Remarks at a Presidential Unity Fund Reception
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you for being here, and thank you for your enthusiasm. I was tired when I walked in, but I'm not tired anymore. [Laughter] You've given me a lot of energy. I see that—do you see that young man there patting on his father's head? That young girl? [Laughter] Dad, someday you may wish people couldn't tell the difference. [Laughter] That is the postcard for what this election is all about, right there. That's the picture. That is the picture.
I want to—if I might, I'd like to join Senator Daschle in thanking my friend and our friend and America's friend Wynton Marsalis for his brilliant play here tonight and for—[inaudible]— thank you.
I thank Senator Chris Dodd, who gives a better stump speech than anyone, for declining to speak tonight because he said you will like it if the program's shorter—[laughter]—but you have no idea. Remember that Chris Dodd agreed to be the chairman of the Democratic Committee when no one thought we would be here 2 years ago, and he has gone all across this country spreading our message and sticking up for us, and I'm grateful to him.
Let me also tell you that I agree that Tom Daschle will be a great majority leader, that Dick Gephardt will be a great Speaker, and what I want you to know—[applause]—clap for them, that's good. Clap for them. [Applause] But what I want you to know is that I've had the opportunity to work with them together now for a couple of years, in the beginning under very, very difficult circumstances, and see this whole thing turn full circle as they stood by me when I vetoed the Republican budget and they shut the Government down and I said, "Can we hold our ranks together, no matter how much they shut it down?" When the other side said to me, "Well, you guys care too much about Government. You will wilt when we shut the Government down," Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt did not wilt. And that spoke volumes to the country about where we stood and what we were fighting for and what we wanted to do.
They also worked hard to put together constructive proposals for our own balanced budget that we could all agree with and work for, and to continue to press our agenda until, in the end, we were even able to pass a significant percentage of it in the closing weeks of this Congress, when the majority had to go home and face the voters, too. And so I want you to know that I have enormous confidence in their ability to participate in leading our country into the 21st century, and the American people will be very proud of the work that they do together and that we do together. And I thank them from the bottom of my heart for what they have done and what they will do and what they represent for the future of our country. You should be proud of them.
You know, we're getting very close to the end of this election now, and I only want to make a couple of points to you. The first is, I just came back from a fascinating trip, and today I was in Florida, and yesterday evening. In Miami I talked to the newly elected mayor of Dade County—they adopted a new form of government—Alex Penelas, who is a 34-year-old, young, progressive leader. And the first thing he said to me was, "Henry Cisneros has been a brilliant Secretary of HUD, and because of his support we were able to take hundreds and hundreds of people off the streets and out of the ranks of homelessness in Miami. No one else has been able to do that."
Then Governor Chiles and Senator Graham and I went with Congresswoman Corrine Brown up to Daytona Beach, and I met with four women today who were part of the Florida welfare reform project that we had worked with them to help put together, four women who'd had immense challenges and difficulties in their lives, women who desperately wanted to be working and to be productive members of society and wanted their children to be able to look up to them, to be able to see them go to work every day. And they were involved in the program, and each of them was about to come out and to go to work. One of those young women introduced me today when I spoke to a big crowd in Daytona Beach.
And I couldn't help thinking, as I was on my way back up here to see you, that sometimes in Washington it's easy to forget and in America, out there in the country, it's awfully easy to forget the incredible impact that what we do here can have on people's lives out in the country.
So I would say to you, in the closing days of this election, anything you can do to remind people that every single person, especially younger voters who often don't vote in the same percentages as older voters do, that there is a huge practical impact on their lives that will be substantially different, depending on the choices they make in this election, is something you ought to do. It will affect millions of people in terms of their access to education, in terms of the quality of the education they get. It will affect all of us in terms of our commitment to protect our environment as we grow our economy. It will have a profound impact on how we deal with the challenges of the coming retirement of the baby boomers. It will have a terrific impact on whether we continue to reach out to the rest of the world. Perhaps most profoundly, it will have an amazing impact on whether we decide to grow together or continue to practice the politics of division, which may help politicians get elected at election time but don't create jobs, don't care for children, and don't solve the problems of the country. So I would ask you, every one of you who can be here tonight, you know people all across this country. And take a little time in the next 13 days to talk about that.
I was in Michigan before I went to Florida, and we broke ground on a new airport there so that Michigan will spend $1,600,000,000, partly Federal money, doing something that we did together. That's Government; it's not bad. It's something that we had to do together because no one could do it alone; very few people can write a check for that kind of money. And it will enable them to reach out to the rest of the world.
But this is the interesting thing. When I thought of Michigan as a child and even when I ran for President in 1992, I thought of it as the auto capital of the world. It's also a place where countless numbers of people from my home State poured out of Arkansas and places like it in the forties and fifties going to Michigan because they could get a good job in the factory and they could actually support their families and have a decent house and send their kids to college. Michigan has increased its exports more than any other State since I've been President. And now in Wayne County, where Detroit is, there are people from 140 different racial and ethnic groups—Wayne County, Michigan— one county in America. When you go anyplace in America now, you can't help but be struck by the fact that this vibrant democracy of ours still is a magnet for people from all over the world, in all different kinds of places, and especially to those of you who are younger.
You think about what I have to spend my time on as your President in terms of foreign affairs, the Middle East, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, trying to stop terrorism, trying to stop the development of dangerous weapons programs, chemical and biological weapons. How much of that is rooted in racial, ethnic, religious, tribal hatred? How much of that is rooted in the fact that all over the world, people who are otherwise cultivated, intelligent, caring people—people that you would be honored to be with in some sort of personal circumstance because you think they're doing a good job raising their children and they seem to be nice people—still persist in defining themselves not in terms of what they are and who they are but in terms of who they are not, who believe that they cannot think highly of themselves unless there is some group of people that they can look down on. And if you tell the truth, there's not a person in this room, me included, that at some point in your life hasn't fallen into that trap, "Well, at least I'm not them."
The great genius of America is that for all of the problems that we still have—when the church burnings arise, or when the terrible tragedy of Oklahoma City occurred, born of an irrational hatred of our Government—we basically are beating that historical trend. We are trying to create a world in the 21st century in which all of you can raise your children with genuine respect for people who are different from you because you share the values of the Constitution and because you want to be responsible, productive citizens.
This is a matter of enormous moment. The future that the young people in this audience have is breathtaking. A lot of you in a few years will be doing jobs that haven't been invented yet; some of you will be doing jobs that haven't been imagined yet. You'll have more opportunities to live out your dreams, to imagine things and then make them happen in your lives, than any generation of people in all of human history. But it will only happen if you can preserve some of the old-fashioned virtues that have gotten us here after 220 years.
And so I say to you, that's another big thing. And that's why I've tried so hard in this election to keep talking about the issues and to keep trying to bring people together and keep telling Americans, look, this is a godsend, this gift we have been given of all of this rich diversity, this fabric of America. Nobody is as well-positioned as the United States to move into that new millennium that starts just 4 years from now. That's another thing you need to think about saying.
I've taken to asking everybody in my audiences now in the closing days of this campaign to take some time before they go to bed at night and just see if they could write down in a few words what they want our country to be like when we start the new century, what they want our country to be like when their children are their age or their grandchildren are their age. That's really what this is all about.
And it happens to be because of the ideas and the philosophies that we have advanced that it is our party and this administration and what we're trying to do that has been given both the opportunity and the responsibility to carry this message. It didn't have to be that way, but that's the way it's worked out.
And so you know what all of the issues are, but you need to understand that underneath those issues, this idea of building a bridge to the 21st century that's wide enough and big enough for us all to walk across is a fundamental idea about the decision we're going to make about how we're going to live together and what kind of world your children will have to live in.
And I want you to be enthusiastic and happy and have a good time tonight, but I want you to be in a position to really celebrate on November 5th. That's the night that matters. And so I say to you, there are—if you think hard enough about it, every single one of you can think of somebody you know that hasn't made up their mind yet for whom they'll vote or whether to vote. And one of the big questions in these elections—you know when you see all of these endless polls published every day, and there seems to be 10 or 15 points difference between them and you think, gosh, all those people are smart, and aren't there established methodologies and all that—you know what one of the biggest differences is in them? How skeptical the pollster is about whether the younger generation will vote, how skeptical the pollster is about whether young women, working for meager wages, struggling to make ends meet, often supporting their own children, sometimes without the child support they're entitled to, will be too exhausted, too frustrated, or too skeptical to show up and vote on November 5th.
So I say, we've worked very hard to register people; we're working very hard to get our message out. You have been incredibly generous to us, far more than we could have possible expected; we're being outspent still heavily by the other side in most of these races. But we're still getting our message out there; we're still fighting the fight; we're still moving forward.
So ask yourself, "What do I want my country to be like in the 21st century?" And then, "What can I do in the next 13 days to make sure that happens?" And then we'll have a big celebration on election night. Between now and then, just know I am grateful to you and know— never, never, never doubt there is an enormous connection between the decision you and your fellow Americans make and what kind of bridge we build to that bright new tomorrow.
Thank you, and God bless you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 7:43 p.m. at the Sheraton Washington Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to musician Wynton Marsalis.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Presidential Unity Fund Reception Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/222187