Office of the Press Secretary
(Accra, Ghana)

For Immediate Release March 23, 1998


THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Alicia, you did a wonderful job. She said she was nervous, but she hid it well. Give her another hand.

Let me thank you again President and Mrs. Rawlings for their wonderful welcome. And I want to thank the President for his leadership for democracy, for economic reform , for the economic empowerment of women and the education of children and for being willing to take a stand for peace in this area. For all those things I thank him.

I thank Ambassador and Mrs. Bryan and the distinguished representatives of the government of Ghana. I'd also like to, if I might, introduce the people who came with Hillary and me today -- at least some of them I see there. First, the members of the United States Congress -- Charles Rangel, Ed Royce, Jim McDermott, Maxine Waters, Donald Payne, and William Jefferson. I think that's all of them. Thank you very much for being here. And members of the President's Cabinet -- Secretary of Commerce Bill Daley, Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, and our AID Director Brian Atwood. And my Special Envoy to Africa, Reverend Jesse Jackson. And the man who keeps people all over the world entertained, the owner of Black Entertainment Television, Bob Johnson is here.

You know, I have traveled all over the world on behalf of the people of the United States and I think I can say two things without fear of being wrong. The welcome I received in Independence Square today is the largest welcome I have ever received anywhere. And all day long this is clearly the warmest welcome I have ever received.

I am now on my second suit. At this rate, when I get off the airplane in Botswana, I'll be in my swimming trunks. And you will say, the President has taken African informality too far.

I want to thank all of you for taking the time to teach us about your accomplishments. TechnoServe celebrates its 30th birthday this year. Just like the Peace Corps, it also established its first field operation here in Ghana. The reason I wanted to be here is because both TechnoServe and our Peace Corps volunteers are working to help Africans help themselves to become healthier, better educated, more prosperous -- simply speaking, better equipped to dream their own dreams and to make them come true.

You should also know that I strongly believe that the investments we make here are investments in America's future as well, because stronger and more dynamic African communities and African nations will be better partners for Americans in meeting the challenges and reaping the opportunities of this great new century that is just before us.

The friendships formed between Americans and Africans across the gaps of geography and culture benefit both of us and will do so even more as our Earth gets smaller and smaller and more and more interdependent.

Alicia mentioned that two years ago at the White House I had the pleasure of welcoming back many of the Peace Corps volunteers, including many who are serving here today. Now more than 3600 Peace Corps volunteers have lived and learned in Ghana, and 57,000 in Africa. I want to say all of you, your President and your country are proud of you and grateful to you. I thank you very much.

The Peace Corps volunteers, the TechnoServe workers, their Ghanaian partners, all of you demonstrate what we can do when we work together. I also want to say a special word of appreciation to Brian Atwood and to the people her in Ghana who worked for our Agency for International Development.

Our total assistance to Ghana this year is more than $50 million. But if our aid is going to have its greatest impact, we must also have more trade and investment. Today, opportunities are opening up for investors large and small. Projects like the ones I saw today can help new entrepreneurs, including women, master the skills to make the most of these opportunities.

I will say again, education will be more important to Africa in the 21st century than it was in the 20th century. And I especially commend TechnoServe for helping women learn the math and reading skills they need to run good businesses. I also want to thank the Peace Corps volunteers I saw teaching the science experiment to the young people. They understood it, event if I didn't.

Let me also say the President and I had a sobering, but important visit today about the energy shortage that the drought has caused here in Ghana and the impact it can have on business, agriculture and economic health and the stability of the society.

A generation ago, the vision of President Kennedy and President Nkrumah led to the construction of the Akosombo Dam that helped to power Ghana's growth. Today, President Rawlings and I discussed how our two countries can work together to develop a comprehensive strategy for Ghana that will give you the environment that is so important to the future of the people here.

I am pleased to announce that we will guarantee a $67 million loan to the Ghanian government for the purchase of two barge-mounted power plants built by Westinghouse. I also want to assure that we will continue to promote the spirit of service that strengthens both our countries when you permit Americans to come here and work among you.

Now more than one generation of Peace Corps volunteers has returned, carrying a lifelong over for this continent and its people. And their service does not end when they come home. Now there are Peace Corps volunteers who are in the President's Cabinet, in our Congress, leading communities all across America. My own secretary, Betty Currie, who is here with me on this trip, used to work for the Peace Corps for the Director of the Africa Division. So I would say based on my personal experience that it's pretty good on-the-job training for the rest of life.

Last month, as Alicia said, I did ask the Congress to join me in putting 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers abroad by the year 2000. That's a more than 50-percent increase from today's levels. Again I say, by extending a helping hand throughout the world, we lift the lives of Americans at home.

Let me say one final thing that I said to the President and Mrs. Rawlings and the others who hosted us at lunch. This is a great day for me and for Hillary. My wife has been so interested in Africa, and she and our daughter made a wonderful trip to Africa not so long ago.

It's a great day for the members of Congress like Congressman Royce, a Republican from California; and Congressman McDermott from Washington, who himself worked in the Peace Corps in Africa many years ago.

But I don't think you can possibly imagine what this day means to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, to the African-American members of my Cabinet, and those who hold senior positions in the White House and in the departments of government. It wasn't so very long ago in the whole sweep of human history that their ancestors were yanked from the shores of western Africa as slaves. Now they come back home to Africa and to Ghana as the leaders of America, a country that hopes to be a better model than we once were for the proposition that all men and women are free and equal, and that children ought to have an equal chance. And we hope that their successes will play a role in our common trumps, the United States and Africa, the United States and Ghana, in the years ahead.

Thank you and God bless you.

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