Remarks in Louisville, Kentucky
The President. Thank you. Hello, Louisville!
Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. Thank you very much. Thank you. Folks, thank you for this magnificent crowd. Thank you for your great spirit. Thank you for this Louisville Slugger. You know, I've got one more debate, and from what I've heard, I may need this. You know, I was listening to all these folks talk—and you elect people that know how to talk—and they speak in a language I can understand, with no accent. [Laughter] And I am delighted to be here.
I want to thank Governor Paul Patton for his strong leadership and his support and for being so forthright and strong and standing up for what we're trying to do together. I want to thank my good friend Wendell Ford for his advice, his counsel, his support. If we had a hundred people in Congress like Wendell Ford we'd have about half as many problems as we do today. He is a great leader.
I want to thank your Congressman, Mike Ward. And I want you to know it is rare— it is rare for a first-term Member of Congress to have the kind of influence and make the kind of impact that Mike Ward has made. He works hard for you. He is outspoken, and I told him if I had to hear about Naval ordnance one more time I thought I would scream. He never gives up. I finally said, "Mike, just tell me what you want to do. We will do it. Let's just talk about something else. Take care of the people of Louisville, and let's go on into the future."
And I want you to know that I am grateful that Wendell Ford and your former Congressman, Rom Mazzoli, voted in 1993 for an economic plan that got this country moving again, and I'm grateful that Mike Ward stood up and said no when the other party got control of the Congress and shut the Government down to try to force the United States of America and the President to take a budget that was wrong for America and wrong for our future. Thank you.
I want to thank Steve Beshear for being willing to run for the United States Senate and for making an outstanding candidate. You heard his speech tonight. He ought to inspire your confidence, and he justifies your support. He's a fine man. He'll be a fine United States Senator, voting for the interests of Kentucky, and I hope you will support him.
I want to thank all of those that are up on this platform tonight: Lieutenant Governor Steve Henry and Speaker Jody Richards; State Representative Jesse Chisolm; my 1996 cochair, Betsey Hudson; State Democratic Party chairman Bob Babbage. And there's one person who is not here tonight, but I want to mention him because he's a great friend of mine, your Jefferson County judge and county executive, David Armstrong. We were born in the same little town in Arkansas a long time ago. He's a great friend, and he's away because of a family crisis, and I hope you all will support him. He's got a sick brother. Say a prayer for him tonight and support David Armstrong. He's a fine man, and I'm glad to be here.
And finally, I want to thank the mayor. What a mayor you have. I thought I had energy till I met Jerry Abramson. I thought I was aggressive till I met Jerry Abramson. I thought I was exuberant till I met Jerry Abramson. And all those things he said to you that we did together for the people of this city, they're all true, but they couldn't have happened without the leadership of Jerry Abramson. I thank him very much.
I'd like to thank the Kentucky Ramblers and the Rascals of Ragtime for providing our entertainment before I got here. I'm glad to be able to visit the Louisville Slugger factory. I'm sorry I couldn't be here in July when the museum opened. This is an amazing place with an amazing history that started the day Pete Browning broke his bat playing for Louisville's Eclipse team. Today, there are millions of bats made here, still made by hand. And I want you to know, since I was a little boy, I've had a lot of them but none I'll treasure any more than the one I got tonight. Thank you very, very much.
Folks, 4 years ago I came to Louisville to talk to you about fighting for the ordinary Americans who make our country go, about turning the direction of our country around, about paving a good way for Americans to the 21st century. In the last two debates, the one that I had with my opponent on Sunday night and in the great performance the Vice President put in last night—I was so very proud of him, and I know you were—we saw two very different visions for America, two good people on the other side who love our country but just see things differently than we do. I believe that we've got an obligation to work together to help each other make the most of our own lives. I believe that the First Lady was right when she said it takes a village to raise our children and to build a country that's strong. And what you have to decide is whether you think we have to do this together or whether we're better off going into the 21st century on our own.
Now, let's look at where we were. Four years ago when I came here we had high unemployment, stagnant wages, and rising frustration. I was determined to change the direction of America. I wanted to go into the 21st century with the American dream alive and well for every person in this audience, without regard to your station in life, who's willing to work for it. I wanted our country to beat the odds in this modern world. I wanted to prove that we could come together amidst all of our religious and racial and other diversity to prove that we can go forward together.
In the rest of the world, people are bedeviled everywhere by their religious differences, their tribal differences, their racial differences, their ethnic differences. But here in America, we say, if you show up tomorrow and you're a lawabiding citizen who works hard and believes in this country, you're our kind of American. We don't need to know anything else about you. Come on, let's go on together. Let's go on together. And for 4 years now we've worked hard to create opportunity, to demand responsibility, and to build a sense of community where everybody's got a role to play and everybody has a place at the table.
Four years ago, Kentucky helped me win reelection. I never will forget when Wendell Ford called me, and he said, "You've got to come to Kentucky one more time. Go to western Kentucky. You haven't been over there." In the middle of the night, seems like we were in western Kentucky. And the people of Kentucky voted for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Now, Wendell still takes credit for it. He said if we hadn't come back that one last time, it would have never happened. [Laughter] And he may be right, but I'm glad you did. You took us on faith.
The American people don't have to take us on faith anymore. Now there's a record. You know whether we were right or wrong. We have 10 1/2 million new jobs in this country. Unemployment in this State has dropped nearly a third. We have record numbers of new small businesses. Every one of them has been eligible now and been made eligible for a tax cut if they invest more to grow their businesses. Every one of them now—it's been easier for them to take out pensions for themselves and their employees and for people to take those pensions from job to job. That's better than it was 4 years ago.
It's easier now for self-employed people to take out health insurance because they can deduct more of it from their taxes. That's better than it was 4 years ago. Median income—that's the people in the middle; that's not the average with all of us at the top; that's the people in the middle—have gone up almost $1,600 after inflation since Rom Mazzoli and Wendell Ford voted for the economic plan that we didn't get a single, solitary vote from, from the other side.
We're moving in the right direction, folks. We're on the right track to the 21st century.
We've had the largest drop in child poverty in 20 years. Now all economic groups that are working are participating in our economic growth. We've had the biggest drop in inequality among working people in 27 years. We've got the lowest rates of inflation and unemployment in home mortgages in 28 years. And last week we learned that the poverty rate among elderly Americans has dropped to its lowest level ever recorded. We are moving in the right direction. We are going to the 21st century.
We're getting back to our basic values. The crime rate has dropped for 4 years in a row. There are one million fewer crime victims this year. We made 12 million families eligible to take a little time off from work when a baby is born or a parent or a spouse or a child is sick. The welfare rolls are down by 1.9 million. Child support collections are up almost 50 percent, nearly $4 billion. We're moving in the right direction toward the 21st century.
And yes, while we brought the deficit down, we knew there was a right way and a wrong way to do it. And I am proud that we stopped the other party's budget from becoming law, because it would have broken up the Medicare system. It would have cut too much and cost innocent elderly people too much. It would have ended the guarantee that Medicare gives and has given for three decades to the elderly people in nursing homes, so their children can go on and live their own lives and know their parents are going to be all right. It would have ended the guarantee we give to working class families who have people with disabilities in them, so they don't have to go into bankruptcy to take care of their loved ones.
I think we did the right thing. It would have devastated environmental protection, environmental cleanup, and for the first time ever would have cut education funding by $30 billion, ending the AmeriCorps national service program, weakening the college loan program we worked so hard to improve, cutting back on Head Start, and generally dividing the country and taking it in the wrong direction.
Instead, we said no. We like more jobs, better education, a cleaner environment, and a brighter future. We're going to keep on the right track to the 21st century.
And just in the last few days of this Congress, because of you—not because of me but because of you—because you sent a clear signal that you wanted our country to go forward, we passed a lot of our initiatives. We passed the minimum wage bill. We passed a bill that says to 25 million Americans, you can't lose your health insurance anymore just because you changed jobs or somebody in your family's been sick. We said to mothers and their newborn babies, you cannot be kicked out of the hospital anymore after a day, no more drive-by deliveries. We're going to help people with mental health problems to get more insurance. At long last, we said to Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and whose children have spina bifida, finally, finally, we said, we're going to give you and your families and your children some help for medical help and for disability payments. It's about time. We're moving in the right direction.
That's why every major law enforcement organization has endorsed Bill Clinton and Al Gore. That's never happened for anyone on our side before. That's why just the day after our debate in Hartford, 2,500 business leaders, including a very large number of them who never voted for a Democrat for President, endorsed our campaign, because they know that it's good for America for us to move forward together. And I want you to help me finish building that bridge to the 21st century.
And so that's the decision now before the American people: Are we going to back where we were, or are we going to keep going forward? Are we going to go forward together, or are we going to say, "You're on your own"? I think I know what you want to say. We cut the deficit by 60 percent; let's keep interest rates down and grow the economy by balancing the budget while we protect Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment.
Let's have a tax cut for working families and middle class families, targeted to childrearing, to education, to health care, to buying that first home and paying no taxes on your home when you sell it, but let's pay for it in a balanced budget plan. Let's don't have that risky tax scheme that the other side offers: $550 billion, no idea how they're going to pay for it. I'll tell you what it means: It means bigger cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, education and the environment than I vetoed. Their plan would raise taxes on 9 million of the hardest pressed working families, and it would blow a hole in the deficit a mile wide.
Folks, when I became President, we had quadrupled the debt of the country in 4 years, the deficit was $290 billion, people could not borrow money to buy a home. We now have the highest rate of homeownership in 15 years. I just came from Dayton, Ohio, and a 40-yearold man came up to me and said, "Mr. President, I just bought my first home because we got interest rates down and a healthy economy." Let's don't go back, folks, let's go forward. Say no to their plan and yes to ours.
We passed that Family and Medical Leave Act. We passed the V-chip to give families the ability to control what their children see on television. We got 3 hours of educational television coming back on primetime for families so their kids will have something good to see. The entertainment industry's agreed to rate their TV programs. We're moving forward in the right direction.
Now we ought to expand family leave and say people should get a little time off to take their children to a parent-teacher conference or their parents to the doctor. People that earn overtime, if they need it, ought to be able to take the overtime in time with their kids or in cash, at their discretion. Will you help me build that kind of bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
We made a good start on health care reform. Our balanced budget plan says, now we ought to help people who are between jobs. When you lose your job, you ought to be able to hold on to your health insurance and take care of your kids. Our plan would help people keep their health insurance for 6 more months when they're between jobs. It's all paid for. It would help families with parents with Alzheimer's to care for them. It would help do other things to prevent illness, and it would continue our ground-breaking work in medical research.
In the last 4 years, we've found two genes that cause breast cancer. Now we may be able to find out not only how to treat it but how to prevent it. Just in the last few weeks, for the first time in history—for the first time in history in the last few weeks, we saw laboratory animals with their spines completely severed regain movement in their lower limbs because of nerve transplants to their spine. Who knows what we can do if we keep on working for health care reform. Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
We did pass the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban. And in places like Kentucky, our opponents, they made hay while the Sun shown. Oh, they said, "Oh, they're going to take all their guns away." You know something? It'll soon be deer season, won't it? I'll give $100 to the first hunter in Kentucky who tells me he can't go out into the deer woods because he lost his rifle. Not a single person has lost a hunting weapon, but 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers could not get handguns because of the Brady bill. And now people who beat up their spouses and children won't be able to get it either. We were right about that, and this is a safer country because of it.
And yes, we are putting 100,000 police on the street. But our friends on the other side, they all voted against it. Then they tried to stop us in their budget that I vetoed, then they tried to stop us again.
Now, just talk to the mayor or talk to the local chief of police or talk to anybody in law enforcement. I don't understand why anybody would be against that, but they are. One good argument for Steve Beshear and Mike Ward is that they know that what we have to do is give power back to people in the local communities to work with the community crime watch programs, like the one that Carolyn MacLuton has worked so hard for all of these years. God bless you, ma'am. We love you, and thank you for what you're doing.
We're trying to get a million more people like her and finish putting 100,000 police on the street. We've only funded half of them. These elections are important. If you want us to finish the job so we can have 8 years of declining crime rates instead of 4, you've got to help us. Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
We reduced the welfare rolls by 1.9 million. We passed the welfare reform bill. But it's just the beginning. Let me tell you what that welfare reform bill does. It says this: The National Government will continue to guarantee—they'll fix that in a minute, don't you all worry about it— the National Government will continue to guarantee health care and nutrition to poor families. And if someone goes to work there will be more money for child care than ever before. But what used to come from Washington in the form of a welfare check with State money will now go to Governor Patton. And States and communities will have 2 years to figure out how to turn that welfare check into a paycheck, because able-bodied people who can work, have to work. That's good, but we have to create the jobs. I've got a plan to help the communities create another million jobs to move those people from welfare to work. Will you help me create those jobs and build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
We've made the water cleaner. We've made the air cleaner and freer of chemicals. We've raised the standards for food safety. We've cleaned up more toxic waste dumps in 3 years than the other side did in 12. We're cleaning up the environment, but there are still 10 million kids in this country who live within 4 miles of a toxic waste dump. Our plan would clean up 500 more, so I can look at the children of America and say they're growing up next to parks, not poison. Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
Finally, and most important, will you help us make education the top priority of America for the next 4 years? [Applause] Will you help us do that? For every child and every adult in America, we have a plan that deals with the major challenges of education. Number one, a lot of adults need to go back to school. Under our plan, we'll create a "GI bill" for America's workers. When someone loses their job, they'll get a skill grant worth up to $2,500 a year to take to the local community college, to take to another training program, to put people back to work at higher wages, not lower wages.
Number two, we know that 8-year-olds have to be able to read in order to learn for the rest of their lives. But 40 percent of our 8year-olds can't read on their own. We've got a plan to put 30,000 volunteers out there, working with schools and parents, so that every 8year-old can pick up a book and say, "I can read this all by myself." Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
I have offered the first plan ever to help schools that are trying to help themselves get more funds to build and modernize their schools. We've got more kids in school today than ever before, and it's time we helped them.
And finally, for the schools, today I said again I want to hook up every classroom and every library in this country to the information superhighway so that all our kids—for the first time in American history, all our kids can have access to the same information in the same time in the same quality, rich, poor, middle class, all of them together. Will you help us do that? [Applause]
And will you help us open the doors of college education to all Americans? [Applause] I want to make 2 years of education after high school just as universal as a high school diploma is today by letting you deduct dollar for dollar off your taxes, up to $1,500 a year, the typical cost of a community college tuition. I want to let every family deduct up to $10,000 a year for the cost of any college tuition. And I want to let people who save in an IRA withdraw from it to pay for college. Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
Folks, this is a clear choice: hope against fear, the future against the failed policies of the past, a village working together against "you're on your own." I want to build a bridge to tomorrow that every single child and every single adult in the State of Kentucky and in our beloved United States can walk across to the best days America has ever known. In the next 26 days, will you help us by talking to your friends and neighbors to build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
Thank you. God bless you, and good night. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 8:50 p.m. at the Louisville Slugger Museum. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Paul E. Patton and Lt. Gov. Steven Henry of Kentucky; State Representative Jesse Crenshaw; Mayor Jerry E. Abramson of Louisville; Betsey Hudson, cochair, Kentucky Clinton/Gore '96; and Carolyn MacLuton, past president, Community Oriented Policing Board, Fourth Police District.
William J. Clinton, Remarks in Louisville, Kentucky Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/221890