Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to Detroit Diesel Employees in Detroit

March 14, 1994

Thank you very much. Thank you very much for that wonderful welcome and for the tour and the opportunity I had to shake hands with so many of you. When you were asked how many of you had roots in my home State, I met seven or eight people just walking through the line. And I read in the morning paper that the University of Arkansas now has to be in the same NCAA championship bracket as Michigan, so some of you are going to have divided loyalties. [Laughter] I'm just scared about it. I don't know.

I want to thank my good friend Congressman John Conyers for being here and for his eloquent remarks. And I want to thank Senator Don Riegle for what he said and for all the years of service he gave to Michigan and to the United States. He didn't speak like he was retiring from the Senate today, but he says he is, and I thank you, sir, for your service. Two other members of your congressional delegation came with me, and they're over here somewhere, Senator Carl Levin and Congressman John Dingell, who is going to help me pass a good health care plan for all the American people. Thank you both for being here. Thank you, Owen Bieber, for being here and for being my friend and comrade. And I want to thank Lud for this wonderful tour of this plant and also Jim Brown; your local UAW leader is not up here with us, but he met me. He challenged me to go running with him next time I came. It was all I could do to run with the Mayor today. I don't know if I can handle him. [Laughter] And I want to say a special word of thanks to Roger Penske for saving all of your jobs and giving you something good to do.

You know, I'm in Detroit today because we are having a day-and-a-half meeting of the finance and economic ministers of the so-called G-7 nations. They're the big industrial nations of the world that have been meeting together for many years now, Japan and Germany and France and Great Britain and Canada and Italy and us. I think that's seven; I didn't keep count when I was going through. And all of these countries, interestingly enough, are having real problems either creating jobs or raising the incomes of their working people, even when their economies are growing. Every one except the western part of Germany has a higher unemployment rate than the United States. And yet we know in this country, for about 20 years, the average wages of working people have been almost stagnant, barely keeping up with inflation, if at all. So this is a worldwide problem. We know part of it has to do with global competition, part of it has to do with not changing with the pace of technology.

There are a lot of things that we know. I wanted to come here today to illustrate that while nobody can fully describe the problem, we do know how to solve it with people like you and plants like this. You know, I'm a racing fan, so I knew all about Roger Penske. I've actually been to Indianapolis and seen the 500. But I think the race he's winning here with you and your lives and your children is far more important than any Indianapolis race he will ever win, because our country is riding on it.

We know it works if labor and management work together. We know it works if there is good technology. We know it works if there's a commitment to sell abroad as well as at home. We know it works if everybody has a passionate, abiding commitment to quality. I like the fact that you no longer have a check for quality at the end of the line, but everybody has to do it all along the way, so that everybody has responsibility for the final product. We know that stuff works. And when you strip it all away, I want you to just think about it: What works in this plant would work not only in every other workplace in America but would go a long way toward solving our other problems.

I always tell people that I got into this work, and I certainly ran for President fully aware of all the hazards and pitfalls, because I had the old-fashioned view that the purpose of public service was to bring people together and to get things done and really to exalt the dignity and potential of every individual. And if you think about it, the reason this deal is working for you is everybody is important, everybody counts, and people work together. And if we could, in everything we do, think about what we could do to exalt the dignity and the potential in every person, we'd be a long way ahead. All these little children growing up in troubled family situations, in neighborhood situations, in difficult and even dangerous schools, nobody's thinking about their dignity or their potential. Every day so many things happen in this country from so many forces of power designed to strip people of their dignity, to undermine their potential, to weaken their ability to become what God meant them to be. And I just wanted to come here because what you have done is terribly important not only for you and your families but as an example of what we ought to do economically and socially as a country as we look toward the 21st century.

I am convinced that in spite of all of the tough times we've been through as a people over the last 20 years, I am convinced that we can go into the next century as the greatest country in the world, with our children looking forward to the most exciting future and the most peaceful future any people have ever known, if we remember that we're going up or down together so we might as well get together, and if we remember that we have to build on one another's strengths and we have to build each other up, not tear each other down, and if we remember we can fight over dividing the pie all we want, but unless we're growing the pie, unless we're making a better life for everybody and producing something that is good, we are not going to succeed.

Those basic lessons that have led you to double your sales, that have given you markets around the world, and that got the kind of cheer that you gave Roger Penske today are lessons that America ought to learn, that every other advanced country in the world ought to learn, and that I am trying as hard as I can to make sure guide every decision I make as your President and every decision our administration makes. So you just remember that. What you're doing here is what America ought to be doing: getting people together, getting things done, building human dignity. If we can do that, there is nothing we cannot achieve.

Thank you. God bless you all. I love being here.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:26 p.m. at the Detroit Diesel plant. In his remarks, he referred to Owen Bieber, president, and Jim Brown, plant chairman, United Auto Workers; Ludwick Koci, president, Detroit Diesel Co.; and Roger Penske, chief executive officer, Detroit Diesel, and owner and manager, Penske racing team.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to Detroit Diesel Employees in Detroit Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives