Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona

October 31, 1996

Thank you. Hello, Arizona! Good morning. Let's give the band a hand. [Applause] Thank you very much. Are you going to the Rose Bowl? [Applause] Are we going to win on Tuesday? [Applause] I want to thank the people who performed before I came here: the ASU Student Saxophone Combo, the Mariachi del Sur, the Clan/destine, the Tempe High School Marching Band—again, thank you—and Jeff Goodman. I thank those who spoke earlier, including the students, Sadohana Stone and Michelle Carson, the legislators who were here, the other candidates, the vice mayor. And I want to say to Juan Roque, you're having a great season, and I wish you would play offensive line for me for the next 5 days. Thank you. I thank Governor Rose Mofford, my friend and former colleague. Thank you, Congressman Ed Pastor, Mrs. Pastor. Thank you, Steve Owens, for running for Congress and trying to turn the Congress around and put it back on the side of the American people and their future. Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank Bill Bratton for coming all the way to Arizona to endorse our candidacy, to be here with Mike Petchel. While Bill Bratton was the police chief of New York, violent crime decreased almost 40 percent, the murder rate was decreased by 50 percent. We can make our streets safer for our children and their future if we all work together. Thank you, Commissioner Bratton, for being here.

Five days from today, the American people will choose the last President of the 20th century and the first President of the 21st century. I am very, very glad that there are so many young people here today because this election is about your future.

You know, there are many different issues in this election, many matters on which Senator Dole and I disagree, many matters on which I disagreed with Senator Dole and Speaker Gingrich over the last 2 years. But the big issue that embraces them all is what you want America to look like when we cross that bridge into the 21st century and what you are prepared to do to get us there.

I want an America where the American dream is alive and well for any person responsible enough to work for it, without regard to race or gender or background or where they start out in life. I want everybody to have a chance to live up to their God-given capacities. I want an America that is still the world's leading force for peace and freedom and for prosperity. And I want an America that is rejecting the racial, the ethnic, the tribal, the religious division that is tearing apart so much of the rest of the world and says we're going forward into the 21st century as one community together. We need each other, and we'll do better when we work forward together. Will you help me build that kind of America? [Applause]

Four years ago, when I came to the American people with Al Gore and said we wanted a different kind of political direction, we wanted to break out of the mold of the old debates and take America forward, we thought the right and left, liberal and conservative debate was sterile and outdated and the issue was what we had to do together to move our country forward, the American people took me on faith—and we came within one percentage point of carrying Arizona. I hope you'll help us do just a little better on Tuesday.

But today, you don't have to do that. There is a record. You can make a judgment based on the evidence about whether this approach is going to make you more likely to live out your dreams in the 21st century, more likely to make this a more responsible and caring society in the 21st century, more likely to preserve the greatness that has always been America's hallmark.

Compared to 4 years ago, we have 10 1/2 million more jobs. We have the lowest combined rates of unemployment, inflation, and home mortgages in 27 years, the biggest drop in inequality among working families in 27 years, the biggest drop in child poverty in 20 years, the highest homeownership rates in 15 years. The deficit has been cut in all 4 years of an administration for the first time in the 20th century. We are moving in the right direction.

The crime rate is down for 4 years in a row and is now at a 10-year low in America, the welfare rolls have been reduced by 1.9 million, child support collections have been increased by $4 billion a year—50 percent. We are moving in the right direction.

Just in the last few weeks, we've seen the minimum wage go up for 10 million people, 25 million Americans protected by a law that now says you cannot lose your health insurance if you move from job to job or someone in your family gets sick, a law that says insurance companies can no longer kick mothers and their newborn children out of the hospital after only 24 hours. We are moving the right direction.

Income for the typical family is up about $1,600 in the last 2 years. Our air is cleaner. Our drinking water is safer. We have preserved our natural heritage; we fought all the vicious attacks on the environment by the members of the congressional majority who even wanted to sell some of our national parks, and instead we've expanded more lands we're protecting. We are moving forward and growing the economy while preserving our environment. We are moving in the right direction.

Just in the last couple of days, we've seen that our annual growth rate is about 3 percent, that business investment increased by almost 19 percent, the highest rate since the Kennedy administration. Incomes are rising nearly 5 percent, and in the face of that news and 10 1/2 million jobs, yesterday my opponent said that we had the worst economy in 20 years. Well, 2 weeks ago he said we had the worst economy in 100 years. We've made up 80 years in 2 weeks. That's a good record. We need to do more of that. Way back in February, my distinguished opponent said what he knows is the truth when he said we actually had the best economy in 30 years. We are moving in the right direction, and we need to do more.

As I stand here in this wonderful State, I know that one of the things most people in Arizona have felt over the years, consistently, is that we don't need a big, bureaucratic Government in Washington telling us what to do and that we do need fiscal responsibility. But I ask you to look at the record on this.

Our administration has lowered the size of the Federal Government by nearly 250,000; it is now as small as it was when John Kennedy was President. We have eliminated more Government regulations, more Government programs, we have privatized more Government operations in 3 1/2 years than my Republican predecessors did in 12 years. Our budget would be in surplus today if it weren't for the debt they ran up in the 12 years before I took office. We are moving in the right direction.

The issue here today is not big Government or small Government. It is, what do we have to do together to give each other the tools to build strong lives, strong families, strong communities, and a strong nation? There are those who honestly believe that we shouldn't do much together, that you're better off, your fiber will be greater if you're just told, "You're on your own." And then there are those of us who believe that it does take a village to raise a child, to build families, to make our streets safe. There are those who believe they can say, "There's that great, big future out there; there is a rushing river you have to cross; there's a big valley you have to get down through; there's a huge mountain you have to get across; I hope you make it. Good luck." And then there are those of us who say that future out there is for all of us, and it'll be better for all of us if we just go on and build a bridge big enough, wide enough, and strong enough for all of us to walk across together. Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]

On this Halloween day, we can make a lot of jokes, and I was thrilled to see all the people along the roadway already in their Halloween costumes and their masks on. But one serious thing I'd like to say about Halloween—Hillary and I always loved the fact that our daughter loved Halloween, always wanted her own costume every Halloween, still likes to go out trickor-treating. But one of the things that I think is important on Halloween is we remember that we want Halloween to be "fright night," but "safe night" for our families and our children. And we ought to think about today what I think is the critical thing for American families, which is, how can we make our families safe, how can we give them a clean environment, and how can we make it possible for parents to succeed economically while they raise their children responsibly?

Everywhere I go in America, people say to me, "I'm having problems doing the right thing by my kids and working." The average working family is spending more hours a week at work today than 25 years ago. So today I want to just take a minute to ask you what you think would build strong families, and would we be better off saying, "You're on your own," or "Here's what we can do together to give you the tools to build a stronger family life."

I supported the Family and Medical Leave Act. Now, my opponent led the opposition to it and tried to kill it with a filibuster in the Senate because he honestly believed—he honestly believed that it would be bad for the economy. But now we know. After 3 years, 12 million people have taken advantage of the family leave law to take a little time off from work without losing their jobs when a baby is born or a family member is sick. We have 10 1/2 million new jobs, record numbers of new small businesses. This economy is churning along. We're moving in the right direction. You help the economy if you help parents take care of their children. They do better at work, and they feel better.

And I'd like to see the family leave law expanded a little bit so parents can go see their children's teachers twice a year and take them to the doctor without losing their jobs. I believe when parents earn overtime, they ought to have the option to take that overtime in pay, or if their parents or their children or their spouses are sick, I think they ought to be able to take that overtime in time with their families. That's the choice of the people who earn it. It'll make stronger families. But you have to decide.

I believe we value families when we have welfare reform that is good to children but tough in work requirements, that requires teen mothers to live at home or in a supervised setting and stay in school to draw benefits, and requires able-bodied people to go to work but gives them the child care and the jobs there to do the work and succeed at home and at work, just the way we want for everybody else in this society.

And I believe we value families when we open the doors of college education to all Americans. My fellow Americans, in the 12 years before I became President—and this is no one in particular's fault, but many of you will know this— the only basic thing in a family's budget that increased at a higher inflation rate than health care was the cost of a college education. We have worked hard through AmeriCorps to give 70,000 more young people a chance to work their way through college by serving in their communities. Some of you are here today. Thank you, and God bless you. We reformed we have discovered, medical researchers, the first real treatment for stroke victims that offers promise. Two of the genes which cause breast cancer were just uncovered. And I allocated another $30 million to that research just a week ago. It is really within our reach not only to cure but prevent that disease in the future.

For the first time, a few weeks ago a laboratory animal with its spine completely severed had movement in its lower limbs because of nerve transplants to the spine from other parts of the body. These are unbelievable things. We just signed a contract, the United States Government did, with IBM to build jointly a supercomputer over the next couple of years that will do as many calculations in one second as you can do at home on your calculator in 30,000 years.

This world is changing. And America is faced with the question of what to do about the changes. When I ran for President 4 years ago, I had a vision of what I wanted our country to be like in the 21st century. And I'm so glad there are so many young people here today because that will be your century. For me, it's pretty straightforward. I want every child in America, without regard to race or gender or where you start out in life, to have the same chance to live up to your God-given abilities and the same chance to live out your dreams that I and the members of my generation had. You deserve it, and I am determined to see that you get it.

I want our great country to continue to be the world's strongest force for peace and freedom and prosperity. And I know that makes me do things from time to time that aren't especially popular, whether it's trying to stop the bloody war in Bosnia or kick the dictators out in Haiti or stand up for the cause of peace in Northern Ireland or try to deal with the problems of our neighbors to the south in Mexico. But America is stronger today than it was 4 years ago. No Russian missiles are pointed at our children today, for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age, and we're moving in the right direction there.

And I want our country to be coming together around our basic values. I want us to be able to celebrate, laugh about, cherish our diversity, and say, we're bound together by our belief in the values that have made America great, but otherwise we don't discriminate against anybody. We want to go forward in an American community in which everybody has a place and a role to play.

Five days before this election, I want you to be upbeat about America, optimistic about your future, and determined to make the choice that will guarantee that that vision can be made real in your lives and the lives of your friends and neighbors. That is the choice.

For me, it is best expressed in this idea of a bridge to the 21st century. I believe that there's a real difference here between Senator Dole and me, between Senator Coffin and Congressman Ensign. And I believe it's an honest difference. I don't like all this harsh rhetoric and personal attacks and attempts to convince people that your opponent is no good. I don't think there is very much to that.

I'm about to end my last campaign. I can tell you this: I've been working at this for over 20 years now. Most of the people I've met in both parties, from all points on the political spectrum, have loved our country, have wanted what was best for it, worked hard and were honest, contrary to the image that is often portrayed. There are honest differences here, and you should be exuberant that you have a choice to make between honest differences.

I don't believe that we should go into this— I know that there will be more individual choices than ever before. I know people can do things on their computers and will be able to do more. Pretty soon you can do all your shopping by computers. People won't even have to go out the door if they don't want to. I know that there will be more opportunities for us to do things as individuals. But I still believe that our country will only be great if we are determined to build a bridge to the future that we're all going to be able to walk across together, if we give everybody the tools to make the most of his or her own life. That's what I believe.

And that's the choice. Would we be better off being told, "You're on your own, and we hope you do well," or as a person I'm reasonably close to once said, do we believe it takes a village to raise a child, to build a future, to build a country? That is the choice.

That was the choice we faced starkly about a year ago when Senator Dole and Congressman Gingrich and Congressman Ensign voted for a budget that would have cut education for the first time in modern history, would have reduced the number of children in Head Start, get tougher on dangerous gangs. I believe we can do more if we finish the work of giving our children something to say yes to instead of just saying no to them. We have to give them a future that is worthy of their dreams, their aspirations, and their potential, and I want you to help me do it. Will you do it? [Applause]

Your vote will decide whether we strengthen our families by giving our children world-class education, whether we mobilize a million volunteers, including college students all over America, to make sure every young person can read a book independently by the third grade. I want you to know, just before the Congress went home, I signed a bill that created 200,000 more work-study positions. I want 100,000 of them to go to people who say, "I want every 8-yearold to be able to pick up a book and say ‘I can read this all by myself."' Will you help us do that? [Applause]

Will you help us connect every classroom and library in America to the Internet and the World Wide Web, the information superhighway? Will you help us open the doors of college education to all? [Applause] I say again, the issue for Arizona, the issue for America is this: We stand on the threshold of a new century, on the threshold of a very different time. All of you know that we are undergoing dramatic changes in the way we work and live and relate to each other and the rest of the world. We are becoming an increasingly global society. We are working in different ways. When I became President, only 3 million Americans made their living by working at home. Today, 12 million do. In 4 years, 30 million will. That's just one example.

We are pushing back the frontiers of learning as never before. When I became President, AIDS was still thought to be a death sentence. The life expectancy of people with HIV and AIDS has more than doubled in the last 4 years, thanks to medical research and faster movement of drugs. We have now, for the first time ever, medical treatment for strokes. We've identified two of the genes that cause breast cancer, and we may be able to eliminate it entirely. For the first time ever, laboratory animals with their spines completely severed have regained movement in their lower limbs through nerve transplants to the spine from other parts of their bodies. We are building a supercomputer in cooperation with IBM that will do more calculations in a second than you can do on a handheld calculator in 30,000 years. We are moving into a very different future. And what you have to decide is whether you have the courage to say, "I believe that our best days are still ahead, if we have opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and an American community in which we all have a part to play and a place at the table."

You have to decide whether we're going to go into the future by saying, "You're on your own," or whether we're going to build a bridge. And you have to decide whether you're really willing to say, "Whether you're Hispanic or African-American or Asian-American or Native American or Polish or Irish or whatever, it doesn't matter. If you believe in the Declaration of Independence, in the Bill of Rights, in the Constitution, if you're willing to show up tomorrow and work or study and do your job as a citizen, we don't need to know anything else about you. You are part of our America, and we're going forward." Will you help me in Arizona to build that bridge? Will you be there on Tuesday? Will you talk to your friends? [Applause]

God bless you. Let's do it. Your best days are ahead. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:23 a.m. on the lawn at Grady Gammage Auditorium. In his remarks, he referred to Jeff Goodman, who sang the national anthem; Vice Mayor Joe Lewis of Tempe; Arizona State University football player Juan Roque; Rose Mofford, former Governor of Arizona; Representative Ed Pastor and his wife, Verma; Steve Owens, candidate for Arizona's Sixth Congressional District; and Michael Petchel, president, Phoenix Law Enforcement Officers Association.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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