Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in Freehold Borough, New Jersey

September 24, 1996

Thank you very much. Thank you, in the back, for being here. Thank you, way down under the trees, for being here. Mayor Wilson, it's great to be in Freehold. It's great to be in Monmouth County. It's great to be here with all of you.

I want to thank all those officials who are here—Mayor Susan Bass Levin, Mayor Cardell Cooper. Governor Florio, it's good to see you. State Chairman Tom Byrne, it's good to see you. Senator Ray Lesniak, State Senator John Lynch, all the other legislators and local leaders who are here.

Mayor Dave DelVecchio, thank you very much for running for the Congress and for making the stakes as clear as you have today. I know one thing, if you're representing this district in Congress in January, I believe that you will not vote for a Speaker of the House who wants to enact a contract on America, I think you will vote for the people of this district and their future. And I thank you for running.

I think we have some students here from the Freehold Borough Regional High School; thank you all for coming. You've got a big stake in this election, and I'm glad you're here.

You know, I was told this morning when I got up to come to New Jersey, after I went to the United Nations—I'll say more about that in a moment—that this magnificent monument commemorates George Washington's defeat of a British general in 1778 named Sir Henry Clinton. [Laughter] And I thought I would tell you here in the presence of these Revolutionary War reenactors who come from the Delaware Valley—and they did a great job today, let's give them a hand. [Applause] That may have happened in 1778, but in 1996, Clinton is on the right side of the battle for America's future.

And so is Bob Torricelli. You know, I've watched Bob Torricelli in Congress for 4 years now. I've watched him fight for legislation. I saw him sponsor legislation to require 48 hours as a minimum stay for new mothers and their newborns. He and Senator Bradley did that, and it's going to be the law of the land within about 48 more hours, I believe, when the Congress passes that. It took 4 long years, but I thank him for that.

I saw him sponsor legislation that I have embraced to expand the Brady bill. The Brady bill, which was also opposed by the leaders of the other party in Congress, basically says you have to wait 5 days while we do a background check before you get a handgun. Now, when we passed the Brady bill, there was all this screaming and yelling that we would be taking people's guns away. And 3 years later every hunter still has the same gun, but 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers were not able to get handguns. Bob Torricelli was right, and they were wrong. And now, he and I believe that the Brady bill ought to be modestly extended to say if you have beaten up your spouse or your child you shouldn't get a handgun, either. And I think New Jersey agrees with that.

I understand there's been a little ad running in New Jersey about Bob Torricelli's vote for our economic plan in 1993. "That one vote," they say, "was the biggest tax increase in history." Of course, it wasn't. The biggest one in history was in 1982, under President Reagan, and he supported it and signed it. I wasn't around.

But I'll tell you this—let me tell you about that one vote. The next time you watch the ad, you see if you think it's accurate, fair, and complete. That one vote cut taxes for 5 times as many families in New Jersey as it raised taxes on. That one vote made 90 percent of the small businesses in this country eligible for a tax cut when they invest more in their business. That one vote gave people in New Jersey who wanted to take a chance on investing in a new company a tax break for doing it. That one vote cut the deficit more than any one vote in history. We've now had 4 years of a declining deficit; it's the first time that's happened since the 1840's, before the Civil War. That's what that one vote did.

That one vote—that one vote brought down interest rates for car payments, home payments, credit card payments, and business loans. And that one vote is a big reason that we have 10 1/2 million more jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in 7 1/2 years, a 15-year high in homeownership, record highs in small business formation and the ownership of businesses by women. Yes, that one vote was a pretty big vote. It was the right vote for America, and I hope you will remember that.

And I'll tell you something else about that one vote. Because we have cut the deficit from $290 billion down to $116 billion, that one vote now makes it possible for us to balance the budget without hurting Medicare, Medicaid, cutting back on education or environmental protection, and to give targeted tax cuts for childrearing, to pay for the cost of college education, to pay for health care, to pay for buying that first home, and to say to people when you sell your home with a reasonable gain, you'll never have to pay taxes on that again. That's what that one vote did. Don't forget that one vote.

So every time you see an ad, "that one vote" ought to be a paid political commercial for Bob Torricelli and everybody else who had the courage to put America's future over short-term demagoguery. We're better off today than we were 4 years ago. How could anybody dispute that?

My friends, 4 years ago when I came to New Jersey and asked for your support, I said I had a simple vision for our country on the edge of a new century. I wanted us to go into the 21st century with the American dream alive and well for everyone who was willing to work for it. I wanted us to go into the 21st century as a country that respected our diversity and relished it, that was coming together more closely as a community, not drifting apart as so many other nations of the world are. And I wanted us to continue to be the world's strongest nation for peace and freedom and prosperity.

And I say to you today the strategy we adopted, opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and a community in which every person has a role to play and a part, is working. We not only have a stronger economy, the crime rate has gone down for 4 years in a row; the welfare rolls are down by nearly 2 million; child support collections are up by $3 billion, 40 percent; there are no Russian missiles pointed at the children of the United States; and today I became the first head of state to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to ban all nuclear tests forever.

Now, this did not happen by accident. These things happened because we changed the way Washington works. We got out of who's to blame, and we asked, what can we do about our problems? We invited everyone to help us. We invited everyone to put aside their partisanship, their extremism, to roll up their sleeves and tackle America's problems, seize America's opportunities. It worked. That's why we're on the right track.

Now, you have a great choice to make. And it has been clearly, and I must say, candidly articulated, not just by me but also by my opponent: Are we going to build a bridge to the future or a bridge to the past? Are we going to say, "You're on your own out there. We can't afford things like family leave," or are we going to say, "The First Lady's right. It does take a village to raise our children and to build up our country."

You have to make this decision. You heard what Meryl said. My distinguished opponent voted against the family leave law four times and said this year he still did the right thing, said it was bad for business. Well, you tell me how it can be bad for business. Since we adopted the family leave law, we've had 10 1/2 million new jobs, a record number of new small businesses in each and every year. I think it's good for business if people can succeed at home and they're not worried sick about their children all day long while they're at work. I think it's better for America if people are good parents. I think they're better workers, they're more productive workers, and this is a stronger country.

But to believe that, you have to believe that we have common responsibilities to give each other the conditions and the tools we need to make the most of our own lives. It is the big question in this election. And we have to come to grips with that. We're celebrating family leave today because 12 million times, families in America have said to their employers: I'm sorry, but I'm about to have a baby; my wife's about to have a baby; my children are sick; my parents are desperately ill; I've got to have just a little time off; I'll be back to work as quick as I can. And they didn't lose their jobs for that. Is that so bad? I think that makes us a better, stronger, more powerful country.

You hear people talking all the time about family values. Well, if we're going to talk about family values, shouldn't we value families? Is there anything more important in life than doing a good job of raising our children? I never go anywhere in America—never—that I don't meet families who have at least one or two examples in their own lives where they have felt the wrenching conflict between their responsibilities to their children or their parents and their responsibilities at work.

This is just a small step to say, in America we want people to succeed at home and at work. In America we know most parents work and most parents have to work. In single-parent or two-parent households, we just want them to be winners with their kids and winners at work. And if you give us 4 more years I'd like to see the family leave law modestly expanded. I think it would be a very good thing if parents could also take a little time off from work to go to regular meetings with their children's teachers and make regular doctor appointments with their children or their sick parents. It would make us stronger and our economy stronger.

All across the spectrum, if you look at what is at stake here, I offer you a bridge to the 21st century that you have to help build—no guarantees but opportunity and the challenge of responsibility and the reminder that we have to do it together. Think about our economy. If I had told you 4 years ago we'd have 10 1/2 million new jobs, a 7 1/2 -year low in unemployment, virtually no inflation, the lowest combined rates of unemployment, inflation, and home mortgages in 28 years, you'd have said that's pretty good, bring it on.

But we can do better. We can grow the economy faster. We can offer opportunity to those who have still not participated in the economic recovery. And now that we have passed a welfare reform law that says to poor families we'll keep guaranteeing health care and nutrition, and child care if you go to work, but now the check itself goes to the State, and communities have to devise a way to move able-bodied people to work, we have to create jobs for those people. We cannot permit the children to be hurt. We have to give their parents a chance to go to work, the same chance that all the rest of us want in life. That is what we must do. And I hope you'll help me build that bridge to the 21st century.

We can—let me say again—we can balance the budget, and we must. That keeps the interest rates down. That keeps your home mortgage rates, your car payments, your credit card payments, your business loan rates down. But we have to do it in a way that does not divide this country or compromise our future. That means protecting Medicare and Medicaid. It means investing in education. It means investing in environmental protection. It means investing in research and technology.

Let me just tell you, just in the last couple of years there have been breathtaking advances in medical research, in the treatment of people with spinal cord injuries, in breast cancer, in dealing with AIDS. The life expectancy of people with HIV has more than doubled in the last 4 years, thanks to medical research and the rapid movement of drugs to the market. Just recently, for the first time ever, a laboratory animal with a severed spinal cord had movement in its lower limbs because of nerve transplants.

We have got to keep investing in these things. In the nonmedical area we are about to build a supercomputer with IBM, the United States and IBM—listen to this—that will do more calculations in one second than you can go home and do on your hand-held calculator in 30,000 years.

The world is changing. And we owe it to the future to continue to invest in making sure that America stays at the head of the pack in new technologies, new opportunities, and new jobs for the American people and new adventures for our children. And we must do that.

We have to build a bridge to the 21st century that does more of what I saw in Uniontown when I visited the school there not very long ago, right here in New Jersey. I want to build a bridge to the 21st century that gives all of our children the best educational opportunities in the world. We want to hook up every classroom and every library in America to the information superhighway, to the Internet, to the World Wide Web.

Let me tell you what that means. It means for the first time in history, the children in the most remote rural districts and in the poorest urban districts will have access to the same information in the same way at the same quality in the same time as every other child in America. It will revolutionize education. And we intend to do it if you will help us build that bridge to the 21st century.

We want to build a bridge to the 21st century in which every American can go to college, every American of any age. And we propose to do it in the following way:

Number one, more people than ever will be able to save through an IRA and withdraw from that IRA tax-free if the savings are used to pay for college, medical care, a first-time home.

Number two, we're going to say in the next 4 years we want a community college education to be just as universal in the United States as a high school diploma is today. Everybody needs more than a high school diploma today and here's how we're going to pay for it. We want to say to working Americans, "If you go to a community college, you can deduct from your taxes dollar for dollar the cost of tuition at a typical community college in the United States." We can do that—no bureaucracy, no extra hassle. And we can pay for it in the balanced budget amendment.

And finally, we want to permit every family to deduct the cost of college tuition, any kind of college, undergraduate or graduate school, up to $10,000 a year from their taxes so that we can educate our people. Will you help me build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]

We want to build a bridge to the 21st century of responsibility, which means that we have to continue to resist the efforts to stop our anticrime program. You want to know what a big issue is in the Senate race here and in this Congress race? For reasons that absolutely elude me, after 4 years of a declining crime rate, when our strategy embodied in the 1994 crime bill to put 100,000 police on the street, have "three strikes and you're out" and other tough penalties, ban the assault weapons, and give our kids some prevention programs—that strategy was written by law enforcement officers all over America—for reasons that elude me, for the last 2 years the leaders of the other party in Congress have done everything they can to repeal it, to stop the 100,000 police program in its tracks. I do not understand that.

But if you want a reason to support these two men, that's a good one. We've got the crime rate coming down 4 years in a row. If we can bring it down 4 more years in a row, it might just be bearable for Americans. I think we should finish the job of putting 100,000 more police officers on our street. And I hope you'll help me build that bridge to the 21st century.

I hope you'll help Bob Torricelli expand the Brady bill to cover those people who abuse their spouses and their children. They should not have guns. Torricelli was right: 4 more years, and we'll get that done. I hope that you will help us to do things, in short, that will say to the American people, we want everybody to be more responsible.

Finally, let me say we need to prove that we can go forward together as one community. A big part of that is the family support system we talked about, family and medical leave. Something else I'd like to see done—a lot of our people today have to work and want to work to get overtime. A lot of people have to do it just to keep their jobs. I'd like to see more options for the workers to take some of that overtime if they want to, and it's best for the family, in time at home with their kids and their parents instead of pay if they decide that's what they need to keep their families together.

We have to look for new and exciting and innovative and different ways to grow this economy and support families as they meet the struggles and the challenges of the 21st century.

The last point I want to make about that is that perhaps nothing defines us so clearly in terms of our commitment to going forward together as whether we're committed to a clean environment for all of our people. I'm proud of the fact that since this administration has been in office, millions of people are breathing cleaner air; we passed a safe drinking water bill; we passed a pesticide protection act; we modernized the meat inspection standards for the first time in seven decades.

We have added to the national park system and protected our most precious national treasures, and we cleaned up more toxic waste sites in 3 years than the previous administrations did in 12. But I am not proud of the fact that there are still 10 million American children living within 4 miles of a toxic waste site. That is wrong. And if you give us 4 more years, we intend to clean up the 500 worst sites so we can say America's children are growing up next to parks, not poison. Every child in America is entitled to that, and I want you to help us build that bridge to the 21st century.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have loved being here today. I'm sorry that some distant ancestor of mine strayed in the Revolutionary War, probably was just being loyal to where he was born. But 200 years later, I'm mighty proud to be here with you, proud to be representing the people of New Jersey, grateful for the support you have given me, and asking you to think among yourselves not about party, not about politics, but about what you want our country to look like when we start a new century in a new millennium, and what you want America to be like when your children are your age. That is all that matters.

I believe, as strongly as I can say, that if you want the kind of America I believe you do, we've got to build a bridge to the future. We can revere our past, but we can't recapture it. The best days of America are still ahead.

The children in this audience today, many of them will do jobs that have not been invented yet. Some of them will do work that has not been imagined yet. All we have to do is to build the right kind of bridge that's broad enough, big enough, and strong enough for all of us to walk across. I hope you will help me build it.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:25 p.m. at the Battlefield Monument at the Monmouth County Courthouse. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Michael Wilson of Freehold Borough; Mayor Susan Bass Levin of Cherry Hill Township; Mayor Cardell Cooper of East Orange; Mayor David M. DelVecchio of Lambertville City; James J. Florio, former New Jersey Governor; Brendan (Tom) Byrne, Jr., chair, New Jersey Democratic Party; and Meryl Frank, who introduced the President. A portion of these remarks could not be verified because the tape was incomplete.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in Freehold Borough, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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