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Clinton Opens Harlem Office, Addresses Community

Aired July 30, 2001 - 13:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Bill Clinton, speaking to black leaders and community activists in Harlem on the day of the official dedication of his new 83-square foot office space in Harlem.

Let's hear what the former president has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(CHANTING)

CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Now I feel like I'm home. Thank you very much.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: I want to thank my pal Cicely Tyson for being here today. She did a great job under not the easiest circumstances. Maybe we should give her another acting award.

I want to thank Charlie Rangel. I never will forget, I was sitting one morning in South Florida, and I picked up the phone, I called Charlie, and I said, "You think you could find me some office space in Harlem?" He said, "Did the sun come up this morning?"

(LAUGHTER)

And within 24 hours, here we were.

I want to thank all the people who have spoken. Thank you, my good friend Senator Schumer. Thank you, Carla McCall. Thank you, Mayor Dinkins. Thank you, President Field.

I want to thank my good friend, Dennis Archer, the mayor of Detroit; and also the empowerment zone city for coming here.

Thank you, Secretary of State Daniels; I will hang that proclamation on the wall of the office.

Thank you, Terry Lane, and before you Deborah Wright (ph), for doing such a great job of the empowerment zone.

Thank you, Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic Party. And Judith Hope, the chairman of the New York Democratic Party.

I would like to thank all of the people of my administration who came here, Former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman. Former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater. Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West. My former chief of staff John Podesta. And all of the others who are out there.

And I would like to remember one person who is not here today. Do you see that beautiful old building over there? That was a Teresa Hotel where Ron Brown grew up, and I wish he were here today to see this great day happen.

I also want to bring you greetings from two people who are not here. New York's junior senator and our daughter Chelsea. Had to stay in Washington today, because my mother-in-law had surgery this morning and we couldn't reschedule that. So I ask for your prayers for her. And I want you to know they're thinking of you, and now New York has two great senators. I'm proud of both of them.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

Hillary called me about 10 minutes before I came out here just to make sure that I was going to say the right things, do the right things, and tell you how miserable she is she's not here with you.

(LAUGHTER)

So somebody drop her a note and tell her I gave a good account of myself today; would you do that?

I am honored to be in Harlem, in New York City, in New York state. You voted for me in 1992 and 1996. You voted for Hillary in 2000. You were there on the darkest days and the best days. And I want you to know, I want to be a good neighbor in Harlem on the best days and the dark days for all of the people who live here.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

You know, when I was a little boy, Harlem to me was Marcus Garvey and Langston Hughes, the Abyssinian Baptist Church and the Apollo Theater. And I dreamed when I was a young musician that one day, I might be like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. Well, I never made it to play at the Apollo. But I have eaten at Sylvia's.

(LAUGHTER)

And I ain't dead yet. I may play there yet before it's over!

I want to say just a couple of serious words. There's a sign out there that says, what did you do for Harlem when you were president? Now, that's a fair question. In 1992, I came to Harlem and I said, if you vote for me, I will turn this economy around. And I will create empowerment zones for poor communities that have been left behind. And we turned the economy around, created the empowerment zone, $600 million in private investment later in the Harlem empowerment zone.

Employment cut in half, welfare cut in half. Record amounts of investment in new police on the street, new housing and new transportation; I think I kept my word to Harlem, and the best is yet to be!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

You know, when you're not president anymore, people look at you funny when you walk by them in the airport.

They say things like, you look just like Bill Clinton. Or, didn't you use to be Bill Clinton, as if you couldn't possibly exist without all of that other stuff, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

So, here's what I hope we're going to be together: we live in a time where we need each other, whether we know it or not. We live in a time when what we do here affects people around the city, around the state, around the country, and around the world. And what they do affects us. Whether we know it or not.

If someone asks me to characterize this time, I wouldn't say what you all read in the press. I wouldn't say, this is the age of the global economy or the Internet Revolution, or even the Scientific Revolution. I would say, this is the age of inner-dependence. We all need each other and we all have an impact on each other, whether we know it or not.

So the great question for all of us is whether this inner- dependence on balance is going to be positive or negative. I want to make sure that I'm a good neighbor in Harlem. I'm glad the property values are going up, but I don't want the small business people to be run out, because I'm coming in.

We want more jobs and more businesses here. But I also want people in the other cities of America that don't have these places yet, or any of the poor places in the rural areas -- the Appalachians and the Mississippi Delta where I come from -- and some of the people have come up here from my home state today, and I am glad to see them. People on the Indian reservations, still the poorest places in America.

I want us to say, if we can do this in Harlem, we can do it in your backyard. We want to do it everywhere in America, because we need you.

The other night, I went to the Apollo and we had a fund-raiser. A group of people came up from Broadway and they sang and danced and performed. We raised money to fight AIDS. Half of the money went to the Harlem United AIDS Clinic -- maybe the best in the whole U.S. of America, the United States.

And half of the money went to the global fight against AIDS. And that's good. Why? Because the fastest-growing rates of AIDS are not in Africa now. The fastest-growing rates are in Russia and are the other states of the Soviet Union in Europe's backyard. The second fastest growing rate down in the Caribbean in America's backyard; there are a million of Dominicans in New York alone.

We all have to care about AIDS everywhere in the world. We want our inner-dependence to be positive, not negative.

(APPLAUSE)

So, what I am going to do here is to try to help promote economic opportunity in our backyard, around our country and around the world. To try to help people to work against AIDS, and other diseases and ignorance and foreign education in our backyard, and around the world. To try to help people make a community out of all of this crazy diversity we've got, here in our backyard, around the state, around the country and around the world. That will be the ultimate test.

You look at these kids here playing the violin today. All of the different groups represented. Look around in this crowd today. Everybody in the world practically is represented here today. And the great test of our future is going to be, whether we can take all of this diversity and make of it one community, because we celebrate our differences and we think our common humanity is more important.

Harlem always struck me as a place that was human and alive. Where there was a rhythm to life, and a song in the heart. Where, no matter how bad it was, people held up their heads and went on. And where, when things got good, people were grateful and cared about their neighbors.

You were always there for me and I will try to be there for you, and together, we can be there for all of our neighbors around the block, around the country, and around the world.

I love you, Harlem. Thank you. God bless you. I feel at home. Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WATERS: He said it twice, "now I feel like I'm home." He's in Harlem today, opening up his 8,300-square foot office building. And they've put on this show.

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