Vice President Hu, thank you for your words of welcome. I am grateful for your hospitality, and honored by this reception at one of China's great universities.
Tsinghua University was founded, with the support of America, to further the ties between our two nations. I know how important this place is to the Vice President, who earned his degree here and even more important, met his gracious wife Liu Yongqing here.
I also thank the students here for this opportunity to meet with you, to talk a little bit about my country and answer some of your questions. The standards and reputation of this university are known around the world, and I know what an achievement it is to be here. My wife Laura and I have two daughters in college, one at Yale and the other at the University of Texas. We are proud of our daughters just like I am sure your parents are proud of you.
My visit to China comes on an important anniversary. Thirty years ago this week, an American President arrived in China on a trip designed to end decades of estrangement and confront centuries of suspicion. President Richard Nixon showed the world that two vastly different governments could meet on the grounds of common interest, and in a spirit of mutual respect. As they left the airport that day, Premier Zhou Enlai said to President Nixon, ``Your handshake came over the vastest ocean in the world twenty-five years of no communication.''
During the 30 years since, America and China have exchanged many handshakes of friendship and commerce. And as we have had more contact with each other, the citizens of our two countries have gradually learned more about each other.
Once, America knew China only by its history as a great and enduring civilization. Today, we see a China that is still defined by noble traditions of family, scholarship, and honor. And we see a China that is becoming one of the most dynamic and creative societies in the world as demonstrated by all the knowledge and potential right here in this room.
China is on a rising path, and America welcomes the emergence of a strong, peaceful, and prosperous China.
As America learns more about China, I am concerned that the Chinese people do not always see a clear picture of my country. This happens for many reasons, some of them of our own making. Our movies and television shows often do not portray the values of the real America I know. Our successful businesses show the strength of American commerce, but the community spirit and contributions of those businesses are not always as visible as their monetary success. Some of the erroneous pictures of America are painted by others. My friend, the Ambassador to China, tells me that some Chinese textbooks talk of Americans ``bullying the weak and repressing the poor.'' Another Chinese textbook, published just last year, teaches that special agents of the FBI are used to ``repress the working people.''
Neither of these is true and while the books may be leftovers from a previous era, they are misleading and harmful. In fact, Americans feel a special responsibility for the poor and the weak. Our government spends billions of dollars to provide health care and food and housing for those who cannot help themselves and even more important, many of our citizens contribute their own money and time to help those in need. American compassion stretches way beyond our borders. We are the number one provider of humanitarian aid to people in need throughout the world. As for the men and women of our FBI and law enforcement, they are themselves working people who devote their lives to fighting crime and corruption.
My country certainly has its share of problems and faults; like most nations we're on a long journey toward achieving our own ideals of equality and justice. Yet there is a reason our nation shines as a beacon of hope and opportunity, a reason many throughout the world dream of coming to America.
We are a free nation, where men and women have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. No matter your background or circumstance of birth, in America you can get a good education, start a business, raise a family, worship freely and help elect the leaders of your community and country. You can support the policies of our government, or you are free to openly disagree with them. Those who fear freedom sometimes argue it could lead to chaos, but it does not, because freedom means more than every man for himself.
Liberty gives our citizens many rights, yet expects them to exercise important responsibilities. Our liberty is given direction and purpose by moral character, shaped in strong families, strong communities, and strong religious institutions and overseen by a strong and fair legal system.
My country's greatest symbol to the world, the Statue of Liberty, was designed with great care. As you look closely, you will see that she is holding not one object, but two. In one hand is the familiar torch, the light of liberty. In the other is a book of law.
We are a Nation of laws. Our courts are honest and independent. The President can't tell the courts how to rule and neither can any other member of the executive or legislative branch. Under our law, everyone stands equal. No one is above the law, and no one is beneath it.
All political power in America is limited and temporary, and only given by a free vote of the people. We have a Constitution, now two centuries old, which limits and balances the powers of the three branches of our government: judicial, legislative and executive.
Many of the values that guide our life in America are first shaped in our families, just as they are in your country. American Moms and Dads love their children and work hard and sacrifice for them, because we believe life can always be better for the next generation. In our families, we find love and learn responsibility and character.
And many Americans voluntarily devote part of their lives to serving others. An amazing number nearly half of all adults in America volunteer time every week to make their communities better by mentoring children visiting the sick caring for the elderly and helping with a thousand other needs and causes. This is one of the great strengths of my country. People take responsibility for helping others without being told, motivated by their good hearts and often by their faith.
America is a nation guided by faith. Someone once called us ``a nation with the soul of a church.'' Ninety-five percent of Americans say they believe in God, and I'm one of them.
When I met with President Jiang Zemin in Shanghai a few months ago, I told him how faith has shaped my own life, and how faith contributes to the life of my country. Faith points to a moral law beyond man's law and calls us to duties higher than material gain. Freedom of religion is not something to be feared but to be welcomed, because faith gives us a moral core and teaches us to hold ourselves to high standards, to love and serve others, and to live responsible lives.
If you travel across America, you will find people of many different ethic backgrounds and many different faiths. We are a varied country. We are home to 2.3 million Americans of Chinese ancestry, who can be found working in the offices of our biggest companies, serving in my own Cabinet, and skating for America at the Olympics. Every immigrant, by taking an oath of allegiance to our country, becomes just as much an American as the President of the United States. America shows that a society can be vast and varied, and yet still one country, commanding the allegiance and love of its people.
All of these qualities of America were vividly displayed on a single day, September 11th, when terrorists attacked America. American policemen and firefighters, by the hundreds, ran into burning towers in the desperate hope of saving other lives. Volunteers came from everywhere to help with the rescue efforts. Americans donated blood, and gave money to help the families of victims. People went to prayer services all over America, and raised flags to show their pride and unity. None of this was ordered by the government; it happened spontaneously, by the initiative of a free people.
Life in America shows that liberty, paired with law, is not to be feared. In a free society, diversity is not disorder. Debate is not strife. And dissent is not revolution. A free society trusts its citizens to seek greatness in themselves and their country.
It was my honor to visit China in 1975, and a lot has changed in your country since then. China has made amazing progress in openness, and enterprise, and economic freedom. And this progress previews China's great potential.
China has joined the World Trade Organization, and as you live up to its obligations, they will bring changes in China's legal system. A modern China will have a consistent rule of law to govern commerce and secure the rights of its people.
The new China your generation is building will need the profound wisdom of your traditions. The lure of materialism challenges society in our country and in many successful countries. Your ancient ethic of personal and family responsibility will serve you well.
Behind China's economic success today are talented, energetic people. In the near future, these same men and women will play a full and active role in your government. This university is not simply turning out specialists, it is preparing citizens. And citizens are not spectators in the affairs of their country. They are participants in its future.
Change is coming. China is already having secret ballot and competitive elections at the local level. Nearly twenty years ago, Deng Xiaoping said that China would eventually expand democratic elections all the way to the national level and I look forward to that day.
Tens of millions of Chinese today are relearning Buddhist, Taoist, and local religious traditions, or practicing Christianity, Islam, and other faiths. Regardless of where or how these believers worship, they are no threat to public order; in fact, they make good citizens. For centuries, this country had a tradition of religious tolerance. My prayer is that all persecution will end, so that all in China are free to gather and worship as they wish.
All of these changes will lead to a stronger, more confident China a China that can astonish and enrich the world, a China that your generation will help create. This is one of the most exciting times in the history of your country a time when even the grandest hopes seem within your reach.
My nation offers you our respect and our friendship. Six years from now, athletes from America and around the world will come to your country for the Olympic games. And I am confident they will find a China that is becoming a da guo, a leading nation, at peace with its people and at peace with the world.
Thank you and now I look forward to answering some questions.