REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CAPETOWN
MRS. CLINTON: (in progress) faculty, students, distinguishedguests and friends. And greetings to the people of the new South Africa. It is an honor for me to join you at this great citadel of learning. TheUniversity of Capetown is known the world over.
And I am especially grateful to be here with your ViceChancellor, whose contributions to education, medicine, anthropology andthe struggle for human rights makes her a role model not only for youngpeople in South Africa, but for young people throughout the world.
Little could have prepared me for the swell of emotions Ihave felt on this visit to your country. When I was last in South Africafor President Mandela's inauguration with the Vice President three yearsago, I was moved beyond words by what I felt to be the spirit offorgiveness and reconciliation that seemed to embrace this land. Today,my heart is stirred anew by the patience and perseverance with which SouthAfricans are united to build a strong and lasting democracy.
The human zeal for freedom, as you know so well here, is aremarkable thing. Just think, in the last 10 years we have seen men andwomen unlock the bonds of tyranny and seek their own destinies all overour planet. From the Czech Republic, where a velvet revolution peacefullyloosened decades of ironfisted rule and paved the way for a newlydemocratic central Europe; to Estonia, where men and women yearning fordemocracy literally sang their way to freedom; to Mongolia, where nearly acentury of domination and oppression at the hands of dictatorship couldnot suppress the popular will for selfexpression and selfrule. And todayon the continent of Africa we find country after country becoming atouchstone of democracy and freedom.
History has taught us that no nation and no continent has amonopoly on tragedy and evil. We have learned from instances too numerousto count that human beings of all backgrounds, persuasions and geographieshave an equal capacity for depravity. But so, too, have we learned thatfrom disaster and calamity can spring the noblest acts of courage,selflessness and human decency.
Who could have imagined just a short decade ago that theblood and tears of Uganda would soon give way to the embrace of peace anddemocracy? Who could have imagined that years of civil war in the Horn ofAfrica would lead to the birth of a new democratic nation called Eritreaand that women freedom fighters would help to lead the way? Who couldhave imagined that a country like Mozambique, whose people had knownnothing but war and civil strife would itself become an example ofnational healing and unity?
Yet nowhere has the triumph of the human spirit, the power oflove to conquer hate been greater than in South Africa. The spirit ofreconciliation has enabled your nation of diverse peoples to overcome 40stubborn and violent years of apartheid and begin the difficult journey todemocracy. Just think of the progress we human beings could make if thatsame spirit of reconciliation echoed in all corners of the world in thestreets of Belfast, the killing fields of Burundi, the countryside ofBosnia.
You, the people of South Africa, are teaching countlessothers that as interdependence is the inescapable condition of humankind,so is tolerance the greatest weapon for peace.
When he spoke on this campus 31 years ago, Robert F. Kennedyreminded us that it is from numberless, diverse acts of courage and beliefthat human history is shaped. And it is those acts by individuals, asmuch as any action by your government, that will determine the success ofyour new democracy.
South Africans and Americans live in countries whichrepresent great experiments in multiracial democracy, experiments thatdepend on the human hearts' deepest reservoirs of goodwill andforgiveness, and the human spirit's capacity for progress. Theconsciences of both our nations have been seared by racial inequality andinjustice. And, yet, often against great odds our people have searchedinside themselves and found ways to forgive the wrongs of an ugly past tocreate a future of promise and reconciliation.
In his second Inaugural Address delivered at the end of acivil war that claimed more American lives than all other conflicts inUnited States history combined, President Abraham Lincoln urged a dividednation to forgive, heal and unite around a common humanity. This is inpart what he said: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, withfirmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive onto finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care forhim who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan; todo all which we may achieve and cherish, a just and lasting peace amongourselves and with all nations." Surely American history would have beendifferent if President Lincoln had lived to lead us on our journey oftruth, forgiveness and reconciliation.
One hundred years later another great American, Dr. MartinLuther King Jr., lent his words, actions and moral weight to a nonviolentcrusade for civil rights that moved our country ever closer to the idealsof democracy. Dr. King declared that "Darkness cannot drive out darkness;only light can do that. Hatred darkens light; love illuminates it."
Here in South Africa the message of reconciliation andforgiveness has found many eloquent messengers whose names are well knownto you and to the world. Among them, President Mandela and ArchbishopTutu. But the success of this great experiment in nation building dependsultimately on each citizen people whose names never appear in thenewspaper, but whose acts of courage and belief are just as sure to guideSouth Africa's future. As President Mandela once explained, we are allwarmed by the same summer and chilled by the same winter. And it isrecognition of that common humanity that shall bind us into a nation.
To date, we Americans find inspiration in the generous andforgiving spirit that has won you this democracy. And we find inspirationin the democratic institutions that have come to light here in just a fewshort years. We find inspiration in your progressive new constitution,which is being distributed around the country this week; and especiallythe rights it enshrines for women and children. We find inspiration inthe work you are undertaking in every sector of society to build your newnation. We have an old saying in America, that "idle hands are thedevil's work." From what I have seen in just a few short days, the devilwill have no help here. South Africa is a country that is too busy tohate.
In all of these ways your experience in South Africa remindsus just how precious freedom, peace and democracy are and how we all havea stake in their success around the globe. I hope that you, too, can findsome inspiration in America's experience. For we Americans offer you areminder, that democracy is a complicated business, as complicated andhard to manage as human nature itself. We have been striving to perfectdemocracy for more than 200 years, without any assurance that we will everfully succeed. And, yet, we keep working at it because nothing is moreprecious to us than the freedoms our ancestors struggled to win andstruggled to preserve.
Now South Africa is building a multiracial society, rooted inhuman rights and nourished in the fertile soil of reconciliation andforgiveness. And I have been privileged to witness some of your efforts. Yesterday I had the chance to join Archbishop Tutu at a meeting of theTruth and Reconciliation Commission here in Capetown. In the mostordinary of conference rooms people are undertaking the most extraordinaryof efforts. They are working to help complete South Africa's healing. They are seeing to it that South Africans fully understand their past sothat they may also create a future in which every citizen finally has theopportunity to live up to his or her Godgiven promise.
As important as it is to weave history into your memory, itis just as important to be sure that we weave all people into the work ofbuilding this democracy. And I would say a special word on behalf of theinvolvement of women, for neither this democracy nor any other canflourish if half the population is unschooled, unskilled, unfed, unhealthyor unheard. It is clear that you and South Africa know that.
In Soweto I met a principal at a primary school who wasworking overtime to get much needed resources for her students; a teacherwho will not rest until every child in her class has mastered the basicsof English; a woman at an orphanage a few miles from the school who gaveup her own job to keep that home for abandoned children open when thegovernment cut off funding in 1977. She was motivated by the belief thatevery child deserves love, a sense of belonging and the simple necessityof a safe place to sleep.
In Johannesburg I met with women social workers,psychologists, law enforcement experts and police, politicians andgrassroots activists who are working to end the plagues of domesticviolence and child abuse which afflict not only your country, but mine andmany others. And let me say that we around the world owe thanks to thewomen of Africa for focusing international attention on domestic violenceand putting it on the agenda first at the United Nations Conference onWomen in Nairobi and later in Beijing.
But perhaps the best illustration I have seen of how womenare rooting democracy in South Africa is found in a patch of land here inCapetown that I visited yesterday. It's a brown, dusty place onceoccupied by squatters. Understandably, the women there were not satisfiedwith their situations. They wanted to do better for themselves and theirchildren. So after hearing about a housing program that worked with poorwomen in India, they formed their own local housing and creditassociation. Before long, they requested and received information fromgovernment officials about how to lay a foundation for a house. They putin a sewer line. With money saved for the association and some supportfrom the government they bought shovels and wheelbarrows, paint andcement. And together they worked and worked and worked. Today they havecompleted 18 houses and they are building more.
Now, some of you may be wondering, what does a housebuildingproject for squatter women have to do with democracy. But as the womenthemselves sang in a song for me while I was there, "strength, money andknowledge, we cannot do anything without them." And here in South Africayou are showing the entire world that democracy will succeed only if everycitizen black, white or colored; man, woman or child not only enjoys thefull political, economic, social and civic power that he or she is due,but also engages in the task of nation building.
That is the task before all of your citizens. Whether youare in government or business, whether you teach, whether you minister,whether you farm it is to help translate one of the greatest politicaltriumphs of this century, really of all history, into social and economicconditions that mean better lives for all South Africans. Forty years ofinstitutionalized inequality and injustice are hard to overcome. Yet Ihave seen, even in this brief stay, men and women of all races and beliefswho are joining together to make this democracy work. They want to ensurethat children are afforded the education they need to pursue their dreams,that women are not relegated to the margins of society, that relationsamong racial groups are expanded and strengthened, that the climate isright for businesses to prosper here, that all South Africans are free ofviolence and crime in and out of their homes, and that every man, woman,and child is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
President Mandela and his government should be applauded forpursuing a program of reconstruction and development that seeks to makethe transformation of democracy complete on all fronts. They are workinghard to erase inequities in health care and education, to assure thatwoman have a voice in charting the future of their country, to reducecrime and strengthen the economy and give people the tools they need tosucceed in a democratic society.
Yet we from America know that this is a long task before you. I want you to know that, as Americans, we celebrate your accomplishmentsand we want to be your partners in securing your democratic future. Tothat end, President Clinton has pledged an additional $19 million throughthe United States Agency for International Development to assist PresidentMandela's teacher training initiative and $87 million in USAID assistancethis year for housing, health care, and business development initiatives.
One of the most tangible signs of our new partnership is thebinational commission chaired by our Vice President and your DeputyPresident. Last year they signed an agreement to cooperate to fightcrime. As a result, the United States is providing funding this year toassist South African law enforcement agencies with criminal justiceexpertise and training.
We are working together to improve the business environmentby lowering taxes and tariffs so that bilateral trade can thrive, creatingjobs for both the people of South Africa and the United States.
South Africans and Americans are also learning from eachother, through education, medical, and cultural exchanges at colleges anduniversities, as well as fellowships at some of our leading scientificinstitutions. In addition to funding from USAID, many of these programsare supported by American corporations, foundations, and universities.
And let me deliver today another indication of our supportfor the work that you are doing here in this country. Today I amprivileged to announce that the United States is expanding support for thecampaign to eradicate polio in Africa by the year 2000. Initiated by theWorld Health Organization's regional office for Africa, the Kick Polio outof Africa campaign is a partnership in the truest sense. It involvesnational and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, businesses,bilateral donors. It is led by your President. And thanks in part to hisleadership, extraordinary progress was made on this front last year.
Now the United States is committing an additional $16 millionthrough USAID to assist in this vital effort to bring better health to thepeople of Africa. With us today are representatives from keyorganizations in this important partnership: the World HealthOrganization, Rotary International, and UNICEF. In our hemisphere we havesucceeded in eradicating polio, and now we wish to assist the people ofAfrica in eradicating polio on this continent as well.
Each of these and the many other investments between ourcountries reflect our belief that the future of this country and thiscontinent are inextricably linked to the futures of countries throughoutthe world. It reflects our belief that peace and prosperity can and willprevail if we all work together. Most of all, it reflects the faith wehave in you and in the democratic path you have chosen to follow at thisdifficult time of transformation.
That said, I must add, there are no panaceas. There are noquick fixes in the march to democracy and a truly free market economy. Democracy's success in South Africa will not depend solely on freeelections, open markets, or government policies. It will not dependsolely on foreign investment. It will depend ultimately on theinternalization of democratic values in people's hearts, minds, andeveryday lives.
For those of you who are students here at this greatuniversity, perhaps your experience here can serve as a guide. Universities, after all, are where we who are lucky enough to attend themlearn more about the importance of personal responsibility and community. They are training grounds for individual freedom and incubators of ideas. They are repositories of free speech and free thought. And they are acollective meeting place for individuals of very different backgrounds,different attitudes, interests and aspirations. They are places where wetest the balance between individual and community rights, where westruggle to find the balance between "me" and "we," where we assumeresponsibility for ourselves and others.
This university has always been a vanguard of change; nowyou have a chance to help create a new South Africa. And you also have achance to help shape the course of history. The world is watching, andthe democratic world stands with you. It has been given to you as to fewother peoples in history the opportunity to hold in your hands your ownfutures and the futures and dreams of countless millions of others.
May God bless each and every one of you and all the people ofthis great country as you work to realize your individual and shareddestinies. Thank you very much.
MRS. CLINTON: I think this is an extraordinary moment intime for any of us who are women, and particularly if we are fortunateenough to have the blessings of good health and education and to feel thatwe are able to make the choices that are right for ourselves in our ownlives and as they impact our families and our societies.
I think that we have more opportunity than we've ever had,but so much of whether or not we seize that opportunity depends on twofactors: first, how well prepared we are to accept responsibility for ourchoices and the consequences of our choices; and how supportive andenabling those around us, including families and the larger society,happen to be. So although we have made considerable progress, movingtoward a point where individual women will hopefully have the chance tomake those choices that are right for them, there is still a great deal ofwork to be done, in my own country as well as around the world.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to go to Beijing knowthat the majority of people who live in absolute poverty in the world arewomen, often the sole support of children; that women do most of the hardwork in our world, oftentimes without any income being generated or evenany recognition of their economic contributions both inside the home andoutside the home and that is true in advanced countries as well asdeveloping ones. So I hope that women as we move toward this new centurywill support one another in all of our various aspects of life; that wewill not be tricked or seduced into a position of undermining otherwomen's accomplishments and other women's opportunities; that we will workfor a change in our societies, where appropriate, to have the kind oflegal and other protections that are necessary; and that every one of uswill do what we can to make sure that little girls are given the sameopportunities in every society as little boys. It makes sense. We don'thave the human resources to waste. And we need to be sure that we enableall citizens of every country to live up to the fullest of their potentialand make the contribution they are capable of making to their society.
And so I hope that the 21st century will see so much progresson this point that by the 22nd century we won't even ask the questionanymore. (Applause.)
Q Mrs. Clinton, you and I share an alma mater you started atradition that I would be glad to be a part of that the students speak atcommencements. What did you take from your Wellesley experience that youuse in your everyday life that you try to pass on to other people?
MRS. CLINTON: Both the questioner and I attended WellesleyCollege, which is a women's college outside Boston, and I feel veryfortunate that I attended that college for many reasons. One, because itgave me four years of relative seclusion on a beautiful campus to studyand learn and interact with my classmates and the faculty, and yet a bigcity, Boston, with lots of other universities and men was nearby. (Laughter.) In my view, the best of all possible worlds. (Laughter.)
And it also gave, I think, all of us who took those fouryears out the confidence that is sometimes drained out of even eager womenin university experience that undermines their feeling that they can maketheir contributions because, from the moment they enter university I'msure it's not true here they are battered about by the expectations forsocial success and relationships that make it more difficult for them toconcentrate on what it is they're studying and learning, and to find theirown path as clearly as they would like. And we did not have those kindsof distractions or difficulties.
And I think that the role of women's education is still onethat has to be looked at very carefully around the world. There is arole, I believe, for singlesex schools for girls and for boys, at alllevels of education. And I think a school a college like Wellesley standsas a very good example of the continuing commitment that must be made towomen's education. Even though all of our other fine and competitiveuniversities are now available to women, there is still something veryspecial about that environment, and I'm very grateful every day that Iattended there. (Applause.)
MRS. CLINTON: We've had a long and difficult debate in ourcountry about the role of welfare and the idea of a social safety net inthe United States. And I have, along with my husband, worked in both thepublic and the private sector for many years on the challenges presentedby the welfare system as it operated in the United States. When myhusband was the Governor of the State of Arkansas, he worked very hard toprovide people who were on welfare the education and training that theyneeded to be able to compete in the job market and was successful inhelping to move a number of people off of welfare.
He has recently signed a piece of legislation that will endwhat we call the "welfare entitlement" and turn back to individual statesthe responsibility for implementing welfare policy. This was a verycontroversial decision in many quarters in the United States. But let mebriefly describe what I see as the reasons why the President signed thatlegislation.
First of all, there is very little doubt in our country thatthe current welfare system, before this legislation was signed, was notworking for a significant number of people who were trapped on welfare. There were large numbers of people, particularly women who had gonethrough a divorce and were left with very few financial resources, peoplewho had other kinds of misfortune, who would be on welfare for a shortperiod of time and then off. In fact, the average time that the vastmajority of people stayed on welfare was two years or less.
But there was a group of people caught in welfare dependencysecond and third generation where, for reasons that had to do with allkinds of social and economic and even psychological changes, they wereunable to break out of that welfare dependency. So there was no doubtthat the system had not worked for them.
And the President believed that we had to make drasticchanges in that system in order for people to be motivated to understandhow they had to help themselves. He also believed that in our countrywe've had many people say that communities and churches and otherinstitutions would be more helpful to people on welfare if the governmentdidn't provide an automatic check. We are going to find out whetherthat's true or not. And the President has been working very hard topersuade businesses and various levels of government to hire people off ofwelfare. He's been working to persuade churches to, in a sense, mentorfamilies on welfare.
So he has set as a challenge to America: If you are seriousabout caring for your fellow man, if you are serious about ending welfareas we know it, then you have to be involved. There are no more excuses. We can no longer say, well, we hate the welfare system, and all thosepeople who are on it are people that we just don't understand. Now thereis no more welfare system, except as we create it. So it is a bold andchallenging step we have taken, and we will watch it very carefully to tryto make sure it works to the benefit of the people it is intended to help.
MRS. CLINTON: (Laughter.) Hope springs eternal. (Laughter.)You know, I have thought a lot about this, because (laughter and applause)strictly as a student of political science (laughter) I am curious as towhy it is apparently easier for women to ascend to the highest ranks ofnational leadership in parliamentary systems. I met the speaker of yourhouse yesterday here in Capetown, a woman, and I have met women primeministers and presidents around the world who come out of a parliamentarysystem. And I have no real answer to this, but a few suggestions whichreflect how difficult it is in our country, I believe. In a parliamentarysystem, whether it's Margaret Thatcher or Indira Gandhi or Golda Meir orany of the other countless women in this century who have succeeded to thehighest political position in their societies, they worked in aparliamentary system where the men and women with whom they work get toknow them as a colleague and get to appreciate their strength andweaknesses.
And so, during that period of time in which they are involvedin political life in their country, they get to be judged by their ownmerits as a parliamentarian, as a leader of a party, and they have a verysmall constituency, in effect a constituency of their fellow party membersin the Parliament who choose them as their leader based on very personalknowledge. They do not have to go out and sell themselves to the entirecountry and face all of the myriad of questions that women in public lifeare often subjected to, because their constituency is one which they knowand have helped to shape over time.
In contrast, in the United States, because of our system it'sabsolutely true, anyone can run for president, which is a wonderfulopenness about what we have in America, but it's also true that everyone,then, must go out and essentially persuade the entire electorate with verylittle personal knowledge. One gets to know someone over the television,over the mass media; they don't have the kind of working experience thatwill exist here in your parliamentary system, so it's very difficult forwomen to overcome many of the preconceptions and stereotypes that thepublic holds about them because of this lack of personal experience.
Now, having said that, I do hope and believe that sometimewithin the next 20 years we will have a woman president. It is possiblethat one or more women may run in the primaries in their parties in theUnited States, in the election coming up in the year 2000. There are somevery wellqualified women who have served as governors, served in theCongress, served in the cabinet of various administrations, bothRepublican and Democrat, so I think that we will see women emerge andsubject themselves to the electoral process. And I'm hoping thateventually we will see a woman in the White House and then I will followwith great interest how her spouse is treated. (Laughter and applause.)
MRS. CLINTON: A wonderful question for a universityaudience, because certainly you don't pick the time of history in whichyou live; that is something that is thrust upon you, just as you don'tpick your parents. There are some things that you are stuck with, forbetter or worse. (Laughter.) But if you believe in the spark of humanityand opportunity and life that lives in all of us, then no matter what yourbeginnings nor what time you live in, you have opportunities to shape yourown life and hopefully contribute to the life of your society. And Icannot think of a more exciting time to be a young person than right nowin South Africa, black, white or colored. The opportunities areextraordinary to break down old barriers, to subject yourself to newexperiences, to sit with people you have never sat with before, to lookeach other in the eye, to learn what you have in common, to agree todisagree, to build this democracy on those individual acts that willreally make it possible for it to withstand whatever difficulties lieahead, and to do so not only individually, but through organizationsreligiouslybased organizations, universitybased organizations, economicand social ones to be players in this extraordinary effort ofreconciliation and reconstruction that you are engaged in.
I think the same is true in a lesser degree even in our owncountry today. It is not a time of the civil rights movement or theVietnam War, but America stands on the brink of its own difficultdecisions about how we will treat one another, how we will engage inbuilding our own communities for the future. And for young people whohave more at stake in what happens in the 21st century, it is essentialthat you get the best possible education that will enable you to make yourcontributions and to keep your minds open to change, to continue to learn,and that you approach whatever you do with a dose of humility that is hardenough in life and difficult even more in youth (laughter) that we do nothave all of the answers, that experience can teach you some things, and totake lessons from those who have gone before.
So I would hope that maybe in ways that are different fromsome of the great movements of the past, and certainly here in thiscountry those who were involved in the struggle against apartheid, thosewho helped to forge the links that enabled you to break through in apeaceful way to the democracy that you now have, will do more to involveyoung people in that building process and that those of you who arestudents will look for ways to make your contribution.
I feel so strongly that we are on the brink of such enormouspossibility in the world right now. I have no idea which way it will turnout. There's no guarantee that we will make the right decisions in theUnited States or in South Africa or anywhere else. But if enough peopleof good will continue to stress what we have in common with one anotherand the eternal values that stand the test of time, then I'm hoping thatwe will have a critical mass, the world over, to keep moving us slowly,fitfully, toward a future that really will live up to the ideals that webrought to our struggles in the United States and that you have brought toyours here. And I wish you and all of the students here the opportunityto participate in that great endeavor. (Applause.)
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore