tributes

U.S. State Department
Washington D.C.
September 15, 2000

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Prime Minister Vajpayee, Members of the Indian delegation. Members of Congress. Distinguished guests. Ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome. It is a true privilege and pleasure for me to host you, Mr. Prime Minister, for today’s luncheon.

In today’s world, it is rare to find a leader who combines the qualities of idealism and pragmatism, confidence and humility. In you, Mr. Prime Minister, we find such a leader.

As a poet, you have inspired the imagination of your people with your eloquence. As Prime Minister, you have challenged your people to act on their imagination, to create a shared vision for a united, democratic, prosperous and peaceful India, and then to make that vision a reality. You are truly a leader in both word and deed.

President John Kennedy once said, in our country, “If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place to live.” I cannot translate that into Hindi, but Mr. Prime Minister, you embody President Kennedy’s words. You know both poetry and politics, and through your inspired leadership, you are indeed making the world a better place to live.

In your poem Oonchai — or “height” in English — you speak of the importance of not losing touch with humanity as one rises in life. Your poem ends with a stirring line, which I would like to quote: “Never let me climb so high that I cannot bend down to embrace another human.” You have dedicated your life to this noble ambition.

I am confident that India is destined for great heights. One of the World’s great civilizations, India has emerged, of course, as one of it’s great democracies. India’s history has been turbulent at times. But your nation is on the way to overcoming these challenges by embracing change, uniting all, and setting a course for the future.

The United States, Mr. Prime Minister, joins India as a partner on this journey. Our two nations share a special bond. As the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy, we are, in your words, “natural allies.” Our cultures and customs differ, but we share a strong commitment to democracy and equality for all. We are proof that diversity is strength, and that freedom is power.

The success of the Indian-American community testifies to the potential for our partnership. Many distinguished members of this Indian-American community join us here today. Indian-Americans have excelled in all fields of endeavor, from medicine to movies, science to airlines, and everything in between. And they have been at the forefront of the information revolution. Many Indian-Americans have found a home in Silicon Valley, leading some of the most successful internet companies. They have made an invaluable contribution to America’s prosperity and democratic life.

As the world’s two leading democracies, we bear a special responsibility to take the lead in meeting the challenges that all democracies face. We must work together to ensure democracy’s promises are realized by all our people, that all benefit from freedom. Quality education, public health, a clean environment — these are the goals we share and which together we can achieve. Threats that undermine democracy — such as terrorism and the proliferation of dangerous weapons technologies — are concerns we also share, and will work together to address.

When you were sworn-in as India’s sixteenth Prime Minister two years ago, you said that you “have a pledge to redeem and a promise to fulfill.” On behalf of all Americans, I pledge to you America’s continued support, and promise you our lasting friendship.

Please join me now in raising our glasses in honor of Prime Minister Vajpayee and to the friendship between our two great nations.
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