Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in El Paso, Texas

November 01, 1996

Thank you. Hello, El Paso! Can you hear us in the back? Can you hear us behind the press back there? I always wanted to come back to El Paso. Congressman Coleman asked me to come back to El Paso before he left office. He didn't tell me if I came back the whole town would come out to see me, but I'm glad to see you. Thank you.

Thank you, Ron Coleman, for the great service you have rendered to this district, to Texas, and to your country. We'll miss you. Thank you, Governor Briscoe, for your speech, your work, the power of your example, your faith, and your energy. I too believe, like you, if we all show up on Tuesday, the result will be good and we will win and move this country forward into the right direction.

Thank you, Judge Mattox, Texas Democratic Chair Bill White, LULAC President Beline Robles. Ambassador Talles is here somewhere. Where are you, sir? Raise your hand. Hello, it's good to see you. Thank you for being here. State Senator-nominee Eliot Shapleigh; thank you, Victor Morales, for your long, courageous effort to prove that an ordinary American citizen's voice can still be heard in the 1990's. Thank you. Give him a hand. [Applause]

Thank you, Silvestre Reyes, first, for the boots; I'll wear them, both pairs, with great pride and great memories of this day. Thank you for your career in the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Thank you for proving that America can protect its borders and still be an honorable nation of immigrants. Thank you, Silvestre Reyes.

I want to thank all the bands that came out today: Hanks High School, Bowie High School, Austin High School, Parkland, Riverside, Socorro, Del Valle. I thank the dance groups, the mariachis, La Differentia, the Shiloh Baptist Church, all those who performed before I came. It sounds like you had half the fun before I showed up.

I am so glad to be here. We are about to elect the last President of the 20th century and the first President of the 21st century. I especially am glad to see so many young people here today, for this election is about your future. We are not just ending a century and beginning a new one. You all know that in every place in America we are changing the way we work and live, the way we relate to each other and to the rest of the world.

This is a time full of promise and hope and a time full of challenge. This is an election of enormous moment, one with great consequences and, thankfully, one with clear choices: Will we build a bridge to the future or a bridge to the past? Do you believe, along with our friends on the other side, that we're all on our own, or do you believe, as the person closest to me once said, it does take a village to raise our children and build our future, and we have to do it together?

That is the choice. Four years ago, I came to Texas and all across the country, along with the Vice President, to say that we wanted to create an America in the 21st century where every person, without regard to race or religion or gender or background or where you start out in life, would have a chance to live up to their God-given abilities if they were responsible enough to work for it; that we wanted an America involved with the world, leading the world for peace and freedom and prosperity; and we wanted an America where all of us, regardless of our backgrounds, have a place at the table and a part in America's community; that we're going to be growing together, not growing apart, as we move into the 21st century.

Four years ago, the American people took us on faith. But now there is a record, and the record is clear. Compared to 4 years ago, we have 10.7 million new jobs in America; homeownership is at a 15-year high; unemployment, inflation, and home mortgages together at a 27-year low. We had the biggest drop in child poverty in 20 years. We are moving in the right direction, and we need to keep on going all the way to the 21st century.

In our country the crime rate has come down for 4 years in a row and is at its lowest level in 10 years. The welfare rolls have been reduced by nearly 2 million. Child support is up by 50 percent, $4 billion a year. We have improved college loans, lowering the costs and making the repayments easier. We have more children in Head Start. We just added 200,000 work-study positions so more children can go on to college and pay their way through. We raised the minimum wage for 10 million Americans. We made 25 million Americans eligible to keep their health insurance because now it's illegal to take it away when you change jobs or just because someone in your family gets sick. We have stopped the practice of insurance companies all across this country in kicking mothers and their newborn babies out of the hospital after only 24 hours. We are moving in the right direction.

It is interesting to me that my opponent says that the country is in terrible shape. Let me ask you this, folks. If a Republican had been President and had reduced the size of the Federal Government to its smallest size since President Kennedy, eliminated more regulations and programs than his 2 predecessors in 12 years, reduced the deficit in all 4 years of his term for the first time in the 20th century, and helped to create an economy in which there were 10.7 million new jobs, do you really believe they would be saying that the sky is falling? The sky is not falling; the sky is the limit for America if we keep on going the way we're going.

I ask each of you to do what you can between now and Tuesday to reach all your friends, to talk to them about the consequences and the choice. We have so much more to do. We must decide, are we going to follow the path that I have laid out and balance the budget while protecting Medicare and Medicaid and education and the environment for our seniors, for families with members with disabilities, for our children and their future, to prove that we can preserve our natural heritage? Are we going to keep going forward together or adopt that risky tax scheme that would blow a hole in the deficit, weaken the Texas economy, require bigger cuts than the ones I vetoed last year when they shut the Government down? I think you want to keep America going in the right direction. Will you help us do that? [Applause]

We must decide whether we're going to meet perhaps the biggest challenge of this new age for ordinary families. Everywhere I go, people of all income groups, even well-to-do people with children, tell me that they're spending more hours at work than ever before and they're concerned about whether they can also be good parents. I hear it everywhere. We have worked hard for the family and medical leave law, and 12 million people took a little time off from work when a baby was born or a family member was sick, without losing their jobs. I think we did the right thing. They believe we did the wrong thing. You have to decide.

I believe our country is better off when people are happy at work because they know their children are doing well at home and in school. I want to expand family leave so that people can go see their children's teachers twice a year. I think that would make us a stronger country. I want to say that people ought to be able to take just a little time off from work to take their parents or their children to regular doctor's appointments. I want to say that we ought to give more parents help to raise their children. That's why we've doubled funding for the safe and drug-free schools program, so we'd have those D.A.R.E. officers and others in our schools telling our kids that drugs are dangerous, they're illegal, they can kill you. Let's start. They tried to cut that program in half. I think we were right, and they were wrong.

That's why we have worked to stop the tobacco companies from advertising and selling tobacco illegally to our young children, because 3,000 a day start smoking, and 1,000 will die sooner because of it. It is wrong. They disagree with me. I think I'm right. You have to decide. I want to see it through to make every child's future as healthy as possible. Will you help us? [Applause]

You already heard what Congressman Coleman said. When we passed the crime bill in 1994 to put 100,000 police on our streets, to give our young children something to say yes to and constructive activities, to say that when people commit three serious crimes in a row they ought not to ever be paroled, to say that we were going to have a program to promote efforts to prevent violence against women and children, to pass the Brady bill, to pass the assault weapons ban, those friends on the other side in the other party, they led the fight against it. My opponent led the fight against it.

They told everybody—they went all over Texas telling people, "The Democrats have lost their mind; that President is going to come take your gun away." Now, I grew up in a State where half the people have a hunting or a fishing license or both. And I saw people in my own State wondering if they were telling the truth. And they won a lot of elections in 1994 with that line—a lot—maybe why they have the House now. They may have made Mr. Gingrich the Speaker of the House telling people we're going to take their guns away. But you know, we've had 2 years now, and now we know the truth. In all the State of Texas, as vast and wide as it is, not a single law-abiding hunter or sports person has lost a weapon. But over 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers did not get handguns because of the Brady bill. And now people who beat up their children and their spouses can't get them either. And I think we were right. You have to decide.

We've got the crime rate coming down for 4 years in a row, the lowest crime rate in 10 years. But you and I know there's still too much violence in our country. We have to do more. We have only funded half of those police officers. We have only done part of what we're trying to do with our children in the schools. But they keep trying to stop us from putting 100,000 police on the street. You have to decide.

There's a reason why the Vice President and I were the first team in our party ever to get the endorsement of every major law enforcement group in the entire United States, because we are for the safety of our children. We think every street, every school, every neighborhood should be safe. I think we're right and they're wrong, and I want you to decide and help us build a safe bridge to the 21st century.

There are many other issues I would like to talk about. But when I look at this group today I know that they are important to you. I have a plan to move a million people from welfare to work. We passed a welfare reform law that says people who are able-bodied have to go to work within 2 years. But if they're going to go to work, there have to be jobs there. I have a plan to create them. I want you to help me create those jobs. Will you do it? [Applause]

For 4 years, I have asked the Congress to reform the laws of campaign finance. Today again I called for a bipartisan approach to reduce the influence of special interests in politics and give more ordinary citizens like Victor Morales a fighting chance to be heard by the people and elected by the people. Will you help us pass campaign finance reform? [Applause]

But most important of all is whether we are committed to giving our people a world-class education, not just some children but all children and all adults who need it. Will you help us do that? [Applause]

I have offered the American people a proposal to mobilize one million volunteers to go all across America to work with parents and teachers to make sure that by the year 2000 every single 8-year-old in America can pick up a book and say, "I can read this all by myself." Will you help us do it? [Applause]

I've asked 100,000 of the new work-study programs for college students be dedicated to young people who will go into our schools and help our children learn to read. Will the young people in this audience pledge to help us do this? Will you help us teach our children to read? [Applause]

I want to hook up every classroom and every library and every school in El Paso and every other community in America to the information superhighway, to the Internet, to the World Wide Web, to make sure that these children, for the very first time in the history of America, will all be able to get the same information in the same way at the same time. It will revolutionize learning in America. Will you help me do that by the year 2000? [Applause]

And finally, will you help us open the doors of college education to all Americans? [Applause] Let me tell you, folks, there is no clearer example than learning of what we should be doing together and why our approach is right and theirs is wrong. We are pushing the frontiers of knowledge as never before. In the last 4 years, we discovered two genes that cause breast cancer. It is a matter of time before we're able to detect it early enough to save the life of every woman who is afflicted by it. In the last few months, for the first time ever, laboratory animals with their spines completely severed have recovered movement in their legs because of nerve transplants; it's just a matter of time until we can do that for people. And America should lead the way with learning, and you should support it.

But it's not just the scientists, it's everyone. We all need that. I want to open the doors of college education to all Americans by doing three things. Number one, in 4 years we ought to make a community college degree, at least 2 years after high school, as universal as a high school diploma is today. And here's how we're going to do it. I want to let people simply deduct from their taxes, dollar for dollar, the cost of a typical community college tuition. It will help everyone get what they need. I want to let you save in a retirement account but withdraw from it without any penalty if you use the money for a college education or for homebuying or health care costs. And I want every family in this country to be able to deduct up to $10,000 a year for the cost of any kind of college tuition. Let's open the doors to all Americans. Will you help us do that? [Applause] Will you help us in the back? [Applause] Will you help us? [Applause]

My fellow Americans, in these political campaigns, very often the closer you get to the election, the hotter the words get. And there has developed a tendency in the last few years for people to try to say that they don't just disagree with their opponents but their opponents are no good, there's something wrong with them. I personally believe that's a bad development in America. Most of the people, I believe, in this country, of both parties, love our country and only want the best for it. I don't have to say that I dislike the people I'm running against to say I disagree with them honorably.

But let me tell you, to me this election is about big, big things. The world is changing. I can't take credit for that. I can't take credit for all the good things that have happened in America. But I do say, we have gone now in the right direction, and together we are making it better. And that's the big question before us today.

Just in the last couple of days, I was in Denver, Colorado, at a rally like this—although it was considerably smaller. At the end of the day, I went through the crowd shaking hands as I always do, and let me tell you what I found: I found a young woman who had been a victim of domestic violence, who thanked me for the efforts we were now making with our hotline to help people like her out. I found three women together who had been victimized by breast cancer, who knew that we had broken new ground in medical research. I found a young man who had dropped out but had gone back to college because we've changed the college loan program to make it more affordable. I found a young woman who was a law enforcement officer, thanking me because we have put five more police officers in her community and she felt safer on the beat and thought their children would be safer because of it. Everywhere I go I find this. I found a man who thanked me because he and his wife had just adopted a child and they were able to take a little time off to get used to that baby because of the family and medical leave law.

This is what elections are about: How will we change the face of America for the better? How will we make America better? The only thing that matters is what our country will look like when we go into the 21st century.

Now, you look around this vast crowd today— I say to you again, we must do this together. So much of the time I have spent as your President in dealing with the problems of the world has been involved with people who hate each other because they are of different religions or races or tribes or ethnic groups. I have seen the people of Bosnia, who are biologically indistinguishable, actually prepared to kill each other and their children. In Ireland, where my people come from, there are still Protestants and Catholics fighting over things that happened hundreds of years ago while the children long for peace and a better future. In Africa today we see again hundreds of thousands of people dislodged because of tribal hatreds that are senseless. None of them have enough to do what they need to do for their children as it is. If they would simply join hands, they could make a bigger, brighter future for everyone, instead of shrinking the future for everyone. I see it everywhere.

But America has been different, and America must be different. That's why when people started expressing their hatred of the Federal Government, I stood up for the Federal employees and reminded people they're our friends and neighbors; they're people like Silvestre. They're our neighbors and friends. That's why we stood up to the church burnings and to the people who would deface the mosques and the Muslim centers. We are all in this, and I say you know this instinctively because of where you live and who you are and what your experience is. El Paso, this is, as much as anything else, an election of the heart.

And so I say, I want you all to be there. I want you all to be there because you must know the fundamental truth of America: Our best days are still ahead if we do the right things.

I want to build a bridge big enough and wide enough for every single one of us to walk across together. Will you help me do it? [Applause] Will you help me? [Applause] Will you do it for your children? [Applause] Will you do it for our future? [Applause]

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

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:05 p.m. at El Paso International Airport. In his remarks, he referred to Dolph Briscoe, former Governor of Texas; Charles (Chuck) Mattox, El Paso County judge; Raymond Talles, former U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica; Texas senatorial candidate Victor Morales; and Silvestre Reyes, candidate for Texas' 16th Congressional District.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in El Paso, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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