Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in Fall River, Massachusetts

September 28, 1996

The President. Thank you.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. Thank you. Thank you. Hello, Fall River! Mr. Mayor, thank you for making me feel so welcome. Senator Kennedy pointed out I have been all over the world. This is my first trip here. If I had know what I was missing, I'd have been here sooner, I can tell you that. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Are there any Portuguese-Americans here? [Applause] Obrigado [Thank you], Fall River. I'm glad to be here. I'm delighted to be here with all of you. I thank Joan Menard for starting us off and for the good work she has done. I want to thank Jim McGovern for presenting himself as a candidate for Congress, and I hope you'll make him a Congressman. He'd be a good one. I want to thank my good friend Congressman Barney Frank who's here, who used to represent you in the legislature. Thank you, Barney. And I want to thank his sister, Ann Lewis, who is the spokesperson for my Presidential campaign. You may have seen her on television taking up for me. She's going to wind up getting her name recognition up as high as her brother's, and that's a pretty good thing. And I want to thank their proud mother, Elsie Frank, who is here somewhere today. I saw her. Thank you, dear.

I am delighted to be here with all of you. But I want to say a special word of thanks, as an old musician, to Our Lady of Light Band and the Mike Moran Band. Thank you both for providing the music for us.

Thank you, Senator Ted Kennedy. And Vicki, thank you for being here. You know, I wish I had as much energy as Ted Kennedy does. I just left Providence, where I was with Congressman Patrick Kennedy, and he was the bounciest person on that stage. Ladies and gentlemen, you cannot imagine the phenomenal impact that Ted Kennedy had on this Congress. After they passed their radical budget and I vetoed it and you made clear—you and people like you all across America, in all 50 States, Democrats, Republicans, and independents, too—that you basically agreed with me and us and not them, it was just amazing what Ted Kennedy was able to do in this Congress.

The Kennedy-Kassebaum health care reform bill will make 25 million Americans eligible to keep their health insurance when they change jobs and say they can't lose it if somebody in their family gets sick—25 million. And this Congress, which just a year ago was out there trying to raise income taxes on the lowest income working American families, trying to lower the income of the working people with the lowest incomes in the country—thanks to the leadership of Ted Kennedy, on October 1st, which I think is Tuesday, 10 million Americans will get a pay raise when their minimum wage goes up. Thank you, Senator, thank you.

And I might add that bill will also make it easier for people in small businesses to take out retirement plans and for employees in small businesses to keep those retirement plans when they move from business to business. So it's good for workers and good for business. It also has a $5,000 tax credit for families who adopt children who need a home, and I hope more of them will get a home now. Thank you for that bill. It's a good bill for America.

I'm delighted to be here with my friend Senator John Kerry and with Teresa. And I want to tell you, folks, I know that John Kerry has a vigorous and spirited race. But every one of you here in Fall River knows what's really at stake. We're going through a period of great change in this country in how we work, how we live, how we relate to the rest of the world, what it will take for us to see that every American lives up to the fullest of his or her Godgiven potential.

When I put forward my economic plan in 1993, the other side said it would cause a recession and increase unemployment and increase the deficit. Well, now we know. We've got 10 1/2 million jobs, and the deficit has gone down 4 years in a row for the first time since before the Civil War. John Kerry was right. He's on the right side of history.

When we tried to get past 6 years of talking tough on crime but nothing happening—rhetoric and rhetoric and rhetoric and no action—to put 100,000 police on the street, to ban deadly assault weapons, to pass the Brady bill, the other side, they led the fight against it. But John Kerry helped us pass the toughest, smartest, best crime bill this country has seen in many a day, and the crime rate has gone down for 4 years in a row. John Kerry was on the right side of history, and Massachusetts should stay with him.

And when we were expanding Head Start and passing that school-to-work program Senator Kennedy talked about to help young people who don't go to 4-year colleges get good training and good jobs, when we improved the college loan program by cutting the cost and improving the repayment terms, when we did these things, the other guys, they tried to stop us. But John Kerry helped us pass it. He's on the right side of history. And he's on the right side of history in making college available to all Americans. We'll do it if you give us 4 more years and if you give us John Kerry back to the United States Senate.

And finally, let me thank Sheila Levesque. Could every one of you get up here and do what she did?

Audience members. No-o-o!

The President. A single mom, a nurse, worked all night long on her shift, hadn't had any sleep—I said, "Sheila, did you get any sleep last night?" She said maybe an hour or two since she got off work—stood up here in front of this vast crowd and told you the story of her life. The reason we wanted her to do that is that this election is not about the politicians on this stage. This election is about whether the decisions we make connect and improve and advance the lives and the values of people like Sheila Levesque all over this country. That's what this election is about. That's what it's about.

When I was in Providence, I was introduced by a woman who got a Pell grant to go back to the community college to try to do right by her family. And there was another young woman there in Providence that I featured in my book and that spoke at the Democratic Convention, a Puerto Rican immigrant girl, a high school dropout, worked several jobs, joined AmeriCorps, our national service program, and then got herself—after dropping out of high school and becoming a leader in AmeriCorps— got herself into Brown University, where she just started her second year. That's what this is all about, helping people to make the most of their own lives.

Yesterday I was in the great State of Texas. And people tell me, "Well, that's a Republican State; what did you go down there for?" I'll tell you why I went. There were 13,000 people in the small town of Longview, Texas, at about 8:30 yesterday morning. And after I spoke, as is my custom, I went out into the crowd and I started shaking hands. I met the following three people in 5 minutes. I met a 34-yearold single mother with two kids who joined AmeriCorps and had gotten herself some money helping the local community and was going back to the junior college there.

Then I met a woman who said, "Mr. President, if it hadn't been for the Family and Medical Leave Act, I don't know what I would have done. My husband had cancer, but I got to take some time off and be with him when he was so desperately ill without losing my job and wrecking our family." You know, the other side, their leaders fought against the family and medical leave law. But John Kerry and Barney Frank and Ted Kennedy, they were on the right side of history, helping people succeed at home and at work. It was the right thing to do.

And then I met a man who had a camouflage jacket on, obviously a veteran. He was a Vietnam veteran standing there with his wife. His little daughter was in a wheelchair. She'd had 12 operations because her father served our country in Vietnam, was exposed to Agent Orange, and like far too many children of veterans, his child got spina bifida. But finally last week in a bill that I signed, we finally at long last gave help in the form of disability payments and extra medical support to the children of Vietnam veterans born with spina bifida—who were exposed—and it's high time. That's what this election is all about. That's what this is all about.

My fellow Americans, you were very good to me in 1992, but you took me on faith and the word of others. When I said to you that we could create an America in the 21st century with opportunity for everyone responsible enough to work for it, where we were coming together and respecting our diversity instead of being torn apart by it, where we were still leading the world toward peace and freedom and prosperity, you took me on faith. But after 4 years of working for opportunity, responsibility, and a stronger community, you don't have to do that anymore. The evidence is in, and now we know. Now we know.

With 10 1/2 million more jobs, a record number of new small businesses, and the census report last week telling us—I almost wept when I read it. Who ever heard of crying over a dry Government report? But every year they tell us how we did the year before. So the census report for 1995 said, compared to the year before, that typical American families had $900 more after inflation; that we had the biggest drop in childhood poverty in 20 years; the biggest drop in poverty in female households in 30 years, female-headed households; the biggest drop in the number of people living in poverty in 27 years; and the biggest drop in the inequality of working families in 27 years. We are on the right track to the 21st century, and we need to keep going. We need to keep going.

We have more to do. We have more to do to build that bridge to the 21st century. Yes, we made a lot of progress these last 3 months because you made your voices heard. But you have to say again on election day, what is the direction of this country? And in all candor, friends, I'm tired of the meanness and the personal attacks that have dominated our politics for too long. There are honest differences between us. We can share them with respect.

And the ideas here at issue that will determine whether we're on the right side of the future are the following: Do you believe that we have to build a bridge to the 21st century big enough for all of us to go across, or can we try to reach back and build a bridge to the past? You know we have to build a bridge to the future.

Do you believe, as my opponent said in all honesty in his speech to the Republican Convention—he was being absolutely honest and candid, and he said, frankly, he did not agree with the First Lady that it took a village; he thought families and individuals would be better off being left alone, that they could do better on their own. You know something? I think Hillary was right. I think it does take a village to raise our children and build our communities and build our future. But you have to decide. You have to decide.

I'm glad that a little of my—a precious little of my income as a tax-paying citizen went to help to give Sheila Levesque a chance to be a better mother, a more productive citizen, and build a better future. And you know what? I think I'm better off because of that, and I think you are, too.

For every young person in this audience, I believe it is a good thing for us to enact the educational program for the 21st century that Senator Kerry outlined. Why shouldn't we say we're going to make 2 years of community college education as universal as a high school diploma is in the next 4 years? We need to do it. Why shouldn't we do it? Let people take the money off their taxes for the cost of a typical tuition. Why shouldn't we give people a $10,000 tax deduction for the cost of tuition after high school, any kind of college tuition, people of any age? Why shouldn't we do it? We can pay for it. I'm for that.

And I'm for balancing the budget, too, because that will lower your interest rates on your student loans, your car payments, your house payments, on your credit card payments. It will lower your interest rates. It will keep interest rates down for business loans so that we can keep creating new jobs and build on the economic record of the last 4 years. But I am not for doing it and using that as an excuse to wreck Medicaid, which has given our commitment, our solemn commitment of health care to poor children, to the elderly in nursing homes, most of them themselves the parents of middle class families. I don't want to see us walk away from middle class working families who because of Medicaid have had family members with disabilities who could live in dignity without driving their families into poverty. We don't have to do that to balance the budget, and I won't do it.

We don't have to cut back on education or environmental protection. And we have to continue investing in research and technology. Yesterday, folks, I was in Houston, and I welcomed home that magnificent astronaut Shannon Lucid when she came home after 6 months. A lot of you saw her come home. When she was a little girl, she told an adult she wanted to be a rocket scientist when she grew up. And she was told, there is no such thing, and if there were it wouldn't be a girl. [Laughter] Well, guess what? There are a lot of them now, and a lot of them are women. And the young girls of America and the young women liked seeing Shannon Lucid up there.

What is the point of that? President Kennedy believed we could go into space and make a success of the space program, and he fought for it. I'm glad he did. I'm glad he supported it. I'm glad I have supported it. And I'm glad we've still got it. And I think those who thought it shouldn't be done were wrong. We have to continue to invest in research to build a better future. I want the young people here to be able to do those jobs of the future. We are today building a supercomputer with IBM that will do more calculations in one second than you can do on a hand-held calculator in 30,000 years. And we have to do that.

We are today seeing experiments with laboratory animals whose spines have been severed, who have movement in their lower limbs again because of nerve transplants. We have doubled the life expectancy of people with HIV and AIDS in only 4 years. We have to keep going and investing, and we're better off when we do that, building a better future, being on the right side of history, building that bridge.

So here's what I want to know from you. For 38 days, for 38 days, will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause] Will you talk to your friends and your neighbors, your coworkers, people in Massachusetts and your friends beyond in other States and say, we have got to keep building that bridge to the 21st century, and we've got to go across it together? We cannot be divided by race, by gender, by religion, by ethnic group. We are a great, great country, and our best days are still ahead if we are committed to going across that bridge together. Will you do it?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Then we'll prevail. Thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:04 p.m. at Kennedy Park. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Edward Lambart, Jr., of Fall River; State Representative Joan Menard; Senator Edward Kennedy's wife, Vicki; Senator John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz; and Sheila Levesque, who introduced the President.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in Fall River, Massachusetts Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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