll be living in New York, I think
that the Planetarium that's been done in Manhattan by the Polshek firm,
which some of you have seen pictures of -- is basically this great square
building in steel and glass with a globe inside -- it's just breathtaking.
And I knew that when I saw that, that they could do what I wanted to do
down here. And so I'm very, very pleased.
Skip has already talked about this, but I wanted this library to
also benefit the city and the state. And I think recovering this portion
of the river, recovering this part of the neighborhood -- you can't tell
here, but those of you who aren't from Arkansas don't know, but once you
get down here, over here, you're immediately into perhaps the most historic
part of our state, the Old State Capital, which is mentioned, where I
announced for President and where I had my very first reception as a public
official in January of 1977 in an ice storm -- was built during the period
in which we became a state, from 1833 to 1836. And it's a wonderful,
wonderful old building.
So it was very close to this present state capital, and a lot of
other very historically significant buildings, including the magnificent
new library we have there. So I'm very pleased about it.
I'm very pleased that the library will be accessible and
interactive. You know, because of technology, you don't really have to go
anyplace anymore to get whatever is there. And we were laughing about all
these tens of millions of documents. The people who work here at the White
House who are part of the permanent staff, who work from administration to
administration and preserve these documents, one of the things -- I went
over to visit them not very long ago and they showed me what they are
doing, and it's amazing.
This may be somewhat embarrassing for me, but people will
actually be able to pull up on the Internet copies of actual memos that I
wrote on. And the woman said, the reason we've got to have so many
documents here is that you wrote more letters, more notes to your staff on
more pieces of paper than any president in history. (Laughter.) And,
unfortunately, most of them are unreadable, but -- (laughter) -- at least
people will be able to get a picture of that. You will be able to see
drafts of the Inaugural addresses and what I wrote and what they wrote, and
that's good, because it will let a lot of my speechwriters off in history.
People will think, gosh, what he marked out was better than what he said.
But, anyway, all that will be available. And I think that's very
The third thing I would like to say is that I really wanted the
relationship that this library would have to the University of Arkansas to
be focused on public service. I want more and more people to want to go
into public service. And we are going to offer a master's degree in public
service; but in addition to that, I'm going to attempt to set up
partnerships with employers all across America to get them to come and send
their young executives to our place for a couple of months as a kind of an
orientation in preparation for doing a year of public service in the
national, state or local governments all across the country.
I got this idea just basically from the Presidential Fellowship
program we have here. But I can tell you that all the people who come here
as White House fellows make an incredibly unique contribution, as do all
the volunteers, all the interns, everybody who works here, and it changes
them forever, but they also help us do what we're doing here.
And it occurred to me that if we had a critical mass of people
all across the United States who are out there working in businesses of all
kinds and nonprofits and whatever, but they had spent at least one year of
their lives working at the public sector at the federal, state or local
level, that, number one, the government would always work better, would
always have a sense of how whatever is being done affects people who are
not in government; but, secondly, we would not ever return to a period
where the American people felt as alienated from their government as we did
for, in my judgment, too many years in the latter part of the 20th century.
And I really think it could -- if we can get enough people to do
this, it could pretty much permanently change the relationship of the
American people to the way the government works and the way that would have
the government making better decisions, and also, having more people in the
private sector who had actually had the experience of being there. So I'm
very, very hopeful about it.
In 1941, President Roosevelt's library was dedicated. And he
said, and I quote, "Building a library is really an act of faith; a belief
in the capacity of a nation's people, so it will learn from the past, that
they can gain in judgment in creating their own future."
Well, this is a similar act of faith. And I hope that it will
not only allow people to see these remarkable eight years, but will help to
empower people, and give them the confidence to believe that they can build
America's greatest days in the new century.
So again, I want to thank you all. And especially, I want to
thank those who have helped me to develop these plans. And I want to thank
Terry and all the others here who have agreed to help me figure out how to
build it, which is now the next big challenge. But I'm looking forward to
Thank you very much.
END 12:48 P.M. EST