THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release November 29, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN HONOR OF THE U.S. OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC TEAMS
The South Portico
12:45 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. First of all, Hillary and I
are delighted to welcome all of you here. And I want to thank Secretary
Shalala and General McCaffrey for being part of our Olympic delegation to
Sydney. I thank the United States Olympic Committee President Bill Hybl
for being here, and the Olympians who are here with me, who will come up in
I'm also grateful, I might say, to the people of Australia who
did a wonderful job in welcoming our American athletes and organizing these
Olympics. (Applause.) And really, I asked all the team here so that I
could forgive them for completely destroying my sleep habits for several
weeks during the Olympics. (Laughter.) Like so many Americans, I was
thrilled by the accomplishments of these remarkable teams.
I have often said that it seems to me the Olympics capture our
imagination not just because we love athletics and love competition, but
because we think the Olympics and Paralympics Games work the way life ought
to work -- people work together; if you work hard and play by the rules,
you get rewarded; you're evaluated regardless of race or gender or station
in life; individuals and teams find success and wind up winning just by
making the efforts.
The Summer Games in Australia were no different than the ones
before them. America did very well, once again, with 40 gold medals, 97
overall; more than any other country. And our spirit was put on display
there, as one athlete after another overcame tremendous odds to achieve
victory. Athletes like our diver, Laura Wilkinson, who captured the gold
medal just three months after breaking three bones in her right foot.
Lenny Krayzelburg, who came here from the Ukraine in 1989, and
just a decade later won all three of the backstroke events. The women's
softball team lost three games in a row and still came from behind to win
the gold medal. (Applause.) And, of course, there was the minor matter of
a little farm boy from Wyoming, Rulon Gardner, who defeated Alexandre
The Sydney Games broke new barriers, opening gates of competition
to people once left behind. More than 4,000 athletes, representing a
record 122 countries, competed in this year's Paralympic Games. Americans
like sprinter Marlon Shirley and cyclist Pam Fernandes proved that
disability is no barrier to success.
We also reached a milestone for female athletes. A hundred years
ago the first women competed at the Paris Summer Olympics. There were 19.
And one, the golfer, Margot Abbot, became the first American woman to win
an American Olympic gold medal.
This year, in the first Olympics of the new millennium, women
comprised a record breaking 42 percent of the participants. (Applause.)
And for the first time, women competed in the poll vault, water polo and
weightlifting. I might say I watched the women's weightlifting and water
polo competition with great interest. And after it was over, I couldn't
tell which one was rougher. (Laughter.)
The final American medal of this year's Olympic Games went to a
woman, Emily de Riel, in the first-ever women's pentathlon. You pushed the
limits of the human body and the human spirit.
Every Olympian stands in the starting blocks alone, of course,
but no one wins alone. No one wins without family, friends, coaches and
others who have helped you make the most of your God-given ability. I hope
that you, each and every one of you in your own way, will take some time to
help others make the most of their God-given abilities. (Applause.)
And let me just put in one plug for one public interest matter
that I care a lot about. One of the great ironies of the present day is
that as Americans fall more and more in love with athletes and athletics,
more and more of our young people are participating by sitting on the
sidelines or on the couch only. More and more of our young children are
overweight and out of shape, and they are putting their health, long-term,
at risk. We have got to turn this around.
This morning, Secretary Shalala and our Education Secretary Dick
Riley led a meeting with our partners to explore the most effective way to
implement a report's recommendation that was issued to me today about this.
And you may have read about it in the newspaper -- more and more young
people doing less and less exercise mean more and more overweight. It's
going to take a team effort for us to turn this around.
Not every young person can win an Olympic medal or even make the
Olympics teams, but every young person has a body that is a gift from God
that ought to be maximized in terms of health and capacity. So I ask for
your help in that. (Applause.)
Let me just say one final thing. For some of you, your Olympic
moment may be now just a wonderful memory in your lives. For others, it is
just the beginning of a long and illustrious career in your sport. But for
all of you, your training and your achievement will bring a lifetime of
benefits. You now know what you can do if you do your best. I hope that
these benefits will accrue to you, your community, your country and the
rest of our world.
We must always remember that no matter how many records we break
or how fast we run or how high we jump, there are still no limits to our
quest for excellence -- the Olympic motto from the beginning -- citius,
altius, fortius -- swifter, higher, stronger. I hope you will bring that
to the work of citizenship as well as to your competition, now and forever.
Congratulations. We are very, very proud of you. (Applause.)
(Gifts are presented to the President.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Let me -- I don't think I did this right, but the
Olympians who gave me the award were Stacy Dragila and Lenny Krayzelburg,
and Marlon Shirley and Pam Fernandes. And they represent this whole team.
And they also made me a little warmer out here today. (Laughter.)
So I want to thank them for their remarks. I thank all of you
for being here. We either are or already have taken a picture with the
whole team, and then we're going to go inside and let everybody look at the
White House. But thank you very, very much, all of you. Welcome again and
happy holidays. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 12:58 P.M. EST