[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book II)]
[October 29, 1993]
[Pages 1857-1860]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1857]]

Remarks at the Dedication of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library 
Museum in Boston, Massachusetts
October 29, 1993

    Thank you very much, Senator Kennedy, for those moving words and for 
your friendship and your leadership. Jackie and Caroline and John and 
all the members of the Kennedy family here assembled--Congressman 
Kennedy, I thank you for those fine remarks--distinguished Senators and 
Members of Congress and Governors here present and all of the rest of 
you who share a part of this historic day.
    I want you to know that I felt very much at home today when I got 
out of the car and the Harvard band was playing the Yale song. And it 
reminded me of the time when President Kennedy got a degree from Yale, 
and he said he had the best of all worlds, a Harvard education and a 
Yale degree. [Laughter] I had the Harvard band and the Yale song. 
Harvard has higher standards. They haven't offered me a degree yet. But 
for some of us, music is more important than degrees. [Laughter]
    The great champion of Irish mythology was the young warrior Cu 
Chulainn. According to legend, he was a hero without peer among mortals. 
One day a priest told him, ``You will be splendid and renowned but 
short-lived.'' Cu Chulainn replied, ``It is a wonderful thing if I am 
but one day and one night in the world, provided that my fame and deeds 
live after me.''
    Like Cu Chulainn's legend, John Kennedy's fleeting time among us 
remains a singular story in the history of our great Nation. He was our 
President for only a thousand days, but as has been said so eloquently 
by members of his family, he changed the way we think about our country, 
our world, and our own obligations to the future. He dared Americans to 
join him on an adventure he called the New Frontier. Listen now to what 
he said then: ``The new frontier of which I speak is not a set of 
promises. It is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to 
offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them.'' He 
inspired millions of us to take a very personal responsibility for 
moving our country forward and for advancing the cause of freedom 
throughout the world. He convinced us that our efforts would be both 
exciting and rewarding. He reminded us that our democracy at its best is 
a bold and daring adventure.
    Three decades have passed since President Kennedy's 3 years in 
office. But his legacy endures in the new frontiers we still explore. 
Think of his appeal for religious tolerance to the Houston Baptist 
ministers, and remember that just this week we passed in the Senate 
Senator Kennedy's religious freedom restoration act. And I thank you 
very much for that.
    Think of the appeal he made for basic civil rights, and remember 
that it was just this year that we passed the motor voter act, which was 
the most important piece of civil rights legislation passed in a long 
time, and that we now have, I am proud to say, the most racially diverse 
administration in the history of the United States.
    From his creation of the Peace Corps to the creation of the National 
Service Corps, which drew inspiration from City Year here in his own 
hometown of Boston, we see a common thread of challenging our young 
people to a higher calling. From his launching of the space program to 
the preservation and pursuit of the space station this year, we see a 
continued willingness of Americans, even in difficult economic time, to 
explore the outer reaches of our universe. From his quest for health 
care security for our elderly Americans to the quest for health security 
for all Americans embodied in the bill that the First Lady and I 
presented to Congress this week, we see a seamless thread of 
determination to finally dissolve one of the most persistent domestic 
problems in the history of the United States. From his pursuit of a 
nuclear test ban treaty to our efforts to stem the proliferation of all 
weapons of mass destruction, to actually dismantle much of the world's 
nuclear arsenal, we see a common effort for America to be leading the 
cause of human preservation against nuclear annihilation.
    John Kennedy embodied an expansive, can-do outlook toward events 
beyond our shores as well as the challenges at home. He believed that 
billions of lives depend upon our leadership and our ideals, and in turn 
that our own security and prosperity are tied to reaching out to the 
rest of the world. That is why his picture still

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hangs today in homes not only in the Irish wards of Boston and Chicago 
but also in villages and towns from Africa to Latin America.
    John Kennedy's early years were a time when most Americans did not 
believe we should be much engaged in the world. America turned inward 
after World War I, unwilling to assume the new burdens of the peace. ``A 
return to normalcy,'' it was called, but in truth it was a retreat from 
the hard-won fields of victory. No fireman in Boston would dare turn off 
the hose prematurely and leave a smoldering house. But that is exactly 
what America did in the 1920's and the 1930's. And we paid the price in 
a Draconian peace and restricted trade and higher tariffs and a Great 
Depression and lost jobs, ruined lives, the rise of fascism abroad, and 
a terrible Second World War that took the lives of more American young 
people than any war except for our own Civil War.
    Jack Kennedy came home from that Second World War with a lifelong 
lesson: America could not withdraw from the world. Unless we work to 
shape events, we will be shaped by them, often in ways that put us at 
great risk.
    A new generation of Americans after the Second World War learned 
that lesson with him. Together they rebuilt Japan and Europe and 
contained Soviet expansionism. They founded the institutions of post-war 
security and prosperity. And by choosing to reach out rather than turn 
inward, they brought the American people a period of economic growth and 
security unparalleled in our history. The great middle class was built, 
and the American dream was born in the lives of Americans, not merely in 
the eyes of their parents.
    Today, we stand at a similar moment of high decision. The end of the 
cold war has left a world of change in its wake. The Soviet empire and 
the Soviet Union itself are no more. Russia, once our nuclear adversary, 
is now our partner in reducing the nuclear threat and in expanding 
democracy. Ancient animosities in the Middle East are yielding to the 
promise of peace, a transformation made tangible to billions of people 
last month in a simple stunning handshake. After decades of apartheid, 
the Nobel Prize for Peace has gone to two leaders of different colors 
working for one nonracial democracy in South Africa.
    These shifts have been accompanied, and in many cases pushed, by 
other great changes in the world, those brought about by the 
communications revolution and the new global marketplace, 
entrepreneurial in spirit, intensely competitive and as fast moving as 
light itself. We see the consequences all around us here in America, in 
our workplaces, our families, our cities and towns. Some of those 
consequences are not at all promising. The promise of peace, freedom, 
and democracy is still thwarted in many places in the world. The promise 
of prosperity is an illusion to millions of people, not only in poor 
countries but increasingly in wealthy countries.
    Here at home as in all other rich countries, we have had our 
difficulties in creating jobs and raising incomes. Technology in the 
moment is not leading to growth and prosperity for millions of our 
people. We see that in rising sets of insecurities all across America, 
people more insecure about their jobs, their health care, their 
communities, their children's education, and their very safety.
    The new global economy is dominated by democracy but marred by wars 
and oppressions. It is expanded by new technologies and vast new 
horizons but limited by slow growth and stagnant jobs and incomes. 
Nonetheless, this new global economy is our new frontier.
    Our generation must now decide, just as John Kennedy and his 
generation had to decide at the end of World War II, whether we will 
harness the galloping changes of our time in the best tradition of John 
Kennedy and the post-war generation, to the well-being of the American 
people, or withdraw from the world and recoil from our own problems as 
we did after World War I. Will we be the Americans of the 1920's, or 
will we be the Americans of the late forties and early fifties? Will we 
be the Americans who lifted John Kennedy to the Presidency or the 
Americans who turned away from the world and paid the price?
    President Kennedy understood these challenges of change. He believed 
in opening the world's trading system. But he also believed we needed to 
help America's workers who did not win from the expansion of trade to 
adjust to the rigors of that trade and international competition.
    In 1962, to help workers adjust when they lost their jobs because of 
trade so that they could then get jobs that would be created by an 
expanded global economy, John Kennedy proposed and the Congress created 
the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program. And he said--

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listen to this--in 1962, ``Economic isolation and political leadership 
are wholly incompatible. The United States has encouraged sweeping 
changes in free world economic patterns in order to strengthen the 
forces of freedom. But we cannot ourselves stand still. We must adapt 
our own economy to the imperatives of a changing world and once more 
assert our leadership.''
    Once again, we must make clear to the American people that our 
success at home relies on our engagement abroad, that we must face our 
problems at home and reach out to the world at the same time. Even more 
than in President Kennedy's day, the line between foreign and domestic 
interests is rapidly disappearing. Millions of our best jobs are tied to 
our ability to trade and sell our products around the world. And our 
ability to create millions more depends clearly on our ability to work 
with our friends and neighbors and partners to expand global economic 
opportunities. That is why we must compete and not retreat, why more 
than ever before a concern for what happens within our borders, down to 
the smallest rural town or the most thriving neighborhood in any city, 
depends upon a concern for what we do beyond our borders.
    Over recent months, that imperative has been at the core of this 
administration's agenda. We've worked to support reform in Russia and 
the other states of the former Soviet Union. We've put our relations 
with Japan on a new foundation that pays more attention to the economic 
dynamics of the relationship between our two nations. We've pushed for a 
new worldwide trade accord through the GATT talks. But there is no 
better example of what we have tried to do to reach out to the world 
than our attempt to secure an agreement for a North American free trade 
zone with Canada and Mexico, one that can create 200,000 new jobs for 
this country by 1995, open a vast new market, make 90 million friends, 
and set a stage for moving to embrace all of Latin America, 700 million 
people strong, in a trading unit that will bring prosperity to them and 
to us.
    Last night in New York I told an audience of corporate executives 
that if they want Americans to support free trade instead of oppose it 
at a time of great insecurity, they should support the Americans who 
will not only win but who will be temporarily dislocated; that they 
should support a new, more modern version of trade adjustment assistance 
that will work for this time; that they had no right to ask the American 
people, any of them, even one of them, to sacrifice unless we were going 
to make a common investment so that we could grow in the spirit of 
common community interest in this country and with Latin America.
    But today I say to you that our choice is about even more than 
dollars; that just as business people must take care of workers and 
invest in their future, Americans as a whole, without regard to their 
economic standing, must understand that our national destiny depends 
upon our continuing to reach out. That's why here in Boston, Congressman 
Kennedy, his predecessor Speaker O'Neill, from the congressional seat 
that John Kennedy once occupied, have endorsed this new expansion of 
America's interest. And I believe if President Kennedy were still 
representing that seat in Congress, he would endorse it as well.
    If you remember when President Kennedy endorsed the Alliance for 
Progress, the Latin American countries were moving toward more 
accountable government and more open economies. And then a lot of 
reversals took place and Latin America went into a period of real 
upheaval, political oppression, economic devastation. It is all changing 
again now. Their efforts are being rewarded: more and more democracies, 
the second fastest growing region of the world, and a real desire to be 
our close friends.
    President Roosevelt advocated a good neighbor policy toward Latin 
America. President Kennedy called it the Alliance for Progress. We know 
that we cannot have a bad neighbor policy. We know that we cannot have 
an alliance to protect ourselves at their expense. We know that the 
people who want to buy our products and share our future ought to have a 
chance to help us to solve our problems at home, even as we help them to 
pursue their own destiny.
    Let us not send a signal by defeating this agreement that we are 
turning our backs on our neighbors and the rest of the world. Let us 
reach out to the people here in our home, throughout America, who do not 
support these endeavors because they have been ravaged by the economic 
changes of the last 15 years and they have not had their cries, their 
pains, their frustrations heeded by their National Government. Let us 
heed them. But let us not adopt a remedy for their just complaints that 
makes their problems worse. Let us extend ourselves in the world and 
invest in their future here

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at home. We can do that. That is the right answer.
    Mr. Justice Holmes was quoted by Senator Kennedy. He once said that 
we must all be involved in the action and passion of our time for fear 
of being judged not to have lived. No one would ever level that 
indictment against John Kennedy.
    This is our decisive moment. This is the end of the cold war. This 
is the dawn of the 21st century. There are many complex, frustrating 
problems which have very simple and profound and often painful impacts 
in the lives of the people that we have all struggled to serve. But in 
these moments, we have to reach deep into ourselves, to our deepest 
values, to our strongest spirit, and reach out, not shrink back. In 
these moments our character is tested as individuals and as a nation. 
The problems we share today are widely shared by other advanced nations. 
No one has all the answers, but we do know one thing: We will never find 
the answer if we don't continue on the journey. If we turn back to a 
proven path of failure, we will never know what we might have become in 
a new and different age where thankfully, hopefully, my daughter, our 
children, and our grandchildren will at least be free of the fear of 
nuclear destruction and where at least most of the competition we face 
will be based on what is in our minds, not what is in our hands in the 
forms of weapons.
    I tell you, my fellow Americans, for all the difficulties at this 
age, this is an age many generations of our predecessors would have 
prayed to live in. These are the challenges so many of our predecessors 
would have longed to embrace. How can we turn away from them?
    What we owe John Kennedy today at this museum is to make the museum 
come alive not only in our memories but in our actions. Let us embrace 
the future with vigor. Let us say we can never expect too little of 
ourselves. Let us never demand too little of each other. Let us never 
walk away from the legacy of generations of Americans who themselves 
have paved the way. Let us be more like those Americans who came home 
after the Second World War and less like those who withdrew after the 
First World War.
    The 21st century can be our century if we approach it with the 
vigor, the determination, the wisdom, and the sheer confidence and joy 
of life that John Kennedy brought to America in 1960.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:41 a.m. at the Steven E. Smith Center.