[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[January 4, 1995]
[Pages 15-17]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Dedication of William Jefferson Clinton Elementary
Magnet School in Sherwood

January 4, 1995

    Thank you very much. First of all, I want to thank Mario. He gave a 
pretty good speech, didn't he? I mean--[applause]--give him a hand. He 
looked fine. He spoke with confidence and strength. And he was brief. 
He's going to win a lot more elections if he keeps doing that. 
    Jackye Parker, thank you for making Hillary and me and all of us 
feel so welcome today. Reedie Ray, thank you for your leadership on the 
school board and for your comments. To my old friend Bobby Lester, thank 
you for your heartfelt remarks and for your lifetime of devotion to the 
children of our State. To the teachers and the parents, the district 
officials, all of you who are here; to the mayors of Little Rock and 
North Little Rock, of Jacksonville and Sherwood; to the county 
officials, I'd like to say a special word of welcome and thanks for 
their attendance. To Governor and Mrs. Tucker, thank you for being here 
and for your leadership of our State. I thank my dear stepfather, Dick 
Kelley, for coming here today. I am glad to have him and the Clinton 
connection here. And I thank my pastor, Reverend Rex Horn, for coming. 
Thank you for being here, and many others I probably should introduce.
    I just was in the media center named for Hillary, and we met with a 
representative group of students who asked us questions, everything from 
whether Socks really sleeps in the White House to how I handle 
criticism. So if I forgot to introduce someone, we'll see how I handle 
criticism when this is over. [Laughter]
    This is a wonderful way for us to start the new year. I've had a 
great stay at home, and this is a great way for me to leave Arkansas to 
go back to begin work with the new Congress and facing our new future.
    You know, I was apprehensive when I heard that you were going to 
name this school after me. Most people don't have a school named after 
them until they're not around anymore. [Laughter] And here I am, 
apparently healthy and able to enjoy it and very, very happy about it 
and proud of it. I'm proud of it because so much of my work as Governor 
of this State and so much of my work as President of our country is tied 
to education and to the absolute necessity for all of our people to be 
able to learn and learn and learn.
    I thank you for making this dedication a family affair, for naming 
the multipurpose room for my mother, and especially for naming the 
library and media center for Hillary, because as Mr. Lester especially 
knows, she worked very, very hard to take all the districts in our 
county here out of court and put them back in the business of teaching 
our children and to help create these magnet schools which could be a 
magnet for the imagination and the potential of all the children of this 
area without regard to their race or their background or their family 
    I thank you for your mission, which is a real picture of America's 
future, core knowledge, technology with a special emphasis on 
communications. If you think about it, we all need more core knowledge 
in a society where success is based on what you know and not just how 
hard you work. We all need to master technology because our society is 
changing so fast. When these children are our age, they will be dealing 
with things in technology that we cannot even imagine now.
    And we all need to learn how to communicate with one another better, 
because while we want to be independent, we know that we are dependent 
on one another for our common success. And unless we can understand each 
other and communicate our deepest feelings and values and convictions, 
we won't be successful.
    You know, when I was a Governor here, I had a very clear sense that 
Arkansas needed

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to work on two things above all others. One is to create more jobs and 
to be more competitive in getting jobs into this State. The other was to 
provide for the education of our children and the training of our adults 
so that we could compete and win in this tough global economy. It took a 
long time to do it. I am very proud of the work that Governor Tucker and 
the others at our State level and all the folks at the local are still 
doing in that regard.
    The day before yesterday I heard something that was music to my ears 
when one of the Governor's economic development officers told me that 
the toughest problem they're facing now in recruiting new industry is 
trying to convince people from other States and other countries that 
there really will be enough people here to fill those new jobs, because 
we have the lowest unemployment rate we've had in nearly 20 years. That 
is a wonderful, wonderful circumstance.
    And I want every one of you to know, as I'm sure you do, that that 
didn't happen overnight. The credit goes to thousands, indeed tens of 
thousands of people, who worked for years and years and years to turn 
our State around economically and to build our State up educationally.
    If you think about where America is today, poised on the 21st 
century, that is what we need to be doing in the United States. And we 
need to understand that just as our State couldn't turn all of its 
challenges around overnight, neither can the United States. But unless 
we begin and unless we stick at the task and unless we refuse to be 
diverted, to be jerked from one end of the spectrum to the other, and 
keep our eye on the future, we cannot succeed.
    These children deserve a future that is worthy of the work being 
done by the teachers, the parents in this school. That's what they 
deserve, and we've got to give it to them.
    I have worked hard for 2 years to try to clean up some of the 
problems I found when I became President. We have taken now $11,000 in 
debt off of the family--every family in Arkansas by reducing the 
deficit--$11,000 off of these children's future. We have expanded the 
ability of Americans to sell our goods and services to other countries, 
more than ever before. And we now have more than 5 million new jobs in 
our country.
    But we know that a lot of folks are still struggling with the same 
problems we dealt with here for so many years: how to get and keep a 
good job, how to provide health care and education and other necessities 
for their families, how to make sure their children have a good 
education. And so, as I leave to go back to Washington, I'm going back 
to challenge the Congress to do what is necessary to guarantee the 
future of the next generation of Americans, and this present--of this 
generation of Americans as we move into the 21st century. I want them to 
adopt what I call a middle class bill of rights, to keep the American 
dream alive by promoting education and strengthening family. And I hope 
the Congress will adapt and accept that challenge.
    You know, anybody can come up and say, ``I want to give you a tax 
cut,'' and make people happy in the short run. What I want to do is 
reduce taxes for people to invest in the education of their children and 
their own training and skills, so we can go forward and grow this 
    So I say to all of you--I got a question from one of the students 
today that I want every grownup here to think about as we think about 
what we want for our country. One of the students asked me when we were 
in the other room meeting, he said, ``How did you not give up on your 
dreams of being President?'' So I ask all of you, first of all, do you 
have a dream, and second, how are you going to not give up on it, just 
like the young student asked me?
    My dream for our country is that when we go into this next century 
we will still be the strongest country in the world, leading the world 
toward peace and freedom and democracy and prosperity. My dream for 
America is that the American dream will still be alive, the middle-class 
dream that if you work hard and obey the law you can make the most of 
yourself, you can do anything you want to do.
    When I was born in this State right after World War II and nearly 
everybody in Arkansas was very poor, mothers and fathers were giving 
their children that dream. And we ought to give it to this generation of 
    So I say to all of you: Let's take the lessons of the children. 
Let's pay attention when people are talking to us. Let's listen to all 
sides of the argument. Let's be good citizens and discuss the great 
challenges facing our country. Let's discount all the politics of 
personal destruction

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and enhance our ability to think about what is true, what is fair, and 
what is important. Let us take responsibility for the future of this 
country and commit ourselves to economic opportunity and to education 
and to doing that in a way that strengthens the American community, so 
that we come together instead of being more and more divided.
    To the students I say: This is a beautiful building. I am honored 
that my name is on it. I am honored that a room is named for my mother 
and that a room is named for my wife, who worked so hard for your 
education. But the really important thing about the building is you. 
It's what you do here every day. I want you to learn and learn and 
    I want you to say no to the bad things that will face you. Say no to 
violence and no to drugs and no to people who want to take your future 
away from you.
    But more importantly, I want you to say yes: Yes, I have a dream for 
what I can be. Yes, I'm going to live out my dream. Yes, I'm going to do 
everything I can in this school to learn and to grow, to be a good 
person, to have a great life. That's what education is all about. I want 
you to be good people and have great lives. Then, having my name on this 
school will be the greatest honor any person could ever have.
    Good luck. God bless you, and thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:44 a.m. in the cafetorium. In his 
remarks, he referred to Mario Hood, president of the student council; 
Jackye Parker, principal; Reedie Ray, president of the board of 
education; and Bobby Lester, superintendent of schools.