Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in Lexington, Kentucky

November 04, 1996

The President. Thank you.

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

The President. Thank you. Hello, Kentucky! Thank you very much. Thank you. Mayor Miller, Governor Patton, Senator Ford, Lieutenant Governor Henry, Mayor Abramson, Chairman Babbage, and Steve Beshear——

[At this point, there was a disturbance in the audience.]

The President. Let me ask you—wait, wait, folks. If you pay attention to him, you're just rewarding him. So why don't we make a deal and we'll ignore him. I have a totally different attitude about this than a lot of people do. I always welcome people from the opposition to our rallies, because unlike them, my America includes everybody who's willing to work hard. And I'm always glad to see them.

I'm always even willing to sort of be quiet and let them talk, but they never want to stop, because what they really want is to stop me from talking and you from hearing. And if I was running against the record we've established and the ideas for the future, and I had to carry that budget I vetoed around on my back the way they do, maybe I'd be trying to shout my opponents down, too, but I hope not. I hope not.

So we've had enough smear and smear and smear, and why don't we just take a few minutes on this beautiful, beautiful fall night in Kentucky to think about our future. And if we get interrupted, let's just keep thinking about our future.

I want to thank all the young people who came here tonight, especially, because the election is more about you than anyone else. I want to thank all the entertainers who came: Kevin Cronin, the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra, Carol and Vanessa Det, Black Voices, and the marching bands of Harrison County, Nicholson County, Mercer County, and Lafayette County. Thank you very much. Thank you, Ashley Judd, for coming. Thank you. Now, Coach Pitino, we're both defending our titles, and maybe I'll see you in the White House again next year.

Let me say on this beautiful day, what is really at stake here, clearly, beyond any doubt, is what this country will look like when we cross that bridge just 4 years from now into a new century and a new millennium. And all of you who are students here and probably everybody who is in this audience understands that we're going through a huge change in how we work and live, how we relate to each other and the rest of the world. And the real issue here is whether we're going to make a decision to do things together that will help each other have a chance to make the most of our own lives, live up to our God-given capacities, and build together stronger families and communities and States and nations or whether we're better off being told that we're on our own.

Now, all these issues have been debated to death, I guess, so let me just give you some personal examples out of my life. A couple of nights ago I was in Denver, Colorado, and we had a rally like this—it wasn't as big; it was at night and in a little—in an inside place— but I was going along the row like this, shaking hands. Here's what happened to me in about 5 minutes. In each case, I want you to listen and see if you identify with it.

I met a young woman who was a victim of domestic violence who thanked me for setting up the violence against women section at the Justice Department and working to stop violence against women and children and setting up that hotline.

I met a man who was doing ground-breaking research against Parkinson's disease who got a research grant because of an initiative of our administration. And he had fire in his eyes when he said, "We are going to cure this disease; we're going to whip it; we're going to get to the point where we have 100 percent cure rate."

And then I met a man who told me that he and his wife had just adopted a young child, and because of the family and medical leave law she was home with the child, getting the child accustomed to being in a new environment and they were not going to lose her job and her income because of it, because of the family and medical leave law.

And then I met three women who were breast cancer survivors who thanked me for fighting hard for the research funding in the budgets of the last 4 years that include more women and more research. We've uncovered two of the genes that cause breast cancer, and we may well be able not only to cure it but prevent it in the next few years.

And then—just walking down the line now— and then I met a young person who went back to school on the AmeriCorps program after serving in his community and then got some money to pay his way to college.

And then I met a young woman who was a police officer in a smaller Colorado town, thanking me for our police program that Wendell Ford voted for to put 100,000 more police on the streets of America because they were getting 5 more.

And then I met a young man who told me that he was a dropout and had given up on his life, but he heard me talking about the importance of going back to school. He found out about the changes that we've made in the student loan program and what we were trying to do, and he said, "I got one of those new loans and now I'm going back to school and I'm going to get a degree in microbiology. I didn't just get in, I got in in a big way," he said.

Now, that's just one ropeline. Every issue I talk to you about, every single one, my opponent and the leaders of the other party opposed us on the initiatives which made those things possible—every single one. That is what is at stake here. When I said we ought to pass a crime bill that puts 100,000 police on the street, they said, "It won't do any good, and you'll never do it." Then when they passed their budget, they must have been worried about us doing it because they tried to stop me from doing it. But we've only funded about half those police officers. It's a 5-year program; you will decide whether we finish the job.

Now, here are the facts. The crime rate has gone down 4 years in a row. We have a 10year low in American crime. If we bring it down for 8 years in a row we might make our streets, our schools, our neighborhoods safe for all of America's children. I believe we're right and they're wrong. But you have to decide.

You have to decide so many of these issues. But if you strip them all away, you look at what is really at stake: What is it that we should be doing together to help each other make the most of our own lives? Now, we have had some time to see whether this approach works or not. Compared to 4 years ago, we have 10.7 million more jobs, record numbers of new small businesses, incomes are going up again, the lowest rates of unemployment and inflation in 27 years.

I met a woman—we were just in Cleveland, Hillary and I were—I met a woman who was crying and had a picture of her house because she had been able to buy a house because we have a 15-year high in homeownership, which is what happens if you drive the deficit down 63 percent and get those interest rates down.

So the country is moving in the right direction. And the real question before you is, what do you want it to look like 4 years from now? This is the last day of my last campaign. I will never seek office again unless I go home and run for the school board someday. [Laughter] This election is about your future. It's about what America will look like when your children are your age. And I tell you, we are on the verge of the greatest age of possibility in human history. The young people in this audience will have more chances to live out their dreams than any generation has ever had. There are many of you in this audience who before long will be doing jobs that have not been invented yet. Many of you will be doing jobs that have not even been imagined yet.

When I became President, there were 3 million people working in their homes. Today, there are 12 million. Four years from now there will be 40 million people. That's just one example. Things are changing so fast that we're building a supercomputer with IBM that will do more calculations in a second than you can do on your hand-held calculator in 30,000 years. Things are changing.

We have differences on the budget. We have differences on crime. We have differences on the environment. I believe we can preserve the environment and grow the economy, and I don't think we can grow the economy over the long run unless we do preserve the environment. It's an honest difference of opinion.

We have differences on issues like Medicare and Medicaid. The Medicaid program for 30 years has allowed families to maintain a middle class lifestyle, even if a member of their family was severely disabled, because people could work and still get some help for medical care for their loved ones. It's enabled people to go into nursing homes in their later years, and it has national standards of quality care. It's enabled poor children to get good care from the moment they're born. They wanted to take away that 30-year guarantee. I thought it was wrong. You can decide. I think that's one of the things we ought to do together.

But the most important issue before you is your education and the education of those who will come behind. Because in a world that is changing as it is, if you really want all the American people to have a chance to go into that future together, we've got to guarantee all our children world-class education. I want that to be the lasting legacy of this administration.

And I ask you to think of this. There are still 40 percent of the 8-year-olds in America who cannot read a book on their own. But I have a plan to mobilize one million volunteers to go out to the parents and the teachers of this country and help teach those kids to read. We got 200,000 more work-study slots out of this last budget for college students; I want 100,000 of them to go to young people who say, "Send me. I will go. I will teach the children to read." Will you help? Will you help us do that? [Applause]

You heard Wendell Ford talking about my dream that within 4 years every classroom and library and every school in America can be hooked up to the information superhighway. Think what it would mean if the children in the most remote Appalachian schools and the children in the biggest, poorest urban school districts were, together with the students in the richest, middle class, suburban, urban, rural school districts all over America—the first time ever, all these kids got access to the same information in the same way at the same time. That would revolutionize learning in America. It would explode the potential of our children. Will you help us do that? [Applause]

The last thing I want to say is, I am very proud that we've reformed the student loan program to make it less costly and to let people pay their loans back as a percentage of their incomes so no young person need fear going broke when you borrow money to go to college. I'm proud that 70,000 young people are in AmeriCorps, I'm proud that we got the biggest increase in Pell grants in 20 years, but we must do more. I want to open the doors of college to all Americans, and if you give me 4 more years, that's exactly what I intend to do.

Now, I want to make 2 years of college after high school as universal as a diploma in high school is today, and we can do that simply by saying, you can deduct from your tax bill, dollar for dollar, the cost of a typical community college tuition. I want to open the doors to all 4-year colleges and to graduate school by saying you can deduct from your tax bill up to $10,000 of tax deduction for the college tuition at any college and university in the United States today. Will you help us do that? Will you? [Applause]

Folks, let me say, in our politics today there is too little discussion of these issues and too much finger-pointing and insulting. In the end, when you're like me and you come to the end of more than 20 years of endeavor, I have to tell you something. I want to say this for our friends on the other side, too. Most of the people I've known in over 20 years of public life in both parties, people with different—who have disagreed with me, people who ran against me for office, most of the people I've known loved our country, worked hard, and were honest people. We just have honest differences of opinion.

Today, I still feel that way. But you must also understand the honest differences of opinion. And you are now the judges in that court of public opinion. These differences are being brought to you. Are we going to say, "You're on your own," or are we going to build a bridge to the 21st century we can all walk across? Is our education program going to be abolishing the Department of Education or opening the doors of college to every single American who wants to go?

These are the decisions for you to make. This is a very great country. Its best days are still ahead. You can make sure that the 21st century is a time of unparalleled opportunity for all Americans, and you can do it only if you decide that we have to work together without regard to race, region, religion, or income. We've got to work together. We've got to be able to say to one another, "If you are willing to show up tomorrow and say you believe in this country and its timeless values, you're ready to show up for work or school and do your part, we don't need to know anything else about you. You are part of our America, and we're going to build the greatest country the world has ever seen in the 21st century." Will you help us do it?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Will you be there tomorrow?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Will you elect Steve Beshear to the Senate?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. We need you. Thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:15 p.m. at the University of Kentucky. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Pam Miller of Lexington; Gov. Paul E. Patton and Lt. Gov. Steve Henry of Kentucky; Mayor Jerry E. Abramson of Louisville; Bob Babbage, chair, Kentucky Democratic Party; Steve Beshear, Kentucky senatorial candidate; actress Ashley Judd; and Rick Pitino, University of Kentucky men's basketball coach.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in Lexington, Kentucky Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives