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Remarks by the President to the People of Joypura

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Trip to South Asia


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate ReleaseMarch 20, 2000


United States Embassy
Dhaka, Bangladesh

3:50 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. First let me say to the PrimeMinister how delighted I am to be here in Bangladesh, and how much I haveenjoyed meeting today with all the people from Joypura. I thank you, Asia,for your teaching. I thank Hasan Abed and the other people who areinvolved in the BRAC Movement. I thank my longtime friend, Muhammad Yunus,for bringing his people here today who are associated with the GrameenBank. And I'd also like to thank the people who came with the AsrayonProject that the Prime Minister has founded. Thank you all for making mefeel welcome today.

Bangladesh is a country that, by traditional economic measurement, isstill poor. But as I saw today, in terms of the spirit and the ability ofthe people, it is full of riches. And the challenge we all face is how tounlock the ability -- the brains, the heart, the spirit of the people ofBangladesh -- beginning with the wonderful children that I have seen, butalso including the people that I met with the Asrayon Project and thepeople who have participated in the Grameen Bank. (Applause.)

I want my fellow Americans and people throughout the world to knowthat the people of Bangladesh are a good investment in the future. If youlook only at the Grameen Bank, it has 2.4 million borrowers in 39,000villages. Ninety-four percent of the borrowers are women, 98 percent ofthe loans are repaid. And now, with loans for people to buy cell phones,entire villages are being brought into the Information Age. I want peoplethroughout the world to know this story. (Applause.)

I want to thank the Prime Minister and the people involved in theAsrayon movement for setting a goal that no person in this country shouldbe homeless. That should be every nation's goal. (Applause.) And I wantto thank the teachers and the supporters of the BRAC School for showing usthat all our children can learn and they all deserve the chance to learn.

I also want to thank your government and industry for working with theInternational Labor Organization and the United States to take some 9,000children out of garment factories and put them in classrooms. There arechildren here today, including a group from a special ILO-supported schoolthat our United States Senator Tom Harkin told me about, that he visitedtwo years ago. I thank you for doing that, as well.

I want to continue to support all these projects. I am pleased toannounce today that the United States will commit several million dollarsto help another 30,000 Bangladeshi children move from work in hazardousindustries into schools that will give them safer, better futures.(Applause.)

We will work with the ILO and Grameen to help 3 million women in ruralareas gain access to micro health insurance. And we will commit severalmillion dollars to help women get new skills, improve working conditions,and secure fair representation in trade organizations.

We will also provide several million dollars to support anotherGrameen program, a solar cell program to use the clean energy of the sun togenerate power in villages throughout Bangladesh -- cheap power, cleanpower, power that will empower all kinds of people to raise their incomesin different ways in the next few years. (Applause.)

I would like to make just two points in closing. First of all, I wantto bring greetings from my wife who preceded me to Bangladesh. She and ourdaughter came here a few years ago. And she told me of all the good thingsthat were going on here, and she urged me to have the United States do moreto support the Grameen Bank, to support your government, to support effortsto unleash the ability of your children and your families to build a betterfuture.

And, finally, I would like to thank all of you who shared your storieswith me today. Many of you have overcome great obstacles in your lives.Many of you still face great challenges. But you convinced me again thatno one -- no one -- should believe that poverty is destiny, that peoplehave to remain poor, that their children cannot learn and do better. Youhave made me believe more strongly than ever that every child in this worldshould be given the chance to dream and to live those dreams. (Applause.)

Because I have been privileged to be President of the United States, Ihave traveled all over the world. I have met with the wealthiest and mostpowerful people in the world. I have been in the most successfulcommunities in the world. I have also been in the poorest villages ofAfrica, of Asia, of Latin America. And I believe, more strongly today thanever, that intelligence and ability and a human spirit are evenlydistributed across the rich and the poor, in every continent on Earth.(Applause.)

And everyone must have a chance. Every little boy and every littlegirl must have a chance. I will do what I can to be a good partner and agood friend in that endeavor in Bangladesh.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)  

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