Fresh from his re-election to a second term, United State President Bill Clinton visited Australia and addressed a joint session of Parliament.
- Listen to Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley welcome Clinton
- Listen to President Bill Clinton’s address in the House of Representatives chamber
Text of Kim Beazley’s speech of welcome to President Clinton.
Excellencies, Parliamentary colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen. This is a delightful occasion for all of us here in this Hall. I don’t think I’ve seen it decked out better and I think you’ll find the entertainment very much to your taste. And I think you’ll find your time here in Australia about as enjoyable as you’ll fit into four days – which is lunatically short. I’ve got to tell you that.
So, we’ll do the very best we can while you’re here – all of us.
I am delighted, too, to see Mrs Clinton here as well after the enormous dedication and energy that she’s shown in a assisting your administration and in the course of the last election.
And I want to congratulate you on that election victory. I always like to see a fellow win an election. It’s a delight for us in Opposition to think that these things can occur from time to time.
It was an historic one indeed.
Looking back, you are the only Southern Democrat since Appomattox to win a second term. Woodrow Wilson doesn’t count. He won it from New Jersey. So, you’re the only Southern Democrat since Appomattox to win a second term as a President of the United States.
And I don’t mention Appomattox in a gratuitous fashion here at all. It was a defining moment for the modern American nation. The event which underwrote America’s role in the 20th century. That you reunited after that, that you emerged with your morality intact meant that America could exercise leadership of the democratic nations this century.
And America has been the bastion of democracy this century as you visit at the end of it. If you had been visiting us here in the middle, of course, you’d have been a bastion looking around you seeing democracy in retreat everywhere. The stand that the United States took for the entirety of this century means that you visit here now and you look at democracy as the norm, as the system governing the nations around the globe. And in those fights and struggles that you’ve had over the years this century to preserve that, to keep decency alive in international politics, it’s been a matter of some pride for us here in this nation that we have been there with you as well.
There’s another reason why I want to mention Appomattox and note – and your status as the most successful southern Democratic candidate for President since that period of time. The way in which you reached out to all Americans of all ethnic, racial, cultural and religious backgrounds and included them in your vision of the United States is an inspiration to all of us.
In the days when I was Defence Minister it was fashionable to say the United States was in decline. What an extraordinary change over the course of the last decade. The way in which the global economy work from this point on, the needs and security of the nations of the economy mean, that if anything, America’s role has got larger over the last decade and the opportunity greater.
As the new international economy emerges, based on essentially information technology and telecommunications. once again, United States companies are leading the way. And I don’t think there’s been any President of the United States who comprehends that better than you.
So, I am looking forward to learning a great deal from you during the course of this visit. I think that you’ve got quite a story to tell this country. But, don’t tell it for too long. Get out on the beaches, get out on the golf courses, get out snorkelling and have a terrific time here.