Remarks by the President at Georgetown International Law Center Ceremony (9/26/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release            September 26, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                     Georgetown University Law School
                                      Washington. D.C.

12:40 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Father O'Donovan, thank you for
giving me another chance to come back to Georgetown and for your
extraordinary leadership over these many years.  And, Dean Areen, thank you
for giving me a chance to come to the law school.

     I have to tell you that when they told me I was coming into the moot
courtroom -- (laughter) -- my mind raced back 30 years ago -- almost 30
years ago.  When we were in law school at Yale, Hillary and I entered the
moot court competition.  And it was sort of like the Olympics; there were
all these trial runs you had to get through, and then you got into the
finals and you tried to go for the gold.

     So we finished first and second in the trial runs, and then we got
into the finals.  And the judge, the moot court judge was Justice Abe
Fortas.  You've got to understand, this was the early '70s, it was a sort
of irreverent time.  (Laughter.)  Fashion was not the best.  Some of us
made it worse.  (Laughter.)  And, anyway, I had a bad day.  (Laughter.)
Hillary had a good day.  I thought she should have won.  But Justice Fortas
thought that her very '70s outfit, which was blue and bright orange suede
-- (laughter) -- was a little out of order for a trial.  And so he gave the
award to a guy, a third person, who is now a distinguished trial lawyer in
Chicago.  And for his trouble, he has had the burden of contributing to all
my campaigns and now to hers.  (Laughter.)  So I suppose it all worked out
for the best.  (Laughter.)

     Mr. Hotung, Mrs. Hotung, I thank you for your generosity.  I loved
your speech.  And I'd like to thank you, especially, for what you've tried
to do for the people of East Timor.  It means a lot to me because I know
how important it is to the future of freedom throughout Southeast Asia, and
indeed, throughout all East Asia, that we come to recognize that human
rights are not some Western concept imposed upon the rest of the world, but
truly are universal as the United Nations Declaration says.

     East Timor is a small place, a long way from here, that many people
thought the United States should not care about.  And the fact that you did
and continue to care about them and the enormous odds they have to cope
with, still is, I think, a very noble thing, and I thank you very much.

     I'd like to thank the faculty and staff and students who are here, and
all the members of my administration and administrations past who are here,
and my friends from Georgetown days who are here.  Georgetown Law School
has given more talent to this administration than any other single
institution in America.  And I'm almost afraid to mention some for fear
that I will ignore others, or omit them, anyway.
     But among the people in the administration who are Georgetown Law
grads are:  my Chief of Staff, John Podesta; my White House Counsel, Beth
Nolan; my Deputy Counsel, Bruce Lindsey; former White House Counsel, Jack
Quinn; Budget Director, Jack Lew; former Trade Ambassador and Commerce
Secretary, Mickey Kantor; Counselor to the Chief of Staff, Michelle
Ballantyne;  Deputy Communications Direction, Stephanie Cutter.  They're
all graduates of Georgetown Law.  And I've had various ambassadors and
other appointees and, Lord knows who else you gave me.  So I'm grateful for
     It's also quite interesting to me that Beth Nolan's assistant, Ben
Adams and my personal aide, Doug Band, are actually working full-time at
the White House.  In Doug's case, he's working around the clock, because
we're traveling and we're working -- we haven't slept in three weeks.  And
they're enrolled right now in Georgetown Law.  (Laughter.)

     Now, therefore, I would like to make a modest suggestion -- and that
is that when they take their exams in December, they be judged not only on
the basis of legal reasoning, but creative writing.  (Laughter.)

     I also want to credit one other person for the remarkable fidelity
Georgetown students and Georgetown lawyers have had to public service over
the years.  My freshman philosophy teacher, Father Otto Hentz, used to say
that the Jesuits are convinced there was only one serious scriptural
omission on the first chapter of Genesis:  God created politics and God saw
that it was good.  (Laughter.)

     You would get quite an argument, I think, from some people on that.
But Georgetown has always been there for America's body politick, and we
are a better nation because of it.

     The Eric Hotung International Law Center Building will house work that
will in no small measure shape the kind of nation we are and the kind of
world we live in, in the 21st century.

     The 20th century raised a lot of questions of lasting concerns -- of
ethnic and religious conflict, of the uses and abuses to science,
technology, and organization, and of the relationship between science and
economic activity and the environment.

     But the 20th century resolved one big question, I believe,
conclusively.  Humanity's best hope for a future of peace and prosperity
lies in free people and free market democracies governed by the rule of

     What Harry Truman said after World War II is even more true today.  He
said:  "We are in the position now of making the world safe for democracy
if we don't crawl in the shell and act selfish and foolish."  Sometimes,
his unvarnished rhetoric was more effective than more strained eloquence.
We are, today, in a position to make the world more free and prosperous if
we don't crawl in the shell and act selfish and foolish.

     The scope of the challenge is quite large.  In the 1990s, more people
won their freedom than ever before in human history.  People in nations
like Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Indonesia, now elect their own leaders.  But
it is just a first step.  Without a strong and independent judiciary, civil
society, transparent governance, and a free press to hold leaders
accountable, the world's new democracies easily could sink under the weight
of corruption, inequity and poor government.

     I read an op-ed piece by The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman a
few months ago, which captured the experience I've had in this job for
nearly eight years now, when he said, "Americans were born as a nation
skeptical of government."  Our constitution was designed to limit

     And then we had a decade when we were told by all of our politicians
how bad government is, but the truth is, that in many parts of the world
today, human freedom is limited by weak and ineffective government, without
the capacity to deliver the good, honor the rule of law, and provide a
transparent environment so that investment can come in to lift the lives of
people.  Without democratic elections, laws can too easily be a toll of
oppression, not an instrument of justice.  But without the rule of law,
elections simply offer a choice of dictators.

     Building a rule of law is hard work.  If you just look at our own
history, you get, perhaps, the most persuasive illustration.  We
established our right to elect our leaders before independence.  Even with
independence, we still, in 1776, had no national executive, no system of
courts, only a weak legislature.

     The Articles of Confederation came five years after independence, but
failed.  The Constitution was ratified 13 years after independence and was
quickly amended.  And it was not until Marbury versus Madison in 1803, 27
years after the Declaration of Independence, that the courts established
their rights to check the power of elected leaders.

     Of course, when we started, only white male property owners could
vote.  It wasn't until the end of the Civil War that African Americans were
treated as citizens.  Women didn't gain the right to vote until the 20th
century.  We are still very much a work in progress.  And we need to take
that humbling thought into account when we give advice to others in
building their future.

     When the Soviet Union collapsed, it had no laws relating to private
property or public elections or freedom of the press.  In 1993, we launched
a rule of law project that helped Russia draft a new civil code, a criminal
code, a tax code and bankruptcy law.  We also helped Russia to separate its
judicial system from the Executive Branch, train judges in commercial law,
support Russian law school.  It was not a panacea, but it did help to
create the foundation on which Russia can build.

     The same need for stronger legal institutions is apparent in China,
especially because of its impending entry into the World Trade
Organization, which, as all of you know, I think is a very, very good
thing.  It's more than an economic opportunity, because it can set China on
a course that will diminish the role of government in its economy and its
people's lives, while involving China in an international system of rules
and responsibility and mutual interdependence.

     China will have to make fundamental changes to meet its WTO
obligations, restructure its industries, publish laws that have long been
secret, establish procedures for settling disputes, create a level playing
field for foreign firms.  China has asked us for help in developing its
legal expertise and legal system.  We should provide it.  And I expect
Georgetown will be part of that effort.

     This past summer Professor James Feinerman and Professor John Jackson
and other Georgetown faculty met with some 25 senior government officials
in China, from China, to advise them on structural reforms they will be
making as they become fully participating members in the World Trade

     Since a Georgetown law professor helped Germany draft its democratic
articles of government after the second world war, Georgetown law
professors have been active the world over, helping nations to establish
democratic legal structures, from Estonia to Mexico, from South Africa to
Mongolia.  Next summer, you will begin an international judicial,
educational and exchange program, to allow judges from other countries to
come here to discuss with United States judges how to build a judiciary
that is both independent and competent.

     These efforts illustrate how America's experience should be put to use
to advance the rule of law, where democracy's roots are looking for room
and strength to grow.  But in many parts of the world, people still
struggle just to plant the seeds of democracy.  For the last decade, one of
the most important and gripping such places has been the former Yugoslavia.
Eight years ago, the region was engulfed by war, caused by Mr. Milosevic's
desire to build a greater Serbia.  It's easy to forget how very close he
came to succeeding.  If he had, it would have led to a permanent
humanitarian tragedy and an end to the vision of an undivided democratic

     But with our allies, we stood against ethnic cleansing and stood by
democratic forces fighting for change.  From Sarajevo to Pristina, the
carnage has ended.  Croatia is a democracy, Bosnians are now waging their
battles at the ballot box, the control of Milosevic and his dictatorship is
now limited to Serbia.  And this weekend, it appears, because of brave
people casting their ballot, he has lost the last vestige of legitimacy.

     The OSCE and the EU have concluded that this election was marred by
widespread irregularity.  Experienced international observers were
prevented from monitoring the election.  But, still, the people of Serbia
showed up in overwhelming numbers.  And despite the government's attempt to
manipulate the vote, it does seem clear that the people have voted for
change.  And the question is:  will the government listen and respond.

     I do not underestimate Mr. Milosevic's desire to cling to power at the
expense of the people.  I have witnessed it, lived with it and responded to
it firsthand.  But after this weekend's vote, we should not underestimate
the people of Serbia's determination to seek freedom and a different and
more positive force in the face of violence and intimidation.

     Neither should Americans underestimate the extent to which this vote
is about Serbia, its people and its future.  Indeed, the opposition
candidate also disagreed with our policy in Kosovo.  I am under no
illusions that a new government in Serbia would automatically lead to a
rapprochement between the two of us, and any new leader of Serbia should
pursue, first and foremost, the interests of its own people.  But if the
will of the people is respected, the doors to Europe and the world will be
open again to Serbia.  We will take steps with our allies to lift economic
sanctions, and the people of Serbia, who have suffered so much, finally
will have a chance to lead normal lives.

     I hope that day is arriving, and when it does, people of goodwill
will, around the world, help the people of Serbia to build and strengthen
the institutions of a free market democracy.  Some of you in this room will
be needed in that effort.  The persistence of people with your expertise,
the institutions of our country, especially the Georgetown Law Center, will
make an enormous difference in the future.

     Let me close with just one very personal thought.  The law gives
people a way to live together, to resolve their differences, to be rewarded
when they should and punished when they're particularly destructive.  But
the idea is, it embodies our most fundamental values and applies it to
practical circumstances so that even when we have differences, we find a
way to abide a decision that is made.

     It will be more and more important in the years ahead, because the
world is growing more interdependent.  It embodies the idea just because
there are rules that all of us are created equal, and that we should be
treated blindly, without regard to our race, our religion, our ethnicity,
our condition of ability or disability; whether we're straight or gay,
whether we're Asian or European or African or Latin American.

     The whole idea of the American law, embodied in the ideals of our
Constitution and continuously perfected, is that we are all equal and that
we are growing more interdependent.  If we were completely independent,
we'd have no need for law.  We'd just be out there doing our own thing.
And if we weren't equal in the eyes of the law, the law would be a monster
and an instrument of oppression.

     So the law is our society's attempt to reconcile our deep belief in
independence, and our understanding that interdependence is what enables us
to make progress and to give our lives more meaning.  The world is more
interdependent than ever before.  If we can find a way for people to
believe that, through the law, we can create an environment in which
everybody is better off, in which no group or individual is seeking to make
unfair gains at anyone else's expense, then the world's most peaceful and
prosperous and exciting time lies ahead.

     Then I'm not worried about what use we will make of the marvelous
mysteries of the human genome.  I'm not worried about whether some nation
will abuse what they find out in the deepest depths of the ocean or the
black holes of outer space.  I'm not even worried about our ability somehow
to find a way to deal with the terrorists, and their ability to use the
marvels of new technology for biological, chemical and other weapons.
We'll deal with it fine, as long as we remain committed to the integrity of
the individual, but the interdependence within and beyond our borders.
     Or, to go back to Mr. Truman's words, if we're not too stupid and too
selfish, the best is still out there, and the law will lead us.

     Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

                      END        12:59 P.M. EDT

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