[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[September 27, 1997]
[Pages 1253-1255]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Hot Springs High School Ultimate Class Reunion in Hot 
Springs, Arkansas
September 27, 1997

    Thank you very much. What a beautiful day. What a beautiful setting. 
I want to thank all of you for being here. I thank my dear friend David 
Pryor for his introduction, for continuing to play golf with me. 
[Laughter] And I forgive him for leaving Washington. It is a poorer 

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for his absence. He served us so well there, and he graced the United 
    Thank you, Congressman Dickey, for being here today and for reaching 
across party lines, always with personal kindness, and I might say, 
always to stick up for our beloved State when it's under assault. We 
thank you for that.
    Thank you, Governor McMath, who was a hero of my childhood, a hero 
of my young manhood, and he's still my hero. I'd like to be able to give 
a talk like that today. [Laughter] I was just over visiting with my 86-
year-old aunt who graduated a year ahead of Sid McMath at Hot Springs 
High School; she was class of 1930. And I said, ``Aunt Janet, do you 
want to come on over to the high school?'' She said, ``No, I don't get 
around all that well, and I've heard you give a lot of speeches.'' And I 
said, ``Well it's not just me. It's David Pryor and Jay Dickey, and the 
mayor will be there.'' And I said, ``Oh, Sid McMath is going to be 
there.'' And she said, ``My God, he's the best-looking man and the best 
speaker I ever heard in my life.'' [Laughter] She said, ``I'll be 
there.'' [Laughter] I don't know whether she's here or not, but she said 
she was coming.
    I thank Governor McMath. I grew up as a child here living on the 
stories of how the GI's came home from World War II and took over the 
city government and the county government and cleaned it up and moved it 
forward. And I remember how Governor McMath stuck by Harry Truman when 
he was the first President who really advocated equal rights for all 
Americans, and he integrated the military, and he said we were going to 
have to get along together and go forward together. And it is in that 
tradition, I think, that so many of us try to serve. So I'm glad to see 
    And I want to say a special word of thanks to Helen Selig for being 
willing to run for mayor and serve as mayor of our hometown, because you 
have been unbelievable. Thank you so much. We thank you.
    I thank David and Keeley for being willing to cochair this effort. 
Asking people for money is always a thankless effort, but they've made 
it about as attractive as you could make it, I think, today. If you 
haven't been through here, I hope you will go.
    I want to thank all the members of my class who asked me to get 
involved in this, but especially the people who were my leaders so often 
when we were in high school: Phil Jamison, Jim French, and Carolyn 
Staley. I want to thank all the former teachers who are here. I see Mr. 
Spurlin and Mrs. Irons and Mrs. Luebben, a lot of other people--I'm sure 
Paul Root's here--see if I make any mistakes he can quote back to me 
later on. [Laughter] But all the former teachers from Hot Springs High 
School, thank you for being here. And I'll bet you we have a very good 
representation from my class. Who's here from the class of '64, raise 
your hands. [Applause] That's the most timid response I ever got. 
[Laughter] Judge Woods, thank you for coming.
    Ladies and gentlemen, one of the things that has most bothered me as 
Hillary and I have worked in education over the last 20 years now, and 
as I have become President and had the chance to travel around the 
country and go into schools of all sizes and shapes all across America, 
is the dramatic decline in the offerings in the arts: in music, in other 
performing arts, in the visual arts.
    We have so much evidence that children who have difficulties in 
their lives, that children who may come from disadvantaged backgrounds 
but may have a spark of mathematical ability, for example, do much 
better if they're given access to a music program. We have so much 
evidence that children who may have been emotionally scarred in some way 
may find a healthy and positive and wholesome way to get out of it if 
they're given a chance to be in a theater program, or to paint, or to do 
something else that gives some positive outlet to their energies and 
their feelings.
    And we ought to be raising whole people. What we really want--since 
we know that over 90 percent of society's work can be done by over 90 
percent of us--what we really have to raise are people that are whole, 
that are good, that have good values, but that are at peace with 
themselves, that are free to make good lives for themselves and, 
therefore, make a good future for our country.
    So I think this is important because it's the kind of thing that 
ought to be done by people everywhere, to give our children a chance to 
have a full life. Here, it's even more important because we have so many 
people with artistic gifts who come here to live. Some of them come here 
to retire. When I walked in all the rooms there, I saw people of all 
ages doing all different kinds of things. And it will make us an even

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better magnet. It will be a wonderful complement to the music festival, 
to the documentary film festival, to the school of math and science. 
It's something that makes, again, our town special. So I thank you for 
all of that.
    Let me also say, the only thing I'm not sure I like about this is, I 
really don't think I'm old enough to have anything named after me. 
[Laughter] I thought you had to have at least one leg in the grave 
before they'd name anything for you. [Laughter] But if it helps raise 
another nickel, I accept, and I thank you. I'm profoundly honored.
    Let me also say to all of you that if we really want to recover all 
the resources of this community and you want it to go into the next 
century with all the things that can happen here--if you go back to the 
19th century, there's hardly a community anywhere within 500 miles that 
has a more unique history and that has more unique manifestations of 
that history still around, over the last 100 years or so--but if we want 
it to be that way, we're going to have to find a way to pay to develop 
    And David and Keeley have stuck their necks out, and we need to 
support them, both individually and corporately. They need help from our 
businesses and help from people who can afford to do it in accordance 
with their ability to pay. And I will do what I can to help to raise the 
funds as well. But we also need a large number of small contributions by 
people who may just be able to give a modest amount.
    But I want this to be the people's house. I want you to feel when we 
get this done that it's not my name up there, that it's yours, every one 
of you if you contribute to it, when you go through these doors. And 
your children and your grandchildren and your parents and your 
grandparents may be there. That's what we're trying to do.
    Finally, I can't help saying after what Governor McMath did that 
there are a lot of people I'm sure we all wish were here today. I know 
Governor McMath wishes the men who fought in the Second World War with 
him who didn't come home were here. All of us wish that our parents were 
here. We wish our teachers who aren't living anymore were here. I wish 
our four classmates who died in Vietnam and the others who have died 
since then were here.
    But I guess most of all, I wish Johnnie Mae Mackey were here. And 
apparently so does Carol Wilson. So I would like to ask Johnnie Mae's 
incarnation to come up here and lead us in a little round of hullabaloo. 
[Laughter] Thank you all so much. God bless you. Let's make this a 
success, what do you say?
    Cheerleaders, cheerleaders, come on. I swear, this is living 
evidence of a comment that I made the other day that our cheerleaders 
still all can fit in their uniforms. Here they are. [Laughter] Come on.
    Now, for those of us who were here when Johnnie Mae Mackey ran this 
school--[laughter]--you know, everybody that came out of this high 
school and went in the Marine Corps during the period that Johnnie Mae 
Mackey ran the school found that it was a step down in discipline and 
order. [Laughter] So try to visualize those magic days now.

Note: The President spoke at 12:17 p.m. on the front steps of the 
historic Hot Springs High School which became a junior high school in 
1968. In his remarks, he referred to former Senator David Pryor; Sidney 
McMath, former Arkansas Governor; Mayor Helen Selig of Hot Springs; 
David French, chair, and Keeley Ardman DeSalvo, cochair, William 
Jefferson Clinton Cultural Campus; Phil Jamison, president, Jim French, 
vice president, and Carolyn Yeldell Staley, secretary, class of 1964; 
Virgil Spurlin, the President's high school band director; Edith Irons, 
Lonnie Luebben, and Paul Root, teachers at Hot Springs High School; 
former Circuit Court Judge Henry Woods; and Carolyn Wilson, who led the 
cheer following the President's remarks.