Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Reception for Representative Anthony D. Weiner in New York City

September 11, 2000

Thank you very much. First, I want to thank Richard and Maureen for their warm welcome here—[laughter]—for opening their home. This is a beautiful place and a beautiful gathering. And the reason we're all so warm is that you came out here to support Anthony in record numbers, and I'm grateful to you. [Laughter] So you should enjoy the temperature; you generated it by your commitment and your support.

I want to thank you for reminding me that you were in Little Rock on election night in '92. Hard to believe it was almost 8 years ago. It's been a good 8 years, and I thank you for being there. I have a particular interest in this congressional district, because in 1992 I came to Chuck Schumer's home in Brooklyn, and I drove around this congressional district with him. I mean, I know we're not in it now, but I drove around the congressional district.

I drove to the synagogue where a swastika had been painted on the wall. And we began to see the evidence of the kind of intolerance and bigotry that we still see manifested from time to time in these terrible hate crimes around our country. And I thought then that, you know, we could turn the country around if we had the right ideas, and we literally changed the economic policy, the education policy, the health care policy, the crime policy, the environmental policy, and the foreign policy of America. And I believe that the results have been pretty good.

Now, what I want to say today is, I'm here because, number one, I'm very grateful for the support that Anthony has given me over the last 2 years, and I appreciate it very much. Secondly, and far more important, I think he has enormous capacity to serve this district well and to continue to grow in stature and leadership and impact for the people of this district, this city, and this State, in the United States Congress.

And that's very important. You know, I've reached a point now where I was looking at him and thinking how young he was and trying not to resent it. [Laughter]. I realize, you know, I spent most of my life as the youngest person who ever did anything, and now I'm the second youngest person ever to leave the office of the President, the youngest ever to leave after two full terms. Theodore Roosevelt was a couple of years younger than me, also of New York, so I decided I'd come to New York to see if it was in the water and catch it. [Laughter].

But my concern now—this is the first time since 1974 I haven't been on the ballot, and most days I'm okay about it. [Laughter] My party has a new leader, whom I admire and support strongly, and his Vice Presidential candidate has been a friend of mine for 30 years. I was thrilled about Senator Lieberman's pick. And my family has a new candidate. So I have become the Cheerleader in Chief of America, and I'm very happy to do that.

I want to say one thing very, very seriously. A great people are more vulnerable to making a mistake when times are good than when they're difficult. The American people and the people of New York took a chance on me and Al Gore in 1992, but it wasn't much of a chance, because the country was in the ditch. We were in trouble. We had a bad economy, worsening social problems, an increasingly divisive political climate. Now, we have a good economy; all the social indicators are going in the right direction. We are without severe internal crisis or external threat. And there is a new sense of harmony in the country, at least among the strong majority of American people, as evidenced by the different rhetoric that they have adopted in running this campaign, except in their mass mails. [Laughter]

That's the good news. The bad news is, it may be harder for people to tell the difference this year. I think it's quite important, just to make it clear. Anthony mentioned a few things. This is what you can do with what we have done in the last 8 years, and how these elections—whether he is successful, whether Hillary wins, whether Al and Joe win, depends in large measure on what the American people and the people of New York believe this election is about. And I think you should believe it is about making the most of a truly magic moment in the history of America.

We can get this country out of debt for the first time since 1835. We can take Social Security and Medicare out beyond the life of the baby boom generation, so that when those of us in the baby boom generation retire and there are only two people working for every one person eligible for Social Security, we won't bankrupt our children and their ability to raise our grandchildren.

We can get rid of child poverty in this country. We can now afford to give working people a subsidy to buy health insurance and get rid of most of the uninsured people in America who are working for a living and their little kids. We can grow the economy and improve the environment. We can continue to see improvements in our education system, and there have been some substantial turnarounds in the last 4 years nationwide.

We can open the doors of 4 years of college to all Americans by adopting the bill that Senator Schumer and Hillary have so strongly endorsed to let people deduct up to $10,000 a year in their college tuition. We can do big, great things. Yes—the college students clap. [Applause]

We can pass hate crimes legislation and continue to grow together at home, and we can continue to be a force for peace and reconciliation around the world. But it won't happen by accident. As Anthony said, I get tickled— you know, when the other crowd were in, they took credit when the Sun rose in the morning. [Laughter] And everything bad that happened was someone else's fault. Now they say it's just all an accident. We just stumbled through the last 8 years. I only stumbled when I was tired. [Laughter]

So I want you to think about this. I'm glad you came here. I'm glad you gave him your money. I appreciate that. But it's not enough. Almost all of you have more friends who are less interested in politics than you are, than you have friends who are as interested or more interested than you are. Almost all of you have a lot of friends who would never come to an event like this or who at least have never been. And I just want to urge you, in the next 60 days, to try to take a little time everyday for citizenship. Tell people we may never get another chance like this, when there's so much progress at home and the absence of so many threats to us abroad and so much opportunity to do good for our children and our grandchildren, to build the future of our dreams for them. And tell them we can't blow it. Tell them there are real and significant differences between the two parties and the candidates in every race—in the U.S. Senate race in New York and the House race here and certainly in the race for President and Vice President.

And there is evidence here. We've tried it their way; we've tried it our way. You have a track record here. And I think it's really worth some of your time and effort. If you went to the trouble to come here and stand in this hot room because you believe you ought to be here and you believe you ought to support this fine young Congressman, then it is worth some time in the next 60 days to talk to your friends and neighbors who don't come to things like this, who don't normally take the same position you do or activity you do in politics, and try to convince them that you came here for a reason, and they ought to vote with you in November.

I'm telling you, if people believe this election is about building the future of our dreams for our children, he will win; Hillary will win; Al Gore and Joe Lieberman will win; and we will have a great celebration on election night.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6 p.m. at a private residence. In his remarks, he referred to reception hosts Richard Medley and his wife, Maureen A. Murray. Representative Weiner was a candidate for New York's Ninth Congressional District.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Reception for Representative Anthony D. Weiner in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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