An Ordinary Historic Day

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WARSAW, Poland: A banner reading "Thank you, Bill" stretched across Warsaw's Castle Square as some 20,000 turned out to celebrate President Clinton's successful drive to bring Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO by 1999. "We have been waiting for this moment for a long time, and now it has finally come," Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski said. But TIME's Jef McAllister reports that the historic integration of a former Warsaw Pact nation into its former archenemy has been a strangely muted occasion. "The most striking feature of today's event," says McAllister, "was how matter-of-fact the whole affair seemed. The visual cues bespoke a modern European country. There were Coca-Cola umbrellas and ads for banks. Boxes from Dunkin Donuts and Pizza Hut littered the press riser. The crowd often applauded Clinton louder in English than after the subsequent translation, a sign of how universal English has become. The main producer of Clinton's big visual events, Mort Engleberg, was there to supervise, and sure enough, after the speech thousands of red white and blue balloons soared into the sky. It delighted the folks in Warsaw the same way it does in Cleveland. Poland, the crowd's reaction repeatedly underscored, is already in Europe, already perfectly content with the path on which it is thoroughly embarked."