Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in Las Cruces, New Mexico

November 01, 1996

The President. Thank you. Yo amo a Las Cruces. Hello! Ladies and gentlemen, it is wonderful to be back in Las Cruces again after an absence of many years. I don't know how long it's been since a President has been here, but the others didn't know what they were missing. I am glad to be here.

I want to thank the Aggie Pride Band for playing for me. Thank you. I thank those who have joined me here on the stage. Senator Bingaman, thank you for your leadership for New Mexico and for America, especially in breaking down the barriers to developing America's high technology and creating jobs for all these young people that are getting an education here. Thank you, Bill Richardson, for helping me to lead the fight against what Speaker Gingrich and the Congressman from this district tried to do to the Federal budget, to the American people, and to our future, and for leading the cause of world peace. Thank you.

I thank Governor Bruce and Alice King. I thank Senator Mary Jane Garcia. She did get me to promise to come here, and I did not want to incur her wrath. [Laughter] So I'm glad to be here. Senate candidate Art Trujillo, New Mexico college Democratic president Julie Ward—didn't she do a great job? Give her another hand; give her a hand. She was great. [Applause] You know, even if you've got a lot of self-confidence, it's hard to stand up in front of 35,000 people or however many we have— maybe more way back there in the back. I can't see; I hope you can hear us. But Julie Ward did this school proud and the young people of America proud. Give her another hand; she was great. [Applause]

I thank Mayor Ruben Smith for welcoming me here, and your attorney general, Tom Udall; State Corporations Commissioner Eric Serna; Democratic chair Earl Potter; and all the others who are up here. And President Orenduff, thank you for making me feel so welcome here. I was glad to be coming before I saw you; I'm ecstatic now. This is an amazing story. I want to say to all of you——

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

The President. Thank you. I want to say to all of you, we are about to vote in the last Presidential election of the 20th century, for the first President of the 21st century. All of you know that we are living through a period of enormous change in how we work and live, how we relate to each other and the rest of the world, how we're becoming more diverse, how people will have more possibilities than ever before, how we have more challenges that are different. All these changes are coming. The real question is, how are we responding?

I have worked hard for 4 years to create America's best future for all of you in the 21st century, to create a country in which everybody—Latino, African-American, Irish-American, Polish-American, Asian-American, you name it—all Americans who are willing to work for it can live out their dreams, an America still standing fast for freedom and peace and security and prosperity all over the world, an America in which we are building an American community of all our people together. And we are better off than we were 4 years ago because we've been pursuing that course.

There is a very different vision being presented in all honesty and candor by my opponent and the leaders of the other party. I believe we have to build a bridge to the future big enough and strong enough for us to all walk across together. He said he wanted to reach back and build a bridge to the past.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. They believe there's something inherently oppressive about the American people deciding to do things together that we can't do on our own. And they think you're better off being told you're on your own. I believe the First Lady was right when she wrote it takes a village to raise our children and build our future. That's what I believe.

Audience members. Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!

The President. But you have to decide. Four years ago, I came to New Mexico and the people voted for the Vice President, Al Gore, and me and gave us a chance to serve. Four years ago, you took me on faith and the word of my friends in New Mexico, including many who are on this stage. Now there is a record, and we know the difference. We have a record. My opponent has a record. The leaders of his party in Congress have a record. We know what has happened in our country when our policies have been put into effect. We know that they said my economic program would wreck the economy and increase the deficit. But we've reduced the deficit in all 4 years of a President's term for the first time in the 20th century. Incomes are up after 10 years of stagnation; homeownership at a 15-year high; the deficit at a 15-year low; the combined rates of unemployment, inflation, and home mortgages at a 27-year low; child poverty, the biggest drop in 20 years; and 10.7 million new jobs. Our approach is right, and theirs is not. The evidence shows it. There is evidence.

When I offered the American people a tough crime bill to put 100,000 police on the street and take drugs and gangs and guns off the street, the other guys, they said the 100,000 police would never happen, it would do no good, and all I wanted to do was to take away weapons from sportsmen and women. Well, they got a lot of votes saying that, but that was 2 years ago. Now we know. We've had 4 years of declining crime rates, the lowest crime rate in America in a decade. Not a single sportsman or woman has lost a weapon, but 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers couldn't get handguns because of the Brady bill, or assault weapons. It was the right thing to do.

Now, there are a lot of other good things that have happened: almost 2 million fewer people on the welfare rolls; child support collections up 50 percent, $4 billion a year. That is what we have tried to do. We raised the minimum wage for 10 million Americans. Twenty-five million Americans have been told now you can't have your health insurance just taken away from you because you changed jobs or someone in your family gets sick. We passed a bill that said that no more can mothers and their newborns be kicked out of the hospital after 24 hours by the insurance companies. We passed legislation to help small-business people take out pensions and afford health care. We gave a $5,000 tax credit to families that will adopt a child that needs a home, and I hope more people do as a result of it. We're moving this country in the right direction.

Now, there's something else I had to do in the last 4 years—really, in the last year—that Jeff Bingaman and Bill Richardson had to help me with. When our friends in the other party won the Congress, they got to try to put their vision into effect. Their vision was a budget which cut Medicare 3 times more than the trustees said was necessary to stabilize it and ran the risk of creating a system in which the oldest, the poorest, and the sickest of our seniors were left behind. Their budget would have ended a 30-year guarantee that we as Americans have made to the poorest children, to our seniors in nursing homes, to families who have family members with disabilities that we'll help them with health care. Their budget contained the first cut in education in modern history, cutting everything from Head Start to student loans and Pell grants.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. Their budget would have paralyzed our ability to protect the environment and to continue to advance the cause of environmental protection while growing the economy. And to boot, they raised taxes on 8 million of our hardest pressed working people and authorized corporations to raid their workers' pension funds after we should have learned in the eighties that we shouldn't raid our pension funds, we should protect them. That's what I've worked to do.

That was their budget. And I vetoed it, and they shut the Government down with no thought to the consequences. And they said, "Oh, the Democrats will cave." And I said, "I'd a lot rather see the American people inconvenienced for 3 or 4 weeks than hurt for 30 or 40 years. We will not cave. This is wrong."

Now, you have another decision to make. And you have to decide what you believe because you have in this district a Member of Congress who voted right down the lines on those issues with the Speaker of the House. They even voted to repeal the commitment to put 100,000 police on the street. It was unbelievable. They voted to repeal the national standards to guarantee quality health care in our nursing homes.

Now, I don't think you have to believe that the people who did this are bad people. I think they honestly believe that there's nearly nothing we should do together; you're better off on your own. But you do have an alternative, someone who believes that we ought to go forward together, Shirley Baca. And I hope you'll help her go to Congress.

Now, here we are at the end of this election, and we found out today that we got another 200,000 jobs this month. That brings it to 10.7 million new jobs since I took office. Any my opponent says we've got the worst economy in 20 years.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. Now—don't boo. Just 2 weeks ago, he said we had the worst economy in 100 years. So he's made an argument for my reelection. After all, how many people can make up 80 years in 2 weeks? I appreciate that. I appreciate that.

The truth is he was right earlier this year when he said we had the best economy in 30 years. But we all know that there is more to do. We all know that we're not exactly where we ought to be if we're going into the 21st century with everybody having an opportunity to make the most of their own lives, with all citizens acting responsibly, with America coming together closer and closer as an American community.

Your vote will decide the direction of this country. In a matter of enormous consequence, you have a clear choice between people who honestly believe in what they are advocating.

You have to decide whether they're right to offer a big election year tax cut that would blow a hole in the deficit, require even bigger cuts than the ones I vetoed last year, and raise taxes again on 8 million hard-pressed working people, or whether you like my plan to balance the budget, invest in Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment, and give families targeted tax cuts we can afford.

You have to decide. You have to decide whether Senator Dole and Speaker Gingrich were right when they opposed the family and medical leave law as an unwarranted burden on business, or whether I was right to say I think the most important challenge most families have to meet is how they can do their jobs and then do their number one job at home in raising their children. I believe, in a world where more and more parents are working, where the American people are spending more hours at work today than they were 25 years ago, there is nothing more important than giving people the security of knowing that they can succeed at their most important job—raising their kids—and still do well at work.

Now you have some evidence. We passed the family and medical leave law over their opposition. And 3 1/2 years later, over 12 million Americans have used it when a baby was born or a family member was sick. We've had record numbers of new small businesses, record numbers of new businesses owned by women and minorities, and 10.7 million new jobs, a faster job growth rate than under any administration of the other party since the 1920's. We were right. We were right.

And I believe we ought to expand the family and medical leave law to say people can have a little time off from work to go see their children's teachers twice a year and take them to doctor's appointments. I believe we ought to strengthen our families by continuing to improve health care. In their budget plan, because they blow a hole in the deficit and require bigger cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, they can't do anything to deal with the remaining challenges of health care. Under our plan we will add another million children to the ranks of the insured—I might say, something terribly important because Hispanic families' children are the most likely not to have insurance for health care even though they are working. It's important to put more children in the ranks of health insured, and I intend to do it.

Our plan will help families when they're between jobs to keep their health insurance for 6 months. Our plan will provide free mammograms to women on Medicare. Our plan will provide respite care to help those 1.7 million families who are struggling honorably and lovingly to care for a family member with Alzheimer's. Our plan will do that, balance the budget, and pay for targeted tax cuts. I hope you'll help us pass our plan on Tuesday.

There are many other things your vote will decide on Tuesday: whether we continue and finish the job of putting 100,000 police on the street; whether we continue to try to protect our children from the dangers of guns and gangs and drugs and tobacco by supporting the safe and drug-free schools act, by supporting the 100,000 police, by supporting the first administration ever to say we have got to stop the tobacco companies from marketing and selling cigarettes to children illegally. You will decide.

You will decide whether we continue to move people from welfare to work, not only by passing the law which I signed which requires ablebodied people to move from a welfare check to a paycheck in 2 years but which acknowledges that you cannot require people to take work if the work isn't there. We've got to create those jobs for the people to have. We have a strategy to do it; you will decide.

You will decide whether at long last and after 4 years of effort we will finally pass meaningful campaign finance reform to reduce the influence of huge financial interests in political campaigns that cost too much and undermine the confidence of the American people. You will decide.

You will decide whether we continue to make the water clearer, the food purer, the air cleaner, whether we continue to preserve our most precious natural resources or whether we say, as they do, every time you protect the environment you hurt the economy. We have proved with cleaner air, safer food, safer drinking water, protecting our natural heritage that we can grow the economy while preserving the environment. And in the 21st century the only way you'll be able to grow the economy over the long run is to preserve the natural heritage of the United States of America. But you must decide.

Most of all you must decide whether you believe we are going to give the same access to world-class education to all of our children. You must decide. I am very, very proud of this administration's work in education, expanding Head Start, raising standards, promoting reform, passing national service, lowering the cost of college loans and improving their repayment, increasing Pell grants by the largest amount in 20 years, adding 200,000 new work-study grants. I'm proud of that, but there is more to do.

You will decide. You will decide whether we're going to teach every 8-year-old in the country to read by the third grade by the 21st century; 40 percent of them can't now. I want to mobilize a million volunteers, including 100,000 of those 200,000 new students who will get work-study money to go to college. Will you help me teach the 8-year-olds in New Mexico to read? [Applause]

You will decide—you will decide whether we hook up every classroom and library and every school in America to the information superhighway, to guarantee that for the first time in history—whether children live in the poorest rural areas, in the poorest inner cities, in the suburban or big city school district; whether they're rich, middle class, or poor; whether they're Hispanic, white, Native American, African-American, or you-name-it—for the first time, we've got a chance to make sure every child in America in every classroom gets the same information in the same way in the same time at a world-class level. We can do it. It will revolutionize education. You will decide.

You will decide—you will decide whether for the first time we truly open the doors of college to every American. I want to do three things. Number one, I want to make at least 2 years of education after high school as universal as a high school diploma is today. And we can do it. We can do it simply by saying people can deduct dollar for dollar from their tax bill the cost of a typical community college tuition for 2 years. I want to give families the opportunity to save in retirement accounts and withdraw from them with no tax penalty if the money is used for health care, homebuying, or sending a child to college. And something that will affect virtually all of you—I want families to be able to deduct up to $10,000 a year for the cost of college tuition at any college in the country, undergraduate or graduate, for people of any age.

But you must decide. You must decide. And more than anything else, you have to decide how we're going to get there. They say, "There's a tough world out there, but there's a lot of opportunity. So if you can go down in the valley, cross the rushing river, and climb the mountain, I wish you well." I say we'll all be better off if we roll up our sleeves and build a bridge to the 21st century big enough, wide enough, and strong enough for all of us to walk across together. Will you help? [Applause] Will you be there Tuesday? [Applause]

Thank you. God bless you. Let's go get it. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:40 p.m. at New Mexico State University. In his remarks, he referred to Bruce King, former Governor of Arizona, and his wife, Alice; State Senator Mary Jane Garcia; Julie Ward, president, New Mexico State Young Democrats; J. Michael Orenduff, president, New Mexico State University; and Elizabeth Shirley Baca, candidate for New Mexico's Second Congressional District.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in Las Cruces, New Mexico Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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