These comments by former president Bill Clinton are from an address he gave at the Newark Celebration Event. This is a transcribed speech.
Thank you very much, thank you, thank you. First of all, I want to thank all the little kids for being so polite, and putting up with all these speeches. Let’s give them a big hand, they have been great.
Now, secondly, I would like to say I’m honored to be back in Newark. No town in America was better to me than Newark. Thank you Mayor James and Superintendent Bolden, and to all the principals who are here. And my good friend Congressman Don Paine, and thank you Ray Chambers for being the guardian angel of Newark, and for giving so much of your time, your life and your money to good causes.
I’d like to thank the bands who have played, and especially these young kids up here. I started when I was nine. I know how scared they were today. Give them another hand.
And I want to thank our wonderful entertainers Mariah Carey and India Arie for being here.
I’m not going to give you a big speech, I just want to make two or three points.
Number one, a few years from now, somebody’s going to be on a stage like this, doing what Mariah and India did today. It might as well be you. I’d say Chanez has got a good start ’cause she overcame her fears to come up here today. You deserve a medal, girl. A few years after that, somebody’s going to be on a stage like this, being the congressman, being the principal, being the superintendent. It might as well be you. A few years after that, somebody your age is going to be President of the United States and it might as well be you. And what I want to tell you is, there is a reason that I came here to support James Dolan, and my great friend John Sykes who has made this Save The Music the work of his life and the love of his life.
And that is, that I’m not sure I would have become president if it hadn’t been for music. And I want you to know why, because it might as well be you. There is going to be in your time, several African-American presidents, several Hispanic presidents and several women presidents in your lifetime. ..it might as well be you. When I was elected president, there had only been one governor from a small state in the whole history of American elected president, nobody from Arkansas. When I was born, my mother was a widow. When she re-married, my step-father didn’t graduate from high school. I don’t think I’d have been president if it hadn’t been for music. .And I’m lots older than you are. I’m…well…I’ll soon be 55 and that’s ancient, right? I started when I was nine, and I still remember the name of the man who taught me to play saxophone, when I was nine – George Grey. I still remember my first choir director, Lillian Rutherford. I still remember both my junior high school band directors, Joe Allduskin and Carol Powell. And my high school band director, Virgil Sperlin, is my friend to this day; because on more than one occasion, when I was broken hearted, confused, had trouble at home, had all kinds of problems, he was there to lift me up and make me believe in myself. It might as well be you. And, you got to understand, I still thought I might be a professional musician when I was 16, ’cause I was better at what I did than anybody I knew. And then one-day I had to realize, that I might be better than anybody I knew, but I would never be great. So I had to spend my time doing something else.
I never stopped loving music. It taught me both discipline and creativity. It taught me to be an individual and how to play on a team. It taught me how to take initiative and how to be patient. All these kids here, if you know any of them, you ought to give them another hand after they leave, because, let me tell you something, if you’re blowing on one of these instruments, you have to sound bad for a good while before you start to sound good. You think India just picked up that guitar and made it sound good the first time? It might as well be you. But you have to understand what music does for you. First of all, it makes you use all of yourself. I was asking John Sykes if my ears were bad or if Mariah Carey could still hit 5 octaves. Now, you probably won’t be able to do that, but the point I want to make is music, if you’re gonna be good at it, it requires your mind and your body; it requires your heart and your soul. And when you give everything to something, it unleashes your dreams and gives you the confidence that you can live your dreams and therefore it is very good preparation for life. By the way, it also really does help you develop your mind, so that schools with music education programs have kids who do better in reading and math and science. That’s actually true. This is good for you in the short run. But I’m interested in your dreams and your spirit. So, I’m very grateful to the mayors and the superintendent and the school board and everybody who is bringing music education back to Newark. And I just want to tell you, when this is all over, if you don’t remember anything else, remember that music can give you your dreams. It will teach you hard work, it will break your heart and make you so happy you can’t stand it, if you stay with it. Just remember, it might as well be you. And music can help take you there.
Thank you and God bless you.