[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[April 12, 1995]
[Pages 522-524]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Arrival at Fort Benning, Georgia
April 12, 1995

    Thank you very much, Senator Nunn, General Hendrix, Congressman 
Bishop, Congressman Collins, Mayor Peters, distinguished Georgia State 
officials and members of the legislature and local and county officials 
here. I am glad to be back in Georgia. If I had known that there had 
been no President here since 1977, I would have come to Fort Benning 
earlier. I'm glad to be here a little late.
    You know, when Senator Nunn was reeling off all of the awards won by 
all the bases in Georgia, I thought to myself, well, that's why Georgia 
never suffered from any of the base closings. It had nothing to do with 
Sam Nunn's influence; it was all on the merits that you did so well. 
    I do want to say a special word of thanks to Senator Nunn for his 
leadership over so many years in behalf of a strong American military 
and especially for his counsel and advice to me after I became 
President. Having been a Governor, having never served in the Congress 
before, it was especially invaluable to have the counsel of Sam Nunn 
about matters of national security.
    As I have said many times all across this country, the mission we 
face today as a people is to move into the 21st century, now just 5 
years away, still the strongest country in the world, the world's 
greatest force for peace and freedom and democracy and still the country 
with the American dream alive, the dream that if you work hard and make 
the most of your own life, you can live up to your God-given capacities.
    I believe that in this challenging but hopeful time we have to do a 
number of very important tasks. We are up there now trying to change the 
way Government works. We've been working on that for 2 years, to make it 
smaller and less bureaucratic but still able to do the work of the 
people. We have to create more economic opportunities for our people, 
and we are working on that--over 6 million new jobs in the last 2 years.
    We have to invest in the education and training of our people. Much 
as the military has done, we must do for all Americans, and not just 
when they're young but throughout their work lives, to enable people to 
make the most of their own lives. We know clearly that in the 21st 
century, what you earn will depend upon what you can learn. And we know 
that the great divide in our country today between those that are doing 
well and those that are struggling is often defined by how much 
education they have and what they still can learn.
    And finally and still critically, we have to strengthen our security 
at home and around the world. At Fort Benning, you have done a 
magnificent job of achieving that last goal. You are fulfilling the 
mission that President Roosevelt left to us. In his last speech, which 
he did not live to deliver, Franklin Roosevelt wrote these words, ``We 
have learned in the agony of war that great power involves great 
responsibility. We as Americans do not choose to deny our 
responsibility.'' I thank you, America's soldiers, for upholding FDR's 
last commitment.
    General Hendrix gave me a brief rundown of the commands based here, 
and I know that you are all proud of your work. But let me say a special 
word of thanks to those of you who served in Somalia, to those of you 
who went to Rwanda and saved so many lives there, to those of you who 
responded so quickly when Iraq made a move last fall toward Kuwait's 
border. When we sent you to the Persian Gulf, Iraq withdrew. And I thank 
you for that, and so do the people of Kuwait.
    I have recently returned from Haiti, and I want to say a special 
word of thanks to the MP's, the engineers, the medics, the army civil-

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ians from this base who helped to give the people of Haiti a second 
chance. Ten days ago I saw dozens of hand-painted signs all across Port-
au-Prince with three simple words, ``Thank you, America.'' They were 
thanking you, Fort Benning. You did something remarkable, something 
astonishing, and something for which those people and our people should 
all be very grateful.
    I also want to congratulate you on repeating your award, the 
Commander in Chief's Army Community of Excellence Award. I was kind of 
hoping my basketball team would do that this year. [Laughter] And I know 
just how hard it is to do. Are any of you planning on going for a 
``three-peat,'' I wonder? What do you think? [Applause]
    I want to say, I know you won the last two awards with the help of 
someone who won't be around, and I'd like to especially acknowledge 
Sergeant Major Acebes, who is retiring tomorrow after 30 years. Could 
you stand up, sir? [Applause] I know a lot about him. A Ranger, a 
Special Forces soldier, a master parachutist, he's done it all. He's 
also reputed to be the best listener in the Army. He let his bulldog, 
Sister, even chew his ear off at one time. See, the President finds out 
things. [Laughter]
    Ladies and gentlemen, even though we have downsized the military 
dramatically, and many of you have helped in that process and it has 
been somewhat traumatic, I think it is fair to say that no major 
organization in the history of the United States has ever gone through 
so much change so rapidly, with such a high level of professionalism and 
commitment and ultimate success. We still have the best trained, best 
equipped, most highly motivated, most effective military in the world.
    It is now important that we do whatever we can and whatever we must 
to maintain that strength. On Monday, I was pleased to sign the defense 
supplemental appropriations bill, which will give us more funds in this 
fiscal year to maintain the readiness of our forces.
    Even as you have served as such a valuable force for America's 
security interests around the world, I would like to close by thanking 
you for being a valuable force for our long-term security here at home. 
For so many of you are role models to our young people, role models to 
those who are discouraged, who may want to quit, who may think that they 
can't make the most of their lives, who understand that they may have 
personal problems or be living in a country with big economic problems 
that they don't feel they can overcome. All of you can make a 
    And our security involves what we do here at home as well as what we 
do beyond our borders. We spent a lot of effort, the Congress and I 
have, in the last 2 years, making sure that we could reduce the Federal 
Government dramatically and give that money back to our local 
communities to hire more police officers and to take other steps to make 
our streets safer. That's a part of our security, giving our people 
reward for work, permitting them to take a little time off without 
losing their jobs or giving them help in providing health care. That's a 
part of our security.
    But doing something about the crime and the violence and the still-
rampant abuse of drugs and alcohol among our young people, that is also 
a part of our security. And I cannot tell you how many places I go 
around this country where young people who are despairing, who are 
confused, who don't know what they're going to do with their lives at 
least look at you and know that if they live by old-fashioned values and 
they support the American way, they can succeed. You are that to them.
    So I ask you, never forget that your mission in improving, 
enhancing, and protecting our security not only involves what you may be 
called upon to do in distant places around the world but what you may do 
every day just walking down a street or speaking to a child or standing 
tall so that people can see that in this country if you do the right 
thing, you can live a good life and be a great American.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at noon at Lawson Army Air Field. In his 
remarks, he referred to Maj. Gen. John W. Hendrix, Commanding General, 
and Sgt. Maj. William Acebes, Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army Infantry 
Center, Fort Benning; and Mayor Bobby Peters of Columbus, GA.

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