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Closing Remarks to the National Welfare to Work Forum in Chicago

August 03, 1999

I've been asked to announce that as soon as we adjourn this meeting, in this very spot, Rodney will be offering memory training to everyone who would like to stay. [Laughter]

I want to thank you for you devotion to this cause. And Jim, thank you for giving us this fine man. I just want to ask you all to think about something. You know, while Rodney was talking to all the people here, I just got to sit here in the middle, and so I could see everybody else. And I would turn around, and I would look—every time somebody was talking, I would look at every face in the section. And what I saw was that all of us had the natural human response. We were exhilarated by the stories that these people told. We were gratified by the enlightened self-interest of the employers.

I had a funny thing happen to me a couple of weeks ago. We were in an unrelated fight in Washington, and one of the people who took the opposite position from me said, "Oh, the President is always up there telling stories. What have stories got to do with this?" Well, we found out today, didn't we? I mean, all of our lives are nothing but our stories.

I say this, one of our small business owners said that she was once on public assistance herself. I'm in a line of work where every politician would like you to believe that we were all born in log cabins that we built ourselves. [Laughter] But the truth is, none of us who are here today, who have been fortunate in our lives, got here without somebody giving us a helping hand, without opportunity. I always tell everybody, you know, a couple of different bumps in the road, I could still be home doing wills and deeds in Arkansas in some small office. [Laughter]

We should recognize that we can pass these programs to empower people, but it takes human beings with real commitment, like the employers we have honored today and all the others in this room and all those like them around this country. And then it takes people with the courage to stand up and say, "I'm going to change my life."

You know, this was hard for—a lot of these folks, they had to stand up here and give a little speech in front of the President today. That wasn't easy, right? They did a good job. But as difficult as it was, it was probably harder for some of them to actually stand up and say, "I'm going to change my life." That's harder.

And I'm just telling you, all over this country today there are people just like them who still don't have the lives they have. And we can reach them, too. And if we do it, America will be a better place. We will be closer to the one America of our dreams when we start this new century. We'll have a stronger economy.

And again I say, there are legal changes we need to make; there are investment commitments we need to make in Washington. I hope you'll help us make them. But in the end, it will be the personal marriage of employers and employees that will see us through.

And Rodney, we'll follow your lead. We'll follow the lead of our founding companies. But I ask you all to leave here with a renewed sense of energy and commitment and go out and tell other people about what you have seen and what you have participated in and what we can do. And if you do that, we will finish this job. And we'll hear a lot more of the stories that make our hearts soar.

Thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:25 p.m. at the Navy Pier Festival Hall. In his remarks, he referred to Rodney J. Carroll, forum moderator and division manager, Metro Philadelphia Division, and James P. Kelly, chairman and chief executive officer, United Parcel Service.

William J. Clinton, Closing Remarks to the National Welfare to Work Forum in Chicago Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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