[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 29, 1998]
[Pages 638-640]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Reception for the United States Winter Olympic and 
Paralympic Teams
April 29, 1998

    Thank you, and welcome to the White House. I am delighted to have 
all of you here. I thank the members of the Cabinet for coming, and I 
thank Congressman Ryun from Kansas, a former 
Olympian, for being here. To the president of the Olympic Committee, 
Bill Hybl, to the executive director, Dick 
Schultz, and to all

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the other officials, and to the members of our Olympic team.
    Let me say--before I get into my remarks, I need to make two 
preliminary comments. First of all, I want to thank Tipper Gore for representing our administration at the 1998 Winter 
Olympics. I wish she could be here with us today. I know she would like 
to be. I'd also like to thank my good friend Mack McLarty for working so hard with the Vice 
President as the Cochair of our White House 
Task Force on the Olympic games.
    The second thing I'd like to do before I get into my remarks is to 
just say, for the benefit--because this is my only chance to talk to the 
press today--I just finished a very good meeting with the Senate 
Republican and Democratic leaders, Trent Lott and 
Tom Daschle, about one of the most 
important votes that our Senate will face this year, and that is to 
expand the alliance of NATO to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech 
    I want to thank them both for their support. This is coming at a 
very important time for America, 4 years after I first proposed that we 
expand our European security alliance to make us more secure and Europe 
safer and more united. And I am very grateful for Senator Lott and Senator Daschle, 
Senator Helms and Senator Biden, and all the others. We are seeing a very impressive, 
high-level debate in the Senate, even among those who don't agree with 
my position. I must say I've been very impressed by the debate. And I'm 
looking forward to a positive vote by the end of this week.
    Now let me say I have looked forward to this day for a long time, 
ever since the Olympics concluded. To see these fine people, and those 
who are not here who are part of their teams, I think makes all 
Americans very proud. In the mountains, the ice rinks, the race courses 
of Japan, we saw America at its best. The young Olympians who are here 
did more than carry our flag. In a fundamental way, they carried with 
them the spirit of America.
    I'd like to say a special word, too, of appreciation to the 
Paralympians who brought home 34 medals in the largest Winter 
Paralympics ever. [Applause] Thank you.
    It's also a great source of pride for us that the Winter Olympics in 
2002 will be in Salt Lake City. When the Olympic flag was lowered and 
passed from the mayor of Nagano to Mayor 
Corradini, it really marked the opening 
events of the 2002 games. So we're very glad that Mayor Corradini has 
joined us today, along with the chairman of the Salt Lake Olympic 
Committee, Robert Garff, and other members 
of the Utah Olympic Committee. We want to help them succeed. And I'd 
like to ask them to stand and receive our support. Mayor Corradini and 
the members of the Utah Committee--there's Mr. Garff. Thank you all for 
being here. [Applause] Thank you--there they are, right there.
    I'd also like to say one more word to America's Olympic teams in 
1998. In a fundamental way, you have become a part of America's team for 
the rest of your lives. If you choose, for the rest of your lives, 
because you were an Olympian, you can have a profound positive impact on 
all the people with whom you come in contact, but especially on young 
    Even though for many of you the Olympic triumphs you had, just being 
a member of the team, must have marked the most magic moment in your 
lives, I hope that the future will be even richer for you. And I think 
it can be if you use the fact that you are an Olympian to have a 
positive impact on the lives of young people. The lessons of setting 
your sights high, working hard, being persistent, believing in 
yourselves, playing by the rules, supporting your team, those are 
lessons that every child in America needs to learn, lessons that every 
child can see in your eyes and in the power of your example.
    Some of you earlier today participated in the Champions in Life 
program. You can reach out, in telling your stories, working in 
communities, approaching future endeavors with this kind of drive and 
commitment, and I hope you'll do that because you can really have a 
positive impact on 21st century America.
    In this century, through all its highs and lows, we have seen 
throughout the 20th century a renaissance in the Olympic games. 
Everybody now knows about the remarkable triumph of Jesse Owens in the 
1936 Berlin games, what it said about prejudice and hatred, what it said 
about the difference between America and the Nazi regime that then 
governed in Germany.
    Jesse Owens said this in 1936: ``Only an Olympian can fully realize 
the grip the games have on the youth of the world.'' It was true in 
1936; it is true today. Then, it was true, and people saw a profound 
good in the midst of a dark time. This is a sunlit moment of peace and 
prosperity. But the Olympic spirit, the spirit

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of good will, friendship, understanding, and unity across all the lines 
that divide us, that can propel us into an even brighter era of respect 
and success.
    Now I would like to introduce the athlete that has been chosen by 
her teammates to represent the Olympians here today, a person whose 
grace and excellence on the ice--and I must say, even more after the 
competition--must have been a source of enormous joy and pride, not only 
to her teammates but to all Americans.
    Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Michelle Kwan.

Note: The President spoke at 3:10 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Bill Hybl, president, and Dick 
Schultz, executive director, U.S. Olympic Committee; Mayor Tasuku 
Tsukada of Nagano, Japan; Mayor Deedee Corradini of Salt Lake City, UT; 
and Robert H. Garff, president, board of trustees, Salt Lake City 
Olympic Organizing Committee. Following the President's remarks, 
Michelle Kwan, silver medalist in women's figure skating, presented a 
U.S. Olympic team jacket to the President.