Mr. Clinton was taking part in a celebration of the 35th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s march on Washington - where he was welcomed with a promise of forgiveness.
"All of you know that I'm having to become quite an expert in this business of asking for forgiveness," the president said. "It gets a little easier the more you do it. And if you have a family and administration, a congress and a whole country to ask, you are going to get a lot of practice."
Mr. Clinton drafted the remarks himself, telling no one. He framed the reference to his problems in the context of redemption - but delivered it as a humorous aside.
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And in what may have been a veiled reference to independent counsel Kenneth Starr, Mr. Clinton said it was also necessary for he himself to forgive.
"The anger, the resentment, the bitterness, the desire for recrimination against people you believe have wronged you, they harden the heart and deaden the spirit and lead to self-inflicted wounds," the president said.
Mr. Clinton has still offered no apology for his behavior, despite the urging of many close to him. Sources say there are two reasons: The president believes the public is satisfied with his explanation, even politicians and the press are not. Even more important: first lady Hillary Clinton thinks any apology is a bad idea.
It was the second time in as many days that Mr. Clinton ventured before friendly audiences to test his political viability after confessing to an affair with Monica Lewinsky.
The White House, meanwhile, unveiled a busy Democratic campaign schedule for the president next month.
Flying in the face of those who fear Mr. Clinton could be a liability to Democrats this fall, Clinton will stump Sept. 9 for Florida's Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay, who wants the state's top job.
The president will separately headline six fund-raising events for the Democratic Party. Trying to balance a political comeback with a focus on business, Clinton will address the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 21.