Remarks of the President to National Democratic Institute Luncheon (8/14/00)
                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
                           (Los Angeles, California)
                 For Immediate Release    August 14, 2000

                            REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                           Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
                            Los Angeles, California

1:20 P.M. PDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Ladies and
gentlemen, you have just heard a stirring example of Clinton's first law of
politics:  whenever possible, be introduced by someone you have appointed
to high office.  (Laughter.)

     Secretary Albright, thank you for your great work as Secretary of
State and, before that, as our Ambassador to the United Nations, and for
your constant friendship and support to Hillary and me.

     Gary, thank you for hosting this today and for what you said and for
all the good work you do.

     Mr. Mayor, thank you for putting on a great convention and sitting
through all these speeches by Democrats.  (Laughter.)

     There's been a lot of talk in this convention about religion because
Joe Lieberman is our first Jewish candidate on the national ticket.  But I
want you to know I am still a confirmed Baptist.  We believe in deathbed
conversions and I'd like to have you switch at any time -- (laughter) --
and we love you very much.  (Applause.)

     I want to thank Paul Kirk, my friend of many years, and Ken Wallach
and all the members of the NDI.  Thank you, Senator Feinstein.  And I'd
like to thank all the members of the diplomatic community who are here,
parliamentarians from around the world, and the people who have been or are
now part of our diplomatic efforts -- Vice President Mondale, who did such
a brilliant job in Japan; and Reverend Jackson, our Special Envoy to
Africa; Ambassador Blinken; Ambassador Shearer; there are a lot of others
here.  But I thank them all for what they have done.

     I'd also like to say how much I appreciate the work of the NDI, how
much I've tried to support it, how grateful I am that we have a nominee for
President and Vice President in our party who will strongly support you for
a long time in the future.

     Way back in the distant past of the last millennium when I was first
elected President, people were asking whether the end of the Cold War would
lead to a new birth of freedom or whether incipient democracies would be
overcome by forces of hardship and hate.  There were then perhaps as many
reasons for fear as for hope.

     In Russia, people faced bread lines and hyperinflation.  Many were
resigned to an inevitable backlash that would lead back to communism or
ultra-nationalism.  Southeast Europe was full of backward economies and
battered people willing to be manipulated to wage war on their neighbors.
In parts of Asia, leaders claimed democracy was an alien, Western
imposition, that there was really no such thing as a universal conception
of human rights or free people governing themselves.  Never mind, of
course, that people from Burma to the Philippines to Thailand were already
struggling and sacrificing for freedom.  Some still believed democracy only
works for people of a certain culture or a certain stage of development.

     Well, since then, we've learned a lot about human nature and
humanity's desire for freedom and self-government.  Looking back, I think
we'll all say that the 1990s were democracy's decade.  With our support and
with your support, democracies flourished in central Europe.  Despite all
the difficulties, it has endured in Russia, persevered in Latin America and
truly triumphed in Mexico.  In 1999, thanks to the democratic
transformations in Nigeria and Indonesia, more people won the right to
choose their leaders than in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell.

     In the Balkans, the cause of pluralism faced perhaps its greatest
obstacles.  Prime Minister Dodik and the head of Bosnia's leading
multiethnic party, Zlatko Lagumdzija, are here with us today.  We welcome
them and we urge them to keep up their good work for freedom.  (Applause.)
Their success has proven that Bosnians of every ethnic background are
turning to leaders delivering prosperity and hope, instead of exploiting
human differences.

     Last week, I met with the new President and the new Prime Minister of
Croatia.  They're taking their country on a breathtaking journey to
democracy.  Their success says to all the people of the Balkans, where
popular will overcomes authoritarianism and hate, the road to Europe is

     With Kosovo holding the first free elections in its history later this
year, the only vestige of the Balkans' undemocratic past is Serbia.  We are
encouraging the democratic opposition there to mount as unified a challenge
to Mr. Milosevic as possible, so that even if he steals the coming
presidential election -- he undoubtedly will try to do that -- he will lose
what legitimacy he has left with the Serbian people.

     But whatever may happen, he has utterly failed to build a greater
Serbia, based on ethnic cleansing and exclusion.  All around him, instead,
we are seeing the emergence of a greater Europe based on tolerance and

     We also learned some lessons in democracy's decade of the '90s.  It
used to be said that unelected leaders were easier for America to deal with
because they were free to make hard and unpopular choices.  Well, it turns
out to be one of those big ideas that just isn't true.  Consider the case
of Prime Minister Barak.  In pursuit of peace he has been able to make some
of the hardest and most courageous decisions I, personally, have ever seen
because he knows he draws his mandate from the people.

     Consider Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea.  He overcame his country's
economic crisis because he had the legitimacy to push through wrenching
change and he made a brave, brave step in reaching out to North Korea.

     Ironically, unelected leaders tend to be more fearful of political
opposition than elected leaders.  That's a lesson I've had to learn the
hard way.  The first three or four years when I heard that, I thought they
were just making excuses for something they didn't want to do.  And,
finally, I realized that they really were afraid to take unpopular
decisions -- even if they might be able to sell a vast majority of their
people on it because it was the right thing to do.

     Maybe it's because when dictators lose power, they lose everything;
democrats live to fight another day -- or build presidential libraries.

     Another lesson that we learned is that democracy's success is in our
interest.  Our support can be critical to that success.  Next week, I'll be
going to Nigeria, to a new, democratic Nigeria.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  A
Nigeria that's a leader for peace and economic development in the struggle
against AIDS.  If democracy takes root in Nigeria, it will lift up an
entire region.  So we'll do our part to help with trade and investment,
support for Nigeria's peacekeepers in its efforts to ensure that the vast
wealth it has accumulated and squandered in the past finally benefits its
people.  (Applause.)

     Now, a day after I come back from Nigeria, I'll be going to Colombia.
There, people are struggling to keep one of the oldest democracies in our
hemisphere alive in the face of terrible violence, fueled by a drug trade
that threatens their children and ours.  We have a national interest in
supporting them, and now with strong bipartisan support from Congress --
for which I am profoundly grateful -- we have made a commitment to do just

     We care about democracy in countries like Nigeria and Colombia because
the success of freedom is contagious, and so is freedom's failure.  One
reason we can tip the balance is because of the work NDI does.  Just about
every time I travel to an emerging democracy -- whether it's Nigeria or
Ghana or Bosnia or Russia or Nicaragua or Bangladesh -- I find that NDI is
there before I land, and most important, after I leave.  Thanks to you,
America not only has a Peace Corps, it has a democracy corps.

     If the 1990s were democracy's decade, you had a lot to do with it.
And with your help, we can now start building democracy's century, a
century that we can't stop working on until the most powerful, liberating,
revolutionary idea in all human history touches every human community.

     Let me just say in closing something that's not in my notes, and I'll
probably get in trouble with all my staff for saying -- (laughter) -- but
we have people here who devote your life to thinking about these things.  I
am gratified that in this very turbulent period, that we have been able to
build in the United States a bipartisan commitment to democracy that has
been manifested, for example, in Plan Colombia; manifested in the passage
of PNTR with China; manifested in the passage of the African-Caribbean
Basin bill; manifested in the common commitment both candidates for
President have consistently made this year, to an expansive, embrasive,
far-sighted trade policy.

     But there are still challenges out there that if we want to maximize
our impact on, we have to internalize debate and resolve as a people.
Because we have seen over and over and over again, it is very difficult for
America to do anything big, good, profoundly long-lasting unless we are
agreed.  And let me just give a few examples.

     I hope the commitment we have made to Africa will endure and be
embraced in a bipartisan way.  (Applause.)      I hope those people who
believe in the Congress and in the country that I honestly made a mistake
-- and they honestly believe this -- those who believe that I made a
mistake in committing our military resources and our diplomatic muscle,
first in Bosnia, and then in Kosovo, will rethink, because I think if the
cause of freedom had been lost in those countries, and the principle of
ethnic cleansing had been upheld, we would be paying for it along with free
people across the world for a very, very long time.  (Applause.)

     I hope the next administration will continue the commitment that we
have begun, to a new stage in our relationship with India, and that we will
continue to be involved in trying to resolve the tensions on the Indian
subcontinent.  If you think about the 200 or so ethnic groups that we have
in the state of California and in the United States of America, Indians and
Pakistanis both rank in the top five in per capita education and per capita
income.  There is no telling what could happen for the good on the Indian
subcontinent in the 21st century that would open new vistas of
possibilities, not only for people who are still desperately poor in those
nations and in Bangladesh, but indeed, throughout the world, if they can
just find a way to resolve their deep differences.  So I hope that will
happen, and I hope all of you will stay with us.  (Applause.)

     The other day when we said -- our administration -- that we felt that
the worldwide spread of AIDS had become a national security threat to the
United States, some people ridiculed that.  But I hope we will have a
broader notion of our national security and a broader sense of what tools
we need to bring to bear against them.

     I have done what I could in every year to support a strong defense
budget, to support improvements in the quality of life for our men and
women and families in the United States military; to modernize our weapon
systems.  But I think the work that we're trying to do this year in the
Congress to fight AIDS, malaria and TB is important.  I think we should be
doing much more than we are to help countries deal with the breath-taking
breakdown in public health systems in a lot of the former communist world
and in a lot of the developing countries -- things which really could just
eat the heart out of democracy over the next 10 or 15 years unless people
can at least find a way to keep babies alive and to stop children from
dying prematurely.  (Applause.)

     I hope we will be very creative in the ways we fight terrorism and
chemical and biological warfare, cyber terrorism -- and what I think will
be the most likely threat to our security over the next 20 years, which is
that the miniaturization process that we see, inevitably, part of
technology that now allows you to have a little computer in your palm with
a screen and a keyboard that people with big hands like me can't use
anymore -- will also -- you will see this with weapons.  And it is far more
likely that we will deal with those kinds of weapons in the hands of
terrorists, with enormous destructive potential, even than we will have to
fend off hostile missiles coming in.  And I hope we'll have a bipartisan
consensus about how to imagine the new most likely security threats of the
21st century.

     I hope there will be even stronger support for relieving the debt of
the poorest countries in the world.  I hope there will be even stronger
support for the initiative that Senator McGovern and Senator Dole brought
to Secretary Glickman, who is here.  We have -- we really believe that for
a relatively modest amount of money, a few billion dollars, we could
guarantee one nutritious meal to every poor child in the entire world,
every day, at school.  If we did it, it would dramatically increase school
enrollment, especially among young girls, and do a lot to reverse the tide
of trafficking in young women and of the abuse of the rights of young
women.  And it would change the whole fabric of society all across the
world in a way that would be very good for democracy.  We need a real
consensus on those kinds of things that there has not been nearly enough
talk about.  And we need to look at all these things in terms of our
commitment to democracy, our commitment to national security.

     We have to have -- and, as I said, I don't think I have to take a back
seat to anybody in my commitment to a strong national defense, but our
national security and our advancement of democracy depends on far more than
our military power.  And as wealthy as we are now, as successful as we are,
for a relatively modest increase in terms of the surpluses we're projecting
in the investments we make around the world in people problems and in
building institutions and in giving people the capacity to fight off the
demons of the 21st century, we will get a huge return in the advance of

     Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END                                              1:37 P.M. PDT

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