Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in Cleveland, Ohio

November 04, 1996

The President. Thank you.

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

The President. Thank you. Are you ready for tomorrow? Will you be there? [Applause] Wow! Well, I do not know what the Vice President ate for breakfast this morning—[laughter]—but if he'd had two more bites of it he would have blown the roof clear off of this thing.

But he told you the truth. I want to say, here on this last day of this campaign, how profoundly grateful I am and how profoundly grateful I know that Hillary is to have had the partnership we have enjoyed with Al and Tipper Gore. He is clearly the finest Vice President in the history of the United States. I want to say, in ways that you can never know, they have represented our country with honor and distinction and made America a better place.

I thank Mayor White for his leadership of this great city, a city that is moving in the right direction. I thank Senator John Glenn for his campaigning with me all across Ohio and for his campaigning and standing with me in Washington. Thank you, Congressman Lou Stokes, for your great, great leadership for the city of Cleveland. Thank you, Congressman Sherrod Brown. Thank you, Jane Campbell. I hope you'll help her tomorrow. The State party chair, David Leland, and our U.S. Treasurer, your former treasurer, Mary Ellen Withrow, thank you for coming home to Ohio to help us today.

I, too, want to thank Joe Walsh and the James Gang. It's about time they got back together. And that's what we're about, bringing people back together, and I think we did it today. And I want to say a special word of thanks to Dennis Kucinich and Tom Coyne for running for the Congress, to give it back to you, to the people of Ohio and the people of America. Stand up, guys. Give them a hand. [Applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, you've heard all the issues debated. You've heard all of the specifics argued. But you know from what the Vice President has said, you know from your own experience that the choice you make tomorrow for the last President of the 20th century and the first President of a new century and a new millennium is a choice about how we will go forward into the 21st century.

All the young people who are here, I especially thank you for coming because this is about your future. You know what this choice is about. It's about whether we're going to go forward on our own or whether we're going to go forward together. It's about whether we're going to say, "There's a future out there and it's a long way out there and you've got to ford a big river and go down a big, deep valley and climb a high mountain; we sure hope you make it; call or write when you get there"—[Laughter]—or whether we think we'll do better, all of us, if we work together to give everyone the tools they need, the chance—not a guarantee but a chance—to make the most of our own lives and build that bridge to the 21st century together.

Now, we have talked a lot in this campaign about my responsibilities to create more opportunity, to reinforce responsible conduct among young people and families and communities, to bring us together in an American community. Today I want to talk about your responsibility, for in this great country of ours you are the boss and we are your servants. And our contract is coming due.

It is up to you to decide whether we're going to keep building that bridge to the future or build a bridge to the past; up to you to decide whether we'll be left on our own or whether we'll go forward together; up to you to decide whether all these signs here that say Irish-Americans, Hungarian-Americans, Greek-Americans, the African-Americans, the Hispanic-Americans, the Asian-Americans, the Middle Arab-Americans—all the people that are in this audience, whether we are part of one America going forward together. You must seize the day to say this is our country, this is our future, and we're going to build it together. Will you do that tomorrow? [Applause]

You know that 4 years ago when Ohio put us over the top on election night, when they showed that map of America and then the Ohio map started blinking and my heart started palpitating and they said, "Ohio has gone for Clinton and Gore. They have the votes they need to win the White House"—you remember that. You took us on faith then, but now you don't have to. You know whether their approach or our approach works. This State is better off compared to 4 years ago in every way: more jobs, higher incomes, more businesses, a lower crime rate, lower welfare reform—rates. We are moving in the right direction. Do you want to keep going, and will you be there tomorrow to keep it going? [Applause]

Your vote will decide what kind of future we build. Will you say—will every one of you personally say, "For my children, for their future, for our country, this is my responsibility. And I will seize tomorrow to build America's 21st century bridge"? Will you do it? [Applause]

Folks, now let me tell you——

[At this point, there was a disturbance in the audience.]

The President. Wait a minute. We've got a few folks from the other side in the audience, but don't boo them. It only encourages them. Make them welcome. Make them feel welcome. Make them feel welcome. Make them feel welcome. We're not like they are. Even they are part of our America. We're not running anybody off. We're glad to have you here. Make them feel welcome.

And besides, I want to thank Senator Dole for something. He made a great speech for my reelection the other day. You know, we had a report we were at 10 1/2 million new jobs in the last 4 years. And then last week it came out that we had another 210,000 new jobs, for 10.7 million jobs—faster job growth than any Republican administration since the 1920's. And when that happened, when that happened Senator Dole said we had the worst economy in 20 years. Now, why is that a speech? Because just 2 weeks before, he said we had the worst economy in 100 years. Now, who else do you know who could make up 80 years in 2 weeks? We're moving in the right direction. We're going to the 21st century. We need to bear down and go on. We're going.

I agree with everything the Vice President said except one. The first decision you make is whether we continue our historic efforts in reducing the debt and bringing down interest rates and growing the economy by balancing the budget of the United States in a way that protects our investments in education, the environment, technology, and protects the people on Medicare and Medicaid and gives a targeted tax cut we can afford for education, childrearing, buying a first home, and health care—that's our plan—or whether we'll go back to their plan, the one that led to our veto. Their new version is even worse: a bigger deficit, bigger cuts, and tax increases on 8 million hard-working Americans. You have to decide.

Now, you heard the Vice President say they joined hands and jumped off the cliff together in that last Congress. That's not what they did; they joined hands and tried to push you off the cliff together. But with the help of John Glenn and Lou Stokes and Sherrod Brown, we reached out a lifeline. We said, "You can shut the Government down if you want." They said, "We'll bring the President to his knees. We will shut the Government down." And I said, "I would far rather see the American people hurt for 30 days than hurt for 30 years. You shut her down. You're not going to force that budget down our throat."

But now, folks, I have done all I can do. It's in your corner now, and you must seize the day. You'll decide whether we balance the budget and protect our priorities and invest in our future, or whether we adopt their risky scheme and wreck our economy. You will decide whether they were right or I was right when I signed the family and medical leave law and they, Mr. Dole and Mr. Gingrich, led the fight against it. They said when I signed it, this is a terrible thing, this will hurt the economy. Well, we know now, 12 million people got to take a little time off from work when a baby was born or a family member was sick. We've had record new businesses, record exports, 10.7 million new jobs, incomes going up $1,600 in the last 2 years alone. Family leave made us a stronger economy by helping people be happy at work because they knew their kids were all right at home. We did the right thing, and they were wrong.

So you have to decide. I want to expand it because I think you ought to be able to take a little time off to go see your children's teachers twice a year and take your kids to the doctor. But they don't. Your vote will decide. Will you seize the day tomorrow and help us expand family leave? [Applause] Will you seize the day and help us balance the budget? [Applause]

Your vote will decide whether we continue to reform health care. There along toward the end of the Congress, finally some of the reforms we had been advocating passed because they knew they were coming home to face you. And so now we can say, finally you can't lose your health insurance just because you change jobs or someone in your family has been sick. Finally insurance companies can't kick mothers and their newborn babies out of the hospital after 24 hours. But in our budget—in our budget, our balanced budget, we give health insurance to another million children, free mammograms to women on Medicare, respite care for the nearly 2 million families that are heroically caring for a family member with Alzheimer's, struggling against all the odds. We do all that and give families who lose their jobs 6 months more of health insurance while they're between jobs. We still balance the budget. They don't, we do. That's why they're screaming. You've got to seize the day and help us reform health care. You've got to seize the day.

You have to decide. We had a huge fight over crime. We had an approach on crime which Senator Glenn and Congressman Stokes and Congressman Brown supported. We said, we can bring the crime rate down if we put more police on the streets, get tougher with repeat offenders, give our kids something to say yes to, and get guns and gangs and drugs off the streets. That's our strategy. We'll work.

We passed a crime bill to put 100,000 police on the street, take assault weapons off the streets, double the funds for safe and drug-free schools so our kids will get the message early that drugs are illegal and wrong and can kill you. And guess what? Four years of declining crime, the lowest crime rate in 10 years. They're still trying to stop us from putting the police on the street. Will you help us finish the job of putting those 100,000 police on the street? [Applause]

Will you say to them with your vote, "You rolled through Ohio and all these States in 1994 telling innocent people who were good, Godfearing Americans that we were going to take their guns away for hunting and sporting purposes. And now we know. After 2 years not a single hunter or sports person in Ohio has lost a gun, but 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers cannot get handguns because of the Brady bill. You were wrong." Will you seize the day and stand up for a safe America? Will you help us finish the job? [Applause]

We have worked hard to protect our children with the safe and drug-free schools program, with a V-chip in televisions so that parents can control what their young children see on television, and with the first initiative ever by our National Government to say to the big tobacco companies, "You've got to stop marketing, advertising, and selling cigarettes to kids; it's illegal, and too many of them are going to die because of it." In all three of those initiatives, the safe and drug-free schools initiative, the Vchip, the antitobacco initiative—they're all in process now; none are finished; they can all be reversed—they disagree with us. You have to decide. Will you seize the day for your children's future, their health care, the integrity of their lives, and the fact that every child in this country deserves to grow up in an atmosphere free of drugs and gangs and violence and tobacco? Will you help us do that? Will you? [Applause]

We have moved 2 million people nearly from welfare to work over 4 years of hard work. Child support collections are up 50 percent; $4 billion a year is going to children who need it. We passed a $5,000 tax credit to encourage families to adopt children. There are so many of them who need homes out there. Will you help us finish the job on welfare reform? The law says if you're able-bodied, within 2 years you have to turn the welfare check into a paycheck. But you cannot require people to go to work unless there is work for them to have. We have a plan to create another million jobs to move people from welfare to work. Will you help us? Will you seize the day to do that? [Applause]

And most important of all, your vote is going to decide what we're going to do as a country about education and whether education will continue to be the great unifying force of opportunity and progress it has always been, or whether we're going to let it drift away into a force that divides us between those who have it and those who do not. Our plan recognizes that too many 8-year-olds in this country still can't read. And I propose to mobilize a million volunteers, including 100,000 college students we pay workstudy funds to, to teach every 8-year-old in the country to read independently by the third grade in the year 2000. Will you help us do that? [Applause]

And for the first time, I want to hook up every classroom and library in America to the information superhighway, the Internet, the World Wide Web. That means for the first time in the whole history of America, children in the smallest rural school in Ohio, children in the poorest inner-city district in Ohio will have access in the same way at the same time to the same information as students in the wealthiest districts in America do. It will revolutionize the education of our children. Will you seize the day tomorrow to do that for your children? [Applause]

And will you help us open the doors of college education to every single American who is willing to go and work for that opportunity? [Applause] Folks, when I became President, we improved the college loan program to lower its cost and say you could pay the money back as a percentage of your income so no young person would ever have to fear running up a big debt and be bankrupted. We just signed the biggest increase in Pell grants in 20 years. Seventy thousand young people earned their way to college through service in the community in the AmeriCorps program. And they fought us on AmeriCorps; they fought us on college loans; they fought us on Head Start. Now, their program for the future is, abolish the Department of Education.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. Think of it. Think of it. We would go into the 21st century as the only country in the world with no one sitting at the table of the head of state, no one at the President's Cabinet to speak up for the education of our children. My program is, let's make 2 years of education after high school as universal in 4 years as a high school diploma is today. Let's give every American—let every American deduct from their tax bill, dollar for dollar, the cost of a typical community college tuition, and we'll get that done. Let every American deduct up to $10,000 a year for the cost of any college tuition, undergraduate or graduate, no matter what the age of the student. Will you help us do that? Will you seize the opportunity tomorrow to do that? [Applause]

Now, this election is about more than personalities and more than parties, it is about the future of America. And you have to decide. You have to decide whether in the end it will be an election of your hopes or your fears, whether it will be an election that will bring us closer together or drive us further apart. I have done everything I could. The responsibility now shifts to you, my fellow Americans. It is your country, your children, your future.

I thank you for giving me the chance to serve. I ask you to think tonight before you go to bed about what you want this great country to look like. We are better off than we were 4 years ago. When we cross the bridge into the 21st century, if we stay on this course, we'll be better off still. And we will do it together. Look at your children; think of your future. Seize the day to keep your country moving in the right direction.

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

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:05 p.m. in the Convocation Center at Cleveland State University. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Michael R. White of Cleveland; Jane Campbell, Ohio State representative; musician Joe Walsh; and Dennis Kucinich and Thomas J. Coyne, Jr., candidates for Ohio's 10th and 19th Congressional Districts, respectively.

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

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives