[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 5, 1998]
[Page 1986]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Arts and Humanities Awards Dinner
November 5, 1998

    Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. The good news is this is the 
only speech you have to listen to tonight. And I want to, first of all, 
welcome all of you back to the White House. To all of our honorees and 
their families and friends who are here today, let me say, for Hillary 
and me this is a day we look forward to every year, but today was an 
especially wonderful day. And as each of our honorees came through the 
line tonight, they all commented on how they felt that they were in 
quite good company today, being honored, and I agree with that.

    As I see so often when it comes to maintaining stability in the 
global economy or working for peace in Bosnia or Kosovo or Northern 
Ireland or the Middle East, perhaps more than any other time in our over 
220-year history, the entire world now looks to the United States to 
exert responsible leadership in technological innovation, preventing 
war, promoting peace, promoting prosperity and freedom and democracy.

    I think it is worth asking ourselves tonight, when the historians 
and novelists, the poets and painters look back on America in the last 
years of the 20th century, on the verge of a new millennium, what will 
they say of that kind of work and that kind of leadership? For clearly 
the world does look to us for cultural leadership. The influence of our 
books, our movies, our music, our plays have never stopped at our 
borders. But now, thanks to technology, they reach more rapidly into 
even the remotest corners of the world. For example, in Bhutan, a 
Himalayan country so isolated just 5,000 people actually visit it every 
year, you can still find some of this year's most popular Hollywood 
blockbusters, for better or worse. [Laughter]

    Hillary's book, ``It Takes a Village,'' has been translated into a 
myriad of languages, not just French or Spanish or German but Bulgarian, 
even Kazakh. More than ever before, the world is listening to what 
America has to say. As our leading artists and intellectuals, you will 
have to answer. It is a tremendous opportunity and an enormous 

    So tonight I challenge you to rise to this task and to relish it 
and, through your art, your music, your ideas, to make this time not 
simply a golden age for the United States but a time of greater 
understanding, enlightenment, and, yes, enjoyment for the entire world.

    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:35 p.m. in the East Room at the White