[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[September 1, 1998]
[Pages 1485-1486]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at First Day of School Festivities in Moscow, Russia
September 1, 1998

    Thank you all very much. I am delighted to be here not only with my 
wife, who has worked for better education in our country for many years, 
but with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, our American 
Ambassador here, and five Members of our Congress. I thank all of them 
for being here. We are delighted to join you on this day.
    I would also like to thank Vice Mayor Schantsev and Mr. Muzikantskiy 
from the Moscow City School Board for joining us. I would like to thank 
your principal; Ms. Garashkova; and most of all, I want to thank these 
fine students, Konstantine Sokolov and Valentina Smirnova. I think they 
did a fine job, and you should give them applause. You should be very 
proud of them. [Applause]
    Now, in the spirit of the day, even though Konstantine's English is 
very good, I thought I should try to say something in Russian, like

[[Page 1486]]

privet  [hello]. How's that? Is that good? [Applause] Or S novym 
uchebnym godom [Happy New School Year]. Is that good? [Applause]
    In America this is also the first day of school for many students. I 
understand that some of you have studied in America. I hope more of you 
will do so in the future, and I hope more Americans will come here to 
study. And in the meantime, perhaps more and more of you can meet on the 
    I know that Russian students love to read and are proud of your 
country's great writers. A teacher here in Moscow asked her first-grade 
class why they thought reading was important. One girl stood up and 
answered, ``You can read any book. You can read Pushkin.'' No one in the 
first grade in my country is reading Pushkin. [Laughter] Now, another 
student answered the same question in a different way. He said, ``If you 
can read, you can read a fax.'' [Laughter]
    So whether you want to be a business person reading a fax, a writer, 
or a teacher, or pursue any other career in the modern world, a good 
school will help you get there. In a world where people are working 
closer and closer together, a good school, with its languages and its 
learning about other countries, is very important. Because more and more 
of our jobs and lives depend on computers and technology, more and more 
of us have to read well, do mathematics, and know other subjects good 
schools teach.
    In the past, America and Russia too often used our knowledge in 
opposition to each other. But things are very different now. Today, we 
use what we know to work together for new jobs, better health care, a 
cleaner environment, the exploration of space, the exchange of ideas, 
art, music, videos. Our countries are becoming partners, and more and 
more of our people are becoming friends.
    Your country is going through some difficult changes right now, and 
I know things aren't always easy for a lot of people. But I also know 
that in times of crisis the Russian people have always risen to the 
occasion with courage and determination.
    The challenges of this new global economy and society are great, but 
so are the rewards. For those who have good schools, like this one, with 
teachers and parents who work hard to help children learn, and with that 
learning and the new freedom you have in Russia, all of you will be 
ready for that future, and you will do very well.
    So I say to all the students here, learn as much as you can about as 
many subjects as you can and about other people. And imagine what you 
would like to see happen in the future, for yourselves, your nation, and 
the world. And always keep those dreams with you, for in the new 
century, you will be able to live those dreams.
    Thank you. Spasibo.

Note: The President spoke at 3:25 p.m. in the auditorium at the 19th 
Elementary School. In his remarks, he referred to Deputy Mayor Valeriy 
Schantsev of Moscow; Aleksandr Muzikantskiy, chairman, Moscow City 
School Board; Galina Bezrodnaya, principal, and Natalya Garashkova, 
assistant principal for English language programs, 19th Elementary 
School; and students Konstantine Sokolov and Valentina Smirnova, who 
spoke at the festivities and presented gifts to the President and Mrs.