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Public Papers - 1991

Greetings to the American Community in The Hague


Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank all of you. This is too beautiful a day to give my 45 minute speech, don't you think, or not? Yes, and I see the Prime Minister over here, and let me just say to him and the Foreign Minister, Mr. van den Broek, two things: One, here they are at this school, this American School, international school really, giving up some precious time.

Both of them have dual responsibilities: Running the Government here in this marvelous country that's so friendly to the United States, and also their responsibilities as they have assumed the Presidency of the EC. This would give them a precious few minutes off if they didn't have to him here with us today. And I am very grateful to them, not only for their leadership and for the constructive nature of our meetings and for the hospitality that they've given us, but for taking this little extra bit of time to be with us today. Because we owe them an enormous vote of thanks for the interest that they have taken in this school from the day it was conceived.

So, let's show them our appreciation, to both of you, Ruud and Hans, thank you very, very, very much. We are so grateful to you.

And Dr. Schoopert, thank you, sir, for arranging this. When I was a kid I never liked to do anything on Saturday, other than go outside and play soccer or do something like that. And I know that this has been a strain on some of you guys in the front here, having to stay indoors, just as it's a strain on Prime Minister Lubbers, who could be out playing hockey. One of the great athletes of The Netherlands is tethered here in the sixth row. So, I will be very brief.

And I will simply say what a pleasure it is to be here. Barbara, who was privileged to be here, and you've enshrined her visit with that cornerstone out there in the front, polished it up for today, I think. [Laughter] But in any event, she has been telling me ever since that first visit how much she appreciated what you all are doing and were beginning to do in putting together this marvelous institution that serves so many in the field of education. I believe that you're all very fortunate to attend a school of this excellence, and I hope that you're learning here not only the wonders of the United States, but also the wonders of the Dutch culture, history. Then if you do learn that, you'll understand why Jim Baker and I feel as enthusiastic as we do about Dutch-U.S. relations. They could never be better, and we are grateful every single day not only for their friendship, but for their vision of postwar Europe and of the way they see the future from here on. So, we're very fortunate.

And a point I want to make is, I think all of you are very fortunate. I know that some of the people who are also responsible for building this school are here, Mr. Superintendent, and there's no way I could possibly thank you enough for helping provide a world-class education to many children, many generations of American children, and other kids as well.

I think that Americans living abroad are the everyday example to people around the world of what is embodied in the greatness of our country. I don't expect any of you look at yourselves as ambassadors. We've got one. We've got an able one in Ambassador Wilkins. He's the official ambassador. But each of you in every way as you interact with your Dutch friends are ambassadors. You're taking the message of what our country is about. So, look at it that way when you make new friends over in this wonderful country.

But thanks in large part to the enthusiasm of everyone here, I have the feeling that we are putting forward America's best face here in this country.

And so, I wanted to thank you kids, as well as the parents, as well as those who have made the school possible. And let me just say, as I told the Embassy people in here, I don't know how many of you are studying history and how far along you are, maybe not these little guys, but some out there, I'm sure, well-versed in history, including American history, world history. And I would simply say to you, I can't think of a more challenging time to be President of the United States than in the last few years.

The changes that have taken place in this world are mind-boggling. And if any of you who are now seniors had been told in your freshman year in school, wherever that might have been, that the Soviet Union would have been falling apart, that you'd have democracy raging through South America, and that freedom would be on the march as it is, I don't believe that you could have believed that. I don't think your parents could have told you that that was a realistic assumption. And yet, that's exactly what's happened. And now we're faced with a new challenge: How do you try to assist Prime Minister Lubbers and others in managing this fantastic change?

But all I want to say about it is, it's dynamic. It's for real. And the values that your forefathers and mine took for granted or adhered to -- freedom, democracy, human rights -- these things are now on fire and moving all around the world.

So, it is a wonderful time in spite of the problems we face at home, in spite of the problems that face young people in all countries, not only to be alive but to be looking to the future.

And so, I expect out here that someplace there may be a next President of the United States, and whatever her name is -- [laughter] -- I will tell you that Jim Baker and I want to do our jobs to make your job just a little bit easier. I seldom speak confidently on behalf of Barbara, but in this instance I do. We are both thrilled to be here, and we will do our best for education at home. And you do your best to present America's best side to the people of this wonderful country. We'll make a deal on that.

And thank you, and once again, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Foreign Minister, I can't tell you how much we appreciate your participation in this celebratory occasion. It's a pleasure to be with you. God bless you and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:25 p.m. at the American School of The Hague. In his remarks, the President referred to: Gail Schoopert, superintendent of the American School of The Hague; and Howard C. Wilkins, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to The Netherlands. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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