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Former President Clinton’s Farewell Remarks

This is the text of a speech delivered by former President Bill Clinton, shortly after the inauguration of President George W. Bush.

It was given at Andrews Air Force Base as the Clintons prepared to fly to New York.

  • Watch extracts of Clinton’s speech (3m)

Speech by former President Bill Clinton, following the inauguration of President George W. Bush.

Well, first let me say, on behalf of Hillary and Chelsea and myself, we thank you for coming, we’re glad to see you.

You know how it is. When you leave the White House, you wonder if you’ll ever draw a crowd again.

So it was nice to come in here and see so many old friends.

… I would like to thank the Honor Guard and the representatives of all the military services behind us for rendering honors to me this one last time on this important day in our country’s life.

When I was walking down the rows, looking at the young men and women who were standing behind me, I thought again how fortunate we are to have people of their caliber willing to sacrifice and serve the United States. And being their commander in chief was one of the great honors of my life. Let’s give them another hand, they were great.

Let me say to all of you, I had a very good morning, and I think we all did. We had sort of a bittersweet goodbye at the White House. We went around and said goodbye to all the staff there, took a last look at all the rooms, welcomed Vice President and Mrs. Gore, and then President and Mrs. Bush and Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, and Andy Card, the new White House chief of staff. We had a nice little visit. Then we went down to Capitol Hill together and conducted the inaugural ceremonies as prescribed by the Constitution of the United States.

I was really grateful that the band was here today. Some of you have heard me say that one of my great fears is that I won’t know where I am for four or five months because I’ll walk into a big room and no one will play a song anymore.

But I want all of you to know that I feel, as John Podesta did, we walked out of the Oval Office for the last time today about 10:30, and — no, no about 10:00 — and he was tearing up a little bit. He just looked, he said, ”We did a lot of good. We did a lot of good. We did a lot of good.”

I gave my farewell address the other night on television, and I even did a radio address this morning. And we gave out our last chunk of money for community police so that when I left, we…

When I left, we gave out money for 10,000 more police, and I said, ”You know, when I ran, I promised you 100,000 police,” and this is 110,000. We gave 110 percent effort for eight years.

I just want to say how grateful I am to all of you. There are people here who have held major positions in this government, people here, like John Sweeney, without whom we could not have won elections or waged our battles.

Thank you, sir.

There are people here I’ve known all my life, and people here I met in the course of running for president, and people here who are here because they worked in this administration and they believed in what we were doing.

But the whole nature of public service is, by definition, a reflection of the nature of life. It is passing. It has seasons. It is a process, not a destination.

The work of this country will never be over. And no one will ever get to do it forever. And that’s not all bad.

We have been very fortunate that the system under which we live has given all of us a chance to live as we have, to work as we have, to serve as we have, and to see our country and the world so much better off. It was a great gift to us. And we should not be sad today, we should be grateful today and happy and full of belief and hope for our country.

I don’t want to start calling names, or I’m afraid I’ll never stop, but I do want to thank one person in particular for coming out here today and for meaning so much to me these last eight years.

Senator Chuck Robb, thank you for being here. You are a wonderful man. Thank you.

So now we have to go on to the next chapter in America’s life and our lives in our struggle to do the things we all believe in. I will always feel good about this. And you made that possible.

So you see that sign there that says please don’t go? I left the White House, but I’m still here. We’re not going anywhere.

And that’s the only thing I ask of any of you. If you really believe in what we did these last eight years, you do not have to be in the position of power in government to advance those causes.

And the celebration we mark today is ordained under a Constitution in which the people are supposed to be in the driver’s seat. I’m glad to go back to be one of the people. Maybe for the first time in eight years, I’ll be in the driver’s seat in a way I never was.

Whatever happens, I think I can speak for all of us. We are profoundly grateful.

You’ve got a senator over here who will be a voice for you.

I am very proud of her, and I’m very, very proud of Chelsea, and I’m very grateful to them.

So we’re going to New York and spend the weekend, and then Hillary will show up promptly so as not to miss any votes and to fulfill the oversight function of the United States Senate.

I wish the new president well. I wish his family and administration well. I wish our country well.

And always, always, out of gratitude and affection, I wish you well.

You gave me the ride of my life, and I’ve tried to give as good as I’ve got.

Thank you, and God bless you. Thank you.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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