Bill Clinton photo

Remarks on Beginning a Bus Tour in Tacoma, Washington

September 19, 1996

The President. Thank you. Thank you in the back.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. Thank you. Thank you up there. Thank you very much. Well, I know that it's a little wet out here, and as I said last night, I've been coming to Washington for several years now, and it has never rained on me before. I feel that finally you have accepted me as one of your own.

I want to thank you for coming out in such large numbers, and I can tell that a little rain has not dampened your spirits. Are you ready to fight for the next 6 weeks and 5 days? [Applause]

Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you for your welcome and for your leadership. Congratulations on so many things you are doing here in Tacoma, but especially, from my point of view, congratulations on winning the President's Excellence Award for Exporting in 1994, and for keeping Tacoma and Washington open and reaching out to the rest of the world, not turning away from it. I hope you will continue to do that.

Thank you, Bridget Woods, for getting up here and making that brave speech. There aren't many 16-year-old girls speaking to 28,000 people, and you did a fine job today. Thank you. God bless you.

Thank you, Norm Dicks, for being a great Congressman and a great friend and a visionary leader, not only for the people of your district, for the people of this country. And thank you— thank you so much, Adam Smith, for running for Congress. And thank you, Jeff Coopersmith, if you're here, for running for Congress. And I want you folks to send them there.

Just remember—just remember—2 years ago, just 2 years ago, our friends in the other party were crowing that Washington State had led the way in the Republican revolution, that the people of Washington were dying to see our economic policies reversed and our crime policies reversed. They told you that we raised the income taxes of ordinary Americans; it wasn't true. And then they turned around and tried to raise the income taxes of 9 million of the hardest working Americans in the country with kids and low incomes.

They told you that our economic plan was going to fail. Well, it's inconvenient for them, but 10 1/2 million jobs later, record new exports, record new businesses, record businesses owned by women and minorities, 60 percent reduction in the deficit, the first time since before the Civil War the deficit's gone down in all 4 years of an administration, you now know that they were wrong in 1994. We were right. Send Adam Smith and Jeff Coopersmith to the Congress, and give Norm Dicks some help to move you forward and our country forward into the next century.

And thank you, Gary Locke, for your distinguished career in public service, for the fine and positive campaign you have run for Governor of the State of Washington. I want all of you to do what you can in the next few weeks to make sure that this fine man is the next Governor. It is very important to your future, more and more responsibilities are devolving upon the State. The next Governor of Washington will, among other things, have the responsibility of working with local communities to create an unprecedented number of new jobs for people we are trying to move from welfare to work in a way that supports families and supports children and does not walk away from our responsibilities to them. I think you know who will do a better job of that, and I hope you will help him win this election.

I want to thank the other officials who are here, but most of all, I want to tell you that you can't imagine what it's like to pull up in a bus and see 28,000 people in the morning, in Tacoma, standing in the rain. That's because you know that America is on the right track to the 21st century, and we intend to keep it on that track, and I want you to help us.

I have said before, let me say again: We are living at a moment of enormous possibility. The young people in this audience will have more chances to live out their dreams than any generation of Americans in history if—if—we build a bridge to the 21st century that opens opportunity for all, expects responsibility from all, and is big enough, broad enough, and strong enough for every American who is willing to work for it to go across, arm in arm, without regard to race or gender or income, or where you start out in life or condition of disability. Everybody should be able to go across the American bridge to the 21st century, and that's what I'm asking you to help us build.

My fellow Americans, there is a reason that the economy is better than it was 4 years ago. There is a reason the crime rate has gone down for 4 years in a row. There is a reason that the welfare rolls have gone down and the child support collections have gone up. There is a reason that the air is cleaner, our drinking water is protected, our food is going to be safer. There is a reason that the toxic waste dumps that we cleaned up in the last 3 years were greater than those cleaned up in the 12 years before we took office. There is a reason that we were able to declare the Grand Cascade-Escalante national monument in southern Utah yesterday, 1.7 million acres, to save Yellowstone from a gold mine, to reach a historic agreement here in Washington State just 2 days ago to protect the old-growth forests of Washington and Oregon, to reach an agreement to restore the salmon in the Columbia River. This does not happen by accident. This happened because we replaced the old Washington politics of who can we blame and hot air with "What are we going to do about it?" Let's don't talk, let's roll up our sleeves, join hands, and actually do something to help the American people make the most of their own lives and to move forward, and that is what we proposed to do.

So I come here to Tacoma to ask you to help me build a bridge to the 21st century. A bridge that focuses first and foremost on making sure that every American has the chance to make the most of his or her own life, and that means world-class education. A bridge to the 21st century where, as the Vice President said, we hook up every classroom and every library and every school in the United States to the information superhighway, to the Internet, to the World Wide Web, that we give all of our children, for the first time in history, whether they're in the poorest urban districts, the most remote mountain districts—every single child at the first time in history will have access to the same information in the same time at the same quality as the children in the richest schools of America. We have never done it before, we can do it now. Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]

I want to build a bridge to the 21st century where college is available to every American of any age who needs to go. We propose, first, to say people can save more in their individual retirement accounts, their IRA's, and then withdraw from it, tax-free, to pay for a college education. Second, that we want at least 2 years of education after high school by the year 2000 to be just as universal as a high school diploma is today, and we propose to guarantee it by giving people a tax credit, a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the taxes for the typical costs of community college tuition in this country. And third, that we propose to give a tax deduction of up to $10,000 a year for the costs of any college tuition—undergraduate, graduate, for people who are young or middle-aged or old. Let's do that and build a bridge we can all walk across to the 21st century. Will you help us build that bridge?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. The second thing we have to do is to keep this economy growing. That means we do have to continue to bring the deficit down and balance the budget, because that means low interest rates, lower car payments, mortgage payments, lower payments for businesses who have to borrow money to create jobs, lower home payments. But we have to do it in a way that honors our obligations to each other and to our future. We don't have to wreck Medicare, turn our backs on Medicaid's responsibility to poor children, pregnant women, the elderly, families with members with disabilities. We do not have to gut the environment or reduce our investments in education and medical research and other research in technology areas.

Let me tell you, folks, Washington State has led the way in reaching out to the rest of the world with exports and in developing a diversified, high-tech economy. I'm very proud of the fact that, in this administration, we've concluded 200 trade agreements that's helped the people in Washington export everything from computer software, to airplanes, to Washington apples. I am proud of that. But we have to continue.

The University of Washington is the number one receiver of Federal research money of any public university in the United States. We have to continue to invest there. And we also have to continue to invest in other forms of research and technology.

And today let me just say a special word about our space program. I expect most of you, like me, were thrilled to see the stunning pictures from space that came out early this morning as our Space Shuttle Atlantis linked up with the Russian Space Station Mir. Our American hero, Shannon Lucid, greeted her American colleagues. What a wonderful person she seems to be. It's so impressive, the life that she's lived. We need to support that space exploration. And I want to tell you that today our administration will announce the results of a complete review of our space policy, the first new space policy since the end of the cold war.

Let me tell you what we're going to do. First, we're going to continue to expand our knowledge of the universe. In December we're going to launch a long-planned robotic mission to the surface of Mars. And believe it or not, if you've seen the movie, it lands on Independence Day, 1997. We thought we would go visit them first and try to get around that blowing up the Capitol and the White House business. [Laughter] This will help us to determine whether and how and when we should send human missions there.

The second thing we're going to do, which is very important to the high-tech industries of the Pacific Northwest, is to tear down the barriers that block the development of our space industry. Boeing recently announced an innovative proposal to work with Russia, Ukraine, and Norway to launch satellites at sea. We're going to continue to move forward. We want to have free and fair trade among economies in space, and we can do that.

The third thing we're going to do is to make sure we use space to protect our national security, to maintain our freedom of movement, to monitor threats in compliance with our arms control treaties. All of this is very important, and I want to say a special word of thanks to the Vice President for his leadership in space and for the environment, in technology, and for reinventing Government; but especially today, to continue our leading role in space.

Now, folks, there is this huge debate going on in the country today, and I have to say that we need to be sensitive to the real issues here. If you look at the budget, if you look at the education issue, if you look at the space issue, there's a huge debate: Are we going to build a bridge to the future or a bridge to the past? Do we believe we have to work together to give each other the tools to make the most of our own lives, to build strong careers, strong families, strong communities, and a strong country? Or should we say, "You're on your own"?

I think I know what you believe. I think you believe the First Lady was right: It does take a village to raise a child, to build a community, to move a country forward.

Let me say again, I want you to help Governor-to-be Locke, and support us in building a bridge to the 21st century where we say to people who are going to be moved from welfare to work, we want to help you and support you to raise your children and to succeed at work, because that is what we want for all American families. And I have a plan to create a million new jobs to help move people from welfare to work. I want you to help me build that bridge to the 21st century.

I want you to support—the mayor mentioned it earlier—the other big factor in the '94 elections that helped our friends in the opposition win so many seats here in Washington and throughout the country was their relentless assault on our anticrime legislation. They said it was just designed to take your guns away. They said that we had threatened the rights of hunters in Washington, and sports men and women in Washington State and in my home State of Arkansas, to hunt and to engage in other activities, and we weren't going to do anything to fight crime. And they scared a lot of people into voting for them in Washington and other places.

But they have a big problem in 1996. We've had two hunting seasons come and go since the last election, and there's not a single hunter in Washington State who is not still hunting with the same weapon he had in 1994. They didn't tell them the truth.

But we did take 19 deadly assault weapons off the street, and there were some people who couldn't get guns. Sixty thousand felons, fugitives, and stalkers could not get handguns because of the Brady bill. We were right; they were wrong. Send them a message in these races. Send them a message. And by the way, I believe we ought to extend the Brady bill. I don't believe people who beat up their spouses or their children should be able to get handguns either.

I want to build a bridge to the 21st century that we can all walk across together. We ought to be supporting our families. Hillary and Tipper and the Vice President and I, in our different ways, we've tried hard to help families raise their kids and succeed at work. We've worked hard to protect our children from the dangers of advertising, distribution, and sales of tobacco. We've worked hard to increase safe and drugfree schools programs, to support people at the community level who are doing everything they can to keep our young people out of trouble.

We've worked hard with the entertainment industry to put the V-chip in televisions and to get TV programs rated, and to bring more educational programming back to primetime television. We are working hard for the family and medical leave law, which has now given 12 million American families the chance to take a little time off from work for the birth of a baby or a parent's illness without losing their jobs. These are important. And if you give us 4 more years we want to expand family and medical leave to say you can have a little time off to go to a regular parent-teacher appointment or a regular doctor's appointment with your children and still keep your job. It's been good for the economy. We have record numbers of new businesses, over 10 million jobs. It's good for America when people can succeed in taking care of their family members and succeed at work.

And finally, let me say, we have to continue our work to preserve our environment. There are still 10 million American children who live within 4 miles of a toxic waste dump. If you give us 4 more years we'll close 500 more so our kids will be growing up next to parks, not poison. Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century? Will you ignore the rain for 6 more weeks and 5 more days and ask your friends and neighbors to support us and to build a bridge to the future?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Thank you, Tacoma. Don't lose your energy. Don't lose your enthusiasm. Bear down. We need you. God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:52 a.m. at the Tacoma Dome. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Brian Ebersole of Tacoma and Bridget Woods, student body vice president, Lincoln High School.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Beginning a Bus Tour in Tacoma, Washington Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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