Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Dinner for Senator Patty Murray in Medina, Washington

November 22, 1997

Thank you very much, Senator. Thank you, Lori, and thank you for the convictions you expressed in your remarks. And I want to thank you and Lars for opening your home, and I want to thank your children for the wonderful gifts they gave me from their classes.

Mayor Rice, Mayor-elect Schell, Congressmen Dicks and McDermott and Smith; candidates Brian Baird and Greta Cammermyer; and ladies and gentlemen. I want to say most of all, thank you for being here for Patty Murray. We have representatives of great companies here, Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, and others. We have representatives of labor here. We have educators here. We have Native Americans here. We've got small-business people. We have all different kinds of folks that make up Washington State's future and America's future. And I want to thank the first lady of Washington for being here. It's my understanding that there's a good chance that Gary Locke now has a sterling opportunity to become the first American President of China as a result of his—[laughter].

I also want to say Congressman Dicks is an incredibly graceful loser tonight. [Laughter] You were great, but those of us who know you know that you hated every minute of that—[laughter]—which is one of the reasons you are such a good Representative of your people. [Laughter]

I would like to say just a generic word of thanks to the people of Washington for sending Norm Dicks and Jim McDermott and Adam Smith and Patty Murray to Washington. And there's a reason I'm here, besides the fact that Patty Murray is a Democrat. And I hope the fact that she votes with me most of the time will not be a deterrent; the people of Washington voted for me twice and I appreciate that very much. But Patty Murray will take a tough stand and do what's right over the long run even if it's painful in the short run. And in a period of great change in how we work and live and relate to the rest of the world, I think that's a pretty important quality. Someone who remembers that her obligations to her children translate into a larger obligation to the children of this State and Nation is someone worthy of your support.

She was one of the cosponsors of our deficit reduction plan back in 1993, and we didn't get a single vote from the other party. They said, oh, we were going to explode the deficit and bankrupt the economy, and I heard all that. And some of the voters bought it in 1994. But now you know, because—this year the deficit is $23 billion, down 92 percent from where it was before I took office, and that's before we get one dollar of savings from the Balanced Budget Act, thanks to Patty Murray. And I'll never forget it.

She fought to pass the crime bill in 1994. And I'll never forget it; I thought I was lost in the fun house when people said, "Well, Mr. President, they'll accuse you of being a Republican. Democrats aren't supposed to care about crime." I said, "Well, if you've ever been a victim, you know it has no partisan tinge." And we had a crime bill that was basically written by community activists, police chiefs, and prosecutors, based on what was working to bring the crime rate down in communities around the country that were doing something about it.

It made pretty good sense to Patty Murray, even though she didn't agree with every provision of it. And she stood up and fought for it. And we had the bitterest partisan opposition. We did get some Republican votes for it, and I'm very grateful to the people who voted for it, but the leadership was stomped-down against it. And they went out, and they got some profits out of that. They convinced a lot of people in rural Washington we were going to take their guns away. And I was able to go back to Washington in 1996—to this Washington—and say, "You beat some Congressmen here over that gun issue and if you lost your gun, I want you to vote against me, too. But if you didn't, they didn't tell you the truth, and you need to send them a message." Two hundred and fifty thousand people lost the right to buy handguns because they had criminal backgrounds or they were stalkers or they had mental health histories, and America is a better place because of it. And we don't need these assault weapons in the hands of young street gangs in our country, and we're putting 100,000 police on the street. The crime rate's come down 5 years in a row because Patty Murray had the courage to stand up and do what was right in 1994. And she deserves the support that—[applause].

And let me say this is also important, not just when we have disagreed in Washington but when we have agreed. We had an overwhelming bipartisan majority for the balanced budget plan that I signed this year, and I applaud the Republican leadership and all the Republicans who voted for it. But in reaching that kind of agreement, it came out the way I wanted because we had Democrats in the mix, because Patty Murray was fighting to restore education funding.

Just imagine this now—we passed and I signed—they passed and I signed a balanced budget that not only will balance the budget, I believe, before 2002 when it was supposed to but has the largest increased investment in education in a generation, 35 years, including funds to do our part working with the private sector to hook up every classroom and library to the Internet by the year 2000, to train the teachers, get the software, do the things we need to do, open the doors of college to all Americans because of the tax cuts and the scholarships and the work-study funds. It's a terrific bill. It includes the biggest increase in health care for poor children in working families in 30 years, and I'm proud of that. It includes a huge increase in biomedical research, and I'm proud of that.

We contributed a lot to that, the members of our party, because we said it's okay to be fiscally conservative; it's imperative in the world we're living in. But if we're going to grow the economy over the long run, we've got to invest in our people, all of our people. That's what Patty Murray fought for, and she deserves your support for that. America is a better place because of it.

Let me just say, in addition to that, I hope all of you who are here for her understand that there really is a very direct connection between your presence here for Patty Murray or when you support Norm Dicks or Jim McDermott or Adam Smith or anybody else you support— there's a very direct connection between your presence and your support and what happens in America a long way away in Washington and how it comes back to you. I thought Lori's remarks were pretty compelling in that regard and stated it better than I probably could.

But we're living in a time now where no one has all the answers because of the dramatic scope and pace of change. And every country in the world with an advanced society is trying to deal with the following question, in a thousand different ways: How do we get the benefits of this huge technological and information revolution, the globalization of economics and society, people being able to move information and money around and even themselves around in the flash of an eye; how do we get the benefits of all this and meet the challenges it poses and preserve some sort of coherent life for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nations? How do we preserve the common good as we break down the old bureaucracies, the old established ways of doing things, and all of that?

And you see it in a thousand different ways. How can you maximize economic growth and improve the environment instead of undermining it? How do you take advantage of the things you have to do to protect the environment or grow the economy and help the people that are dislocated, and do it in a prompt and quick way so they can go on and be part of tomorrow's economy so that everybody who is willing to work hard and be responsible can have their say? How do you bring the benefits of this marvelous new economic system to the places that it hasn't reached yet? How do you balance the demands of work and family when way more than half the women in the work force—I mean women with children under the age of one are in the work force and when people I know in upper income, in comfortable income groups, who aren't even United States Senators, have the same plaintive statement that you heard from Senator Murray tonight? I hardly know anybody with school-age kids, without regard to their income, that hasn't had at some point a serious sense of conflict between their obligations at work and their obligations at home.

And I might add—I want to compliment Patty on this—we had some differences within our caucus over the welfare reform bill. My position was, having worked as a Governor with welfare for many years, was it didn't make any sense to stay with the system we had because we were trapping people in welfare dependency if they didn't have many skills. But it didn't make any sense to do what our friends in the other party wanted to do and just tell them they had to go to work, because if they took low-wage jobs, they'd be hurting their kids if they gave up their health care and their nutrition and if they didn't have any training and any opportunity to do better.

So we fought hard for a bill that would say: If you're able-bodied and you can go to work, you've got to go to work, and you can have your benefits terminated within a certain time if you don't. But we won't take medical care away from your children; we won't take nutrition away from your children; we will give billions of dollars more in child care, because we know you can't afford to pay for that if you get a low-skilled job; and we'll give some extra money to the areas where there aren't enough private sector jobs.

And then Patty Murray said, "Don't forget a lot of these women on welfare have been in abusive positions in the home, and you shouldn't hold them to the same standards unless they have supports that are extraordinary." I just was in Wichita, Kansas this week—we were talking about it—where I saw a training facility for people on welfare with a housing project across the street for welfare recipients who had no cars or had suffered abuse in their previous homes. But Patty Murray brought that to our attention. She said, "You've got to do this with a conscience." And we all have to recognize that the most important job of any society is the raising of children.

So I believe that these general problems that—you can see it in every advanced society— have to be met with a commitment, number one, to seize the future, not run away from it, whether it's in education or trade or technology; but number two, with an understanding that in America, to preserve the American dream, you have to guarantee opportunity for everybody who is responsible enough to work for it. And we have to reaffirm the fact that among all of our differences, we're still united as one America. That's basically what I'm trying to do.

We have to redefine our notion of what the Government is supposed to do, away from a Government that tries to do everything and a Government that says that we're the problem, we're not going to do anything, to action that focuses on genuine partnership and giving people the tools to make the most of their own lives.

Now, I think our approach has worked pretty well. I think if, after 5 years that Patty Murray and I have been teammates in Washington, we have the lowest unemployment rate in 24 years, the lowest crime rate in 24 years, the biggest drop in welfare in history, an improvement in the economy, cleaner air, cleaner water, fewer toxic waste dumps, and safer food, I think that's a pretty good argument to reelect a Senator who supported those policies and that direction for America.

Let me just close with this thought: In the end how you feel about somebody like Patty Murray basically depends upon how you feel about your place in America and what you think it will mean to be an American in the 21st century. There are a lot of very brilliant people who believe that the nation-state is fast becoming a relic of the past, that the technological revolution basically means that globalized financial and product and service markets and extremely localized governments will dominate the 21st century.

I believe that we don't have a person to waste and that the mission of America is to create opportunity for everybody that's responsible enough to work for it and then to reassert our fundamental values of community in a world where there are maybe not the cold war nuclear threats that we faced for 50 years but where, make no mistake about it, we have real threats to our security at home and abroad.

I just came from Denver today, a wonderful American city, where they've got radical rightwing groups, skinhead groups, that have been involved in the death of a police officer, the shooting of an African on the streets there, the shooting of a woman who bent down to help the person on the streets there.

We see what happens in Bosnia or Northern Ireland and the Middle East, where people hate each other over race or religion, and say, "That stuff can't happen here." It can't if we don't permit it to happen here. But if we don't teach our children and practice and live that we are part of one community, in spite of whatever differences we have, if you agree to obey the law and work hard and go to school if you're a kid and go to work if you're an adult and take care of your children and pay your taxes and do the right thing, you're part of our America. We have to teach people that. Just like kids have to be taught hatred.

You know, I'm not running anymore. Some people are happy about it. [Laughter] One child said to me today she wished I could run for a third term. I heard a draft right there, you know. [Laughter] No, it wasn't Chelsea; believe me, it's not Chelsea. [Laughter] She'll be glad when I'm home. She wants her daddy back, I think.

But what I really believe, having observed this over the last several years as we go through these massive changes, that the biggest difference in attitude between the two parties— and I'm heartened when we can do things like reach this wonderful compromise to overhaul the Food and Drug Administration to get drugs and medical devices to the market more quickly, or to reach this wonderful compromise in overhauling the adoption and foster care laws of the country to move children into homes more quickly. And we reach these things after we debate. But if you hear our side of the debate, basically it's not true that Democrats are not fiscally responsible, committed to bringing the crime rate down, committed to running a strong economy, committed to a strong foreign policy. That's not true.

We just believe that you can't hold a country together unless you honestly believe everybody counts; unless you honestly believe we don't have a child to waste; unless you honestly believe that the United States of America in the 21st century must mean, more than ever, one America that celebrates all of our diversity, lets all the entrepreneurial things that could possibly happen occur, tries to stay on the edge of change, but tries to make sure everybody can have a shot at the brass ring, and challenges every citizen to serve in some way beyond his or her immediate self-interest because we're all better off when the least of us are better off.

And how you feel about Patty Murray, I think, more than anything else, depends upon how you feel about that. I know one thing: She has done a wonderful job for you. She has advocated for Washington's interests. She has worn me out on specific environmental interests in this State.

She is always there. But the real thing that's important about her is how she feels about her country, the children, and the future. And I want you to make sure that everybody in this State knows that at election time.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:30 p.m. at a private residence. In his remarks, he referred to Lori MacDonald Jonsson and Lars Jonsson, dinner hosts; Mayor Norman B. Rice and Mayor-elect Paul Schell of Seattle; Brian Baird and Greta Cammermyer, candidates for Washington State's Third and Second Congressional Districts, respectively; Mona Lee Locke, wife of Gov. Gary Locke of Washington; Denver police officer Bruce VanderJagt and African immigrant Oumar Dia, slain in separate incidents earlier in the month; and Jeannie VanVelkinburgh, wounded while attempting to help Mr. Dia.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Dinner for Senator Patty Murray in Medina, Washington Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives