White House Conference on Early Childhood Development
Remarks by The First Lady
at The White House Conference on
Early Childhood Development and Learning

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
April 17, 1997

The East Room

4:54 P.M. EDT MRS. CLINTON: Well, that was a wonderful way to end this remarkable day. I want to thank everyone who participated in the panels this morning and this afternoon. I want to thank all of you who were here as members of the audience, both here in the East Room and in the Old Executive Office Building and out around the country.

When Rob was talking about his commitment to these issues of 20, 25 years, I couldn't help but look out and see Bernice and Barry and Ed Zigler and think it's about 50 or 60 years for some of the people in this audience. (Laughter.) And we are grateful for that pioneering commitment and work that you have brought to this issue. And we are finally catching up to what you have been advocating for a very long time.

Now it's time for us to leave this table and consider all of the ways that each of us can carry on the mission of enhancing the development of our children. Many of you are on the front lines doing that every day. On this panel, we have Harriet Meyer, and we have Sheila Amaning, and we have Chief Wearing, and we have Gloria Rodriguez who are out there day in and day out working with children and families. And those are the people that the rest of us have to support because, for all of the concern and caring that we may bring to this issue, it is these people and the people they work with who will actually be in those homes putting together those programs, making those connections.

And we also, I think, are blessed to have with us today business leaders like Mr. Langbo who understand that there really isn't any more important bottom line than what we do as parents of our own children and what we do as citizens of our society to enhance the potential of all children as future citizens and as future employees. And that kind of enlightened leadership and enlightened self-interest is critical to how we see the next steps in this effort to bring attention to this important set of issues, and then to act on what we now know.

We're also blessed to have public officials here, starting with the Vice President and Mrs. Gore and Governor Miller and Governor Chiles, and we have members of Congress and members of the Cabinet who also appreciate the significance of this new information. And I hope that we will be able to think of good arguments and effective ways of communicating why this is important and why it should go far beyond partisan politics and become an American issue, not an issue of any political party or ideology, as to how we try to enhance the raising of our children.

And then we have members of the media who we are all reliant upon to convey this information not just for a week, not just for one show, but as Rob has eloquently expressed, to really make it an ongoing commitment. I said this morning that there are people in the world who ask, how are the children, and all of us, I hope, will begin asking that as well, because we have so many opportunities now. As Governor Chiles said at lunch, the information and research that science is giving us provides a hook that we have not had before. And it is up to us to figure out ways of using that in our respective positions.

I hope that this conference has laid the groundwork for all of us coming together to be more committed and more effective in that commitment on behalf of American children. I thank all of you for being part of what I hope will be looked back on as a part of a historic moment that involves the research that has been done, the dissemination and communication of it, and then the follow-up. And I thank you all and invite you to join us and others who will be arriving at a reception in the tent in the back yard.

And, really, I hope you will go away from this event at the White House as inspired and fired up as Rob Reiner is. (Laughter.) Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

4:59 P.M. EDT

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