Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in Chicago, Illinois

October 28, 1996

The President. Thank you. Thank you so much. It is always, always good to be back in Chicago. Senator Moseley-Braun, thank you so much. And Mr. Mayor, thank you for your strong support, your friendship, and your very moving history lesson about the times when your father was here with President Kennedy. Maybe a week from tomorrow we can reclaim a lot of our great hopes and take them into the 21st century with pride and energy and vigor.

I want to thank Congressman Bobby Rush, Congresswoman Cardiss Collins, Congressman Bill Lipinski for being here. And I know that there are some other congressional candidates other than those that Dick Durbin mentioned: Clem Balanoff, my friend Danny Davis, and Rod Blagojevich. We're going to win that seat back to Congress. Thank you, Cook County Board President John Stroger, Assessor Tom Hynes, State Chair Gary LaPaille, our attorney general candidate, Dick Devine; thank you all for being here.

I want to thank Kevin Cronin, Koko Taylor, the Chicago Children's Choir, the Lennox Family, and Perfect Harmony, who sang for us tonight and performed. I also want you to know that in addition to Mayor Daley we have some other mayors here. It's nearly heresy to say there is another mayor besides Mayor Daley in Chicago, but we have here a very large number of mayors from all over the Midwest who have endorsed Al Gore and Bill Clinton for reelection today, including the great mayor of the city of Detroit, Dennis Archer, who is over here; Mayor Carty Finkbeiner of Toledo, who had a rally with 25,000 people for me late in Toledo one night, thank you; Mayor Gordon Bush from East St. Louis; Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton from Minneapolis; Mayor Kernan from South Bend, Indiana; and many others who are here. Thank you, all the mayors, for coming and for your support.

You know, on Saint Patrick's Day of 1992, the people of Illinois gave me a great victory in the Democratic primary for President and sent me on the way to a nomination and to ultimate victory in November, again led by the strong support of the people from Illinois and the strong support of the people from Chicago. One week from tomorrow, I want to ride home to victory for America on the shoulders of the people from Illinois one more time.

I want to say to you how glad I am tonight that so many of you in this audience are young. I thank the young people for coming tonight. And I want to say how grateful I am for all the various groups of people who are represented here: the labor people, the business people, the union leaders, the veterans' leaders, the Haitian-Americans, the Asian-Americans, the African-Americans, the Hispanic-Americans, the Irish-Americans, the Polish-Americans—all of us—and then all the rest of us like me, and whatever is left.

I say that because you will have to make two great decisions in that election a week from tomorrow. It is the last election of the 20th century and the first Presidential election of the 21st century, and you must decide whether in that election you believe our best days are before us, you believe as I do we are entering a great age of possibility, and you are determined to see us build a bridge to the future, not a bridge to the past.

And then you must decide, as you look around this great crowd tonight, whether we are going forward in that future together. How many times have we seen America be put back when we became divided against one another? But when all of these different people here show up in one crowd and join hands, with shared values, shared hopes, and shared dreams, respecting our differences and cherishing our common values, there is nothing that can stop America. We're going forward together into that 21st century.

You know, I remember so many things over the last 4 years, and I always get terribly nostalgic when I come to Chicago. But I want to say a few things about what's happened that affect you and your decision, that involve Dick Durbin.

You know, when I came here 4 years ago, even though Hillary was from Chicago, you sort of took me on faith. Well, now there is a record. Today we announced that the deficit, which was $290 billion when I took office, has dropped all 4 years for the first time in the 20th century and is now going to be $107 billion this year. Now, for you, for you that's meant lower interest rates. It means more investment and more jobs. It means lower car payments, lower home mortgage payments. It means lower college loan payments. That's what that means.

Now, when we were debating the economic plan in 1993, all of our friends on the other side, all of our friends on the other side voted against it. They said it would increase the deficit. They said it would wreck the economy. They said it was a terrible thing. Dick Durbin voted for it and provided the decisive vote. His courage has given us the economy we have today, and he deserves your vote for the United States Senate.

Audience members. Durbin! Durbin! Durbin!

The President. Not only that, this is about more than economics. The FBI reported last week that crime is at a 10-year low in America, that crime has gone down in each of the last 4 years. Now, we all know it's still too high, but it's moving in the right direction. And one reason is, our administration has formed a partnership with the city of Chicago, the other cities represented here. We're putting 100,000 more police on the street. We're taking assault weapons off the street. We passed the Brady bill. The Brady bill has kept 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers from getting handguns. And we just said if you beat up your spouse or your child, you can't buy a handgun either. That's what we did.

Now, the leaders of the other party, they fought us. The toughest crime bill in history with all the law enforcement organizations in the country behind it, and they wouldn't help. They fought us. They said we were going to take people's guns away, and they walked away from a historic opportunity to make our children, our streets, our neighborhoods, our schools, our homes safer.

But Dick Durbin didn't walk away. He stood up to bat and helped us hit it out of the park. And that's why the crime rate's down and why he has earned your support for the United States Senate for the future of Illinois. Will you help him? [Applause]

Audience members. Durbin! Durbin! Durbin!

The President. Folks, you heard Senator Moseley-Braun and Congressman Durbin talking about the budget fight we had before. We did have a difficult budget fight. They did shut the Government down. They wanted to cut education on the verge of the 21st century. They wanted to paralyze our ability to protect the environment. They wanted to remove a 30-year guarantee of health care to poor families, to older people in nursing homes, to families who have members with disabilities. They wanted to take all of it away. We said no. They shut the Government down. We said no again. But the real reason it worked is that people like Dick Durbin were there to say we're going to uphold the President's veto. We're not going to let them divide our country and take us back.

So now you have the future out there. You have the future out there, and you have to decide. Are we going to balance the budget in a way that protects our investment in our future and our obligations to each other, or are we going to adopt their risky tax scheme that would blow a hole in the deficit, raise taxes on 9 million people, and bring back all those cuts again even more? We're going to do the right thing and balance the budget and build that bridge to the 21st century. That's what we're going to do.

Are we going to do the right thing and keep going until we put those 100,000 police on the street, help the cities take on the gangs, ban those bullets whose only purpose is to pierce the bulletproof vests of police officers? [Applause] Let's do the right thing and keep building that bridge to the 21st century.

Are we going to do the right thing and keep protecting our environment and clean up all those toxic waste dumps that are threatening our children's future? [Applause] Let's don't turn back. Let's build that bridge to the 21st century.

Are we going to do the right thing and help our families? Are we going to expand the family leave law so that parents can go to their children's parent conferences at the school and take their kids to the doctor? [Applause] I think we're going to do the right thing.

Are we going to do the right thing and open the doors of college education to all Americans? [Applause] We want to see all of our children learning in our schools. We want to see every 12-year-old able to hook up to the Internet. And we want to see every 18-year-old in America able to go to college. If you give us a chance, that's what we'll do.

Finally, are we going to do the right thing about going forward together? [Applause] Look around this crowd tonight, just look around. Look around. We've got all kinds of people here tonight. We even have some folks here for the other candidates tonight. You're welcome; we're glad to have you here. We're glad you're here. Look around.

Just think about this world we're moving into: the cold war in the background; no Russian missiles pointed at the children of the United States for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age. But what threatens us? Racial, ethnic, religious, tribal hatred; terrorism fueled by those hatreds. People all over the world who believe their life only has meaning if they can look down on someone else—"At least I'm not in that racial group, that ethnic group, that religious group."

Look at the Middle East and Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Rwanda and Burundi and Haiti, and all these places where the United States had tried to stand up for freedom and human dignity and peace. We dare not let that happen here. It should be thrilling to you that you can look around this crowd and see Americans from every continent. It should be thrilling to you that except for the Native Americans, we all come from someplace else, and we need to respect each other.

So I say to you, that future out there in the 21st century will be the greatest age of human possibility we have ever known. More of our children will have a chance to live out their dreams than any time in history if we make the right decisions. The decision we make a week from tomorrow will have a profound impact on how we go into that new century, on whether we say, "We're going forward together" or whether we say, "You're on your own;" on whether we say, "I hope you can make it, but we're too busy to help," or whether we say, "We do think it takes a village to raise our children and build our future, and we're going to do it."

And so I say to you, probably no person in history who was not a child of Illinois has ever loved this State more or owed more to it than I do. But I ask you one last time, one week from tomorrow, let's build that bridge to the 21st century.

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

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:15 p.m. in Daley Plaza. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago; Clem Balanoff, Danny K. Davis, and Rod R. Blagojevich, candidates for Illinois' 11th, 7th, and 5th Congressional Districts, respectively; and Mayor Joseph Kernan of South Bend, IN.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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