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Transcript: Former President Clinton Speaks at Library Dedication

In three years, in Africa, the Caribbean, India and China, we have succeeded in cutting the price of the testing equipment and generic drugs by 70 percent. And we hope by 2006, and expect, to serve over 2 million people with medicine who were not getting it on the day I left office.

Now, this library, of course, is primarily about my presidency.

Bill Clinton Clinton's Speech: Former president Bill Clinton spoke at the dedication of his library in Little Rock.
President Bush
Former President Bush
Former President Carter

I want to say a special word of thanks to Al Gore and to Tipper for the indispensable contribution that they made.

CLINTON: And I told Al today that this library won an international environmental award even though it's got a lot of glass because the solar panels and a lot of other improvements. We cut the energy usage here by 34 percent.

So, Al, thanks for the inspiration. And I'm still trying to measure up to the challenge you set for me so long ago.

I believe the job of a president is to understand and explain the time in which he serves, to set forth a vision of where we need to go and a strategy of how to get there, and then to pursue it with all its mind and heart, bending only in the face of error or new circumstances and the crisis which are unforeseen; a problem that affects all of us.

When I became president, the world was a new and very different place, as I said. And I thought about how we ought to confront it.

America has two great dominant strands of political thought -- we're represented up here on this stage -- conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barrier that are no longer needed or should never have been erected in the first place.

It seemed to me that in 1992 we needed to do both to prepare America for the 21st century: to be more conservative in things like erasing the deficit and paying down the debt and preventing crime and punishing criminals and protecting and supporting families, and enforcing things like child support laws and reforming the military to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

And we needed to be more progressive in creating good jobs, reducing poverty, increasing the quality of public education, opening the doors of college to all, increasing access to health care, investing more in science and technology, and building new alliances with our former adversaries, and working for peace across the world and peace in America across all the lines that divide us.

CLINTON: Now, when I proposed to do both, we said that all of them were consistent with the great American values of opportunity, responsibility and community. We labeled the approach "New Democrat." It then became known as the third way, as it was embraced by progressive parties across the world.

But I liked the slogan we had way back in 1992, "Putting People First." Because, in the end, I always kept score by a simple measure: Were ordinary people better off when I stopped than when I started?

I grew up in the pre-television age in a family of uneducated but smart, hardworking caring storytellers. They taught me that everyone has a story. And that made politics intensely personal to me. It was about giving people better stories. That's why I asked those six people to talk here today.

When I think of the family leave law, I think of that good man who brought his dying daughter to see me in the White House on a Sunday morning and who grabbed me as I walked away and said, "The time I got to take off from work was the most important time in my life."

I think of people like that fine woman who worked herself out of welfare and now runs her own business.

I remember the first woman I ever talked to who went from welfare to work. I said, "What's the best thing about it?" She said, "When my boy goes to school and they say, 'What does your momma do for a living?' he can give an answer."

Those are the things that make politics real to me, at home and around the world. The record is all in there, what we did at home, what we did abroad.

I thank Bono for singing about Northern Ireland and to President Bush for mentioning the Balkans. There were many other places we tried to help.

But the record is there. Even where we fell short, we pushed forward.

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