[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[May 5, 1998]
[Pages 690-692]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Dedication of the Ronald Reagan Building and 
International Trade Center
May 5, 1998

    Thank you very much. Mrs. Reagan, Mr. 
Barram, Secretary Daley, Senator Moynihan, 
Delegate Norton, Senator Dole, Senator Lott, all the Members of 
Congress and the diplomatic

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corps who are here; Mr. Mayor; 
Secretary Shultz and General Powell and all the former members of the Reagan administration 
who are here and enjoying this great day; to Maureen and to the friends of President and Mrs. Reagan who 
are here. I'd like to begin by thanking Jim Freed and his team for a magnificent building. I think we all 
feel elevated in this building today.
    I also want to say on behalf of Hillary and myself a special word of 
appreciation to Mrs. Reagan for being here. 
From her own pioneering efforts to keep our children safe from drugs to 
the elegance and charm that were the hallmarks of the Reagan White 
House, through her public and brave support for every family facing 
Alzheimer's, she has served our Nation exceedingly well, and we thank 
    The only thing that could make this day more special is if President 
Reagan could be here himself. But if you look 
at this atrium, I think we feel the essence of his presence: his 
unflagging optimism, his proud patriotism, his unabashed faith in the 
American people. I think every American who walks through this 
incredible space and lifts his or her eyes to the sky will feel that.
    As Senator Moynihan just described, this building is the completion 
of a challenge issued 37 years ago by President Kennedy; I ought to say, 
and doggedly pursued for 37 years by Senator Moynihan. [Laughter] I must say, Senator, there were days when 
I drove by here week after week after week and saw only that vast hole 
in the ground, when I wondered if the ``Moynihan hole'' would ever 
become the Reagan Building. [Laughter] But sure enough, it did, and we 
thank you.
    As you have heard, this building will house everything from an 
international trade center to international cultural activities to the 
Agency for International Development to the Woodrow Wilson Center for 
Scholars. It is fitting that the plaza on which we gather bears the name 
of President Wilson. And it is fitting that Presidents Wilson and 
Reagan are paired, for their work and, 
therefore, the activities which will be culminated in this building span 
much of what has become the American century.
    Since President Reagan left office, the 
freedom and opportunity for which he stood have continued to spread. For 
a half century, American leaders of both parties waged a cold war 
against aggression and oppression. Today, freed from the yoke of 
totalitarianism, new democracies are emerging all around the world, 
enjoying newfound prosperity and long-awaited peace. More nations have 
claimed the fruits of this victory: free markets, free elections, plain 
freedom. And still more are struggling to do so.
    Today we joy in that, but we cannot--indeed, we dare not--grow 
complacent. Today we recall President Reagan's 
resolve to fight for freedom and his understanding that American 
leadership in the world remains indispensable. It is fitting that a 
piece of the Berlin Wall is in this building. America's resolve and 
American ideals so clearly articulated by Ronald Reagan helped to bring 
that wall down.
    But as we have seen repeatedly in the years since, the end of the 
cold war did not bring the end of the struggle for freedom and 
democracy, for human rights and opportunity. If the history of this 
American century has taught us anything, it is that we will either work 
to shape events or we will be shaped by them. We cannot be partly in the 
world. We cannot lead in fits and starts or only when we believe it 
suits our short-term interests. We must lead boldly, consistently, 
without reservation, because, as President Reagan repeatedly said, 
freedom is always in America's interests.
    Our security and prosperity depend upon our willingness to be 
involved in the world. Woodrow Wilson said that Americans were 
participants in the life of the world, like it or not. But his 
countrymen did not listen to him, and as a result, there came the Great 
Depression, the rise of fascism, the Second World War. Our Nation then 
learned we could not withdraw from the world.
    Then a new generation of Americans reached outward in the years 
after World War II, building new alliances of peace and new engines of 
prosperity: NATO, the United Nations, the IMF, the international trading 
system. It is no accident that during this period of great American 
leadership abroad we experienced unparalleled economic prosperity here 
at home. And it is no accident that freedom's great triumph came on 
America's watch.
    Today, on the edge of a new century, the challenges we face are more 
diverse. But the values that guide America must remain the same. The 
globalization of commerce and the explosion of communications technology 
do not resolve all conflicts between nations; indeed, they create new 
challenges. They do not diminish our responsibility to lead, therefore; 

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they heighten it. Because today's possibilities are not tomorrow's 
guarantees, we must remain true to the commitment to lead that every 
American leader of both parties, especially Ronald Reagan and Woodrow Wilson, so clearly articulated in this 
20th century.
    For 50 years we fought for a Europe undivided and free. Last week 
the United States Senate took a profoundly important step toward that 
goal by welcoming Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into NATO, an 
achievement I believe that would make Ronald Reagan proud. The alliance that helped to keep the peace for 
a half century now brings us closer than ever to that dream of a Europe 
united, democratic, and at peace.
    Now Congress has other opportunities to fulfill the spirit and honor 
the legacy of the man whose name we affix to this building today. 
Congress has the opportunity to maintain our leadership by paying for 
our support to the IMF and settling our dues to the United Nations. I 
hope they will do it.
    President Reagan once said we had made 
what he called an unbreakable commitment to the IMF, one that was 
unbreakable because, in this age of economic interdependence, an 
investment in the IMF is simply an investment in American prosperity. 
And we fought for 50 years for peace and security as part of the United 
Nations. In 1985, Ronald Reagan said the U.N. 
stands as the symbol of the hopes of all mankind for a more peaceful and 
productive world. ``We must not,'' he said, ``disappoint those hopes.'' 
We still must not disappoint those hopes.
    President Reagan understood so clearly that America could not stand 
passively in the face of great change. He understood we had to embrace 
the obligations of leadership to build a better future for all. The 
commerce that will be conducted in this great building will be a 
testament to the opportunities in a truly global economy America has 
done so much to create. The academic and cultural activities that will 
be generated from people who work here will bring us closer together as 
well. Because the Agency for International Development will be here, we 
will never forget that the spark of enterprise and opportunity should be 
brought to the smallest, poorest villages in the world, for there, too, 
there are people of energy, intelligence, and hunger for freedom.
    This is a great day for our country. This is a day of honoring the 
legacy of President Reagan, remembering the 
service of President Wilson, and rededicating ourselves to the often 
difficult but, ultimately, always rewarding work of America.
    As I stand within the Reagan Building, I am confident that we will 
again make the right choices for America, that we will take up where 
President Reagan left off, to lead freedom's 
march boldly into the 21st century.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:36 p.m. in the atrium of the Ronald 
Reagan Building. In his remarks, he referred to former First Lady Nancy 
Reagan; General Services Administrator David J. Barram; former Senator 
Bob Dole; Mayor Marion S. Barry, Jr., of Washington, DC; former 
Secretary of State George P. Shultz; former Joint Chiefs of Staff 
Chairman Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Ret.), chairman, America's Promise--The 
Alliance For Youth; Maureen Reagan, daughter of former President Ronald 
Reagan; and architect James I. Freed.