Offering a broad defense of his administration's domestic and international priorities, President Clinton said Tuesday night that the United States "cannot withdraw from the world we have done so much to make."

Speaking to more than 40,000 students, alumni and staff members celebrating the University of North Carolina's bicentennial, Clinton tried to link his initiatives on expanded trade, crime control and health care.But in a nod to recent events abroad that have tended to overshadow the more politically valuable domestic issues, Clinton emphasized the importance of maintaining a viable foreign policy agenda.

Paying attention to all of these priorities, the president said, Americans will be provided with a blanket of security that will see the nation through periods of economic and global turbulence.

As for his efforts on the domestic front like health-care reform and passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Clinton acknowledged that many of the items he is asking Congress to approve must first overcome opposition in many quarters, including members of organized labor.

"Our communities won't be secure until people who disagree on everything else stop shouting at each other long enough to realize that we have to save the kids who are in trouble the same way we lost them - one child at a time," he said. "And it imposes a responsibility on each and every one of us."

Clinton's appeal to personal security has emerged in recent weeks as his advisers have sought for an overarching thesis that could put the president's opponents on the defensive while lifting Clinton onto the high ground as he fights for passage of his health-care plan - even though Congress has not yet received an actual bill.

But Clinton has had some trouble maintaining that momentum as one foreign policy crisis after another - including the turbulence in Russia, the killing of American troops in Somalia and the rejection of American troops in Haiti - has distracted him from the domestic issues he would prefer to address.

On Tuesday, for instance, Clinton and his aides devoted more energy to hammering out a way to beat a path out of Haiti than in selling any single domestic issue.

And in his remarks on Tuesday night, the president also acknowledged six soldiers killed in Somalia who were stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.