THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
President William Jefferson Clinton
Excerpts From Remarks By The President To The Annual Meeting Of
The American Society Of Newspaper Editors
April 10, 1997
...I hope people will look back on this period and say that while I was President, we prepared America for the 21st century basically in three ways: that we preserved the American Dream of opportunity for everybody who is willing to work for it; number two, that we preserved America's leadership for peace and freedom and prosperity in the world, and the world is a better place because of it; and number three, that Americans are living in greater harmony with one another as one America because we passionately advocated a respect for people's differences and respect for our shared values, and we made real progress in overcoming these divides and extremist hatreds that have not only weakened our democracy but are virtually destroying countries all around the world.
...This whole issue of how we deal with our racial diversity. It's something, of course, that's dominated my whole life because I grew up as a southerner. But it's a very different issue now. It's more than black Americans and white Americans. The majority of students in the Los Angeles County schools are Hispanic. And there are four school districts in America -- four -- where there are children who have more than 100 different racial, ethnic, or linguistic backgrounds within the school districts already.
So this is a big deal. And every issue that we debate, whether it's affirmative action or immigration or things that seem only peripherally involved in this, need to be viewed through the prism of how we can preserve one America, the American Dream, our shared values, and still accord people real respect and appreciation for their independent heritages. It will be a great, great challenge. It's a challenge that, by the way, I think the newspapers of the country can do a lot to help promote in terms of advancing dialogue, diversifying your own staffs, doing the things that will help America to come to grips with what it means not to be a country with a legacy of slavery and the differences between blacks and whites, but to have grafted on to that not only the immigration patterns of the early 20th century but what is happening to us now.
It is really potentially a great thing for America that we are becoming so multi-ethnic at the time the world is becoming so closely tied together. But it's also potentially a powder keg of problems and heartbreak and division and loss. And how we handle it will determine, really -- that single question may be the biggest determinant of what we look like 50 years from now and what our position in the world is and what the children of that age will have to look forward to.