First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
Belfast, Northern Ireland
September 3, 1998
Thank you. I want to start by complimenting Hannah and Richard for the excellent jobs they did. I want to give them another round of applause. They did a very good job. I am so delighted to be here on this glorious morning with all of you. I want to thank all of the children who are here, the boys and girls who led us up the hill where we released the balloons and the boys and girls who stayed here and played and demonstrated the energy that they bring to this project. Im delighted to be again with Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress. I want to thank them again for the wonderful hospitality I received at City Hall last evening. Im also pleased that Deputy Lord Mayor, Counselor Bob Stoker and his wife are here because you may not know it is their 21st wedding anniversary. And I am delighted you could help celebrate this occasion and we can celebrate yours as well. I am also very pleased that Mrs. Blair could be here. She and I have spent a lot of time talking about our children, our own children and other children, and the kinds of activities that we both believe in help strengthen families and help support children as they grow and develop. I am also pleased to see Mrs. Tribble (phonetic) and I thank you for being here and being part of this event.
Also it is a great pleasure for me to introduce you to a comparable organization from the United States called Kaboom, with an exclamation point, which is the brain child of several young people, one of whom, Darrell Hammond, is with us. And Kaboom attempts to do what we know is so important and that is to provide play spaces and play grounds in neighborhoods around the United States, particularly very tough difficult neighborhoods where they havent had a play ground for many years because of violence and gangs, drugs and some of the other challenges they face. And a few months ago, I helped Kaboom finish a play ground in Washington, D.C. And it was not in as expansive a space as this because the spaces were much more constricted but the looks on the faces of the children were just as joyful as the ones I saw here today.
But we are here because of the enthusiasm and commitment of Antoinette and others of you who are a part of Playboard here in Northern Ireland. I often think that you can tell how a community is doing if you walk its streets or drive its roads and if you see children playing outside. One of the real tragedies during the 1980s and early 1990s in much of America is that children in many areas were no longer permitted to play outside. One of our goals as a nation and one of the primary priorities of my husband was again to make play areas and parks safe for children. We made progress. We now can see children playing again in places where just a few years ago their mothers and fathers would never have let them venture.
It is a good sign for a community when children are playing together outside because to play as you at Playboard know and many of the rest of us who have watched and raised children know, play is really a childs work. And that is where they learn so much about themselves, each other, their peers, about nature, about their strengths, all that we want them to know as they try to develop into the kind of adults we need for the future. Because of the commitment and the vision that is being enacted here, somewhere in Belfast we hope that children will be helping to design the play area that will be theirs. Thats a very important part of Playboards mission, is to empower children to be those architects, those creators of their play spaces.
I was telling some of the people who were walking with us up to the hill that I visited Lucerne, Switzerland a few months ago and they have a childrens Parliament. I have never seen anything like it anywhere else in the world. The City Council has a process where young children between about the ages of 8 and 13 are elected to serve a term. They are given a small amount of money, which they have to meet about and decide how they will spend. Well, it will be no surprise the day that I visited the childrens Parliament they were debating the kind of playground they would build with the money that the City Council had given them. And it was quite a sight to see 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 year old boys and girls standing up and having the kind of discussions that take place in any democracy. One young man stood up and said, I think we should have a play structure that looks like a dragon. And a young girl stood up and said, That would cost too much money. And so the kinds of back and forth that take place at any City Council or assembly anywhere in a democratic society anywhere in the world was being taught to these young children.
Today I am pleased to announce this new partnership between Playboard and Kaboom. When Antoinette and Darrell met for the first time yesterday Im told they literally could not stop talking. They had so much to share with each other and were excited beyond words about what they could accomplish together. Darrell has already told me that he hopes to look for more open space when he returns to the United States and try to convince perhaps some of our city councils, particularly in depressed areas of some of the tougher cities of the United States, to clear some land and plant some land so that it can be available for play areas.
As part of this partnership, Kaboom will help Playboard get the equipment and corporate support it needs to create a unique environment in Belfast, where the children of Northern Ireland can play safely and creatively after school, on weekends, and during summers. One of the great gifts that Kaboom brings local communities is the partnerships they have developed with American corporations that contribute play equipment, contribute people to help put the playgrounds together, contribute other resources.
Secondly, as Kaboom introduces similar programs in United States inner cities, Playboard will share their vast research on the effects of violence and the value of therapeutic play. We have many children who also, like the children of Northern Ireland, have seen friends and relatives gunned down because of gang wars or drug problems. And so they too need to learn from what has been done here in Northern Ireland in response to dealing with the problems of violence. I hope like Sharee to be able to come back some time to Belfast and see where this environmental play ground has been located and to see children playing on that space that they helped to create.
I said yesterday at the waterfront that this is not only about building play spaces but it is about bringing children together and giving them the opportunity to help be the architects of their own futures. Certainly the members of the new assembly and all the citizens of Northern Ireland will themselves be architects in building the kind of future that you want of peace and prosperity here. And we are doing it, all of us who care about the future of Northern Ireland, for the young boys and girls we see around us today.
Thank you for taking yet another step forward to make that possible. Thank you very much.