A tide of new immigration threatens to divide Americans unless they set aside fear of foreigners and accept that in the 21st century there will be no majority race in the nation, President Clinton said Saturday.
"We should share our country with immigrants, not shun them or shut them out," the president said in a commencement address Saturday to the graduating class of Portland State University, their friends, families and faculty."But mark my words: Unless we handle this well, immigration of this sweep and scope can threaten the bonds of our union," he told the 3,000 black-and-blue robed graduates, of whom 5 percent are citizens of other countries.
Immigrants must do their part to be full citizens, Clinton said.
The university gave Clinton an honorary doctor of humane letters at the ceremony in the Rose Garden Arena.
Clinton's remarks highlighted an emerging theme of his second-term agenda: convincing Americans that ethnic and cultural diversity can be a strength for this country and that America should set an example for the world.
He has linked immigration issues to a broader concern about racial divisions. Today is the anniversary of the launching of Clinton's race initiative, which is designed to stir a national dialogue on diversity and discrimination.
Clinton spoke out against a recently passed California initiative to limit bilingual education programs, and he has openly opposed moves to restrict government services to illegal immigrants.
"Ethnic pride is a very good thing," he said. "But pride in one's ethnic and racial heritage must never become an excuse to withdraw from the larger American community. That does not honor diversity, it breeds divisiveness. And that could weaken America."
Clinton finished his day in Los Angeles at a Democratic National Committee dinner - his third fund-raising event in 24 hours.