[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[February 11, 1998]
[Pages 205-206]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 205]]

Remarks on Presenting the Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership
February 11, 1998

    Thank you very much, Secretary Daley, 
Secretary Herman, Mr. Woolard, Mr. Barnette; to 
Alma, Michael, 
Tammy, and Tracey Brown, welcome, and thank you for your continuing efforts. To 
Lou Gerstner and Bob Haas, congratulations. And also, I want to recognize 
representatives of our other three companies that have been recognized 
for their achievements: Al Koeppe of Public 
Service Electric and Gas Company; Roger Brown  
and Linda Mason of Bright Horizons; Dr. Wilson 
Hershey of Lancaster Labs. I'll say more 
about them in a moment.
    Ron Brown was one of the most visionary, optimistic, confident 
people I ever met in my life. As he saw it, there should never be any 
losers, only winners, if we simply bridged our differences and worked 
together. He was a very forceful advocate for American business, but he 
was also committed to building a future for all Americans. And he 
believed, and I think helped more and more Americans to understand, that 
being pro-business and pro-worker and in favor of workers' families not 
only did not have to be mutually exclusive but, in the world in which 
we're living and the one toward which we're moving, can never be 
mutually exclusive again.
    He understood the most fundamental responsibility for a business is 
to make a profit by competing and growing in the marketplace. But he 
also knew that the ingenuity, the skill, the work, and the morale of 
American people in their workplaces fuel our economy and that helping 
employees to succeed at work and at home helped the companies in the end 
more than anything else: first, creating jobs and giving employees fair 
raises, providing affordable health care, training, partnerships, safe 
workplaces; standing up for the idea that we needed everybody to have a 
fair chance to participate at every level in all American companies. All 
these things can be good for the bottom line.
    The Corporate Leadership Awards bestowed today for the first time in 
Ron's memory embodies these beliefs. Just as the Baldrige Award honors 
companies who succeed by meeting the needs of their customers, the Ron 
Brown Award honors companies who succeed by meeting the needs of their 
employees and their communities.
    I'm pleased that the award itself, encouraged by Government but 
privately funded and administered, reflects the new vision of Government 
Ron and I both worked so hard to bring to our Nation. America has now 
moved beyond the tired debate of Government should do everything or 
Government should do nothing. We have found a third way: Our vision is 
that Government should be a partner with the private sector, with State 
and local government, with community groups, with individual citizens, 
to provide Americans the tools to make the most of their own lives, to 
act as a catalyst to shine the spotlight on innovations that work in one 
place so they have a chance to be embraced everyplace in America.
    Today we shine a spotlight on five American companies who have 
proven that business can do well by doing right by their employees and 
their communities. To millions around the world here and at home, a pair 
of Levi's and an IBM computer are as American as baseball and apple pie. 
I had a pair of Levi's on last night. [Laughter] I don't wear my 
computer. [Laughter]
    I was laughing when you told the story about--when Alexis said the 
story about Ron wearing Levi's; I was remembering when I was in high 
school the neatest thing you could do was to buy a pair of Levi's and 
take the stitches out of the ``v'' on the back pockets. Now you have to 
be pretty old to remember when that was cool. But I do. [Laughter]
    These companies represent the best American creativity in marketing, 
of craftsmanship and manufacturing, and with these first-ever Ron Brown 
Awards we recognize they represent the best of our corporate 
citizenship. We honor these companies for the leading role they have 
played in ensuring America's growing diversity becomes our greatest 
strength in the 21st century as we strive to become truly one America.
    Through a longstanding commitment to work force diversity, IBM has 
fostered a corporate culture that values, cultivates, and recruits the 
talents of all our people to boardrooms, laboratories, and factories.
    We commend Levi Strauss for refusing to turn a blind eye on the 
racism that undermines the quality of life in the communities in which

[[Page 206]]

their plants are located. Through Project Change, Levi's has worked with 
local leaders all across the country--and some of them introduced here 
today--to fight old hatreds and fill the opportunity gaps between the 
races. From increasing access to credit and capital in Albuquerque to 
raising awareness about hate crimes in Knoxville, these two companies' 
efforts on behalf of diversity and against racism are models which we 
hope by this award to have followed by more companies all across the 
United States.
    I also want to pay tribute to the three companies that received 
honorable mention. I mentioned their representatives earlier: Bright 
Horizons children's centers, Lancaster Laboratories, Public Service 
Electric and Gas Company. I thank them for their leadership and 
innovation in strengthening their communities, helping their employees 
meet the responsibilities of parenthood and at work. I hope their 
successes will also inspire more companies to follow in their footsteps.
    I still miss Ron Brown a lot, and I think of him often. It's hard 
for me to believe that in a few weeks we'll celebrate--or mark--the 
second anniversary of his passing. In a very special way, every time we 
present these awards to deserving businesses, we will keep alive the 
mission that Ron Brown was on nearly two Aprils ago in the Balkans: to 
promote the idea that business can do well by doing good, that they can 
profit by bringing hope and prosperity to people.
    I know Ron is smiling down on us today. I know he's proud of the 
five companies we've honored. I know he's looking forward to the day 
when companies in every community in our Nation will have earned the 
distinction of being Ron Brown Award winners.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:32 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the 
White House. In his remarks, he referred to Edgar S. Woolard, Jr., 
chair, and Curtis H. Barnette, member, board of directors, Ron Brown 
Award for Corporate Leadership; Alma Brown, widow of former Commerce 
Secretary Ron Brown, and their children Michael, Tammy, and Tracey; 
Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., chief executive officer, IBM; Robert O. Haas, 
chief executive officer, Levi Strauss & Co.; Alfred C. Koeppe, vice 
president, Public Service Electric and Gas Company; Roger Brown and 
Linda Mason, owners, Bright Horizons; and J. Wilson Hershey, president, 
Lancaster Laboratories.