Remarks at a Reception for Representative Tom Sawyer in Akron, Ohio
Thank you. Thank you so much for being so enthusiastic. I thank Congressman Sawyer and Joyce and Mayor Plusquellic and Deputy Mayor Jackson. Thank you for helping us get through this today. Bless you. Joel and Susan Hyatt and our wonderful Senators here, Howard Metzenbaum and John Glenn. I'm glad to be here with all of you.
The last two times I've been to Akron, I've been in two of the most interesting buildings I've ever been in. You know, we had the campaign rally in the air dock. Do you remember that? I am sure—it was really good for me. It was calculated both to make me ecstatic and to keep me humble because we were ecstatic that we had 50,000 people there and humbled that the building was 80 percent empty. [Laughter] It was amazing. And this place is magnificent and a great treasure for you. And I'm honored to be here.
I've had a great day today with Tom already. We've been to Inventure Place. And I'm looking forward to coming back when the Inventure Place is open, full of inventions that I can come play with.
As all of you know, I am here in behalf of Tom Sawyer tonight and in behalf of Joel Hyatt and so many others who want to make this country a better place. I have much to be grateful for in the incredible contribution and support that Senator Glenn and Senator Metzenbaum have provided. And I want to thank them, as well.
You know, this is an unusual election. I think that's putting it mildly. [Laughter] I went to Washington 21 months ago with a charge from you to try to change this country, to try to get America into the 21st century able to compete and win, to rebuild the American dream, to help us go through this period of remarkable change in a way that would bring this country and our people out on top, to forge a new partnership between our National Government and our citizens and our businesses, not with the Government pretending to be able to solve all the problems or with the Government sitting on the sidelines but walking hand-in-hand into a brighter and better future.
And I committed to you that I'd try to do three things if you voted for me: I'd try to make the Government work for ordinary Americans again, to reward work and family, to make a serious stab in the fight against crime and our social problems, and to build up the strength of our people; I'd try to bring back the economy, to reduce the deficit and increase jobs and move us forward; I'd try to make the world a more prosperous and a more peaceful place. And I leave it to you to decide how well we've done. But here are the facts, thanks to the leadership of the people on this stage.
We passed the family and medical leave law. It helped almost a million people in this State to take a little time off when they need it. We passed an expansion of Head Start and immunizations for all children under the age of 2 by 1996. We gave tax relief to a half a million Ohio families who have children in the home, work full-time, but are just above the poverty line because we don't think anybody who's working full time and raising their kids should fail and should be in poverty. We think people should succeed as workers and succeed as parents. That's rewarding work and family.
We passed the Brady bill and the crime bill to make a serious assault on crime. And I might say, I want to thank the mayor for his support.
I want to thank the Congressman for his support. And I want you to know that I signed that bill only about 3 weeks ago, and the city of Akron has already received assistance to hire more police officers to go on the street, to lower the crime rate here in Akron because of the crime bill.
And perhaps most important, and thanks in no small part to Tom Sawyer, we have begun to give the American people the kind of educational help they need to develop a system of lifetime learning, so that when places like Akron get hit with what you faced in the 1980's again, we will have a system that will enable people to continuously learn and relearn new skills from the get-go so we will not have to pass through a dark night of despair.
Congressman Sawyer deserves reelection if for no other reason than his contribution to this education Congress. In 1991 he was the principal sponsor of the National Literacy Act. Look what happened in this Congress. We expanded Head Start. We passed the Goals 2000 legislation to establish national education goals but to support grassroots reform because we know he knows, since Joyce is a teacher—[applause]— yes, you can clap for her, she probably deserves more credit than the rest of us do. This is a very important point. For the first time in a long time, the Federal Government recognized that the magic of education occurs in the classroom, between the teacher and the parents and the students. That's what works. And we passed the elementary and secondary education bill which cuts out all kinds of Federal rules and regulations and lets the schools decide how best to spend Federal money to make sure all of our children learn. It is a very important piece of legislation.
We passed legislation to help make our schools safer, to give schools the opportunity to get together with grassroots community leaders and decide what basic values of citizenship and character they want to teach in the school and not run away from that but run toward it to give all of our kids a common foundation of good citizenship. We passed legislation to have every State in the country set up a national system, State by State, of apprenticeships for young people who don't go to college but want to get good jobs. And finally, we made 20 million Americans eligible for lower interest, longer-term college loans so the middle class of this country need never walk away from a college education again. And he was a leader in all that.
On the economy, as I told the Cleveland City Club today, we brought the deficit down, we increased investment in new technologies and in education and training. We've had 4.6 million new jobs. The unemployment rate in Ohio has dropped 1 1/2 percent since I have been President. Ninety percent of those jobs are in the private sector. And this year, here's the real good news, for the first time in a very long time more than half the new jobs coming into the American economy were above the national average in wages, above the national average.
If you look at the world, this is a more prosperous and peaceful place. We passed NAFTA. We negotiated the GATT world trade agreement. We are reaching out to Asia. We are reaching out to Latin America. We took controls off all kinds of exports so we could sell more high-tech products. We are reaching out to the rest of the world. And this is plainly a more peaceful place because of what the United States has been involved in. For the first time since nuclear weapons were developed, no Russian missiles are pointed at the children of Ohio and the United States this year. We are leading the fight for democracy in Haiti, for freedom in the Persian Gulf, for an end to the war in Northern Ireland, and yes, for peace in the Middle East. The United States is making this world a more peaceful place.
We've got a long way to go, folks. And we've got a lot of problems to solve. But this country's in better shape than it was 21 months ago, and you should reward the people who are helping.
Now, here's the real rub. If all this is true, why aren't we happier? What is going on here? I'll tell you one thing, one thing Thomas—I mean, Mark Twain once said that the American people—[laughter]—I started to say Tom Sawyer. Maybe it was Huck Finn. Maybe it was old Jim. [Laughter] But Mark Twain once said, "You know, the American people should never have to see two things, sausages and laws being made." And sometimes I think all we do is concentrate on the negative. And then there are people in this country today who only communicate with us through what is known as attack journalism, unconstrained by the facts, designed to destroy arguments, credibility, to make people more cynical, to get them upset. And to be fair, our opponents have had more time to badmouth than we have had to defend, because we've been working. And when they're not trying to help, they have a lot of free time. [Applause] That's right.
What do they offer? I want you to think about this. When you think about Joel Hyatt and his opponent for the Senate—and you ask John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum if I'm not telling the truth—I want you to think about this, what have they offered? They have offered "No." Right? They all voted against the middle class college loans. They voted against the tax relief to working people. Their leaders tried to beat and mostly voted against the family leave law, the Brady bill. They did everything they could do to kill the crime bill. They said no.
And at the end of this session of Congress— this is important, because they just stepped on things important to our country and to your legislators—they decided that they would kill every living thing they could. Right before they decided that, we did get through John Glenn's procurement bill to change the way the Government buys things. We're going to save hundreds of millions of dollars—no more $500 hammers, no more $50 ashtrays—thanks to Senator Glenn.
But then they decided they would say no. And they brought up the filibuster, which means 41 Senators can kill anything the rest of America wants. They killed campaign finance reform. They killed lobby reform that a freshman Congressman from Ohio, Eric Fingerhut, had so much to do with. He ought to be reelected, if for no other reason than carrying on this courageous fight to reform the lobbying practices in Washington, DC.
They killed all the environmental legislation. They even killed the Superfund bill. You know, the Superfund bill, folks, is designed to clean up toxic waste dumps. I want you to listen to this. You think about this every time you think about Joel Hyatt and his opponent between now and election day, his opponent who said he can't wait to get up there and get in with that crowd so he can stop things, too. Now, the Superfund bill was supported by the chemical companies, by the labor unions, and the Sierra Club. They've never been for anything together before. [Laughter] You could not get that crowd to agree on when the Sun's coming up tomorrow morning. But they were for this. As a matter of fact, no one in America was against the Superfund bill except more than 40 Republican Senators. And why were they against it? Because they would have rather left the poison in the ground than let Tom Sawyer come home to Akron and tell you he helped to clean it up. That is wrong, and we should stop it. That is wrong.
And if you don't like what they did to kill campaign finance reform, lobby reform, the Superfund bill, all the other environmental legislation, you have a way to send the message. You can send Tom Sawyer back to the House, and you can send Joel Hyatt to the United States Senate. And you will tell the American people that Ohio wants things to be done, not things to be stopped.
Now let me just say this. Today in Cleveland, I had the opportunity to engage a Member of the House of the other party and his administrative assistant, who apparently by lottery out of hundreds of people drew questions one and two to get to ask me—[laughter]—and it was fine, but they wanted to talk about their contract for America and to complain that I had called it a contract on America. And they said, "Well, there are things in this contract that you like. You're for the line-item veto." And I am. "You're for welfare reform." I am; I sent legislation to Congress in March to change the whole welfare system and move people from welfare to work. "You're for giving more tax relief to the middle class. You're for shrinking the Government. Why aren't you for our contract?" I want you to know why. That was a very clever question they asked. They took all the popular things out of their contract. But what their contract does is to promise a huge tax cut, a big defense increase, an increase in Star Wars, and a balanced budget. And when I said, "Well, how are you all going to pay for this?" They said, "Well, we'll tell you that after the election." [Laughter]
It's a trillion dollar promise they've made. And it sounds familiar, doesn't it? "Vote for me. I'll cut your taxes, raise spending, and balance the budget, with no consequences." We tried that once. It didn't work out too well.
You know what it means. It means we're going to explode the deficit after we got it down, coming down 3 years in a row for the first time since Truman was President. It means that we are going to ship our jobs overseas. It means we're going to have to gut a lot of programs. They specifically call for cutting the college loan program 3 years in a row, when we need more kids going to college, not fewer. This is a bad idea, this contract. This is a bad idea.
So what is going on? We don't want to go back. We need to go forward. We don't want to reward the blame crowd. We want to reward the crowd that wants to take responsibility for this country. We want to reward people that want to empower Americans, not people that want to grab power by telling us what we want to hear. Shoot, I'd like to promise you a trillion dollars' worth of stuff. It's 2 weeks before the election. I mean, we could have a good time on a trillion dollars worth of hot checks. [Laughter] But it would be wrong. She would pay the bill. We would set up the risk of setting us right back where we were in the trickledown eighties. It would be wrong. You need to think about this in terms of what you do between now and the election for Senator and Congressman.
You know, if Tom Sawyer were a Republican running for reelection and he had voted— [laughter]—now, listen, this is serious because you—we're preaching to the saved here; you've got to go out and convert—[laughter]—so you need to listen to this. If he were a Republican running for reelection who had voted to reduce the Federal Government to its smallest size since Kennedy was President, to give us 3 years of deficit reduction for the first time since Truman was President, for the toughest crime bill in the history of the country, and for economic policies that literally exploded the economy and drove down unemployment in Akron and throughout Ohio, the Republican Party would be building a statue to him and saying no one should run against him. That's what they should be doing anyway because that's what he voted for. Now, that's the truth.
So what is all this rhetoric? It's just a bunch of stuff. But if you talk loud enough, long enough, and people are upset enough, maybe it gets across. I want you to think about this. This is the last point I want to make, because I want you to do something besides stand here and cheer me. I like that, and it's a new experience for me, having been in Washington— [laughter]—but that's not what I want you to do. I want you to think about all your friends and neighbors in Ohio who don't have their minds made up or even think maybe they're going to vote against the Congressmen or not vote for Joel or anybody else you know in these other districts, like young Mr. Fingerhut who has done so much.
I want you to think about this. I got to thinking, what's my job like today, and is it like any job I ever held before? And I thought, well, you know, I've done a lot of things for a living. I mean, from the time I was a little kid, I've worked in a grocery store; I had a wholesale comic book business; I've mowed lawns, cleared land, built houses. I mean, I've done a lot of different things. I was a Governor. And I thought, well, maybe it's like being a Governor, but it's not really. The job that I think I should be doing now that is most like what I've done before was something I didn't make money for. It was when I was in junior and senior high school. When I was in little clubs, we would raise money by doing car washes. And I was the guy that liked to clean the windshield. That's about what I need to do today.
You think about that. If you're driving a car and the windshield is real dirty, it could be sunshine outside and you'd think it was about to storm. It could be clear way ahead, and you would think that there are all kind of obstacles in the way. Or there could be a real obstacle in the way, and you'd run smack dab into it because you couldn't see it. That's where we are in America today. We need to clean the windshield off. We need to turn the lights on in this country. This is a very great country, and we are moving in the right direction. And we need to reward that, not punish it. And that's what you need to do. That's what you need to do.
So I want you to think about that. And I want you to clean the windows for Tom Sawyer and clean the windows for Joel Hyatt. Most importantly of all, clean the windows for your fellow Ohioans and your fellow Americans. You cannot blame people for being torn up and upset. Look at how they get their information and what they hear. Go out and find people that you know and tell them to take a deep breath. Tell them a joke; buy them a cup of coffee; get them to where they think. And remember that even parents don't let their children make decisions when they are angry. You almost always make a mistake. And imagine that between now and November 8th, everybody you see is an opportunity for you to clean the windshield and turn the lights on. America deserves it, and so do you.
Thank you, and God bless you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 6:05 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theater. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic and Deputy Mayor for Intergovernmental Relations Dorothy Jackson of Akron, and Representative Martin R. Hoke.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Reception for Representative Tom Sawyer in Akron, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/217801