Remarks of the President at National Hispanic Foundation Gala (9/19/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release              September 19, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                        Renaissance Mayflower Hotel
                                    Washington. D.C.

9:50 P.M. EDT

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, let me say thank you for the
welcome.  I thank the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who are
here, and other members of Congress and the people from our administration
who are here.  I want to thank Jimmy Smits and Felix Sanchez.  (Applause.)
And I want to congratulate your honorees, Sara Martinez Tucker and the
Hispanic Scholarship Fund for 25 years of service.  (Applause.)  I want to
say a special word of appreciation to all the Latinos who have been part of
our administration, including Maria Echaveste, Mickey Ibarra, Brian
Barretto, Aida Alvarez, Bill Richardson, and all the others.  (Applause.)

          Let me say, I'm sorry I'm not in proper attire tonight.
(Laughter.)  But Jimmy Smits called me this afternoon, and I only had two
other things I was supposed to do, and so he said I had to show.
(Laughter.)  And I want you to know I am here in spite of the fact that
Jimmy Smits called me.  (Laughter and applause.)  And I'll tell you why --
if I have to hear Hillary say one more time, that is the best looking man I
have ever seen -- (applause) -- I think I will die.  (Applause.)

          So, right before I was here, I went over to the Kennedy Center.
And there's a magnificent event at the Kennedy Center that Kerry Kennedy
Cuomo is having about her book on human rights activists, and artists from
all over our country and human rights heroes from all over the world are
over there tonight.  And so, I went from there to a book party for my
friend, Paul Begala.  And I'm on my way over here, and everybody wanted to
know where I was going.  And this NBC television reporter said, Jimmy
Smits, that's the best looking man I ever saw in my life.  (Laughter and

          So, I said, well, what can I tell you, I've been to war for eight
years now, and I don't look very good anymore.  (Laughter.)  He will never
forgive me for embarrassing him like that.  (Laughter.)

          I want to say something seriously.  Felix, I appreciate what you
have done so much with this foundation.  And I want to say, I made fun of
Jimmy Smits tonight, but I want you to know that becoming a friend of his
has been one of the real joys of being President.  He has been so kind to
my wife and to me, to our family.  He's been to the White House many times
and he's always been there for a good cause.  And I hope you'll forgive me
for pulling your leg tonight, Jimmy, but I'll never forget you for being
our friend.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

          I want to thank the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts for
giving young people a chance from the silver screen to the Broadway stage
-- kids with talent and dreams need a chance.  That's what we've tried to
do for eight years now for all America's children.  And the Vice President
and I owe those of you who have done so much to help us do that a profound
debt of gratitude, and I thank you.

          Tonight I came mostly just to do that -- just to say thank you,
for all you do for the arts, for all you do for the Hispanic community, and
for all you've done to help America move forward in the last eight years.
We now have the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate we've ever recorded; the
lowest Hispanic poverty rate in a generation; a million new home owners in
the last six years.  (Applause.)  The Earned Income Tax Credit has been
doubled and it's lifted over a million Hispanics out of poverty.  The
minimum wage helped 1.6 million Hispanic workers, and it's time to raise it
again and help more.  (Applause.)

          The Hispanic Education Action Plan to encourage Hispanic youth to
stay in school and go to college, along with our scholarship initiatives
and other things, have contributed to the fact that the college-going rate
among Hispanic young people is up over 50 percent in the last seven years.
(Applause.)  And -- listen to this -- a report which was issued last week
said there has been a 500 percent increase in the number of Hispanic
students taking advance placement courses in high school to prepare for
college.  (Applause.)

          Under the Vice President's leadership we've reduced the
naturalization backlog at INS.  And under Aida Alvarez's leadership, loans
through Hispanic entrepreneurs by the SBA have increased by 250 percent.

          We have all been enriched by your work.  And I know that because
of your work, we'll have more great singers, more great writers, more great
actors and actresses.  I know we've got a long way to go, too, because
still Latino characters are only about 3 percent of those that appear on
prime-time television.  I just left Rita Moreno, and I told her that I
enjoyed watching her as a nun on her television series.  (Laughter.)  And
we were laughing about it.  And I think that you will see, if you keep
working, though, more and more of our movies and our television shows and
our Broadway shows reflecting the rich diversity of America.

          And that's the last point I want to make.  I have said on many
occasions, and I'll just say one more time tonight, that if I could have
only one wish for America, believe it or not, it would not be for a
continued unbroken economic prosperity.  It would be that somehow we would
find the wisdom to live together answer brothers and sisters, to truly be
one America across all the lines that divide us.  (Applause.)

          And to -- just sort of a little picture of how fast America has
changed, you may see the advertisements today for -- they're on television
now -- for Denzel Washington's new movie about the integration of T.C.
Williams High School over in Alexandria, Virginia, and its football team,
which occurred -- what -- almost 40 years ago -- not such a long time ago
once you've reached my age, anyway.  (Laughter.)  Now, a little over three
decades later, that high school is in a school district which has students
from over 180 different racial and ethnic groups, parents speaking over 100
different native languages.  It's the most diverse school district in

          And I think it's sort of fitting that this movie, coming out in
the new millennium, talks about something that to most of these kids is
ancient history, that we hope they'll never forget.  But it's sobering to
look at the profile of them and realize that they are both the great
opportunity and the great challenge of the future:  Can we figure out a way
to give them all a world-class education, with all their diversity?  Can we
figure out a way to make sure that every single child, every family, every
faith in America is profoundly proud of its roots, understands them, and
yet believes deep in the core of being that our common humanity is even
more important than our unique characteristics?  (Applause.)  These are
very big questions.

          Not so long ago, a number of you in this room came to the White
House for a showing of "Mi Familia," the movie.  Remember, you saw it, you
were there.  (Applause.)  And so I was thinking about that tonight and
feeling sort of nostalgic.  And I think the central question that all of us
have to ask ourselves, both within and beyond our borders now, is who is in
our family anyway?

          There is an astonishing new book out, been out a few months, by a
man named Robert Wright, called "Nonzero" -- kind of a weird title unless
you're familiar with game theory.  But in game theory, a zero sum game is
one where, in order for one person to win, somebody has to lose.  A nonzero
sum game is a game in which you can win and the person you're playing with
can win, as well.  And the argument of the book is that, notwithstanding
all the terrible things that happened in the 20th century -- the abuses of
science by the Nazis, the abuses of organization by the communists, all the
things that continue to be done in the name of religious or political
purity -- essentially, as societies grow more and more connected, and we
become more interdependent, one with the other, we are forced to find more
and more nonzero sum solutions.  That is, ways in which we can all win.

          And that's basically the message I've been trying to preach for
eight years here -- that everybody counts, everybody deserves a chance, we
all do better when we help each other.  We have to have an expanding idea
of who is in our family.  And we in the United States, because we're so
blessed, have particular responsibilities to people not only within our
borders who have been left behind, but beyond our borders who otherwise
will never catch up if we don't do our part.  Because we are all part of
the same human family, and because, actually, life is more and more a
nonzero sum game, so that the better they do, the better we'll do.

          Now, I believe, because of the history and culture, because of
the pain and the promise of the Hispanic community in the United States,
you are uniquely qualified to make sure America learns this lesson now.

          And so that's the last thing I'd like to say from the heart.  You
have made being President this last eight years a joy.  It has been an
honor for me to work with so many of you.  If our country is better off
because of anything I did, I am grateful.  But all the best stuff is still
out there, if we can learn to preserve what is special about us and our
clan, our tribe and our faith, and do it while affirming our common

          Do that for America, and the best is still out there.  Thank you
and God bless you.  (Applause.)

                        END          10:05 P.M. EDT

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