Public Papers

Remarks at the Ohio Freedom Day Celebration in Parma, Ohio


Thank you so much. Thank you, Governor Voinovich. I think the people in Parma probably understand this, but let me just say it: You've got a great Governor of this State, and I'm proud to be with him. May I salute two members of my Cabinet, the President's Cabinet, with me here today: Secretary Jack Kemp, who runs HUD, doing a great job; he's out there working to help through enterprise zones and homeownership, doing a great job there. And then another one whom you all know very well, most of you do, a man who has introduced me to much of ethnic America, Secretary Ed Derwinski, the Secretary of the Veterans Administration.

I want to thank Mayor Ries, who greeted me earlier, Parma's Mayor, welcoming me to this wonderful community. Another old friend, Ralph Perk, we go back a long, long time, Ralph, to when he was Mayor of the city of Cleveland. And of course, Mike DeWine, who I want to see in the United States Senate, now the Lieutenant Governor of this State.

Let me thank all of you for this Freedom Medal. I was pointing out to Ralph something he had already seen. But I love these signs, all of them hand-done, but ``Freedom Is America's Name'' and ``Let Freedom Ring.'' What says it better than that? I don't know. It is fantastic. I think it is very fitting that George Voinovich, your Governor, has proclaimed this Freedom Day. And Americans like yourselves, not just here but all across the country, gave us the strength, the determination, the will to topple the Berlin Wall and to work for the freedom of Eastern Europe and for the rest of what used to be the Soviet Union.

You never gave up. You never, ever gave up. You said your prayers; you said them over and over again, praying for your friends and your families that were left halfway around the world, but you never, ever gave up. And I've been in public life for some time; half my life in public life, half in private. And one thing I've seen, wherever, is the faith that the Americans, different nationalities, had in the fact that their countries, their people would be free. You never gave up, and I congratulate you for that.

Today we hear so much gloom and doom about what's wrong with the United States of America. But we can all take pride that we brought about the fall of the Iron Curtain, the death of imperial communism, and we prevented the cataclysm of the third world war because freedom-loving people in America and in Europe persevered and won the cold war definitively. And we should take great pride in that.

It's risky to go into any particular country in this homogenous group, I'll tell you, but a group joined together because of freedom, but with many ethnic backgrounds. But the great leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Cardinal Slipyj, endured years of pain in prison, and we'll never forget his role. We'll never forget Hungary's noble symbol of courage, the late Cardinal Mindszenty. Both of these men died in lonely exile. But they inspired others, not just in Hungary but others, to persevere. And they inspired others to literally change the world. And now both are hailed openly as heroes in their native land, just as they are honored here in America. The church, faith had a lot to do about the success of the United States in standing up against communism and working and prevailing for freedom.

This day, Freedom Day, we also honor heroes of the nineties, statesmen like Havel and Walesa and Landsbergis. And we marvel at how our world has changed. You know, during the eighties, Havel and Lech Walesa spent time in prison for the crime of speaking up for freedom. That was the crime, to speak up for freedom. And it was scarcely more than one year ago that Landsbergis of Lithuania took his stand, armed with only the truth and the spirit of patriotism against the Red army forces who were gunning down innocent citizens in Lithuania. So, we won't forget that.

And this day honors the work of half a century of our GI's and of our allies who kept NATO strong; the radio broadcasters who pierced the Iron Curtain with words of hope and truth. I remember when Lech Walesa came to the United States. He wanted to go to Radio Free Europe so he could meet and look into the eyes of the voice that he had heard speaking up for freedom when that was the only hope the people of Poland had, a wonderful story about our Nation's perseverance.

We think of world leaders whose deeds were as powerful as their words: Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl, my predecessor Ronald Reagan, who had so much to do with keeping our sights set on the fall of communism, and of the families -- we think of them -- in the East and the West who prayed together, and parents who taught their children right from wrong. The physical and moral strength of these people transcended and destroyed the Iron Curtain.

And I believe that moral strength will prevail, even where violence and oppression hold forth, as in the states of the former Yugoslavia. We now recognize the full sovereignty of Slovenia and Croatia and Bosnia, and we stand in solidarity with their people. Let me make this clear: We will not recognize the annexation of territories by force. Aggression cannot be rewarded. But we must stay involved, trying to find a peaceful answer to the whole question of Yugoslavia.

So, as George said, we do stand on the threshold of a new world, a world of peace and opportunity. And I really see this as the opportunity of a century. And it's amazing to learn about some of the efforts that have already begun, think tanks and fax machines that are networking to foster democracy and free enterprise in the Baltic republics, in Ukraine and Russia, throughout Eastern Europe.

Governor Voinovich tells me the growth of telephone traffic between Ohio and Ukraine is absolutely phenomenal. New phone links are helping families restore these old bonds and helping new business ventures get going. People from Kiev and Vilnius now travel here without having to fear that they left home for the last time.

Government is doing its part. Two weeks ago I had a wonderful meeting, for those particularly interested in Ukraine, a wonderful meeting with Kravchuk, President Kravchuk, welcoming him to the White House and then taking him up -- we flew in a helicopter up to Camp David, pointing out the different rural communities in agricultural America and urban America.

I think we made real progress working with President Kravchuk on reducing the threat of nuclear war. We announced our pledge to establish the science and technology center in Ukraine. We signed agreements that are going to foster trade and investment with Ukraine. And I've taken action to grant most-favored-nation status for Ukraine as soon as possible. And again, for the Ukrainian-Americans present, I am very, very proud that one of the men closest to me in the White House, Roman Popadiuk, will be sworn in next week as the first American Ambassador to Ukraine.

We've got to keep working on this. Just last week, a couple of days ago actually, I had an equally good meeting with the President of Kazakhstan, President Nazarbayev. And like Kravchuk, Nazarbayev pledged to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon state. And he pledged to remove all the nuclear weapons within the 7-year period of the START agreement.

And in a few more weeks, the President of Russia, a gigantic new country, President Yeltsin coming to the United States, and we are going to meet together in Washington to chart a new partnership with Russia for the future. And it is a wonderful thing to be talking about business and freedom instead of talking about nuclear arms and the worry that our kids used to have in this country about the nuclear threat.

We're eager to develop strengths and strengthen our ties with Byelarus and Moldova and Armenia and all the nations that have won independence from Soviet rule. And working with them and our allies we want to establish a democratic peace, a lasting peace that is built on trust, a peace that is built on shared values, not simply the absence of war.

And so to finish this job, I need your help. We've done much to support the new nations of the Commonwealth, C.I.S. And there are other initiatives that will help these nations along the road to democracy and freedom. For Russia, largely for Russia but also for the Ukraine and others, we have the ``FREEDOM Support Act'' which I've sent up to the Congress, which will provide new opportunities for American business. It's going to clear away a lot of that cold war legislation, get rid of that, that now inhibits trade and investment with Ukraine and the other nations of the old Soviet empire. It provides new authority to continue food assistance totaling 0 million in food guarantees for the purchase of American ag products. And Congress should act now.

We've got problems at home, but we must not miss this historic opportunity to guarantee the peace for these kids here and to guarantee the freedom for those across the ocean. So join with me in asking Congress not to disappoint our children and to support us as we try to pass the ``FREEDOM Support Act.'' And if we meet these responsibilities today, a generation from now people might be speaking about a ``Ukrainian miracle'' or a ``Baltic miracle,'' much as we marvel at the recovery of Western Europe just a few years ago, ravaged by the Second World War. They came back strong. And everyone calls it the ``miracle of Western Europe.'' Now we want the same things for these new republics. And with your support, we can get it.

I know that it is still Easter season in your church. And to close, I want to tell a story about Easter this year, not in Ukraine but in Russia. Many of you will recall the big military parades that the Soviets used to have there in Red Square, always with a huge portrait of Lenin as the backdrop, on the wall of the State Historical Museum. Well, this year at Easter, there was no portrait of Lenin. Instead, a massive icon towered over Red Square, an icon of the Resurrection, and atop it, the words Christos Voskrese, Christ is risen.

And the way I look at it is this: This really is a season of resurrection throughout the once-captive nations of Europe. And it is a wonderful time to be alive to see these days, to enjoy the freedom that God has given us in the freest, most wonderful Nation on the face of the Earth, the United States of America. May God bless each and every one of you.

And may I say, as the President of the United States, I will keep working for freedom around the world. And with your support, I know we will be successful in seeing these European and former Soviet republics become free and whole, with the people enjoying a life they never would have dreamed of.

Thank you, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:53 p.m. in the auditorium at St. Josephat's Cathedral.