THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Little Rock, Arkansas)
For Immediate Release January 17, 2001
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE PEOPLE OF LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS
Adams Field Airport
Little Rock, Arkansas
5:28 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. I want to --
AUDIENCE: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: That's what I want to say. I want to thank you for
coming, and I want to thank you for waiting. We had a wonderful moment in
the Arkansas legislature -- I got to speak to the legislature and see a lot
of my old friends. And, you know, with term limits there's been a lot of
turnover, and about a third of the legislature, as nearly as I can tell,
got their start working in one of my campaigns. (Laughter.) So I had a
Thank you, Mayor. I want to thank Rodney Slater and Hershel Gober for
doing a great job in the President's Cabinet and being part of this vast
array of Arkansans who came down here with me today. Thank you, Vic
Snyder, for your friendship and support. Thank you, Mike Ross, for making
the campaign and going to Congress. We're proud of you. (Applause.)
Thank you, Senator Pryor, for coming home today so we could be
together on my last trip to Arkansas. (Applause.) Maybe by the time I get
around to writing a book I'll be able to do some justice to the absolutely
essential personal and political role David Pryor played in the success of
this administration in the last eight years. And I'm very grateful to him.
I want to thank all the state officials who came out. Thank you,
Sharon Priest. Thank you, Jimmie Lou and Charlie, Gus, Mark Pryor. I want
to thank Little Joe and the BKs, it's just like being home. (Applause.)
And I want to thank the Trumpet and Zion Church Choir. (Applause.)
You know, Jim Dailey said about everything I could think of to say.
And he gave a terrific speech, and I hope somebody for me still got it on
tape. I'm going to play that some day when I'm feeling down, you know?
(Laughter.) I want to thank him for his friendship.
Chelsea and I are delighted to be here today. I wish Hillary could be
here but, you know, she's otherwise occupied. And I could tell you one
thing -- she won that thing because she worked harder and she learned to do
that here. And I was very proud of her. (Applause.) I think the day she
was sworn into the United States Senate, I honestly believe was the
happiest day of my life since Chelsea was born. It was an amazing thing
and a real tribute to her and to all of you who have helped her along
I was thinking that it was about eight years ago that I had my
farewell rally to Arkansas when I left to become President in this very
place. And I was looking out across this sea of faces, thinking how many
of you were there then and how many of you were there 10 years ago and 20
years ago and, in some cases, 27 years ago when I first started.
I got tickled when I was walking out of the legislature tonight. I
ran into a guy named Red Milligan from Marion County, and in 1974, early
'74, I went up and hunted him up because somebody told me he could get me
some votes. And I asked him to be for me. And he got a guy named Carnie
Carlton (phonetic), and he said, well, we're going to drive you out in the
country. He said, you need to know our county has more dirt roads than any
other county in Arkansas. And we're going down to Leon Swaford's
(phonetic) store -- I still remember this, 1974 -- which is just about at
the four corners of Marion and Circe and Boone and Newton Counties. You
can't get there from here, even today. (Laughter.)
I got in the truck. We're driving down the road; he drives me about
20 minutes, we hadn't seen another living soul. They stomp on the brakes,
the cab of the truck fills with dust. He whips out this bag of Redman --
(laughter) -- it's a true story -- he said, son, I don't know if you can
make it or not, you know, you're a university teacher and all that. He
said, I'll tell you what, if you'll chew this Redman, I'll be for you.
(Laughter.) And if you don't, I'm going to kick you out and see if you can
find your way back home. (Laughter.) And I looked at him and I said, open
the door. (Laughter.) True story.
And he told it again today and he started laughing. He said, well, if
that's the way you feel about it, I guess I'll be for you, anyway.
(Laughter.) It was those kind of encounters that helped me learn a little
bit about human nature and public life and politics -- the kind of thing
that's hard to learn if you start out in a big place, where you don't have
time to listen to people and see how they live, and go down every little
back road. I made a lot of back roads with a lot of you in this audience
today, and I just want to thank you.
I also want to say that if anybody had told me when I left here eight
years ago that I could come home with my country having the longest
economic expansion in history and the largest number of new jobs in this
period of time; where we'd actually be paying down $600 billion of the
national debt in the last three budgets of my administration. (Applause.)
That we'd have all-time high home ownership, minority business ownership,
college-going rate, welfare rolls cut by 60 percent, the lowest crime rate
in 25 years. I could go on. If anybody told me that all these ideas that
I talked so passionately about in the campaign of '92, that I thought would
work because they were beginning to work in Arkansas, I would have said,
I'll take that right now. For my country and our future, I'll take it
right now. I never would have dreamed that it would have worked out as
well as it has.
And I just want you to know that I know perfectly well I never would
have been President if it hadn't been for the people of Arkansas. I told
somebody yesterday that I know a little bit about American history and a
lot about how a lot of people got to be President, and of all the ones that
I know at least, I'm the only one that I can honestly say got to be
President because he had personal friends who stood up, traveled the
country, fought, spoke up, and determined to make the campaign go.
And because of you, I was able to make some other friends and see some
other people and learn some things about this country of ours. It's quite
an interesting place, America, growing more diverse every day; we're
growing more independent every day; we're growing more connected to the
rest of the world every day. And I did my best to prepare this country for
this new century and this whole new way of living and working and relating
to each other.
And when I leave office at noon on Saturday, I will leave with a heart
filled with gratitude, happy and pleased that all the options are open for
the American people. That choices still have to be made, but we actually
have it within our grasp to make America debt-free this decade, for the
first time since 1835. To give every child in this country a world-class
education. To bring free enterprise and opportunity to people and places
that have been left behind -- something that's very important to us here in
Arkansas, because we have people, and we still today have people who
haven't been part of this prosperity.
To give the working families of this country that don't have health
insurance access to health coverage for the first time in our country's
history. To secure Medicare and Social Security for the baby boomers'
retirement. And to continue to be a huge force for peace and freedom
throughout the world. I couldn't have asked for more.
I'd also like to say that I'm well aware that I've just been the
captain of this team, and without a team, you don't win in public life. It
really is a team sport, public service. Jim Dailey mentioned some of the
Arkansans that have served with me, and I mentioned some more when I was
over at the legislature, because the number came down today. But I want
you to know that over 460 of your fellow citizens from this state have
worked in our administration in these last eight years, and America is
better because of what they did. (Applause.)
And, finally, let me say I'm looking forward to being here and
building my library and center. I believe it will be the most important
educational institution as a library, a museum, a tourist destination, a
learning site, of any that have been built, just because I have the benefit
of coming into my own as a former President and building this library when
all this wonderful technology is out there. I hope you like the building
design; I worked hard on it, myself, for a year. It will be like a bridge
out into the Arkansas River, and I think it will be a real beacon for
people all around the country and I expect people from all around the world
to come here. I'll get it up quick as I can.
We'll have an educational program and offer a graduate degree in
public service, which I hope will inspire other young people to spend at
least some of their life in public service, which has been so good to me
and which I have found so richly rewarding. So I'll be around quite a bit.
I want to say, too, when I came in from the airport we passed two of
Chelsea's schools -- Mann and the Booker Arts Magnet School. And I'd like
to thank, since she came home with me, all the people here in Little Rock
and throughout the state who were so good to her during her growing up, and
her teachers and all the others. It means a lot to me. (Applause.)
I've got a daughter about to graduate from college and a wife going
into the Senate. It seems to me that one of the things I'll have to do is
go to work -- (laughter) -- which won't do me any harm. But between my
larger public service and doing what I can to support my senator and my
daughter, I will be here a lot, and we'll have a chance to do a lot of
things together, to reminisce over old times. (Applause).
But the main thing I want to say to all of you is, I want you to be
proud that we proved that national politics and national government and the
direction of this nation is not the private province of some elite
somewhere in some big, distant place; that people with common sense --
(applause) -- with basic American roots anywhere in the country, who have
the right vision and the right ideas, and are willing to work in good faith
with all different kinds of people can move this country forward.
And I want you to know, too, for all the storms and all the sunshine
-- I said this to the legislature and I want to say it again because it's
absolutely true -- there has never been a day -- and tonight will be the
same way when I get home -- that I haven't landed on that helicopter on the
back of the White House lawn and not felt a thrill, not felt like a
17-year-old boy looking at the White House for the first time.
And when I walk out of the White House for the last time, and I sit at
the inauguration of my successor, and I leave this office, I will leave
more idealistic and more hopeful about my country than the day I took the
oath of office eight years ago. And that's the way you ought to feel,
that's the way you ought to feel. (Applause.) And none of it would have
been possible without you. I love you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
END 5:40 P.M. EST