Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan

August 27, 1996

The President. Thank you. Thank you so much.

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

The President. Thank you. Thank you very much. It's great to be back at Michigan State. Thank you. I want to thank first Letha Miller for that wonderful introduction and for her example. Weren't you proud of her? I thought she did a great job.

I thank President McPherson and your board chairman, Bob Weiss, for welcoming me. I know the mayors of Lansing and East Lansing are here. And somewhere Senator Levin has a Lansing Lugnuts baseball cap for me. I don't know where it is, but I'm prepared to wear it. There it is. What do you think? I like it.

I would like to thank the Olympians who are here from Michigan: Paul McMullen, Eric Namesnik, and Mike Castle. I'd like to thank the Paralympian, Ed McGinnis. I'd like to thank especially my good friend Carl Levin for being here, and I hope you'll send him back to the Senate from Michigan. He's a good man who does a good job for you.

And I want to say a special word about Debbie Stabenow, who is running for Congress. I'm very proud of the fact that we put in the direct loan program to lower the cost and improve the repayment terms of college loans so no one would ever have to decline to go to college because of the loan burden. Everyone can pay it back as a percentage of their income. I'm very proud that we increased Head Start. I'm very proud that we did things for education. And I'm proud that I vetoed the budget of the Republican Congress when they tried to undo it all. And I believe a great university like Michigan State is entitled to be represented in the United States Congress by someone who believes in student loans, not someone who tries to abolish them. And I think you should make a change.

Folks, I've had a wonderful couple of days. Hillary and Chelsea and I started out on this train in West Virginia, and then Hillary went home to Chicago to start our convention, and Chelsea and I went through West Virginia, Kentucky, into Ohio. Then this morning in Toledo, Chelsea went to hear her mom speak tonight. And thank goodness, since we're a little late— I'm sorry we are, but I got to hear her mom speak tonight, too, on the train, and she was terrific. I was so proud of her.

And today we have been in Michigan. This train I'm taking across America is going across this heartland of our country for two reasons. For one thing, I really wanted to go to this convention to accept the nomination of my party for President for the second time, to begin the last campaign I'll ever make, by looking into the eyes, the faces, the hearts of the people of this country for whom I have worked and fought these last 4 years. And you have made me happy and pleased beyond my wildest dreams. I am proud to be an American when I look out at you and I see you. But I also wanted you to see this train, and I wanted you to see that it is on the right track, not just to Chicago, we're on the right track to the 21st century, and we intend to stay right on it.

Four years ago when I came to Michigan and I asked the people here to support me in the quest for the Presidency, I did it because it was a fight for the future, a future that most of you young people will have a lot more of than those of us who now have our AARP cards. [Laughter] I did it because I wanted to us to go into the next century with every American able to live up to the fullest of his or her Godgiven capacity, every American who's willing to work for it to have a chance to live his or her dreams. That, after all, is the great promise of this country. And I didn't like the fact that our country had high unemployment and stagnant wages and increasing division and unmet challenges and rising cynicism, especially among the young, about our political system. Well, 4 years later I can come back to you and I can say, I wanted to bring hope back to America. There is more hope, more progress, because we are better off than we were 4 years ago and we're going on the right track into the 21st century.

I have a simple formula, folks, for what I've been trying to do: more opportunity for people, more responsibility from our citizens, and a strong sense of American community. The special thing about this country is that we are bound together not by race or religion but by our shared values.

In the last 4 years, I have spent so much time as your President trying to make peace in other parts of the world. And we've made a lot of progress, but we've also got a lot of challenges out there, because it is so maddening to see from the Middle East to Bosnia, to Northern Ireland, to Rwanda and Burundi and other parts of the world how many places in the world are people determined to fight and kill each other because of their different races, their different religions, their different ethnicity, their different tribal roots. Why do people have to look down on each other who are different from them? In my America, if you believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence and you're willing to show up and be counted every day and be good law-abiding citizens, nothing else matters. We're going into the future together.

So I say to you, you look where we are on the question of opportunity, you look where we are on the question of people taking more responsibility, you look where we are on the question of coming together, and I say to you we're on the right track.

In the last 4 years—let me just mention a few things: We have 10 million more jobs. We have 4 1/2 million new homeowners. We have 10 million homeowners who have refinanced their mortgages at lower rates. We have 50 million Americans breathing cleaner air. We have cleaned up more toxic waste sites in 3 years than the previous administrations did in 12. We have 1 1/2 million fewer people on welfare. We have a 40 percent increase in child support payments. We have 2 million people now eligible for these direct student loans that you just heard about.

Just in the last week, look what happened. We raised the minimum wage for 10 million people. We gave the small-business people of this country a tax cut if they invest more in their business. And we made it easier for people to take out pensions for their employees. We made it easier for parents to adopt by giving a $5,000 tax credit for people who adopt a child, and even more if the child has a disability. There are so many kids out there who need a home. What we did in the minimum wage bill was pro-work, pro-family, and pro-business. It was a great day for America when we signed it.

And then we signed the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill, which said to 25 million Americans, you can't lose your health insurance anymore if you lose your job, if you change jobs, or if somebody in your family has been sick. That's what health insurance is for. It was a great day for America.

Audience member. We love you!

The President. And so—you get the picture. We're moving in the right direction. Twelve million Americans have taken advantage of the family and medical leave law so they could take some time off without losing their job when a baby is born or a parent is sick. We're moving in the right direction. It didn't hurt the country.

I could go on and on and on. I am proud of the progress we have made. And I'm proud of some things that didn't happen, too. I want to balance the budget. I know that the things that we have done that have sparked this economic growth, perhaps more than anything else, is to drive the terrible deficit down. It's going to be your problem, the young people in this audience, if we don't do something about it.

When I became President, we had quadrupled the national debt in 12 years. The deficit was $290 billion and headed higher. Well, 4 years later, we've got it down to $116 billion, a 60 percent reduction. And those low interest rates—those low interest rates for all of you and your families, what do they mean? They mean more investment for more jobs. They mean lower payments for credit cards, for cars, for homes. They mean a stronger future.

And I want to balance the budget as much as the next person, and more than most, and I have a plan to do it. But when the Republicans in Congress sent me that plan that said, "Take it or leave it, and if you don't take it we'll shut the Government down," I had to say no. I had to say no.

And I want to remind you again, when you make a decision about for whom to vote in the Senate race and the Congress race, I want to just remind you one more time about why I said no. Because that budget said, "If you want a balanced budget, Mr. President, you have to agree to big cuts in education funding and limits on student loans and abolishing the AmeriCorps national service program. If you want a balanced budget, Mr. President, you have to agree to huge cuts in environmental investment, and undermining the ability of the American Government to protect clean air, clean water, and take us in the future. If you want a balanced budget, Mr. President, you have to agree to strip the Federal Government of the commitment we have made for 30 years to health care for the elderly in nursing homes, for middle class families with people with disabilities in them, for people who are very poor and pregnant, and for little kids."

Last night when Christopher Reeve spoke at the Democratic Convention so movingly, one of the things that I remembered was my conversation with him in which he said, "Mr. President, I'm glad you didn't let them take Medicaid away because not everybody who gets hurt like I did has a good income like I had, and it can break anyone who is disabled." We need to continue to keep faith with the values that made America strong and great and noble and good.

And so I ask you to go with me on to Chicago and into this campaign and into the next 4 years, because we still have a lot to do. We have challenges that are unmet. We have opportunities that are unseized. We have to keep the economy growing. We have to have the right kind of tax cut, one that we can afford and still balance the budget and not hurt the things we care about, and that is focused first and foremost on education.

I want to make 2 years of college as universal in 4 years as a high school education is today. I want to give a tax deduction for families for the cost of college tuition, any kind of education after high school, undergraduate or graduate, up to $10,000 a year and a $1,500 credit for those first 2 years. That's a good tax cut. That's a tax cut that we can pay for and a tax cut that will more than pay us back in a stronger, healthier, more vibrant America.

I want to see all the high schools in this country, every schoolroom, hooked up not only to computers, with trained teachers, but hooked up to the Internet, to that information superhighway that will allow the poorest schools in America access to the same information in the same time at the same quality as the richest schools in America. It has never happened in the history of this country. We're going to make it happen in the next 4 years.

I want to tell you that it's not just on economics that we've made progress. The crime rate has been coming down for 4 years, but it is still too high. It has come down because we're putting 100,000 police on the street, because we're emphasizing prevention as well as tough punishment, because we banned assault weapons, and because we passed the Brady bill. And I want you to think about this: In Michigan, in Arkansas, some awful good people in 1994 lost their seats in Congress because they had the courage to vote for 100,000 police, a ban on assault weapons, and the Brady bill. They had the courage to vote for it, and many of their constituents were told, "The Government is going to come take your gun away. They're going to stop you from hunting. They're going to stop you from going to the sporting contests."

Well, folks, we've had two deer seasons in Michigan and two in Arkansas, and all our hunters still got the same rifles they started with. But 100,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers could not get handguns because of the Brady bill.

And now I say to you, we've got to keep this going. And every one of you young people, you might feel very safe tonight, you may feel very secure, but you want to bring your children into the world when you turn on the television news at night, if the lead story is a crime story, you're shocked, stunned, and surprised. Today, we take it for granted. We can change all that. We've got to keep that crime rate coming down. And I'll tell you how we're going to do it.

First of all, we ought to ban cop-killer bullets. I've been trying to do it for 2 years. I hear the same thing. I want you young people to help us do that. I hear the same thing. They say, "Oh, this is a slippery slope. Pretty soon they'll come get our ammunition." I have never seen a deer in the woods with a bulletproof vest on. [Laughter] I'm not trying to interfere with anybody's hunting. These bullets are designed to kill police officers, and they'll kill people, too, and we ought to ban them.

And then we ought to extend the Brady bill, in addition to felons, to incidents where violence is used in a domestic setting. If people commit domestic violence, they shouldn't be out there with guns where they can kill people in the family.

And finally let me say again—I want you to think about this when you vote for Congress— one of the reasons I vetoed that budget that they passed, one of the reasons I let them shut the Government down without caving in, is that the Congress sought to abolish—the Republican leadership sought to abolish our commitment to 100,000 police. Now, why in the world they were against it, I don't know. But they sought to abolish it once. They sought to do it again. And they're trying to restrict it today.

I'm telling you, folks, the way you make streets safer is to put police out there, let them get to know the kids, let them get to know the neighbors, let them get to know the reality of what's going on in the neighborhood, have people be friends and partners on the streets in making streets safe and stopping crime from happening. Keep the safe and drug-free schools program going. Get the law enforcement officers in there with the grade school kids, with the D.A.R.E. program and other things. Give these kids something to look forward to, something to be lifted up about. That is the key to the future, and I want you to help me do it. It's your future, your safety that is at stake, and I want you to help me fight for it.

I want you to help me fight for a clean environment. I don't want to see the proposals that were made in the last 2 years become law because there is not a President there to fight against them and to do good things. Now, we've had some very good successes here since the people have raised up their voices and said, "We don't like the weakening of the environment." We just passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. We just passed a law to improve the safety of our food and reduce pesticides. And these are very, very good things. We just overhauled the meat inspection standards for the first time in 70 years; that's a good thing. But we've got more to do. We need to clean up two-thirds of these toxic waste dumps in the next 4 years. We can do that. We need to continue to work to save our national parks. We saved Yellowstone from a gold mine; we need to save the Everglades. We need to stop the idea that we can sell our national parks. We need to build on our natural heritage. We need to build our environment.

Folks, you get the picture. We're better off than we were. We're on the right track. We've still got a lot to do. And it is your future.

The last thing I want to say is this: If you look around in this vast, wonderful, magnificent sea of people, you will see people whose ancestors came from all different places. When I went to see the Olympics and to start them off and I met with the American Olympic team, it made chills run up and down my spine. I thought to myself, if these kids didn't have the American uniform on and they were just walking out there in the Olympic Village, you wouldn't have a clue where they were from. You'd think, well, that person is on the African team and that one's on the Korean team and that one's on the Japanese team and that one's from the Caribbean somewhere and this one's from Latin America and the other one's from Europe and there's somebody from Scandinavia. You can be from anywhere and be American.

And I think one reason we like the Olympics is that everybody gets a chance, everybody plays by the rules, you don't get anywhere by badmouthing your opponent, you can't get a medal if you break your opponent's legs and break the rules. You just got to reach down deep and do the right thing. And even if you don't win, you're better off for having tried. That's the America I'm trying to build. That's the America I want you to have.

So I want you to think about it. I want you to think about it because we have to fight that. There are always, always going to be people that'll try to pit us against one another, look down on this group or that group or the other group. And we have to say no. We have to say no. If we share the same values and we're willing to show up and be law-abiding citizens, we've all got a role to play and all got a place in America of the 21st century. There is not a nation on Earth as well-positioned for the next century as the United States.

Many of you in this audience tonight will do jobs that have not been invented yet. Many of you will do things that have not been imagined yet. The best days of this country are still before us. You will have opportunities no previous generation of people have ever had in all of human history if—if—we all do our jobs to make opportunity available to everybody, to be good, responsible citizens and to realize that we have to do this together.

We are a great country when we are together. If we let people divide us and make us small and make us look down on one another, we will never reach our potential. But if you look around this sea of folks tonight and you say, they're all my brothers and sisters, we're all Americans, and we are still the greatest country in human history and our best days are still ahead, then they will be. Will you help me? Will you walk with me? Will you stay with me for 70 days and on for 4 years and on into the 21st century? [Applause]

Thank you, and God bless you all. Good night. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:15 p.m. at West Holden Hall. In his remarks, he referred to Letha Miller, student, and M. Peter McPherson, president, Michigan State University; Bob Weiss, chairman, Michigan State University Board; Mayor David Hollister of Lansing; and Mayor Douglas Jester of East Lansing.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives