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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks to the Asian-Pacific Community in Fountain Valley, California

1991-06-16

Thank you all very, very much. Senator Seymour, first of all, thank you, sir. Senator Seymour, a brand-new Senator doing a first-class job for California and for the United States. I had the pleasure to support him, endorse him, and I'm glad to be introduced by him.

And let me single out other Members of Congress: Dana Rohrabacher is here with me. All of you know him, and you should if you don't. Bob Dornan, my steadfast supporter, and Congressman Cox, Chris Cox. And Congressman Mineta with us here today. This is a nonpartisan, bipartisan group, and I'm delighted to see him with us. Congressman Dreier I didn't see. Dave didn't make it, darn it; don't hold it against him. [Laughter] Congressman Faleomavaega.

Elaine Chao, our Deputy Secretary of Transportation back here. And to the others: Mr. Kwan, Miss Porntip, Elizabeth Szu -- what a job she's done on this marvelous day. Inder Singh, another leader of all of this. Ky Ngo; Johnny Tsu, my old friend from San Francisco; and most of all, my fellow Americans. I'm proud to be with you on this very special day.

It's wonderful to be here. I just toured some cultural exhibits. I hope all of you will have a chance to see them. And I've seen some that were fascinating, and I also have heard that the performers did a superb job. I'm sorry I didn't get to do that.

I'm also glad to be with you on Father's Day. I don't know about your kids, but I know about mine, and they guided me through life by using those three magic words: ``Ask your mother.'' [Laughter] Let me also say, as someone who just had a birthday, it's a pleasure to be with people whose cultures revere old age. But I don't feel old. This great turnout -- Elizabeth says 60,000 people -- make me feel like a spring colt, young indeed. And I'm proud to be with you all.

And I am proud to have had the chance to salute the various groups who form the Asian-Pacific-American community. This community combines groups diverse in name but united by ideals: discipline, self-sacrifice, belief in hard work, and most fundamentally, devotion to freedom. These ideals brought your grandparents and parents, and also some of you, many of you, to this country. These ideals have always uplifted the United States of America.

You know, for more than 200 years, this nation has built free markets and protected free people. There is no question: Opportunity in America is the envy of the world. You came in search of opportunity, and you're finding it. You came to build a better America, and you are building it in a myriad of thousands of ways. You've enhanced our schools, our professions, our small and large businesses. For America's Asian-Pacific community, growth is not a code word; it's a watchword that helped the entire American community. And I congratulate you for that contribution to the greatest country on the face of the Earth.

As Senator Seymour just told us, Asian-Americans have made the American dream a reality. According to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, Asian-Americans are excelling where we need to excel, in subjects such as math. Your greatest contributions, I'm convinced, lie ahead. The Asian-Pacific community has increased in size over the last decade, more than any other ethnic group. I look forward to more pioneers like Henry Tang, physicist Leo Esaki. They know how merit and opportunity beget growth and opportunity and brotherhood.

You know, we also must understand, though, that growth abroad can help the United States. We can find a perfect example in East Asia, a dynamic region that will spur America's growth. I think you all know this, but a lot of Americans don't: Already, our transpacific trade has surpassed our transatlantic trade. In 1990, we exported more to Singapore than we did to Spain or Italy, to Malaysia more than to the Soviet Union, to Indonesia more than to all of Central Europe. This is what you all are doing, and this is what we believe in. The FAA estimates that by 1993, traffic on Pacific routes will surpass the Atlantic on a passenger-mile basis. Consider, too, that more than 1,000 U.S. companies have invested over billion in the People's Republic of China and that China buys about billion of American products from computers to cotton. You take away these exports, and you take American jobs.

So, let me just say a word about that. I acted 3 weeks ago to expand this growth by asking Congress to renew for another year China's most-favored-nation status. I knew that ending MFN would increase the cost of Chinese imports. It would hurt Hong Kong, a bastion of freedom and free trade, as well as investors in south China's export industries -- south China, the center of China's prodemocracy movement now. I know many of you have families and visited your families -- the students, some of whom I've just met with, maybe some of whom I just see. You brought with you your American ideas: democracy, human rights, free enterprise. We should not cut off this flow of hope, of goods, of ideas and ideals because, you see, these nourish the desire for freedom. Our policy relies on an obvious fact: To influence China, one simply cannot isolate China. And I do not want to be the President to isolate China. I want to be the President to facilitate change for human rights in China.

Let me give you one reminder of this, and I'll get on to another -- I want to talk about these guys. You guys wait; I'm going to get to you because I agree with you. And when I ask you to hold that sign up, please do it. Now let me finish this one point here.

I have another example. In December of 1989, over strong objections from many in the Congress, I vetoed the so-called Pelosi bill. I don't mistrust her intentions, but she was wrong -- unnecessary legislation. If that bill had become law, I am convinced in my mind that Beijing would have used it as a pretext to stop permitting Chinese young people to study in the United States. Instead, I extended even greater protections than provided for in the Pelosi bill, first through a Presidential memorandum, then through a far-reaching Executive order. And you know, in the last year alone, we issued 11,500 visas to Chinese students and scholars to study in the United States. That would have been 11,500 opportunities lost if we had turned our back on China.

And I might say, I met with some of the student leaders, the real student leaders, just a minute ago -- Chinese people studying in the United States, four of them having stood in Tiananmen Square. And these signs say it: Renew MFN for China without condition because we want to be able to effect change for human rights in China.

So, we'll be continuing to urge China to reform internally and to rejoin the community of nations. We can't be sure of success, but we can be sure that without American dialog, without your commitment to freedom being understood in China, the movement for reform in China would be set back. And I don't want to be here as President when we set back the chance for human rights in any country.

Now, here's my signs back here. Get them up high so the press can see them. Where's the one with ``SADDAM''? Where is it? Well, I don't see it. But let me tell you, they are right. They are absolutely correct. We will not remove sanctions from Iraq as long as the brutal Saddam Hussein remains in power.

And I might say peripherally how proud I am. I was in there a minute ago, and an Asian lieutenant, an Asian-American lieutenant in the Air Force, came up to me, and she said, ``Thank you for Desert Storm.'' And I turned to her and I said, ``Don't thank me, you thank your colleagues in the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the Marines that made our country proud again.''

So, you guys are right. And we'll do everything we can to see that we have a reasoned administration there with whom we can deal with respect, integrity, and honor. But it isn't going to be there as long as it's the brutalization of the Kurds in the north, the Shiites in the south, and as long as there's this environmental degradation that Saddam has wreaked upon the entire world. So, we were right in kicking him out of Kuwait.

And let me say another point -- human rights; you got it. Let me make another point. We've got to brush away arbitrary discrimination. And if that means fighting quotas that harm talented Americans like the thousands of Asian students in our universities, then we're going to fight all the way. You know the awful tolls: Quotas penalize achievers. They slam shut opportunity's door. Here in California, in this great, largest State, and across the Nation, we have seen the conflicts that quotas can incite, and we have come to appreciate more than ever before the importance of excellence and opportunity.

You know, our administration does believe in affirmative action, in offering a hand, in opening the door of opportunity. But we don't believe in an America by the numbers. We do not believe in discriminating by quotas or by the numbers.

And very candidly, and I hope this doesn't sound egotistical, but I take pride in the fact that we have a good record on civil rights. We've nurtured equality of opportunity and equality under the law. We've promoted a civil rights bill that would strengthen our laws against discrimination, and we've tried to build a spirit of cooperation, not litigation.

I've put forward a major piece of civil rights legislation to fight against discrimination in the workplace. Congress should pass my bill. Let me be clear: I will not sign any civil rights bill that allows quotas, directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly.

And if I might just say a word -- take a word of pride in what our administration has done. We've practiced the kind of affirmative action I'm talking about. I'm proud to have named more Asian-Pacific-Americans to top management and advisory roles than any President in history. And I'm going to keep on finding good men and women from the Asian community to serve this great country. This may be hard for some of you to understand -- successful in business, leaders and students -- but I was the first to appoint a Government agency head, Pat Saiki -- Pat Saiki leading now the SBA. The first as a Deputy Secretary of a Cabinet Department, the second highest level, right there next to the Secretary -- and of course, you know her, Elaine Chao, in whom I take such great pride once again. The first as an Ambassador -- I found this hard to believe, but the first, Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch. And of course, I can't tell you how proud I am to have at my side a guy that many of you know, Sichan Siv, who's working in the White House. What a job he's done for us.

You know why they were picked? They weren't picked because they were Asian-Americans; they were picked because they were the best men and women for the job. And that's the American way.

I mentioned the ideals that enrich the Asian-Pacific community. Let me close with a passage from a Chinese author, Lin Yutang. ``Today,'' he said, ``some are afraid of simple words like goodness and mercy and kindness. They don't believe in the good old words because they don't believe in the good old values.''

Well, Asian-Pacific-Americans have always believed in these good old-fashioned values -- mercy, goodness, kindness, and I would add family, the strength of the American family. Asian-Pacific-Americans have always believed in these values -- respect for dignity, yes, belief in family, hard work, free enterprise, belief in ideals and causes larger than ourselves.

So, I wanted to say I am very proud to have been here today. I see the signs from the various countries, and thank heavens, I've been enriched by being in almost every one of them. I think of the tragedies in Bangladesh, and then I think of our helicopter pilots that went in on their way home, gave up coming home to save lives there. I think of Iraq and what our young men and women did. And yes, I think of those who lost their lives in Iraq. And it would never have happened if the brutality of Saddam Hussein hadn't overcome reason and rationality. I think of Cambodia and India and Pakistan. And I think of all of these -- and Vietnam -- you are right, you are right, Vietnam -- look at what the contribution Vietnamese have made to our great country. And we're never going to forget that Vietnam is not free and democratic, as some of our critics would have you believe.

So, I know I'm going to get in trouble for forgetting them -- Iran, Iran. I want to see a free Iran full of human rights, where we can have better relations again. And thank God, relations are getting a little better, but I want to see them good, the way you people want them right here.

Now, thank you all -- hey, listen, I'm going to get in trouble. [Laughter] But I came out here, Barbara and I did, to say thank you for the contribution to this great country, thank you for what you are doing. And I look forward to working with each and every one of the 60,000 of you to make things better for our great country, America, and for the countries from which you came. Many thanks. And may God bless you all. But most of all, may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:38 p.m. at Mile Square Park. In his remarks, he referred to Senator John Seymour; Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Robert K. Dornan, C. Christopher Cox, Norman Y. Mineta, David Dreier, and Nancy Pelosi; Delegate to Congress Eni F.H. Faleomavaega; Deputy Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao; Frank Kwan, a producer for television station KNBC; Porntip Narkhirunkanok, 1989 Miss Universe; Elizabeth Szu, Inder Singh, and Ky Ngo, coordinators for the event; John Tsu, senior adviser for the event; Henry Tang, an education and sports leader in the community; Leo Esaki, 1973 Nobel Prize winner for physics; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Patricia F. Saiki, Administrator of the Small Business Administration; Julia Chang Bloch, U.S. Ambassador to Nepal; and Sichan Siv, Deputy Assistant to the President for Public Liaison.

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