Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Luncheon in Brooklyn

April 15, 1997

Thank you very much. Congressman Rangel said, "I guess I can't say ‘break a leg,' can I?" [Laughter] Actually you could. They told me if I had broken my leg, I would have healed quicker.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank all of you for being here. I want to thank Martin Frost for his tireless work on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. I thank Dick Gephardt for the wonderful work that he has done with me over the last 4 years and few odd months as majority leader, as minority leader, and I hope in January of 1999, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, with your help.

To give you an idea of what this Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did and what our candidates did in 1996, it is worth noting that even though they were out-spent often by breathtaking margins in the last 10 days—unimaginable amounts in some of the seats—with only 9,759 votes spread across 10 congressional districts, the Democrats could be in the majority today. That's how close that election was. And therefore, your presence here today and your support for them is very important.

I am proud of the things that Mr. Gephardt mentioned. I'm proud of the fact that in 1992 we said we would turn this country around and change the direction of the country, and we did. I'm proud of the fact that we changed the economic philosophy that dominated Washington for a long time, that we reversed trickledown economics and instead said, "We're going to reduce the deficit and invest in our future. We're going to expand trade and make it more fair."

And the results, I think, are pretty impressive. We've got an unemployment rate today that's the lowest it's been in many, many years, and the unemployment rate today is a full percent and a half below the average—the average of the two decades before I took office. So we're working together; we're moving forward.

I am proud of the fact that with the leadership of a lot of the Members of the Congress in this room we've taken a serious step instead of just hot-air talk in trying to make our streets safer and our futures brighter for our young people. We had the biggest drop in crime the year before last that we've had in over two decades. We haven't gotten the 1996 statistics yet, but all the indications are that they continue to go down. We are moving in the right direction on that.

And I am very proud of the fact that, again, with the leadership with a lot of New Yorkers in this room, we have put education first on America's domestic agenda again. And I'm very proud of that.

I'm going to do my best to keep doing the public's business, and I will do my best to do it in a fair and open way with the Members of both parties in the Congress. But I can tell you, if you look around the room at the people who are here, and you ask yourself, what are the great challenges of the 21st century for America? Can we keep the American dream of opportunity for all who are willing to work for it alive; can we give our children a worldclass education; can we deal with the health care and the safety needs of all the poor children who come from different cultures who are in our country and give them a chance to make their full contribution; can we preserve an American community that's one America and still have an enormous amount of respect for the racial and ethnic and religious differences we have among ourselves? Because if we can, then we are clearly the best positioned country in the world for the new century.

You have to ask yourselves, who would I like to take the lead in answering those questions and in fashioning the answer? And I know what that answer is for me; I know what that answer is for you. And your presence here today will help the American people make a good decision in 1998.

I'd also like to thank the Members of Congress from Brooklyn and the people of Brooklyn for hosting us here today. I have consistently done very well in Brooklyn, as the Members never forget to tell me, and I am very grateful for that. And I am honored to be in this beautiful, beautiful place, and I hope to stay and look around a little bit.

I'm going to Queens tonight to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets and the Dodgers play and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's breaking the color line in baseball. And I'd just like to say one final word about that. It's all the more appropriate, I think, coming as it does right after Tiger Woods' recordshattering performance in the Masters. But it's important to remember that you had, I think, the two great ingredients of a good society at work in both places. In the case of Jackie Robinson, you had people who were willing to end discrimination and an owner who was willing to give him a chance. But you also had a highly disciplined, profoundly dignified, greatly talented ballplayer who was prepared not only physically but also emotionally and mentally to do what had to be done. The same thing happened in the Masters last week.

And I often believe—have said this and I will say it again because I believe it—I think that the elections that really matter in this country are genuinely determined by questions people ask not only about us but about themselves and how they view themselves in the world in the future we're going into.

And I will say this in closing: I believe that the efforts of Martin Frost and Leader Gephardt and all the members of the New York delegation in 1998 will be successful. If we can get the right kind of balanced budget passed in the Congress, if we can continue to stand up for what's right for America, and if we can make sure the American people are asking the right questions in 1998 of our society and of themselves—if that happens, I am not worried about the outcome of the elections, and more importantly, I'm not worried about the future of our country.

Again, let me say I'm profoundly grateful to New York and grateful to Brooklyn and glad to be here, and thank you for helping the DCCC.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:24 p.m. at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. In his remarks, he referred to Representative Martin Frost, chairman, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Luncheon in Brooklyn Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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