Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Dinner in Miami

October 22, 1996

The President. Thank you.

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

The President. Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, this crowd's a little rowdy tonight. But it's only 2 weeks until voting time; it's about time to get a little rowdy. So I'm glad to see you.

Let me ask all of you to join me in once again expressing our appreciation to the wonderful, wonderful entertainment we had tonight. [Applause] Thank you, Peabo Bryson. You were fabulous. Thank both of you so much. Thank you.

I am so glad to see you here. I'm glad to be up here with Buddy MacKay and Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham. We've all been friends a long time. We've worked together on so many things for so long, we read each other's mind. I think we can say each other's speeches. [Laughter] Tonight I was kind of tired. I thought, maybe I could be Lawton; he won't talk very long. [Laughter] Then maybe I can be me and not talk very long—who knows. [Laughter]

Let me say to all of you, I expect to be back in Florida before this election is over, but—and I have worked hard for this State for 4 years and with your leaders for 4 years in trying to help you overcome the impacts of the hurricane, in trying to help deal with the challenges of education and health care, in trying to help you grow your economy, in trying to help you save your environment, in trying to help you save and enhance the State's program.

This is my last election, unless I run for the school board someday. [Laughter] For me, as Lawton Chiles said, it all started in Florida in December of 1991. You gave me the first step up on the road to the White House, and I will never forget that. I will always love you for it and always be grateful. And I'd sure like to go out with a victory in Florida.

We have worked together to try to seize the future not only on the things I mentioned but the Summit of the Americas, which Senator Graham spoke about; the extra efforts we have made over the last 4 years to try to bring freedom to Cuba; the work that we must do—the work that we have done and must continue to do to shore up democracy in the rest of our hemisphere and our neighborhood.

But tonight I just want to ask you very briefly—this will be brief—to take some time when you go home tonight—I hope you will pat yourself on the back for the contributions you have made and the efforts you have made, and then I hope you will redouble your efforts in the next 2 weeks. And I think you can do it if you go home tonight and go through an exercise that I frequently go through myself, if you ask yourselves before you go to bed, "What do I want my country to look like when we start the 21st century just 4 years away? And what do I want my country to be like when my children are my age? What do I want it to be like when my grandchildren are my age?"

We are going through one of those periods of profound change in how we work and live, how we relate to each other, how we relate to the rest of the world. You know it here in Florida and particularly here because you're on the cutting edge of so many of those changes. It is not as if we have an option to repeal those changes. That's nothing I can take credit for. These changes are big, deep, historical currents. The issue is, how will we respond to these challenges? How will we make these changes our friend? How will we be able to meet the challenges and preserve our values?

For me, the answer has always been very simple. It's the thing that got me into the Presidential race in 1991. It has driven our administration every day for the last 4 years. It is, what can we do to make sure that when we start that new century in a new millennium, opportunity is still alive for every single person in this country who's willing to be responsible and work for it? What can we do to make sure that the United States continues to lead the world toward peace and freedom and prosperity? And what can we do to make sure America incorporates all these vast changes in a way that strengthens our American community, that brings us together instead of driving us apart? How can we learn to help people succeed more at home as parents and in the workplace? How can we live in greater harmony with our natural environment? And how can we live in greater harmony with each other, in spite of all of our differences?

And I have worked very hard, and I'm proud to be able to say that compared to 4 years ago, in virtually every category of measurement, by those standards, we are better off than we were 4 years ago. We are on the right track to the 21st century.

You know, in nearly every election and in too many over the last 10 years or so, as you get along toward the end of the election, things tend to get sometimes harsh and personal. And many of you said to me tonight—I appreciate it—that you liked the way I avoided that in the second debate. I thank you for your comments about that. But let me say that to me it is not necessary to do that, and in fact, doing that undermines what I think we ought to be doing, which is to look at the fact that we have two candidates and two philosophies here that are very different about how to reach the 21st century. And they are so different and clear a vote should be easy to cast, and no one should be willing to stay home, because the consequences are so significant for how we'll have to live.

I believe that the human dimension is very important. And you know, as I've said repeatedly, I had a good personal relationship with Senator Dole when he was the Senate majority leader. I had a good personal relationship with him when I vetoed the budget he passed. It wasn't personal. I realized that he thought it was a good thing to cut education by $30 billion and get rid of the national service program and undermine our environmental protection programs. He thought it was good because he thinks the Government is a disembodied, bad force in our lives. And I honestly disagreed.

He wants to say that we're the party of Government, but you know, our Democratic administration reduced the number of people working for the Government, the number of regulations on the books, and eliminated more programs than they did in 12 years when they had the White House. This has nothing to do—[Applause].

The central question here is, do you believe there are some things that we must do as partners together because we can't do them on our own? I went out to the largest community college in America today—the president of that college, a Cuban-American who came here 33 years ago to start his life, now heading the largest institution of its kind in our entire country— and I looked out at that college and I said, "You know, this is the way America ought to work. This is a flexible, nonbureaucratic, highperformance organization committed to the realization of everyone's potential. But they give you no guarantees. You have to work. All you get is a chance. But on the other hand, everybody gets a chance. Nobody gets filtered out because they're in some special category. All you have to do is to show up and be willing to work." And that's the way America ought to work. And that's what I believe we should be working for.

So that's the big issue. Should we build a bridge to the 21st century wide enough and strong enough for everybody to walk across, or should we say that, "In order to do that, I'll have to undermine your freedom. So there's the 21st century and there's a big deep valley and there's a big high mountain. I hope you get across, good luck." Should we say to people, "You're better off on your own," or should we say Hillary was right, it takes a village to raise a child and build a country?

I don't feel that it is necessary to believe that people who disagree with me on this are bad people. I do believe the consequences would be bad. I think we were right, for example, to take more chemicals out of the air and raise the standards of our food and strengthen environmental enforcement in a way that grew the economy—didn't undermine the economy. We've had more new businesses start in environmental technology, hiring more people, by far than anyone can reasonably claim jobs have been lost because we fought for clean air, clean water, and the preservation of our natural resources. I believe we were right. But you have to decide.

You know, most of us will do fine no matter what happens in terms of educating our children. But I believe we're going to do better if we pass our program to open the doors of college education to all Americans and let everybody have access to at least 2 years of education after high school and give everybody some sort of tax deduction for the cost of college tuition up to $10,000 a year. I think we'll all be stronger if everybody gets a good education. That's what I believe.

So you have to decide that. But I believe we must remain an aggressive, forward-looking, reformist country committed to meeting these challenges and meeting these changes. And I know we can do it. I think you know we can do it.

That's the last thing I want to say. This election is not over. It has not even occurred yet, except among those of you who have voted absentee or if you live in one of those States where they let you vote for 3 weeks. Otherwise all these polls are pictures of horseraces that aren't over. Now, I know there are no gamblers in this audience. [Laughter] But if there were people who had ever been to horseraces in this audience, chances are that several of them held winning tickets on horses that were ahead at the three-quarter turn. Some of them held tickets on horses that were ahead in the stretch. But the only tickets they collected on were the horses that were ahead at the finish line. The finish line is November 5th. And I want you to be there. I want you to bring people there. And I want you to help us build that bridge to the 21st century.

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

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:03 p.m. in the courtyard at the Biltmore Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to singer Peabo Bryson.

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

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