November 15, 2000
Last week, Americans went to the polls to cast their ballots in our national election. One week later, as I write this column, an extraordinary drama has unfolded, and we still do not know who the next President will be.
While there have been demonstrations, lawsuits, appeals and challenges to the vote cast in Florida, our constitution and our democracy continue to stand as a model to the world, just as they have for more than 200 years.
Last week, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the White House, my husband and I were profoundly honored to welcome three former Presidents, their wives and Lady Bird Johnson to a very special dinner. Never before have so many former Presidents and First Ladies gathered in the East Room. This would have been an extraordinary evening even under ordinary circumstances. But given these times, these four Presidents -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- reminded us of the power of our democracy to endure and thrive.
"Once again," President Gerald Ford, the first to speak, said, "the world's oldest republic has demonstrated the youthful vitality of its institutions and the ability and the necessity to come together after a hard-fought campaign. The clash of partisan political ideas does remain just that -- to be quickly followed by a peaceful transfer of authority."
President Carter, who has devoted the years since his presidency to human rights, concluded his remarks with these words: "The White House epitomizes for all Americans the stability and the greatness of peace and freedom and democracy and human rights not only for all Americans, but for all people in the world. And my dream is that the epitome of the high ideals of humankind expressed in physical terms in the White House will continue for another hundred or even a thousand years."
Presidents Carter and Ford both noted that during their hard-fought 1976 campaign, neither could have predicted the close relationship that they enjoy today. In fact, at a press conference earlier in the day, President Carter was asked whether he found it strange that he and my husband would be attending an event with Gerald Ford and George Bush. His response? "I think that's a vivid demonstration of what the White House and service in it means to all of us."
When it came time for President Bush to speak, every person in the room had to be wondering how he felt as he looked around the house, considering whether his own son would be its next occupant. Referring to the unsettled nature of the outcome, he talked about the timeless quality of the People's House:
"For 200 years and eight days, this old house had been buffeted by the winds of change and battered by the troubled waters of war. We've been favored by calm seas, too. But history tells us a democracy thrives when the gusts and gales of challenge and adversity fill its sails and compel it into action. And through it all, through trial and tribulation, as well as triumph, the White House has served as our nation's anchor to windward, a vision of constancy, a fortress of freedom, the repository of a billion American dreams. Age and the elements occasionally wear her down, but this house is forever renewed by the ageless fidelity of its founders, and the boundless promise of its future heirs."
It is impossible to walk down the halls of this living museum without being touched by the lives of all who have come before. President Ford talked about being "humbled by the inescapable presence of (his) predecessors -- Jackson, Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, Truman and Eisenhower, and so many others who live in our imagination and our idealism." And he went on to talk about the roles the White House has played in American history -- office building, museum, cultural showcase, think tank, war room and the symbol of democracy. But most of all, he reminded us, "It is a home," -- an enduring tie that binds us to everyone who has lived and worked here before us.
My husband and I -- along with every other former resident -- know that the White House belongs to the people, not to any one of us. That is why we are here 200 years after John Adams became the first President to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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Talking It Over: 2000
December 13, 2000: Column on Trip to Ireland and Vital Voices Announcement
December 6, 2000: Column on Passing Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Bill
November 29, 2000: Column on "An Invitation to the White House: At Home With History"
November 22, 2000: Column on Trip to Vietnam
November 8, 2000: Column on New York Senate Race
November 1, 2000: Column on the Importance of Voting
October 25, 2000: Column Urging Congress to Pass Legislation Important to the American People
October 18, 2000: Column on Trafficking of Women and Children
October 11, 2000: Column on Microenterprise for Self-Reliance Act
October 4, 2000: Column on Reauthorization of AmeriCorps National Service Program
September 27, 2000: Column on Reauthorization of VAWA
September 20, 2000: Column on Ritalin
September 13, 2000: Column on Youth Violence and the Entertainment Industry
September 6, 2000: Column on Expanding Healthcare Benefits
August 30, 2000: Column on Making Education Our #1 Priority
August 23, 2000: Column on Pine Ridge, New Markets Tour
August 16, 2000: Column on Decision 2000
August 9, 2000: Column on the Congressional and Presidential Tax Plans
August 2, 2000: Column on Newborn Hearing Screening
July 26, 2000: Column on the 10th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act
July 19, 2000 : Column on Treasures Visit to Ellis Island
July 12, 2000: Column on Prescription Drug Coverage for Seniors
July 5, 2000: Column on the Ninth Millennium Evening,
June 27, 2000: Column on Quality Education for Hispanic Youth
June 21, 2000: Column on Save America's Treasures: Val Kil Cottage, New York
June 14, 2000: Column on the Violence Against Women Act
May 31, 2000: Column on National Trails Day
May 24, 2000: Column on National Moment of Remembrance
May 17, 2000: Column on Howard Theater
May 10, 2000: Column on Million Mom March
May 3, 2000: Column on the White House Conference on Teenagers
April 26, 2000: Column on Arbor Day
April 19, 2000: Column on Earth Day
April 12, 2000: Column on International Family Planning
April 5, 2000: Column on Women Entrepreneurs and Microcredit
March 29, 2000: Column on Teen Smoking
March 22, 2000: Column on Pediatric Drugs
March 15, 2000: Column on Child Support
March 8, 2000: Column on Children and Guns
March 1, 2000: Column on Teacher Training, Recruitment and Retention
February 23, 2000: Column on D.C. Campaign to prevent Teen Pregnancy Launch
February 16, 2000: Column on Vital Voices Event at the White House
February 9, 2000: Column on Prescription Drug Coverage
February 2, 2000: Column on Child Care
January 26, 2000: Column on College Opportunity
January 19, 2000: Column on Human Trafficking
January 12, 2000: Column on Housing Vouchers and Affordable Housing
January 5, 2000: Column on the New Millennium
December 20, 2000: Column on Presidential Interagency Council on Women
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