Remarks Congratulating the United States Olympic Team

 

October 24, 1988

 

The President. Members of the Cabinet and distinguished guests, and athletes and coaches, and ladies and gentlemen. I want to welcome all of you to the White House today as we honor and welcome home our victorious summer Olympic team. You know, with so many successful athletes here, I kind of expect a camera crew from Walt Disney to run up and ask me what I plan to do next. [Laughter] But seriously, this team showed the world that America stands for fairplay and sportsmanlike conduct. While here, I want to say that Nancy and I are so proud of you we'd give the whole team a gold medal. And congratulations; you are all champions.

 

As you athletes know, some of the credit goes to your parents and families, the people who've stood by you through all those long hours of training. Maybe it was a father who rose before sunrise to drive you to practice or a mother who skimped and saved so a young athlete could train. Or it may simply have been a sister or brother providing a strong word of encouragement in a moment of self-doubt. Whichever the case may be, they also deserve our heartfelt thanks.

 

When all is said and done, the most important accomplishment of all was the many hours of training that each of you endured. Your personal dedication to being the very best that you can be, achieving the highest level of physical and mental perfection, guided you through those many hours, days, and years of practice. And when your time came, and with the world watching, you crystallized those many hours and sacrifices into glorious moments. And if everything came together, you stood on the medal platform holding your head high as the ``Star Spangled Banner'' rang out in triumph. And if you didn't come home wearing a medal you still were every bit a hero. Just to make it to the level of Olympic competition is one of the greatest achievements a human being can attain in a lifetime. And I mean performing with grit and determination, as all of you here have done.

 

Not relying on drugs or banned substances, you set a fine example for the youth of America, and my roommate and I both commend you. You may notice that I'm wearing a ``Drug-Free America'' ribbon today. Well, this is Drug-Free America Week. And it's a time to renew America's determination to see the day when everyone in our country will just say no to illegal drugs, and for every American to just say yes, as you have, to doing the most with his or her God-given talents. America promises to all its children, of whatever background, the opportunity to dream great dreams and to make those dreams come true. Drugs kill that promise, and that's why we all want a drug-free America. And that's why we honor you, because you've worked to become the very best that you can be.

 

No, I don't measure the success of our Olympic teams only by the tally of medals they bring home. I believe people who go out and give their all in fair and competitive sport are winners. In Seoul we claimed 94 medals and 611 winners -- all of you. You are 611 reasons for America to be proud.

 

And these Olympics were a triumph for our hosts in the Republic of Korea and for our long friendship with them. One journalist described it like this: ``I have been unfailingly treated with politeness and friendliness and genuine warmth by police, security guards, and Korean Olympic personnel. They gave me small gifts to take home so I'll remember Korea.'' Well, today we do remember the Korean people and are proud to have them as friends -- and proud of the indelibly successful Olympic games they hosted.

 

I hope these games will be remembered for the poignancy of the closing ceremony, that heartfelt scene of camaraderie as thousands of athletes from around the world exchanged gifts, danced together, and bid farewell to one another. One observer described this mass of friendship as ``swirling together in a sea of international revelry.'' And right there in the middle of this sea marched you, the United States athletes, carrying tiny Korean flags in a true gesture of respect and brotherhood. And back home, in every corner of our country, our hearts swelled with the pride we had for you and for America.

 

And our hearts are still swelling for some very important people who are right now in Korea competing in their own very important games. I'm speaking, of course, about the Paraolympics. I was going to say I send them my very best wishes. I think I'd better say we all send them our very best wishes.

 

And now we're setting our sights on Albertville and Barcelona in 1992, and I say, look out world, because the USA is going for the gold again. Congratulations, good luck, and God bless you.

 

Mr. Helmick. Mr. President, as president of the United States Olympic Committee, it's my pleasure to thank you very much for welcoming this team. And as you said, we have 611 heroes here. There are 611 stories of sacrifice -- sacrifice of time; sacrifice of the relationship with their families as they're practicing and training; and, yes, even economic sacrifice, because these athletes and their families have to dig down into their own resources to help train. And that's why I want to give a special thanks to the President and the Congress for the Olympic Coin Act. The money from that is a donation to the United States Olympic Committee as the American people buy these coins. And that money is earmarked to go directly to help relieve some of the economic sacrifice these athletes must go through. So, please accept our thanks, Mr. President, the Congress, the American people, for your support of our United States Olympic team. Thank you.

 

Mr. Biondi. Good afternoon, guests and Mr. President. My name is Matt Biondi, and I was a swimmer. [Laughter] I'd like to introduce to you some of my distinguished teammates from the Olympic team: swimming champion, Janet Evans; boxing champion, Andrew Maynard; kayak champion, Greg Barton; and the track and field queen of the sprints, Florence Griffith Joyner. On behalf of the athletes attending the White House reception, I would like to say how great it is to be here in this city to receive the warm welcome and to enjoy each other's company on a less competitive circumstance.

 

I look at what we've done as athletes in Korea as a gift -- the days, the hours, the time that we spent dedicated to our sport training -- a gift that we tried to open in Korea for ourselves, for our sports, and most importantly, for our country. And to come back to the States and to see that the gift was so well-received, with smiles, handshakes, and warm gestures, makes us feel really warm inside. And as athletes, the performance is what we try to give, and to have it so well-received makes us feel really nice. And we want to thank you for that warm reception.

 

One way to show our appreciation for the support of our country is to offer a gift from our team to the President. Mr. President, we know you are familiar with this style of hat from your western films you've made, but this is a special one. The pins on the brim make it a lasting and unique memory of all the struggles and triumph that each athlete faced while participating for the United States in the Olympic games.

 

The President. Well, now, all of you in this group prepare to smile, say cheese, and remain motionless. And a couple of us are going to join you up there. And then we're going to have a photograph of the whole group, the whole team. I think I'll have to take my hat off for that. [Laughter]

 

Note: The President spoke at 11:40 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House.