Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Gore 2000 Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas

August 07, 1999

The President. Thank you. Well, Myreon, you did a great job. I don't know what you're running for, but you've got a good chance. [Laughter] Congratulations.

Let me thank all of you for coming here on this hot summer Saturday afternoon. Especially, I want to thank Congressman Bill Jefferson, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressman Bennie Thompson for coming from out of State to join our Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln and Congressman Marion Berry back there. And I believe Congressman Vic Snyder is here. And also, a former Governor of Tennessee, Ned McWherter, our great friend, thank you for being here, sir.

I thank all the pastors and educators and businesspeople and community activists who are here. Many of you have been my friends for over 20 years, and all of you helped me to be elected President, with my friend and partner Al Gore. And then you helped us to be reelected for the first time a Democrat had done that in 60 years. And we know it could not have happened without your support.

I want to say just a couple of things and turn the microphone over to the Vice President. Oh, let me also thank our Secretary of Transportation, Rodney Slater, who's from the Arkansas Delta. We're glad that he's here.

When we took office—a lot of people have forgotten what it was like when we took office. We had high unemployment, low growth, increasing social division, and gridlock in Washington. It was not a good time. We had social unrest in Los Angeles. A lot of you remember that. And we decided that we could pull this country together and turn it around if the people would help us.

Now, 7 years later we've got—yesterday we announced over 19 million new jobs, the longest peacetime expansion in history, the lowest minority unemployment rate ever recorded, the highest homeownership ever recorded, a 30-year low in unemployment, a 32-year low in the welfare rolls, and a 26-year low in the crime rate. And I think that's a pretty good record.

Now, I want to say two things to you about that. First of all, I could not have accomplished anything I have as President without the absolutely unprecedented role that Vice President Gore played. A year ago—6 years ago the day before yesterday, he cast the deciding vote on our economic plan, which all the Republicans said would ruin the country, and they used their fear tactics to take over the Congress. And that's what has given us the biggest surplus in history and this strong economic recovery. And he did it, and you should know that.

He has supported efforts to help families and communities. A lot of the pastors here appreciate the fact that he helped—he actually was our leading person in developing the television rating system and the Internet—the video game rating system and the V-chip for families.

He has led all our efforts in technology. We passed the Telecommunications Act, which has already produced over 300,000 new jobs for America. And he led the way in saying, we cannot let America get caught on a digital divide. We have to have an E-rate, a special rate, so that the poorest schools and libraries and hospitals in America—like those in the Mississippi Delta—have to be able to get big discounts so poor children can have those computers in schools, too, and have access to everything kids in the richest part of America do. Al Gore did that for America and for its future.

He has managed much of our difficult relationships with Russia, much of our promising future with South Africa. He has been involved in every good thing we have done, from restoring democracy to Haiti to ending ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo.

I know a little bit about American history, and I can tell you that whatever anybody thinks about whether I was right or wrong about a given issue, when the history of the last 6 1/2 years, and the next year and a half, is written, there is one thing that no one will be able to question, and that is that Al Gore was, by far, the most influential and effective and productive Vice President in the history of the United States of America.

Now, here's the second thing I want to say. I think one reason we succeeded in helping the country is that when we asked you to hire us back in 1992, we put out a detailed plan of what we'd do if you gave us the job. An election is a job interview. He wants you to hire him. [Laughter]

The Vice President. I do. Absolutely.

The President. Okay? And all these other people that are running are perfectly nice people, but all of them are saying, you know, hire us, too; we want to be President, and sooner or later we'll get around to telling you why. [Laughter]

You already know more about him than anybody else running. But in spite of that, he said, here's my economic program; here's my crime program; here's my program to help attack social problems by working with faith-based institutions more in the community; here's my program to conquer cancer and other medical problems by increasing our efforts in medical research. Vote for me, and here's what I'll do.

And the third thing I want to say to you is this: Everybody always says they want change. Change is a good thing. We have been in continuous change. The next 4 years will be different than the last 4. We will have to change. The question is not whether we will change, but how we will change.

Don't listen to those folks who want to change by taking us back to what we tried before that got us in the ditch. What we want to do is to change in a way that goes beyond what we've done. And when 2000 rolls around, I'll be just a voter like every ordinary citizen. But I want you to know, too, finally, that this man is a good and decent man. He is a good man.

And he has been with me through thick and thin, through light and dark. I've seen him deal with the challenges of raising his children under the scrutiny of the spotlight. I've seen him work with his wonderful wife in helping to make us think about things like mental illness, that we normally never wanted to talk about before. And I am telling you—everybody knows he's got a good mind—I'm telling you he's got a heart of gold, and he deserves your support.

And for a long time now, he's been at my back, and I intend to be with his. Thank you.

The Vice President of the United States.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:37 p.m. in Hall One at the State House Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to student Myreon Coleman of Marianna, AR, who introduced the President.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Gore 2000 Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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