|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the U.S. Olympic Committee, Union Station
Washington, D.C., May 16, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As my kids would say, "Awesome!"
Thank you very much, Bill, Secretary General Blake; Ambassador Thawley; Senator Baker, Senator Kassebaum, Senator Stevens, Senator Breaux, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Congressman Jim Lyons, and other distinguished representatives from Capitol Hill; Secretary West; Director Schneider; Olympians past and present; valued colleagues, guest and friends.
I am truly delighted to be here tonight with you in the presence of heroes. Because there are some very big people up here, some very fast people up here, and some very strong people up here. I am none of these things.
But I did throw out the first pitch for the Orioles on opening day a couple of years ago. And it went right to the catcher, on only one bounce.
Obviously, not all of us can be "Swifter, Higher, Stronger" on the field of play. But one needn't be a sports giant to be inspired every four years by those who are.
When we think of America, and the Olympics, the images reel by of Jesse Owens putting the lie to Hitler's delusions; Bob Beamon's one great leap for man kind; the final seconds of The Miracle on Ice; and Kerri Strug's vault through agony into history.
It takes only a moment to conjure the memory of Peggy Flemming floating on skates, Bonnie Blair pumping her arms, George Foreman waving Old Glory, and Al Oeter spinning the discus into the gold four consecutive times.
No American will ever forget the speed and style of Florence Griffith-Joyner. The enduring excellence of Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Or the amazing victories of the US Olympic women's teams.
Simply put, sports lifts us up. And the Olympics are the pinnacle of sport.
Breathtaking athletic performances have much to do with this, but credit for the Olympics' lasting appeal also goes to the ageless Olympic ideals of fair play and competition; hard work and honor; friendship and understanding.
And all this helps explain why the Olympic movement has so successfully has transcended the boundaries of time. But what I most appreciate, as Secretary of State, is how thoroughly it transcends the boundaries of nationality and race, ideology and geography.
For sport provides us with a universal language. In every village, in every country, in every corner of the earth, children test each other and themselves by discovering who can make it first to the tree; who can throw that stone farthest; or who can stay dry while jumping across that stream.
And that same universality is the key of America's success in the games. In a very real sense in every Olympics, America's team is the world's team.
The roster of past US Olympic heroes proves it. Think of it. The same flag has been represented by Tara Lipinski and Jim Thorpe; Oscar de la Hoya and Mike Eruizone; Wilmer Rudolph and Bruce Baumgartner; Mark Spitz and Andre Agassi; Greg Lougainas and Kristi Yamaguchi.
Our ability to forage a true team out of such diverse elements is the basis of our Olympic strength. It is the foundation of our democratic society. And in many respects, it remains the best hope of the world.
My friends, come this summer in Sydney, America's Olympic athletes will be reaching for their dreams. But in the highest sense, you will be reaching for all dreams for all of us as well.
For every one of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes will be demonstrating a truth we know from experience as well as the Olympic Creed – that "the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle."
And simply competing in the games means that you've struggled valiantly and well.
In his baseball novel, The Natural, Bernard Malamud wrote, that "Without heroes we are all small people who don't know what we can do."
Win or lose, America's Olympic athletes are heroes.
So let me affirm tonight, that we honor all your training and sacrifice. We applaud your exploits. And we send you to Sydney with great faith in your abilities and great pride in all you represent.
My friends all know that the greatest honor for me is to represent the United States around the world. And I'm sure that the greatest honor for you is to represent the United States at the Olympics.
Do well. Thank you all very much.
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