[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book II)]
[December 21, 1993]
[Pages 2196-2198]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Honoring UNICEF Health Heroes
December 21, 1993

    Thank you. Thank you very much, Jim. Hillary and I are delighted to 
have you and so many of your friends from around America here today for 
the presentation of this report. We especially appreciate the presence 
here--I see Senator Leahy, Senator Sarbanes, and Congressman Obey. I 
don't know if Senator Dole and Congressman Porter are here, but I think 
they were coming. I'm delighted to see, from the administration, Tim 
Wirth from the State Department; Secretary Shalala from HHS; our United 
Nations Ambassador, Madeleine Albright; our AID Administrator, Brian 
Atwood; and the Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders. There are many 
other distinguished people here, but most of all I'm glad to see the 
children here. For after all, we're here to celebrate a season filled 
with the joy of children and to remind ourselves of much of the work 
still to be done.
    James Agee once wrote, ``In every child who is born under no matter 
what circumstances, the potentiality of the human race is born again, 
and in him, too, our terrific responsibility toward human life, toward 
the utmost idea of goodness, the horror of error, and of God.'' We are 
here in part to note the outstanding work of the fine man who just 
    Jim Grant and UNICEF are among the best

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friends any child could have. UNICEF was the driving force behind the 
historic world summit for children 3 years ago when leaders of 150 
nations met to define the goals for improving health and welfare of our 
children by the year 2000. Jim and UNICEF continue to see that all the 
rest of us do our part to make progress toward those goals.
    Today, with the annual State of the World's Children Report, UNICEF 
lays down another marker for the rest of us. The U.S. Agency for 
International Development also releases its own report on child 
survival. And these impressive reports both mark the progress that has 
been made as well as outlining what still we must do. They document, for 
example, that over the past decade the international community has 
reduced the instances of some of the world's worst childhood diseases: 
measles, polio, and neo-natal tetanus, by over half. Yet we have still 
so much to do. Around the world, children suffer more than anyone else 
from poverty, malnutrition, disease, environmental decay, and even armed 
conflict. Today and every day in villages and neighborhoods around the 
globe, 30,000 children will die from malnutrition and preventable 
disease. As Jim has noted, behind each of these statistics there's a 
face, a family, a set of hopes and dreams, and a future that now will 
never be.
    And while the plight of children abroad is especially acute, we must 
never forget that poverty, hunger, and disease are not strangers to our 
children here in the United States. One of every five of our children 
lives in poverty. By the time they're 15 years old, nearly one-third of 
our children in inner cities will have known someone who has died 
violently. One of my highest goals is to see that the next generation of 
our children grows up with more health, more security, more safety, and 
more hope than those of this generation. That's one of the reasons why 
we worked so hard for the Family and Medical Leave Act, for the new 
crime bill, for the Brady bill, and perhaps most importantly, for 
universal health care coverage for all of our people.
    The First Lady and Secretary Shalala and others are working on a 
health care reform plan that, when enacted, will provide complete 
preventive care and health security for over 8 million American children 
that today are uninsured. We're working to boost the immunization rate 
of our 2-year-olds to 90 percent; striving to ensure adequate nutrition 
for all of our children, including full funding for the women, infants 
and children's feeding program; fighting the plague of violence against 
our children; and committed also to improving the lives of children in 
other lands, not out of simple charity but also out of prudence, because 
investing in the children of the world can be the most cost-effective 
way not only to relieve suffering but to advance economies, to promote 
self-sufficiency, to promote democracy, and to avert future conflicts.
    There have been times when the fight for the world's children seemed 
to be a losing one. But the children's summit and related events have 
transformed that frustration into hope. Our own Nation can take pride in 
decades of our leadership, with bipartisan support here at home on 
behalf of worldwide efforts to improve children's health.
    The continuing leadership of this Nation is revealed in the work of 
the six health heroes we will honor here today and countless others like 
them. Building on their contributions and concentrating on the most 
cost-effective way of helping children, we're making great strides in 
areas like immunization and child nutrition. We're determined to build 
on this progress.
    Under the direction of AID Director Brian Atwood, we proposed an 
overhaul of our foreign assistance programs to reflect new times and new 
priorities. At the heart of this is a vision for sustainable development 
centered on human development, a vision that will help us to make 
progress in child health, population, and environmental protection, a 
cause the Vice President has done so much to advance. Working with 
UNICEF and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations, we want 
to make those goals at the children's summit come true. That's the best 
Christmas present we could give to the world.
    So today I call on Americans in private and public life to join with 
leaders in developing nations to help ensure that we do make tangible 
progress, especially in three key areas. First, by the year 2000, we 
ought to set our sights on getting 90 percent of the world's children 
vaccinated for measles and on virtually eradicating polio, as surely as 
the world eradicated smallpox decades ago. Second, we should strive to 
give at least 80 percent of the world's children access to lifesaving 
treatment for the world's two biggest childhood killers, diarrhea and 

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Third, on nutrition, the world can make enormous improvements through 
simple steps such as eliminating Vitamin A deficiency, which can be 
deadly, and by promoting more breast feeding for infants.
    These are simple low-cost strategies. They don't require space-age 
technology. They rely on basic medicines, inexpensive vaccines, 
drinkable water, access to family planning, and expanded educational 
opportunities, especially for women and girls. And we can afford to do 
our part in this effort because the financial burden will be shared 
among many nations.
    If we let the world's children suffer, we know that in time we'll 
reap a bitter harvest of despair and desperation and violence. We know 
that when children grow up healthy and nurtured, they're more likely to 
do better by their own children, they're more likely to become citizens 
and contributors, more likely to add to the global marketplace. This is 
how free societies and open markets evolve, how global progress happens, 
how future friends of the United States and these children will be 
    We still call this, I think instructively, the post-cold-war era. 
The problem with that designation is it tells us where we've been but 
not where we're going. We have to chart a new path, channeling the 
remarkable forces at work in this era with a bold vision of what might 
be. Let us today commit that our children and the world's children will 
figure large in that vision, that the post-cold-war era will instead be 
the world's era of peace and prosperity and humanity in which our minds 
and hearts work together to give all children a better life.
    Now I'd like to ask our six health heroes to step forward and to be 
recognized for the outstanding work they've done. First, Dr. Gretchen 
Berggren, being recognized for her lifelong commitment to the health of 
the world's children as a medical missionary and an innovator in 
community-based nutrition and primary health care; next, Dr. William 
Foege, for his long commitment to the health of the world's children 
through his global leadership on immunization goals and the eradication 
of smallpox; Dr. Norbert Hirschorn, for his distinguished career in 
public health and his leadership in demonstrating the value of oral 
rehydration therapy to change children's lives all around the world; Dr. 
Donald Hopkins, for his leadership in the global effort to eradicate 
Guinea worm and other diseases and to assure safe water and better 
sanitation to support children's health around the world; Patrice 
Jeliffe, for her lifetime commitment to the world's children as a public 
health expert, promoting breast feeding and appropriate weaning foods 
and practices in the developing world; Dr. Carl E. Taylor, for his 
sustained work around the world, from India to Beijing, which has 
demonstrated key linkages among nutrition, family size, and other 
efforts on child survival.
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:28 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Jim Grant, American Executive 
Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).