PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much. President Figueres, thank you for bringing us all together. And to my fellow leaders from Central America and the Dominican Republic, thank you for coming. To all of you, to our distinguished guests, to all Ticos and all the people of Central America, let me say, es realmente un nuevo dia. (Applause.)
Less than a decade ago, much of the Americas was still dominated by civil war, repression and hopeless poverty. Today, we celebrate the advance of peace, growing prosperity and freedom across our hemisphere. And we honor the remarkable men and women of Central America who helped to lead the way.
When the history of our region and our time is written, it will record your courage and your strength in ending four decades of conflict, braving the threat of bombs and bullets to cast ballots, embracing the challenge of economic reform, and opening the door to a new era of partnership among all our nations.
President Figueres, in that epic struggle, Costa Rica, this nation of brothers, has been a wise leader and set a powerful example. Waging peace as tenaciously as others have waged war, Costa Rica has shown that a country does not need an army to be strong. (Applause.) We thank Costa Rica and its leaders for building a vibrant democracy that takes care of its citizens and shoulders its responsibilities in the world.
Three years ago, our hemisphere's 34 democracies met in Miami at the historic Summit of the Americas to secure the hard-won gains our nations have made, and to make them work for all our people. Today in San Jose, in the first summit between the leaders of the United States, Central America and the Dominican Republic in almost three decades, we stand before you united in our course determined to advance together to help the daily lives of our people in better jobs, safer streets, cleaner air, brighter hopes for our children and their future.
We are here to help our economies grow, and to grow closer by opening our markets, protecting our workers and sharing more fairly the benefits of prosperity. We are here to give all our people the tools to succeed in the global economy by making good education the birthright of every citizen of every country here. (Applause.)
We are here to strengthen our democracies by standing against the criminals, the drug traffickers, the smugglers who exploit open borders to threaten open societies and we are here to protect our future by launching new efforts to prevent pollution and protect our precious natural environment.
When President Kennedy came to Costa Rica more than three decades ago, he said, "Every generation of the Americas has shaped new goals for democracy to suit the demands of a new age. Our generation must meet that challenge, and we must do it together. We know that we must not be just neighbors, but real partners, working together in a spirit of friendship, equality and mutual respect."
My fellow citizens of the Americas, that is the partnership we have come here to build. Here in the heart of our hemisphere let us go forward into a bright new century full of unlimited possibilities for our young, knowing that to realize those possibilities we must go forward together.
Thank you. (Applause.)
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