Remarks at a Reception for Senator Barbara Boxer in San Francisco, California
The President. Thank you very much. First, let me say that I'm not sure it evidences good judgment to try to follow Barbara and Hillary to the microphone. [Laughter] But they certainly did a good job, and I enjoyed listening to them. Let me also thank, before I go too far, the San Raphael High School Advanced Jazz Band. They did a great job, and thank you all for playing.
I thank our State Democratic chair, Art Torres, for being here, and all the candidates and officeholders who have come to support Barbara. When I was listening to Senator Boxer and the First Lady talk, and I was watching you listen to them talk, I said to myself, "Well, all these people are for her anyway." [Laughter] "So what should I say that would help them get other people to be for her?" And that's what Hillary was trying to do.
Why should a farmer in the San Joaquin Valley vote for this not very tall sparkplug from Northern California who is supposed to be so liberal? [Laughter] Why should a businessman in the Silicon Valley? Why should a woman running a small tourist inn in the redwood forest? Why should someone struggling to make ends meet in Los Angeles? Why should someone in San Diego worried about whether there's too much pollution or illegal immigration or whatever on the border? Why should everybody else vote for her, people that aren't here today? That's the case you have to make, you know.
And if you think about the nature of our political debates and the nature of the way the political parties behave in Washington and what our administration has tried to do, I think it really comes down to whether you want progress or politics to dominate the national arena.
Barbara said some of this, and at the risk of being self-serving—I don't want to be—but I want to read this to you, because when I came to you in California in 1991 and '92, I said, "Look, you guys are having a tough time out here, and I know this is the biggest State in the country and my distinguished opponent says I'm just a Governor from a small Southern State, but I've got a few ideas about how we ought to do things differently moving towards the 21st century. And we've got to break out of this crazy, highly partisan divisive debate we've got and start putting people first and start thinking about the future to create a 21st century America where there's opportunity for everybody who's responsible enough to work for it; where we're coming together as a community, respecting our diversity, and still valuing our unity, instead of being divided and weakened by it; and where we're committed to preserving America's leadership in the world for peace, and freedom, and prosperity. And I have some ideas about how to do that."
Well, 5 1/2 years later, unemployment in California has dropped by almost 50 percent. Senator Boxer said some of this, but I want to say it again, not for me, but for her. Listen now. This country has the lowest crime rate in 25 years. It has the lowest unemployment rate in 28 years and 16 million new jobs. It has the lowest welfare roll, as a percentage of the population, in 29 years. We're about to have the first balanced budget and surplus in 29 years, and it will be, in dollar terms, the biggest one we've ever had. We're going to have—we've got the lowest inflation in 32 years, the smallest Federal Government in 35 years, and the highest rate of homeownership in the history of the United States of America. That is the reality.
Now, in addition to that, I'm very proud of the fact that we have the lowest rate of African-American unemployment ever recorded, the highest rate of Hispanic business ownership ever recorded, dramatic increases in the number of Asian-owned and other minority-owned businesses, a tripling of Federal Government assistance to women-owned businesses, an increase— excuse me, a big decrease in inequality among working people for the first time in over 20 years, 2.2 million children taken out of poverty, 5 million kids getting health insurance who wouldn't have otherwise have gotten it. We've opened the doors to college to virtually all Americans now with the tax credits, the scholarships, the work-study programs. We have done a lot of good things together because we put old-time politics aside and put people first.
Now, we had to take on a lot of interest groups. We made a lot of people mad when we said tobacco is the number one public health problem in America; we're going to try to do something to keep kids alive. And they're still trying to stop us from doing it and putting out a lot of interesting misinformation in ad campaigns all across America. But every year, more people die from tobacco-related illnesses than accidents, murders, AIDS, cancer, combined, and a bunch of other stuff, too.
We said, "Look, if we're ever going to get the crime rate down in this country, we've got to quit talking tough on crime and do something that is both smart and tough." So we put 100,000 police on the street. We took assault weapons off the street, insofar as we could legally. We passed the Brady bill and kept hundreds of thousands of people who had criminal records from getting guns. And basically, the other side opposed us. The House of Representatives just put out a budget which would terminate the 100,000 police program, one of the most successful programs in the history of the United States of America in lowering the crime rate.
So here's what I want to say to you. You have to go out and say, "Look, whether you're a Republican or independent or a Democrat, whether you want to vote for a 7-foot tall man or a 4-foot 10-inch woman"—[laughter]——
Senator Boxer. Eleven!
The President. Eleven. [Laughter] Whether you're a—whatever your ethnic background, whatever you bring to this race, California is beginning to work; America is beginning to work; and this is not unrelated to the ideas. Nevermind the charisma or whether I give a good speech or Barbara looks beautiful up here and makes you feel good about all the energy and conviction she has, the country is moving forward because it is on a course that makes sense. And we should not change that course; we should speed that course up.
I was glad to make the announcement that Barbara has been beating up on me for over 2 years to make today. We not only extended the moratorium on offshore drilling for another decade, we made it permanent in certain precious sanctuary areas so there can never be any drilling there.
But what we want to do—we need to do more than that. We need to do more to try to make sure we can continue fishing without catching so many other unrelated fish in the nets that we're destroying the ecostructure. We need to do more research to see how we can reverse some of this pollution. We need to do a lot more to stop the pollution of the ocean from the land, because a lot of it is occurring from the land. We need to do more exploration. We now know more about the Moon than we do the ocean depths, and it's only 7 miles down to the ocean depths—long way underwater, isn't it? [Laughter] We've got a lot of things to do that directly affect how our children and grandchildren will live. You heard Barbara talking about some of them.
We now have dramatically expanded preschool education, and we've made access to college virtually universal. But no one believes that our public schools, K through 12, are as good as they ought to be. California is doing a very good job, I think, now—the people of California and the grassroots movement—with things like the charter school movement. There was one charter school in America when I became President. When I started talking about them, most people thought that it had something to do with teaching people to draw maps. [Laughter] And our budget would take us up to over 3,000 over the next 4 years.
Our budget would make sure we finish the work of connecting every school, classroom, and library to the Internet by the year 2000. Our budget would give communities enough funds to build or rehabilitate 5,000 schools so we can have smaller classes, when we put the 100,000 teachers in, that work.
Our budget attempts to fund an initiative, along with some of the other legislation we have, to make our schools even safer, to deal with these horrible instances we've all had our hearts broken about in the last few months in our schools and other things that aren't so severe but are still very troubling, by not only dealing harshly with people who do wrong but by trying to prevent these things from happening in the first place. And we know that there are certain early warnings that come out in a lot of these instances that our schools are not organized to deal with, that our parents sometimes are not even attuned to.
We also know that if we had children who are from difficult backgrounds, who live in difficult neighborhoods, in and around the school more hours a day, they would get in less trouble. Our budget provides, as Barbara Boxer said, for a huge increase in after-school programs and summer school programs.
Let me just tell you one story. Hillary is from Chicago, and she will tell you that when we were serving in Arkansas, most people thought the Chicago schools were the worst big-city schools in America. And they had a strike there every year whether they needed to or not. [Laughter] They're not known for their teacher strikes anymore. They're known for their parent councils in every school. They're known for the fact that they have tens of thousands of children who now get three meals a day in the school. They're known for the fact that their summer school—they have mandatory summer school for people who don't score at a certain level from grade to grade. Their summer school is now the sixth biggest school district in the entire United States of America. And guess what? Juvenile crime has dropped through the floor, because they're taking care of kids and giving them something positive to live for and building them up. And that's what we want to do.
We have a lot of other things to do in the environmental area. We have a lot of other things to do in the health care area. This health care bill of rights, I heard you cheering for Barbara when she talked about that. I'm telling you, every hour in America—and I say that as somebody who has not been opposed to the managed care movement in principle. We couldn't have continued the way we were going, where inflation in health care was going up at 3 times the rate of inflation and income in America; that was unsustainable. But we can't continue the direction we're going now, where the only thing that controls health care decisions for people in HMO's is too often the bottom line. That is crazy. We cannot allow it, and we need a health care bill of rights to protect patients, to protect people, to make sure they get the care they need. You can have good management and still put quality health care first.
So there's a huge agenda out there. What I want you to go out there and say to your friends and neighbors and fellow Californians, who have been so good to me and the First Lady and the Vice President, is, "Look where we are now. Look where we were in 1992. Don't just look even at the budget surplus or the economy; look at all these things."
Ideas drive action and get results, good or bad. Now, we all have things happen that are beyond our control, and I don't claim full credit for every good thing that's happened in America. You and the other American people deserve most of the credit. You get up and lead your lives every day, and you've done things that make sense and do good. But you know as well as I do that we wouldn't have elections and give people authority to make decisions if the decisions didn't amount to anything. It matters.
So the first thing I want you to say to somebody who says, "Well, I'm too conservative to vote for Barbara Boxer," or, "I'm a Republican," or "I'm this," say, "Look, you're a Californian. You're an American. Look where you are now. Look where you were then. Their ideas were right. They put them in; they had good consequences. And they've got good ideas for the future. This is about progress over politics."
Then you ought to talk about these things that Barbara talked about for the future and ask people to vote as American citizens in this election, for their children and their grandchildren. And if you do that, she will have a great victory, California will have a great victory, and it will certainly be the right thing for America.
Thank you, and God bless you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 5:10 p.m. at the Fairmont Hotel.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Reception for Senator Barbara Boxer in San Francisco, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/226324