[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 6, 1998]
[Pages 336-337]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Second Millennium Evening at the White House
March 6, 1998

    The President. Thank you very much. And Dr. Hawking, you'll have to forgive me, I'm a little hoarse. I 
hope for some genetic improvement sometime in the next year or so. 
    Ladies and gentlemen, this was a stunning event for me and, I hope, 
for all of you. Yesterday Stephen and Elaine 
came by the White House to see Hillary and me and, as you can imagine, 
like Hillary, I had reread ``A Brief History of Time,'' and I was 
utterly terrified--[laughter]--that he would say something like, you 
know, ``I went to University College Oxford, too,'' and then he would 
ask me some incredible comparative academic question about our 
experiences there. Instead, he said, ``Was the food just as bad when you 
were there?''--[laughter]--which was a wonderful relief. [Laughter]
    Albert Einstein once said, because politics is for the present but 
an equation is something for eternity, equations were more important 
than politics. I don't know about the politics part, but Professor 
Hawking's insights into equations have altered our notions of time and 
the very nature of eternity itself. Tonight he's given us a lot to think 
about, even the ability to imagine a future in which we as humans will 
have finally captured the holy grail of physics, reconciling the 
infinitesimal with the infinite, presenting the world with the ultimate 
theory of everything. Now, when a physicist does that, he can totally 
ignore politics and buy a newspaper. [Laughter]
    The one thing I liked most about thinking about the future in 
Professor Hawking's term is that even when we reach the era of ``Star 
Trek,'' which will make a lot of our children very happy, it won't be so 
static. It will still be human and dynamic. And according to the visuals 
accompanying the lecture, it will still matter whether you can bluff at 
poker, which is encouraging. [Laughter]
    I want to get on with the questions now. And again, I want to thank 
Professor Hawking

[[Page 337]]

for the extraordinary clarity and vigor of his presentation and for 
sharing his time with us tonight and for placing this particular moment 
in the larger spectrum of time--which I think if we all could do more 
and more clearly every day, we would live happier, more productive 
    Thank you, Professor.
    Ellen, would you like to take over and 
bring in the questions?

[At this point, the question-and-answer portion of the program 

    The President. Dr. Hawking, our position is we have repealed that 
law. [Laughter]
    Let me say, first of all, in defense of my Vice President, you will all understand that he would love to be 
here, but there is a peculiar gravitational force in New Hampshire that 
manifests itself with a remarkable regularity. [Laughter] Let me also 
say that in the visual presentation accompanying Dr. Hawking's lecture, 
there was that remarkable project stamped ``canceled'' on it. This 
administration opposed the cancellation of it, I'm proud to say. 
[Laughter] But we hope that the Swiss project will take up the slack.
    There's so many questions I know you would all like to ask. We have 
hundreds of questions coming in, and one of the questions I wish there 
were time to explore is, if we do, in fact, acquire a general 
understanding that time and space are more multidimensional than we had 
imagined, and computers become ever more sophisticated, even if people 
will never be able to travel at the speed of light, will we be able to 
communicate some day in some ways that destroy our common notions of 
    I've thought about it a lot, and I'm not smart enough to know what 
the answer is, but I'd love to--that's one of the reasons I enjoyed re-
reading the book.
    Let me also say one other thing to close--since our Nobel laureate 
talked about his faith about how the 
world began--the First Lady started 
tonight by talking about the marvels of technology which enable this 
astonishing man to communicate with us. And it is true that he is here 
and we did this because of the marvels of technology. It is also true, 
in my mind, that he is a genuine living miracle because of the power of 
the heart and the spirit. And we can only hope that all the advances 
that he has foreseen for us tonight in human knowledge will serve to 
amplify the heart and the spirit that we have humbly witnessed this 
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 8:17 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Stephen W. Hawking, Lucasian 
professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, who gave the second 
lecture in the Millennium series, entitled ``Imagination and Change: 
Science in the Next Millennium''; Professor Hawking's wife, Elaine; 
Ellen Lovell, Director, White House Millennium Council; and William D. 
Phillips, 1997 Nobel laureate in physics. The President also referred to 
the canceled superconducting super collider project. Professor Hawking, 
who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou 
Gehrig's disease, spoke with the aid of a computerized voice