Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Democratic Reception in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

April 26, 1996

Thank you very much. Come on up, Congressman—give Congressman Borski a hand for going to his daughter's soccer game. Give him a hand. [Applause] One of the things you need to know if you're in public life is how to make a proper entrance. [Laughter] And Bob just qualified. Actually, I saw him this morning. We were both out running at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, and he said he'd be here tonight. And I thank him for keeping his word.

Thank you, Congressman Chaka Fattah, for that powerful introduction and for your great service. Thank you, Congressman Tom Foglietta, for your friendship and your support. Thank you, Gussie, and thank you, Mina Baker Knoll, and thank you, Joe Kohn.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman Fowler, for all the endless nights that you go back and forth across America in search of the magical chemistry of victory, not just for our party and our candidates but for the kind of America we're fighting for. And thank you, Mr. Mayor, for proving that the Democratic Party can be the party of the future and the party of all the people, the party of compassion and competence, the party of the mind and the party of the heart. Thank you all.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am deeply moved by this large outpouring. As President Kennedy used to say, I am deeply touched, but not so deeply touched as you are tonight. [Laughter] I thank you for your support, and I thank you for your commitment to your city, your State, and your country. Pennsylvania and Philadelphia have been very, very good to me. And as all of you know, this State and this part of our State has a special place in my wife's heart and her family history. And we're delighted always, either one of us, to have a chance to come.

I think you know why we're here, or you wouldn't be here. But let me just say again very briefly, when I ran for President in 1992 and the State of Pennsylvania gave Bill Clinton and Al Gore its electoral votes, when Philadelphia gave our ticket a larger margin than President Kennedy received here in 1960, we had a very straightforward vision for our country, a vision for what we wanted America to look like in the 21st century and what we wanted America to be like for all the children that are here.

First, we wanted a country where every person who is willing to work for it, without regard to their race, their income, or their background, could have a chance to live out their dreams. Second, we wanted a country that was coming together, not being driven apart; that was reaching across the racial and other lines that divide us to find strength in our diversity and our shared values. Third, I wanted to see our country continue to be the world's strongest force for peace and freedom and prosperity and security, so that we could build a framework for the 21st century that would free our children of the worries that two World Wars and the cold war imposed upon generation after generation after generation of Americans in the 20th century.

In short, I really believed that if we did the right thing, the new global economy could open up the greatest age of possibility our people have ever known. I still believe that. And what I come to you to say is that we have a record that we can be proud of. Together we've done what we said we'd do in 1992. But it is a record to build on, not a record to sit on. It is a record to go forward from, and not a record to take a radical turn away from. That is what is at stake here.

The American people in a way are fortunate in this election year. In 1992, there was a big debate about change or the status quo. That's not what is at stake in 1996. In 1996, there are two very different visions of change that offer us two roads into the 21st century. And the next 4 years, like it or not, are going to take us right into the next century. The question is, which road are we going to walk into the 21st century? That is the question the American people will determine.

Will we walk the road of those who say that Government is the problem in America and the only thing we need to do is to give the American people freedom from their Government? Or will we walk with those of us who believe that we need a smaller and less bureaucratic Government, but Government has a role to play to make sure that every American has a chance to make it, that every family has a chance to make it, that every neighborhood and every community has a chance to live up to the fullest of their God-given capacities?

I think those of us who want to go forward together will prevail in 1996 because of you, and I know that you know that, or you wouldn't be here. And we don't have to guess about what will happen. You know where I am and what I will do. You know where they are and what they will do. You know that our approach produced a deficit that is less than half of what it was in 1992 when we took office, 8 1/2 million more jobs, a real crime bill instead of 6 years of talking about it. It's putting 100,000 police on the street and helping communities to drive the crime rate down to make our streets safer.

You know that it produced new and innovative approaches to protect the environment while growing the economy. You know that it produced a new commitment to the education of all of our children, from expanding the Head Start program to expanding the availability of affordable college loans, to the national service program that your former Senator, Harris Wofford, heads today. You know what we will do, and you know they oppose all those things.

You also know that I have done my best to reach across party lines to work with Republicans of good will; that I think this intense partisanship—the idea that everybody who is not in your party is the enemy of your future and the enemy of your country—is crazy; the idea that you should never work with people even if you agree with them on a specific issue because there might be some, God forbid, benefit to somebody in the other party, is wrong. That is not what made America great. There are enough differences that are honest without that kind of excessive partisanship.

And today I finally signed, 7 months late, a budget for this year that I would have signed 7 months ago. Why? It continues the reduction of the deficit; it continues to cut spending; but it protects education; it protects the protection of the environment; it protects Medicare; it protects Medicaid; it protects our investment in new technologies and the growth of jobs; and it protects the 100,000 police and the AmeriCorps program, all things—all things—that the other party tried in an intensely, completely partisan way to do away with. That was wrong.

But when we came back and rolled up our sleeves and worked together, we did what we should have done: keep that deficit coming down, continue to reduce the size of unnecessary Government, but protect our future and protect our children and protect the things that bring us together instead of driving us apart. That is the way we ought to do things.

A couple of days ago I signed an antiterrorism bill—the same thing, passed in a completely bipartisan way to give us the tools to fight the kind of terrorism that we have seen in Oklahoma City, at the World Trade Center, in Japan, in the Middle East, indeed, all over the world, the use of murder of innocent civilians to achieve a political end. We did that in a bipartisan way by putting America first. That is what I represent and that's what our party will represent as long as I am the President of the United States, and that is what we ought to do.

So I ask you to keep these things in mind. This is an interesting world we're living in. It's full of unpredictable events. Just in the last few weeks we've seen the heartbreaking deaths of my friend the Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown, and some of our finest young public servants and some of our finest business leaders going to Bosnia to try to put the power of the American economy behind saving the peace and tell those people, you have no future if you hate each other because of your religion or your ethnic background. And we are determined now to make something positive happen out of that, to use it to strengthen our ability to stand for peace.

We were afraid that the peace was being shattered in the Middle East with the fighting in southern Lebanon and northern Israel. But, thank God, today they reached an agreement to restore the cease-fire and to monitor violations and not to resort to that kind of killing again. And yesterday the Palestinians took out of their constitution the provision that required them to be against the very existence of the state of Israel. This was a good day, a good week for peace in the Middle East and moving forward again.

And on the trip I took to Korea and Japan and Russia, let me remind you, it may seem like a long way away, but when I took office the number one threat to America's security was said to be the development of a nuclear program by North Korea and the prospect that they would have nuclear weapons that could be used and could be sold to other countries. Now that is not even in the headlines anymore because they're keeping their word to build down their nuclear program. And we are committed to that.

In Japan, we've had 21 separate trade agreements with Japan, 21. And in those areas, everything from auto parts to cellular telephones to autos to rice, in all those areas our exports to Japan are up 85 percent and our trade deficit is going down. We are creating jobs with free and fair trade, doing the right thing by the American people, and maintaining our security partnership with Japan.

Let me tell you why I went to Russia and how it affects you. Because of the work that has been done with Russia as a democracy in the last 3 years, for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age there is not a single, solitary nuclear missile pointed at an American child tonight. And I am proud of that, and you should be proud of that.

But unfortunately, not all the dangers of the nuclear age are behind us. We have more work to do to reduce nuclear weapons further. And the waste that is left behind—the waste that is left behind could be used to make small bombs with many times the destructive power of the bomb that blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma City. So we have to work with them to make sure that all that is safe, that it cannot be stolen, that terrorists cannot get ahold of it.

So even these things that happen so far from home affect the way your children live on their streets and their neighborhoods and their schools and their future. That is why I say again, we have to do three things. Every person without regard to their race, their gender, their station in life has got to have a chance if they're willing to work for it. We have got—we have got to fight these impulses that are dividing people all over the world by race, by religion, by ethnic group and say no, no, that's not what America is; America is meeting our challenges together by sharing our values and working together.

And we've got to continue to be the force for peace and freedom and security in the world that only America can be. And we have to do it by saying this is what the Democrats stand for, not big Government solving all the problems but a new, smaller, less bureaucratic Government, the smallest in 30 years, but one still strong enough to help citizens and families and communities make the most of their own lives.

That is tomorrow's progressivism. That's what we stand for. And if any Republicans or independents want to help us, we are not going to be blindly partisan, we're going to say come on aboard, grab us by the hand, and walk into the future together.

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

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:30 p.m. in Franklin Hall at the Franklin Institute. In his remarks, he referred to Gussie Clark, Philadelphia councilwoman; Mina Baker Knoll, State treasurer candidate; Joe Kohn, State attorney general candidate; Donald L. Fowler, national chairman, Democratic National Committee; and Mayor Edward Rendell of Philadelphia.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Democratic Reception in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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