Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Dinner for Hillary Clinton in New York City

September 08, 2000

Thank you. First of all, I want to thank Jonathan for this incredible setting. It's a beautiful place. It makes me want to get in your line of work, so I can have a place like this. [Laughter] And I want to thank Jerry Colonna and Barbara and Fernando and Ann Espuelas and Andrew Rasiej and all the people on the host committee and all of you who came tonight for Hillary and for a better future for this country.

I want to thank these Senators here. Nothing I was able to do in the last 8 years would have been possible without them, both when they were in the majority and most of the time—and even especially—when they were in the minority. I want to thank them for being on our high-tech council and trying to put the Democrats on the side of positive change in this economy.

And I want to say a special word of thanks to Jay Rockefeller, who served with me as Governor for many years. And we used to sit together and ruminate together and fight for the same things together. And the socioeconomic profiles of West Virginia and Arkansas were the two most identical in the country. The real reason I'm glad he's here tonight is that he proved that you could go someplace else and represent them real well in the Senate. [Laughter] He is exhibit A for Hillary's campaign.

I want to thank Mark Green, the public advocate, for being here tonight. And he's my great friend of many years, thank you.

I would just like to make a couple of points in introducing Hillary. First of all, I am profoundly grateful that I've had the chance to serve and grateful for the opportunities that Al Gore and I and our whole administration had to help make America a better place.

I think it is important to point out something that you know because it's a part of what you do every day, and that is that the most important force in the world are ideas—forces in the world. And they have consequences. And if your ideas are good and you implement them, they have good consequences. And if they're not so good, you live with the consequences. We forget that sometimes in politics—when we vote, when we debate issues, we forget that in the end, it really does matter whether your ideas are right or not. And I remember when I went around the country in 1991 and 1992 and the economy was stagnant and inequality was increasing and all the social indicators were going in the wrong direction, I came to the conclusion that one reason was that Washington was being run on a set of ideas that were, if they were ever any good, their time had long since passed, and some of them never were right.

And we changed the economic policy, the welfare policy, the crime policy, the education policy, the health care policy, and the environmental policy and the foreign policy of this country. Ideas have consequences in public life just like they do in what you do.

And so, for me, apart from my extraordinary personal feeling about this race, the reason I'm going around the country now—the first time in 26 years when I haven't been on the ballot during an election—[laughter]—is because I've worked as hard as I could to turn our country around and move it in the right direction. But I honestly believe all the best things are still out there. And I think this is the first time in my lifetime that our Nation has had a chance to shed its baggage, to shed its racial baggage, to shed its homophobic baggage, to shed all of its divisive baggage. My party has shed a lot of its baggage that basically was rooted in our fear of change and has embraced change.

And I really believe that all the best stuff is still out there. You look at the last 8 years. It's a very impressive record. But basically what it did was lay the foundation for Americans together to be able to build the future of our dreams for ourselves and our children. Almost everybody in this room is younger than me, and most days, I'm okay about it. [Laughter] But you've got a lot more at stake in this election than I do.

And I believe that elections are determined, by and large, by what people think they're about. So that if people believe this is really about building the future of our dreams for our children, if they believe we have to empower everyone, if they believe we all do better when we work together, if they believe that the ideas that work are the ones that ought to be embraced instead of the ones that sound good in 5-second sound bytes, then we'll win the White House, and we'll win the Senate, and we'll win the House, not because it's us but because of you and the future you want for yourselves and your children.

Martin Luther King once said, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice." It's a wonderful, eloquent line, and a lot of people said, "It's a wonderful, eloquent line, but it may not be true. Look at all the horrible things that happened in the 20th century." There is a new book out by Robert Wright, called "Non Zero." Some of you may have read it. But essentially what he argues is that as societies become more complex and people grow more interdependent, all of us are forced to look more and more for non-zero sum solutions, for win-win solutions, not win-lose solutions, for things that bring us together and unite us and lift us all up, not things that divide us so I can win at your expense.

And that basically has been the social and economic policy we have tried to follow. I'm very proud that more millionaires and even more billionaires have been created in the last 8 years than at any time in American history by a long stretch. But I'm also proud that the people that are serving and catering this event tonight have a better chance to send their children to college and make a better life than they did before. I think that's important.

I just got back from Nigeria, and I went into this desperately poor village, and I had all these little children dancing for me and giving me their village gifts. And I was looking at those children, wondering whether there was someone who had just as good a brain as I did, who could grow up to speak just as well, and whether that person would have the chance, that boy or girl, to live their dreams as I have.

And one of the reasons I've loved the sort of new, high-tech world, even in the areas that challenge me technologically—[laughter]—is that I think that it is so egalitarian, and I think it's so open to people and their ideas and their efforts. And I think it also has more non-zero action than most sectors of the old economy. That's the sort of politics I believe we ought to embrace.

And so I'm going all across the country trying to help Al Gore and Joe Lieberman and all of our candidates for the Senate and the House, because it's the right thing to do for America's future.

Now, that brings me to Hillary and this race. You have to pick the person who will succeed to the Senate seat of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Robert Kennedy. You don't have to worry about whether she'll be the junior Senator. Senator Schumer's aggression will take care of that—[laughter]—and I say that with great admiration.

I do want to say one other thing about him. For all the good things he's done, the thing that I'll never forget is that he helped Al Gore and me and our administration stand up to the NRA and stand for gun safety.

But Senator Schumer already said a few things about Hillary. Let me say, of all the things that her adversaries sometimes say, the thing that steams me the most is that she wouldn't be doing this if she weren't the First Lady. What I want you to know is, if she weren't the First Lady, she'd have been in a position to do this 25 years ago.

She will tell—when we first met and fell in love, I actually felt guilty about it because I thought I was robbing her of the career that I felt she should have. I thought she was better organized than me. I thought she was a better— I thought she understood things about public policy I didn't know. I thought she had more talent as a public servant than anybody I ever met. And I have watched her spend 30 years helping other people as a private citizen, all the way up until she came to the White House and she wrote a best-selling book and gave 100 percent of the money to children's charities that she earned; when she fought for the family and medical leave law; when she fought to insure millions more children under the Child's Health Insurance Program; when she fought for better treatment for breast cancer and diabetes and Parkinson's. And I could just go on and on and on.

I can tell you that when the record of this administration is written, one of the chapters will have to be how she fundamentally changed the scope, depth, and range of the role of First Lady.

I do think there ought to be one person in the Senate who is a recognized national lifetime advocate and expert on children's issues and on the relationship of work and childrearing and on education and health care. I think that's important. But the main thing you need to know is that I still feel the way I did almost 30 years ago: I've never known anybody that I thought had a greater capacity for public service, had a greater sense of mind and heart and operational effectiveness.

And I want to see this seat occupied by someone, yes, that I happened to have loved for three decades, but more important, whose love can change the future of America and New York in a positive way.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:05 p.m. at a private residence. In his remarks, he referred to dinner host Jonathan Lidersdorf; dinner host committee members Jerry Colonna, Barbara Chang, Fernando Espuelas and his wife, Ann, and Andrew Rasiej; Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, who was Governor of West Virginia, 1976-1984; and Mark Green, New York City public advocate.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Dinner for Hillary Clinton in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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