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Remarks at a Reception for Representative Loretta Sanchez in Westwood, California

May 03, 1998

The President. Thank you very much. First of all, I'd like to thank Loretta and Stephen and all their families for being here and making this a family affair. I think there are enough relatives in this room—[laughter]—to avoid another recount in a disputed election. [Laughter] And I am here in part because I do not want to go through that again after this next election—and I know you don't either—and I'm sure we will not have to, thanks to you.

You know, when I came here in October— I came to Orange County, to Loretta's district— and we had this huge rally, I was so excited. And I got all my folks together and I said, "I honestly believe that woman is going to win." [Laughter] "And I think if she does win, then she'll win more handily the next time because I think she can do the job." And I'm here to tell you, she is doing the job. I know; I'm there. Loretta Sanchez has come a long way. She was a Head Start child, and now she's working to give all of you a headstart on the 21st century.

I have had so many reasons to be profoundly grateful to the people of California. This State has been so good to me and to my wife and to Vice President Gore and our administration. You have enabled us to serve the American people for 8 years. And it's been a good 8 years, but it's not over yet. I hope the best is yet to come.

I'd like to make just three points very quickly, if I could. Number one, we really did have a different approach. We believed that if you focused on giving opportunity to every responsible citizen and bringing this country together as one community and then trying to see that America leads the world in this new global economy for peace and freedom and prosperity, that we would all do better. And that was a very, very different view than had been taken before.

And so on the economy, for example, which had to be our first order of business, we said yes, we have to balance the budget, but we have to do it in a way that brings our people together and doesn't divide them; that invests in education and health care and the environment and science and technology. And I think it's pretty hard to quarrel with the fact that even though everybody in the opposite party opposed us in 1993—none more loudly than the former Congressman from Loretta's district—[laughter]—we now have a record. The results are there.

We've got the lowest unemployment in 28 years, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest consumer confidence in 30 years, the highest homeownership in the history of our country, the lowest welfare rolls in 27 years, and the lowest crime rates in 24 years.

So the first thing I'd like to say is, it seems to me that if you know that and you have this congressional decision to make, it's a pretty easy decision: she was right, and they were wrong.

The second thing I'd like to say is, even though there are just a few days left in this congressional session—which has been shortened because of the election season and unfortunately altogether too acrimonious to suit me— we still have a lot to do. We have to pass a budget that will be a budget passed for the first time when we have a balanced budget— indeed, a surplus of yet undetermined size— for the first time in 30 years.

Now, there are those who say, "Well, let's spend it." There are those who say, "Let's have a tax cut." My view is, look, we've waited 30 years for this. The economy is coming back because we've been responsible and kept interest rates down and gotten investment going again. Senator Watson and Controller Connell will tell you that California and other States are in better shape economically because the country is doing better.

And yet, we know that we have a lot of longterm problems, the chief of which is making sure that Social Security is reformed but secure when the baby boomers retire. And so I say we should not fool with this surplus until we have resolved how we're going to save Social Security for the 21st century.

Secondly, we all know that we have a lot of work left to do in education. We have a proposal that will raise standards, help schools to be rebuilt or build new schools where they're needed, enable the schools to be hooked up to the Internet by the year 2000, have smaller classes in the early grades. It's an important agenda. It deserves to be considered.

We have a very important piece of legislation to pass—which I still believe we can pass, notwithstanding the acrimony of the last few days— to finally write into law a comprehensive bill that will protect our children from the dangers of tobacco, the single biggest public health problem in the country. Three thousand kids a day start smoking; 1,000 will die earlier because of it. We have a chance to stop that or to dramatically cut it, to cut the problem in half in the next 5 years. I want to do it before the Congress goes home for the election season.

We have a bill before the Congress that will establish a bill of rights for health care consumers. And with more than half of our people in HMO's and related managed care plans, I think that's important. We have a proposal that will allow people who have retired or been forcibly retired before they are eligible to draw Medicare to buy into the Medicare system. I think that's important. We have significant legislation that will expand the availability of child care—quality, affordable child care—to working families. I think that's important. That should be considered.

These are the kinds of things that we're committed to. We've got an IRS reform bill that's been up there for months. We've got a campaign finance reform bill that finally the Democrats and a handful of brave Republicans have forced the House to vote on. And I thank them for that. So we've got a lot to do this year.

And then if you look out beyond this year, what will be dealt with after this next congressional election? What are the long-term problems of the country? Well, I already mentioned one. We have to reform Social Security for the 21st century. That's going to be done in 1999. You want her voting on that?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. We have to decide how we're going to reform Medicare for the 21st century. Same sort of problem. It will hit us earlier. We have about 10 years before we reach a real financial crunch there. There are so many people who would be devastated if they didn't have access to health care as provided under Medicare. She needs to be there voting on that, and you've got to understand that.

We will be nowhere near finished with our work in education. Everybody knows that America has the finest system of higher education in the world. We have the most diverse student body in our history. We've got to make sure we've got the finest system of elementary and secondary education in the world. That's terribly important.

We have this great economy but, you know, there's some neighborhoods in our inner cities that it hasn't reached yet. And I put a program before the Congress to deal with that. We can never be satisfied until every child growing up in this country has an opportunity to participate in this economy that we now celebrate. And we're going to be dealing with that over the next 2 years.

And finally, we are going to continue the work of trying to bring our country together, across all the lines that divide us, to build one America out of citizen service and out of mutual understanding and respect. And we'll have a lot of issues that deal with that. And in the Congress, we can either have a forum for dividing the American people or for bringing us together. And in the end that may be the most important thing of all. You cannot name a single, solitary challenge this country has ever had in 220 years that we haven't done the right thing about when we've been together. And when we've been divided we have gotten in serious trouble, going back to the very beginning.

So for all those reasons, I'm here for Loretta Sanchez. But I'm also here for your children, your grandchildren, and the future of this country in a very new and exciting time.

And finally, in spite of all the newness, let me just say this. If you go back through the history of the country—and I spend a lot of time as President going back and reading about American history, including a lot of periods in American history that most Americans don't pay a lot of attention to, including me when I was a student. [Laughter] I've studied a lot, for example, about what happened to America in the 30 years or so before the Civil War, and in the 40 years after the Civil War and before Theodore Roosevelt became President. And I honestly believe more strongly than I did the day I took office that the promise of this country is limitless, that our best days are before us; but that no matter what new things happen, in every pivotal time we have to do the same old things well.

And you look at every time we faced a challenge; there are three things we've always had to do. We have had to deepen the meaning of freedom. In our age and time, it means not excluding anybody from the full benefits of citizenship. We have to widen the circle of opportunity. In our age and time, it means recognizing that there are lots of people who still are not part of the American dream. And we have to deepen the meaning of our common community. Or in the words of our Founders, we have to keep working to form a more perfect Union.

That is the message that I have tried to bring to Washington. That is the message that our party reflects. That is the message that the election and service of Loretta Sanchez embodies. And as I said, I want you to have an unambiguous celebration this November. I will do whatever I can to make sure it happens, and I want you to do the same.

Thank you, and God bless you. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:41 p.m. at the Westwood Marquis Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Stephen S. Brixey III, husband of Representative Sanchez; former Representative Robert K. Dornan; State Senator Diane E. Watson; and State Controller Kathleen Connell.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Reception for Representative Loretta Sanchez in Westwood, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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