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them. I mean, I've got a lot of experience repairing the breach. I've 
worked with Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, I've worked 
with Israelis and Palestinians, with Joe Lockhart and David Westin. 
[Laughter] But the differences between Bush and McCain may be just too 
vast. I mean, McCain as Bush's running mate? Hasn't the man suffered 
enough? [Laughter]
    George W. Bush has got a brand-spanking-new campaign strategy. He's 
moving toward the political center, distancing himself from his own 
party, stealing ideas from the other party. I'm so glad Dick Morris has 
finally found work again. [Laughter]
    You know, the clock is running down on the Republicans in Congress, 
too. I feel for them. I do. They've only got 7 more months to 
investigate me. [Laughter] That's a lot of pressure. So little time, so 
many unanswered questions. [Laughter] For example, over the last few 
months I've lost 10 pounds. Where did they go? [Laughter] Why haven't I 
produced them to the Independent Counsel? How did some of them manage to 
wind up on Tim Russert? [Laughter]
    Now, some of you might think I've been busy writing my memoirs. I'm 
not concerned about my memoirs, I'm concerned about my resume. Here's 
what I've got so far. Career objective: To stay President. [Laughter] 
But being realistic, I would consider an executive position with another 
country. [Laughter] Of course, I would prefer to stay within the G-

[[Page 948]]

8. [Laughter] I'm working hard on this resume deal. I've been getting a 
lot of tips on how to write it, mostly from my staff. They really seem 
to be up on this stuff. [Laughter]
    And they tell me I have to use the active voice with a the resume. 
You know, things like: ``Commanded U.S. Armed Forces;'' ``ordered air 
strikes;'' ``served three terms as President''--everybody embellishes a 
little--[laughter]--``designed, built, and painted bridge to 21st 
Century;'' ``supervised Vice President's invention of the Internet;'' 
``generated, attracted, heightened and maintained controversy.'' 
    Now, I know lately I haven't done a very good job at creating 
controversy, and I'm sorry for that. You all have so much less to 
report. I guess that's why you're covering and commenting on my mood, my 
quiet, contemplative moments, my feelings during these final months in 
office. [Laughter] In that case, you might be interested to know that a 
film crew has been following me around the White House, documenting my 
remaining time there.
    This is a strange time in the life of any administration, but I 
think this short film will show that I have come to terms with it. Can 
we see the film?

 [At this point, a video was shown. ]

    The President. You like me. You really like me. [Laughter] Now, you 
know, I may complain about coming here. But a year from now, I'll have 
to watch someone else give this speech. And I'll feel an onset of that 
rare affliction, unique to former Presidents: AGDD, Attention Getting 
Deficit Disorder--[laughter]--plus--which I'll really be burned up when 
Al Gore turns out to be funnier than me. [Laughter]
    But let me say to all of you, I have loved these 8 years. You know, 
I read in the history books how other Presidents say the White House is 
like a penitentiary and every motive they have is suspect. Even George 
Washington complained he was treated like a common thief, and they all 
say they can't wait to get away. I don't know what the heck they're 
talking about. [Laughter] I've had a wonderful time. It's been an honor 
to serve and fun to laugh. I only wish that we'd even laughed more these 
last 8 years, because power is not the most important thing in life, and 
it only counts for what you use it.
    I thank you for what you do every day, thank you for all the fun 
times that Hillary and I have had. Keep at it. It's a great country. It 
deserves our best.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

 Note:  The President spoke at 10:06 p.m. in the Ballroom at the 
Washington Hilton. In his remarks, he referred to Susan Page, president, 
and Arlene Dillon, president-elect, White House Correspondents' 
Association; ``Tonight Show'' host Jay Leno; Senator John McCain; David 
Gergen, editor at large, U.S. News and Weekly Report; David Westin, 
president, ABC News; Dick Morris, political consultant; and Tim Russert, 
moderator, ``Meet the Press.''

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 948-953]
Monday, May 8, 2000
Volume 36--Number 18
Pages 943-1020
Week Ending Friday, May 5, 2000
Commencement Address at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, 

April 30, 2000

    Thank you very much. I must say I was very moved by Secretary 
Slater's remarks. But I realize he was lifted to new heights of 
eloquence by being back at his alma mater. And I also realize he was 
once again proving the adage of Clinton's third law of politics: 
Whenever possible, be introduced by someone you have appointed to high 
office. [Laughter] They will praise you to the skies, true or false. 
    I must say, I was afraid, though, Rodney was about to commit--we 
have been friends for many years--I've never heard him say anything 
politically incorrect. I've never heard him utter a curse word. I've 
never heard him betray a character flaw. But I almost heard an ethnic 
slur today when he said he got me because I look like President Shelton. 
[Laughter] All gray-haired, middle-aged Scotch-Irish guys look alike, 
you know. [Laughter]
    I'm very proud of Secretary Slater, and you should be, too. And I'm 
proud of General Coburn and his leadership in the Army, and Gene Conti, 
who is the Assistant Secretary for Policy at our Transportation 
Department with Secretary Slater. We have been richly blessed by this 
university. And President

[[Page 949]]

Shelton, I am grateful for your years of service here and for our 
friendship in our early years in Arkansas, when we both had less gray 
hair and didn't look so much alike.
    I thank Mayor Archer and former Governor and Ambassador Blanchard 
and Representative Kilpatrick and the other Michigan officials who are 
here with me today. I thank my longtime friend Jim Comer. I didn't know 
he was here at EMU this year until I saw him right before I came in. No 
American has proven so clearly as Professor Comer that all children can 
learn if given the right learning environment, and I am very grateful to 
    I thank all the distinguished board of regents and faculty and staff 
who are here. But most of all, I want to recognize the students and 
their parents of this, your first graduating class of the 21st century.
    On the way in, Rodney was telling me that I would identify with a 
lot of you. A lot of you are first-generation college graduates. A lot 
of you had to work your way through school. A lot of you needed help in 
the form of loans and grants and work-study positions. And every one of 
you should be very proud of what you have achieved.
    I also identify with your class because I may be the only President 
of the United States who ever studied here. I came here to prepare for 
my debates in 1992. And like you, I passed, and I thank you very much 
for the contribution you made to my education and to my years here.
    You are graduating into a strong economy, the strongest in our 
Nation's history. You are also graduating into a time of immense 
possibility, here in Michigan and throughout the United States and, 
indeed, throughout the world.
    One of my speechwriters wrote me a line that said, ``Our economy is 
soaring higher than Swoop, the eagle.'' [Laughter] He said you would 
know what that means. All I know is that I am grateful for the chance 
that the Vice President and First Lady and our administration and I have 
had to work to create opportunity in America and to bring us closer 
together in one community.
    I know that a great deal of this is because we are in the midst of a 
profound revolution, the most sweeping since the industrial revolution a 
century ago. Information technology alone now gives us about a third of 
our growth, though only 8 percent of our work force is directly involved 
in it. It is bringing growth to every sector of our economy in a way we 
haven't seen since Henry Ford's first assembly line.
    And I wanted to come here today to try to give you, this graduating 
class, some sense of the world into which you're going. You understand 
the opportunities, doubtless, better than I. I want you to understand 
the challenges, too. For economic opportunity is not an end in itself; 
it is a means to an end, to further liberty, to strengthen the bonds of 
community, to enable you to build families and have children and enrich 
your lives.
    Before you lies a future of unparalleled possibility. But I want you 
to understand today that just as at the dawn of the industrial age 100 
years ago, which was symbolized by Michigan, by Mr. Ford's assembly 
line, and the factories of Detroit, there are new challenges presented 
by this new era to our oldest values of freedom and opportunity and 
    Theodore Roosevelt came to this campus more than 100 years ago, at 
the beginning of the industrial era, when new rules were required to 
make sure that the industrial revolution worked for all our people. 
Without those rules, there would have been a terrible industrial divide 
between rich and poor, strong and weak. With those rules--with the wage 
and hour laws, the child labor laws, the antitrust laws, the Federal 
Reserve, and later the minimum wage, workman's compensation, 
unemployment insurance, Social Security--with those new rules, we built 
an opportunity society that produced the greatest middle class in human 
history, one that became even more successful and more inclusive 
throughout this last century with the progress of civil rights, women's 
rights, environmental and worker protection.
    I want to say to you today that you are well-equipped for the 
possibilities of this new era, but we also need new rules for the 
information age to protect those old values, just as we did for the 
industrial age. For all the possibilities must be measured also against 
the challenges presented by this new era, challenges to our privacy as 
individuals, to

[[Page 950]]

our pledge of equal opportunity for every member of our community, to 
our stewardship of the environment as citizens of the planet.
    From our earliest days, part of what has made America unique has 
been our dedication to freedom and the clear understanding that real 
freedom requires a certain space of personal privacy.
    Today, as information technology opens new worlds of possibilities, 
it also challenges privacy in ways we might never have imagined just a 
few years ago. For example, the same genetic code that offers hope for 
millions can also be used to deny health insurance. The same technology 
that links distant places can also be used to track our every move on-
    In this information age, we can't let new opportunities erode old 
fundamental rights. We can't let breakthroughs in technology break down 
walls of privacy. Our response to this challenge will affect the lives 
of every single member of this graduating class and the lives of your 
    We are working with the Internet industry to raise privacy 
standards. In the last year alone, the share of commercial websites with 
privacy policies has risen a lot, and we will do more. But as my wife 
has said many times, some of these privacy issues presented by 
information technology are so sensitive they must have the protection of 
    We have taken steps to protect the privacy of children on-line, 
preventing websites from collecting information from children without a 
parent's permission. I proposed the first set of national standards to 
protect the privacy of on-line medical records, to ensure that your 
personal health information doesn't fall into the wrong hands. You 
shouldn't have to worry that your employer is looking at the medications 
you take or the ailments you have.
    Today I'd like to ask you to think about the challenge to our 
financial privacy coming out of the information revolution. We are 
moving from cash to electronic transactions. A bank is no longer just a 
bank; it's often linked with an insurance firm, a broker, a travel 
agency. All this helps to give us added convenience, lower prices, and 
more choices. But it's also forcing us to redefine financial privacy for 
the information age and to rewrite the rules that go with it.
    There was a time when protecting your financial privacy meant 
safeguarding your passbook. Today, a financial record isn't just about 
what you're worth; it can paint a picture of who you are. Every time you 
write a check, use an ATM, make a purchase with a credit or debit card, 
there is a record, a record that technology can sort and track--what 
dish you ordered at a restaurant, what clothes you bought at the mall--
that makes it easier for others to mine all of that information for 
their own profit.
    We've taken some historic steps to stop information about your 
personal spending habits from being shared without your permission. But 
even today the law doesn't prevent firms within a financial conglomerate 
from sharing information with each other. In other words, the life 
insurance company could share information about your medical history 
with the bank without giving you any choice in the matter. The bank 
could share information from your student loans and your credit cards 
with its telemarketer or its broker, again without giving you any 
choice. I believe that is wrong.
    Today I present a plan to protect the privacy of Americans' 
financial records. I challenge Congress to act on it this year. Because 
your information doesn't belong to just anyone; every consumer and every 
family deserves choices about how their personal information is shared.
    First, before your financial information is shared between two 
affiliated companies, say, a credit card company and an insurance 
company, you would get notice, and you could say no.
    Second, for the most sensitive type of information, I think there 
should be an extra level of protection. As more banks and insurance 
companies merge, lenders could gain access to private medical 
information and many insurance records. But no one should have to worry 
that the results of their latest physical exam will be used to deny them 
a home mortgage or a credit card. Under my plan, you'd get to say no.
    Third, we would add that same safeguard to the information that 
makes up your personal spending identity, such as the list of

[[Page 951]]

every purchase you've ever made by check or debt or credit card, 
everything you buy. Again, that information could be shared only if you 
say yes.
    And finally, to make sure you have control over the comprehensive 
records that financial institutions may assemble about you, we'll make 
sure you have access to those records and the right to correct mistakes 
in them. We must be able to enjoy the benefits of technology without 
sacrificing our privacy, to maximize the promise of the information age 
and still protect our individual liberties.
    Our national character also requires new rules for the information 
age that recognize opportunity for all, now means access to technology 
for all. Just as we closed the industrial divide in the 20th century, we 
must now close the digital divide in the 21st century.
    You know, if you're educated for the information age, who you are 
and where you are don't matter as much anymore. I have seen that with 
people in the poorest villages of the world logging onto the Internet 
and getting an education, getting information once available only in 
textbooks, learning how to take care of their children, learning how to 
start new businesses. But if who and where you are don't matter so much, 
what you know and what you can do matter more than ever. That's why this 
degree and what you learned here is so important. That's why technology 
education is so important.
    Technology in this new era will either erase lines that divide us or 
widen them. The Internet and computers make it possible for us to lift 
more people out of poverty faster than at any time in history, but it 
will not happen by accident. Many of you have learned this lesson in 
your own lives.
    Todd Pasquale, of the college of arts and sciences, wasn't going to 
let anything stop him from earning his degree today, not even navigating 
his wheelchair through the Michigan snows. Thanks to EMU Online, he took 
his winter courses at home. Now, he plans to give back to the community 
by working as a counselor to people in prisons, because he could access 
technology. Let's give him a hand. [Applause]
    Randy Short went back to school after her husband died, leaving her 
to raise three sons alone. Today she earns a Masters degree with honors 
in website design. She hopes to start her own business, and she wants to 
help teach women to use computers. She has already given those women a 
lesson for all of us about the value of making sure technology education 
is accessible to every American. Give her a hand. [Applause]

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