Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Dinner in Columbus, Ohio

March 23, 1996

Thank you very much. I'll tell you, I've been around John Glenn a lot; that's the best darn speech I ever heard him give. [Laughter] Let me see if I can remember that, "You don't make America stronger by taking Big Bird away from 5-year-olds, school lunches away from 10-yearolds, summer jobs away from 15-year-olds, or student loans away from 20-year-olds." That's a pretty good line. That's a good line.

I want to thank our national chairman, Don Fowler, for his tireless work and for being here, and your remarkable State party chair, David Leland, for this incredible event. I thank you, sir, and all who worked on it. I thank all the distinguished officials that are up here on the dais with me, and especially my colleagues Congressman Sherrod Brown, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, and Congressman Tom Sawyer. Thank you for your fine work.

I have, I understand, two friends out in the audience, former colleagues, your former Attorney General Lee Fisher and your former Governor Dick Celeste; hello to you wherever you are, and thank you for being here. Ladies and gentlemen—Ted Strickland, is he here? Where are you, Ted? Thank you.

I want to thank the remarkable Central State University Marching Band, thank you very much for playing. I'd like to thank the others who performed before I came out here, America's Pride and Darla's Dancers and Madeline Reberra, thank you all.

I have a very great deal to be thankful to Ohio for, as it has been pointed out. The votes of Ohio on June 2, 1992, made me the nominee of the Democratic Party. The votes of the Ohio delegation in New York City in June of 1992— or July of 1992 officially made me the nominee of the Democratic Party. On election night in 1992 in November, Ohio put the Clinton-Gore ticket over the top, and we thank you for that.

More recently, I want to thank especially the people of Dayton for hosting the Bosnian peace talks and giving the United States a chance to play a role in settling the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II, promoting peace, saving lives, and thereby avoiding a war which our young people might be drawn into. I thank you for hosting those peace talks.

Let me say, having been traveling around the country now for the last couple of weeks, if anybody in this room had anything to do with settling the GM strike, there's 150,000 people that want to thank you, too, all across America for the chance to go back to work.

Ladies and gentlemen, most of what needs to be said to the Democrats of Ohio has already been said here tonight. I have a lot of gratitude in my heart. I want to thank all of the people from Ohio who now serve or who have served in our administration and all of you who have helped us to move this country forward.

But I want you to understand clearly, without any reservation, that this election represents a turning point in American history. In 1992, the real question was whether we would just sort of continue to drift along or whether we would change the course of America. In 1996, the decision will be between two very different paths of change. There is no status quo option.

And when I ran for President in 1992, I told you that my vision for America was a country in which every person, without regard to their region, their income, their race could have a chance to live up to the fullest of their Godgiven abilities, to share in the American dream if they were willing to work for it; an America that led the world for peace and freedom and prosperity and security; and an America where we valued and respected each other so that we came together around our basic values of work and family and community, instead of being divided by the cheap, short-term, divisive tactics that many have used in the other party to divide the American people at every election season. That's the America I want, an America coming together and moving forward and meeting the challenges of the future.

And my message to you is that the record that Senator Glenn talked about is not a record to sit on, it's a record to build on, because what has happened is—for all the progress we have made, you know America still has many challenges. And I think every American understands at some level, maybe just instinctively, that this is not a normal time, that we are going through a period of very profound economic and social change. I believe and I said all over America that our Nation today is changing economically more than it has at any time in a century, since people moved in Ohio from the farm to small towns and cities, since they moved from making a living primarily in agriculture to making a living primarily out of manufacturing.

Today the American people and people all over the world are moving from an economy that is based on their national markets to one based on world markets. They're moving, whether they work in the factory, on the farm, or in offices, from an economy where mind is more and more important and muscle is less and less important. They're moving into economy where work forces are being radically restructured because the little digital chip means that you can communicate more information more quickly with fewer people than anyone would have imagined even 10 years ago.

It has been at least 100 years since we have dealt with changes of this scope. And as with every period of great change, there are vast new opportunities created for people, but there is also uprooting and uncertainty. And our great challenge today is to take the positive things that have happened, that Senator Glenn talked about, and build on them to achieve our mission to provide security to every working family in this country that is willing to work for it, so that everyone will be rewarded for what they do, and to help our people in the great struggles of daily life, to strengthen our families and give all of our kids a childhood, to make all of our streets safe and our environment clean. That is our struggle. And to do it we have to be willing to change the way the Government works, to earn the trust and the confidence of the American people and to make it work again for all. That is what I have been working on.

And for all those who would argue against your political preferences and these people in Congress, let me just remind you, think back to where we were 4 or 5 years ago when the deficit was more than twice as high as it is; when your unemployment rate was 2 points higher; when it seemed like the only new jobs that were coming into the economy were lowwage jobs. No, I don't pretend that we solved all the problems, but we do have over 8 million new jobs, just like I said; we have cut the deficit, just like I said; and wages are going up again in America for the first time in a decade. And that's something to run on.

The first argument, obviously, is the argument Senator Glenn made. The other side, they said if our economic plan passed it would bring a disaster to America. They were wrong. We don't need to go back to their strategies. They gave us the disaster for America the last time they had the economy. On the other hand, we don't need to stand pat, either, as they tried to do in 1992. This is a record to build on, not to stand on.

We have to meet the challenges of all those Americans out there who do not feel strong and certain about the future. They are basically three groups of Americans: They're the people that live in those inner-city neighborhoods and those isolated rural areas where nobody has invested money yet. We need to give people incentives, tax incentives to put their money there to create private sector jobs to grow the economy there. We need to put in banks to loan money to people there. If we can provide incentives to invest in foreign countries, we ought to provide incentives to invest in the heartland of America's neighborhood.

The second group of Americans are the Americans who are working harder and harder and harder at hourly wages and never seem to get a raise. And there are a lot of them. And what do we have to do with them? For one thing, we should do no harm; we should reject the other side's budget proposal that would actually reduce the family tax credit that is now providing tax relief to families with incomes under $28,000.

The second thing we ought to do is raise the minimum wage. You know, both political parties in America and most politicians talk about family values. Well, that's a good thing to talk about; it's a good thing to be for. There's nothing more important. But there are millions of people out there, my fellow Americans, who are trying to raise children on $4.25 an hour. You can't do that; that's not a family value. We ought to raise it instead of letting it go to a 40-year low.

We ought to give these people the certainty that we are fighting for a growing economy and we're trying to open new markets. You know, we have concluded 200 trade agreements since I have been President, 20 with Japan. And in the areas where we've made new trade agreements, our exports have gone up by 80 percent with Japan. We've got to give these people a fair break and not let them be worked over in the global economy.

We ought to give these families a real tax break. And one of the things we ought to give them is a tax deduction for the cost of all education after high school—a college—[inaudible]—tax break.

We ought to say—and then there's a third group of people. You've been reading a lot about them lately. They're the people that work for these big corporations that are downsizing. What about them? Some of them are average income working people, some of them look like me— they're 50-year-old, white, gray-headed men who worked for these big companies for 25 or 30 years, and all of a sudden—says, "We don't need you anymore. I know you've got two kids about ready to go to college, I know you've got problems, but we're sorry, you have to go." What about them?

Well, you know what? There are several things that we can do. For one thing, we ought to say there are a lot of companies that don't do that to their employees; let's look at them and find out how they do it and give other companies incentives to treat their folks in a good, positive way.

Then we ought to say if a person loses their job in America, they ought to immediately get a voucher from the Federal Government worth about $2,500 a year that they can take to the nearest community college to immediately go back and learn a new skill and start a new life. And if you lose your job or if someone in your family gets sick, we ought to change the law—we ought to do it now—so that you don't lose your health insurance anymore and you can keep it when you lose your job. And if you go to work for a small company, you still ought to be able to take out a pension plan that you don't lose even if you lose your job; people ought to be able to carry those pensions with them and keep them for a lifetime and protect themselves in their retirement.

My fellow Americans, we have to face the challenges of the future because everybody has to know that they can benefit from the new global economy. I am grateful for the 8.4 million jobs. I am grateful that we have set a new record in business formation every year I've been President. I'm glad we're number one in selling automobiles and semiconductors again. I'm glad that the World Economic Forum in Europe says that we've gone from fifth place, before I became President, to having the most productive economy in the world for the last 3 years; I'm glad about that. But I won't be satisfied until working together we have created the opportunity for every American who will work for it to make the most of his or her own life and to give all the kids in this country a better future, and you shouldn't be, either.

Let me say that a big part of that is also getting back to our basic values, to having our communities and our families stronger. We have to help people raise their kids. That's why I was for the family tax credit. This year, 17 million families with incomes of under $28,000 a year will have lower taxes because of that '93 economic plan. That's why I was for the Vchip in the telecommunications bill so that parents would have more control over what their children see on television. I think that's important.

That's why our administration was the first in history to say we have to do something about the biggest health problem our young people face today, which is that 3,000 of them illegally start smoking every day and 1,000 of them will die sooner because of it, and we ought to stop it if we can. We've got to do something about it.

And we have to do something to make our streets safer. I'm glad that the crime rate is down and the welfare rolls are down and the food stamp rolls are down and the poverty rolls are down and the teen pregnancy rate is down. I'm glad about that, but they're all too high, and you know it. And we cannot be satisfied until you turn on the evening news at night and if you see on the evening news that a terrible crime has been committed, you are surprised instead of numb to it. That's when we know we will have whipped the crime problem.

And so I say to you, we need a combination of things. First, let's do what we know works. The FOP, the Fraternal Order of Police, which has one of the biggest chapters in the country here in Ohio, and all of the other law enforcement officers in this country helped us write that crime bill that Congress tried to undo a couple of days ago. And we got with them and with people that work on crime in the community and they said, "What works? Community policing works; put more police on the streets, put them in the neighborhoods, put them in the schoolyards, let people know their neighbors. They can lower the crime rate." And folks, all over America, in city after city where people had given up on crime, the murder rate is down and violence is down. We can do better. We have to do more of that.

We also said that we ought to have tougher laws for punishment for people who commit serious crimes. We ought to have a "three strikes and you're out" law. But for kids that get in trouble the first time, we need to try to give them a chance to recover their lives by giving them something to say yes to.

And let me tell you, again, it is a sign of the times: The crime rate is down, but the rate of violence among children under 18 is up. There are too many kids out there raising themselves, and we need to support each other in giving them their childhood back. We have to do it.

There's been a lot of talk in Ohio about welfare reform. The welfare rolls are down since this administration came in. And even though Congress has not yet passed a welfare reform bill that I can sign that is tough on work but good to children, we have on our own given 37 States permission to get rid of Federal rules and find ways to move people from welfare to work. Three out of four people on welfare today are under welfare reform experiments approved by this administration. That is more than the last two administrations of the other party put together. We are moving people from welfare to work.

We are also doing something we should do more of. This administration has taken the lead in giving America record amounts of child support collections. We can move people off welfare if parents pay what they owe to raise their own kids, and we should insist upon it.

If we want America to be what it ought to be, we also have to give our children clean air, clean water, safe food, and a decent environment for the future. For years there was a serious debate about that. There is no longer a serious debate; we now know we can grow the economy by protecting the environment, and that is what I mean to do.

And let me say to you, it is not necessary, to balance the budget, to shut down the cleanup of toxic waste sites. There are millions of children that live within 3 or 4 miles of toxic waste dumps. We don't need to shut down our efforts to clean them up. It is not necessary, to balance the budget, to weaken the laws on safe food and clean air and clean water. It is not necessary to undermine the enforcement of the environmental standards of America to balance the budget, and I will not do it. I will not tolerate it; it is wrong. It is wrong.

Now, my fellow Americans, we also have to realize that, much as we'd like to, just because the cold war is over we can't walk away from the rest of the world. I know a lot of people even in this room have disagreed with some of the decisions I have made in foreign policy. But let me tell you, we are the world's only superpower now. I try not to meddle. There are some things we can't do. I don't want to be the world's policeman, but we can't walk away. We have to try to be the world's peacemaker. And every time we make peace, every time we make peace for people in other parts of the world, we ensure that we will be a little safer.

Let me tell you, you know, if you just take terrorism, no great nation can hide from terrorism. We saw it at the World Trade Center in New York here. We saw it in Oklahoma City. And when you see bombs blow up innocent civilians in Israel or in London, just remember this: In the world we're living in, with computer technology, with open borders, one of our biggest challenges is seeing the people who are terrorists, the people who are drug runners, the people who are organized criminals, and the people who smuggle weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons, coming together and working together. I am determined that that will not happen, and I intend to keep us involved with every freedomloving country in the world that will stand up to the terrorists and the thugs that would rob innocent people of their future.

Now, it is in that context that you must see this choice. I don't want to sit on this record. I want to build on it. I want more change, not less. I want a Government that is smaller and less bureaucratic. We have given you the smallest Government, not the other party that always cursed the Federal Government. The Democrats have given you the smallest National Government in 30 years and the biggest reduction in regulations.

But I do believe—we need a doctor? Is there a doctor here? We have somebody who passed out in the heat here. Can we get a doctor? Okay? She's okay, just wanted more jokes. [Laughter] Let me say—we got another one over here. We need a doctor over there.

Now, let me say, you have to see this election in these terms. They can say, "Oh, old 'Veto' Bill"—you bet, and I'm proud of it. And I'd do it again. You look—I want you to look at where the budget negotiations were when they left them to go finish their campaign. They had acknowledged that we didn't need those big Medicare cuts, those big Medicaid cuts; that we didn't have to gut education or environmental protection; that we didn't have to raise taxes on working people, we don't have to raid pension funds, we don't have to do those things.

Now, remember this, there is no longer a choice between the status quo and change. There are two real different views of change here. They say the Government is the problem, just get out of the way and let things take their course. I say, you remember what happened 100 years ago? The progressive movement that culminated in Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, that progressive movement started under a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt. They abandoned him and his tradition, and we shouldn't make the same mistake. We have to stand up for that.

I believe that the Government of the United States has to, first of all, make us secure; secondly, give us the conditions of a growing economy; and third, work in partnership with the American people so that individuals and families and communities can make the most of their own lives and meet the challenges of this uncertain world. That is the difference between our campaign and theirs. It is clear, unambiguous, and true.

So I want you to think about it. Yes, I vetoed that budget, and I'd do it again. But I don't like it. I'd rather sign the right kind of balanced budget that will lower interest rates, balance the budget, grow the economy, and give your kids a future. That's what I did. And that's the way I feel about welfare reform and health care reform and all these other things.

I want to work with the Congress. But the main thing I want is to give you the kind of future you need and deserve. So if you are willing to stand up and fight one more time, we can have an American dream for all Americans in the 21st century. That's what we can have. We can have family values. We can have a free and safe America. We can have a better future.

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

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:23 p.m. in the Lausche Building at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. In his remarks, he referred to former Representative Ted Strickland.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Dinner in Columbus, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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