[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[May 6, 1998]
[Pages 709-710]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the State Dinner Honoring Prime Minister Romano Prodi 
of Italy
May 6, 1998

    Good evening, and welcome to the White House, Mr. Prime Minister, 
Mrs. Prodi, distinguished members of the 
Italian delegation, my fellow Americans.
    Mr. Prime Minister, today we accomplished a great deal. Tonight we 
celebrate the ties that bind us.
    Those ties begin with the discoveries of Columbus and Vespucci, 
whose busts adorn the Blue Room next door. When the Founders created the 
American Republic, they looked to Rome for inspiration. George 
Washington was likened to Cincinnatus, the Roman hero who abandoned his 
plow to rescue his country by popular demand. I might say, they were the 
last two people to head our countries only by popular demand. [Laughter]
    Poets and philosophers of the Roman Republic were read and 
rejuvenated as our new Republic looked to the past to plan our future. 
In the writings of ancient Roman thinkers like Cicero and Cato, 
America's Founders saw the promise of democratic representative 
government. Every aspect of our new Republic paid tribute to the simple 
grandeur of Rome: from our architecture to words like ``senate'' and 
``capitol.'' Indeed, after our Constitutional Convention, Benjamin 
Franklin was asked what our Founders had produced. His simple reply was, 
``A Republic, sir, if you can keep it.''

[[Page 710]]

    Towns sprang up with the names from the ancient Mediterranean world, 
names like Utica, Troy, or the Vice President's hometown, Carthage. 
Artists portrayed America's leaders wearing togas, as the bust of George 
Washington in the hall demonstrates. Thankfully, that is a tradition we 
have left to the 19th century. [Laughter]
    In the 19th and 20th centuries, our Republic turned into a bustling 
nation, thanks in no small measure to Italian-Americans. Ancient Rome 
was replaced by young Italy in the American imagination. And democracy 
was given new life by heroes like Mazzini and Garibaldi.
    America's growing cities attracted millions of Italians, eager to 
build a new life in a new world. They worked hard. They prospered. Today 
American Italians, or Italian-Americans, are leaders in every enterprise 
conducted in our Nation. And as we all know, it is impossible to walk 
more than a few blocks in any American city without hearing the words 
``caffe latte.'' [Laughter]
    The people here in this room tonight are the link between our two 
countries, between two cultures that have nourished each other since 
America was just an idea. From our highest courts to our finest tables, 
from our playing fields to our silver screen, from one side of the aisle 
in Congress to the other, Italian-Americans have graced our Nation with 
their intellect, their industry, their good will, and above all, a 
contagious love of life.
    Mr. Prime Minister, you have accomplished so much in your time in 
office. You have presided over a string of economic successes. And 
Americans especially admire your perseverance in leading Italy toward 
European monetary union. Without Italy, Europe is not Europe. And 
without Europe, the world would be a poorer, less free, and much duller 
    Italy has been a force for peace and security in its region, on the 
Continent, around the world, in Albania, in Bosnia, and in Kosovo, where 
we're working hard together to bring about a peaceful resolution. 
America is proud to know you as a partner and an ally, and we are 
grateful for your provision of our military bases, sent to help maintain 
Europe's hard-won peace.
    Mr. Prime Minister, we take pride in our strong friendship. We know 
it will continue to grow stronger as we enter the new millennium, a word 
that brings us, once again, back to Rome. For just as the Pax Romana 
spread far and wide through the ancient world, we hope and work for the 
peace of a new millennium that will allow more people than ever before 
to live their dreams in security.
    If we can achieve a peace of the millennium, then the ancient dream 
of Columbus to explore new places can be lived by more people than 
ever--new places in outer space, in biotechnology and medical research, 
in the hearts and minds of people around the world who still look to 
Italy and America for confirmation that a good society can be created 
from many parts.
    E pluribus unum, the motto of the United States, a principle 
cherished by Italians and Americans: Out of many, one. Mr. Prime 
Minister, let us make it so.
    Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to join me in a toast to the Prime 
Minister and Mrs. Prodi and the people of Italy.

Note: The President spoke at 8:30 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to the Prime Minister's wife, Flavia 
Prodi. The transcript made available by the Office of the Press 
Secretary also included the remarks of Prime Minister Prodi.