Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Luncheon for Hillary Clinton in New York City

July 29, 2000

Thank you. First of all, I would like to thank all of you for making us feel so welcome. In particular, I thank you, Albert Kwok and John Ha and Gilliam Kim, for your words and your support. I would also like to thank those of you in the audience who worked so hard on this event, especially Janet Lee, thank you, and my good friend Tony George from Cleveland. I thank Lee Ho-Yeon for the song. Wasn't the song beautiful? Let's give her another hand for the beautiful singing. [Applause]

I want to say just a couple of things, if I might, today. First of all, I appreciate the previous remarks by Gilliam Kim about the relationship of the United States and Korea and South Korea during my time. I have been to Korea many times to see the people, the leaders, and the United States forces there. We have worked very hard to encourage the new direction in North Korea and to support President Kim as he has worked to break down the barriers of the past and to build a more peaceful future. And I certainly hope it will be successful.

I feel very good about what has been done, and I appreciate the support that this new direction has received from other nations in the area. So I hope you will all keep your fingers crossed and keep working for it, because it would be a very good thing to make the future in the 21st century safer for all of the children of the Korean Peninsula and all of Asia.

The second thing I would like to say is that I have worked very hard for these last 8 years to make America a place open and welcoming to all immigrants, a place of genuine opportunity that supported people who worked hard and took care of their families and contributed to their communities.

I have worked against discrimination against all people who come to America from other countries, and I've tried to remind our fellow Americans that all of us came here from somewhere else. Even our native populations once crossed a landmass that no longer exists between the Northwest United States and the northeastern part of Asia. So I welcome you here, and I thank you for your participation in this event.

The last thing I would like to say is that I heartily endorse what was said earlier by Mr. Kim about hate crimes. You know, even though America has made great progress in overcoming our past of discrimination on the basis of race or ethnic origin or religion, we still have instances in our country where people are subject to discrimination. And we all know it. We can remember by name some of the victims: James Byrd, dragged to death in Texas; Matthew Shepard, stretched out on a fence in Wyoming. We know that a former basketball coach in Chicago was killed because of his race. We know that a young Korean Christian was killed walking out of a church by a fanatic who said he belonged to a church that did not believe in God but believed in the supremacy of his race.

We know, thankfully, these people are a very small minority in our country, but we know they have to be rebuked and stopped. And that is why we support the hate crimes legislation. Hate crimes are not like other crimes. People are singled out for victimhood simply because they belong to a certain race or a certain religion. In California not very long ago, a bunch of little Jewish children were shot at just because they were going into their school, and a Filipino postal worker was killed because he was Filipino and because he worked for the Federal Government.

There are very few of these people in our country, thank goodness, but we should pass hate crimes legislation to make it clear that we will not tolerate discrimination against people simply because of who they are. And I hope all of you will support that.

Now, looking ahead to the future, let me say that I think that Korean-Americans can have a big impact on this election, in New York and in the United States, if you are willing to participate, not—yes by coming to fundraisers, and we thank you for that—but also by reminding Americans of what an important occasion this election is. In great democracies, people tend to make good decisions in times of crisis because they know that there is trouble all around and that change is required. In 1992 the American people gave me a chance to be President, because there was trouble all around and they knew we had to change.

But sometimes when things are going very well—when the economy is in good shape, when, as you said, there are fewer people on welfare, when crime is down, when we are moving toward greater peace in the world—people may think there is no consequence to the election; there are no differences between the candidates; everything comes wrapped up in a pretty package; and no one takes the trouble to open it to see what's inside in terms of what an election is about.

And the reason I say you can make a contribution is, it is the nature of immigrants to the United States from Korea, as you pointed out, to work hard, to try to strengthen family and community, and to always think about the future in good times as well as tough times.

Democracies tend to make some of their worst mistakes, if you look throughout human history, not in the tough times but in the good times—in the good times. Why? Because it's easy to stop concentrating. It's easy to stop working. It's easy to stop trying. It's easy to be fooled into thinking that there are no serious consequences to a choice.

So my message to you today is that I believe that Hillary decided to run for the Senate here because she knew how serious this election was, because she had spent all of her life as an adult working for children and families and better education and health care. She wrote a best selling book and gave away 100 percent of the profits to children's charities because she thinks that that's the most important issue for anybody's future and because she understood that we had worked for 8 years to turn the country around. And we're moving in the right direction, but now we have the chance of a lifetime to build the future of our dreams for our children.

The only thing I worry about in this election, the only thing, is that people will either believe it doesn't make much difference because times are going along so well—what difference does it make who gets elected President or who gets elected to the Senate or who gets elected to the Congress, or that because things are going along so well and our opponents are making such a determined and clever effort to blur the differences—that they simply won't understand what the differences are.

So I ask you not only to support us in this way, as you have today, and within the Korean-American community, but to talk to other people in this country with whom you come in contact and remind them that good times are great blessings that impose special responsibilities and that we may never have another chance to have an election where we can pick people and policies that will build the most brilliant future we can imagine, that elections are decisions by voters and citizens which have farreaching consequences on how we will live and that the good times election are as big a test of our judgment and our values and our national character as the tough times election.

Let me just give you a couple of examples. Beginning with the Vice President, and including Hillary and all of our Democrats, we think our economic policy is pretty good. We think it works for America, and we think it should be continued and intensified in the years ahead. What do I mean by that?

We want to give the American people a tax cut that we can afford based on what we think our surpluses will be in the years ahead, to help people educate their children, pay for child care, pay for long-term care for the elderly and disabled, save for retirement. We want to save some money to invest in education and health care and scientific and technological research. And we want to keep paying down the national debt until America is out of debt, to keep interest rates low so people like you can borrow money to start businesses, to buy homes, to send your children to college at lower interest rates. That's our policy.

Their policy is to say to the American people, "We have a projected surplus over the next 10 years of $2 trillion. It is your money. You worked for it, and we are going to give it all back to you right now."

Now, that sounds very good. What is the problem with it? It is a projected surplus. So if we cut taxes right now by the amount of money we think we're going to have over the next 10 years, we will cut taxes whether the money comes in or not, and we will have no money for education, for health care, for investment in the future. And we will not pay this debt off, and then, if the projected income figures are wrong, we'll be back in deficits, making the same mistakes we were making 8 years ago when the American people gave me a chance to change this country. That is the big economic issue.

Their policies will raise interest rates. Our policies will keep them lower. Our policies will give people an effective tax cut of hundreds of billions of dollars in lower home mortgage rates, lower business loan rates, lower college loan rates, lower car payment rates—clear choice; huge difference. Most people don't know it yet. You can help.

We have differences in education policy, in health care policy. We want everybody to have affordable health insurance that they can buy. We want older people on Medicare to be able to buy prescription drugs. We want to lengthen the life of Social Security and Medicare so that when all of the people in the so-called baby boom generation retire, we do not impose a burden on our children and their ability to raise our grandchildren.

We want to have a country where the streets are safe for people to walk. We have a much lower crime rate now than we did when I took office. But I'm sure you believe it's still too high—huge difference in the two parties, from the Presidency to the Senate candidates to the Congress, on what we would do.

We believe there are still too many criminals and children who have handguns, and it leads to too much violence. We believe that we should strengthen our laws in that regard, to do more rigorous background checks on people who try to buy guns. We think if someone buys a handgun, they ought to get a license like you do with a car, that says you have passed a background check and you understand how to use the gun safely. They strongly disagree with it.

It's a big choice. There is no point in pretending that there is not a difference here and that it won't have consequences. So these are just some of the issues that I wanted to bring up. We favor the hate crimes legislation, broad and inclusive. Their leadership is opposed to it—big difference.

So what I ask you to do is, number one, keep being a good example for all Americans with your work ethic and your strong families and your contributions to community; number two, thank you for being here to help Hillary; she will be the most outstanding advocate New York could possibly have for children and families, for jobs and health care and education; number three, remind your fellow Americans not to go to sleep this election year, that what you do in good times is just as important, maybe more important, as what you do in bad times in an election, that elections are choices with real consequences.

I am absolutely convinced if the American people and the people in New York clearly understand it's a big election, there are big differences, and what the differences are, that Hillary will be the next Senator; Vice President Gore will be the next President; and America's best days are still ahead. That's what I believe.

Now I would like to introduce the First Lady, my wife, by telling you that, as far as I know, I have now run my last race. I will never be a candidate for anything again. I will spend my time helping other people to run for office and to serve our country.

I have had, since I was a very young man, the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of people in public life who were running for office, first helping them to get elected, then getting elected myself. Now I am returning to my original role as a citizen.

Of all the hundreds of people I have known, including many Presidents and candidates for President, I have never known anyone who had the same combination of intelligence and passion and knowledge and ability to get things done for children, for families, for education, for health care, than my wife does.

She has never presented herself for public office before. She's spent 30 years working for other people and other causes before they were popular, when no one else paid attention to them. And I frankly am grateful that she has been given the chance by the people of New York to run for the Senate, and I hope for the sake of this State and the children of our country that she will have a chance to serve, because she can do things and she knows things that no one else now in our public life can do and know, just because of the life she has lived.

It is a very good thing that she is doing, although I'd just as soon we were out relaxing somewhere. [Laughter] I am glad that she wants to do it. I am glad that you're helping her, and I hope you will help her every day between now and November, because it's the best thing that could possibly happen for the people and the future of New York and for our country.

Please bring my wife up now to the floor.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:57 p.m. in the Empire Room at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to luncheon host Albert N. Kwok; Korean American Senior Citizens Society of New York president John Sehe Jong Ha; Korean American Association of America president Gilliam Kim; and President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of the First Lady.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Luncheon for Hillary Clinton in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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