Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Reception for Senatorial Candidate John Edwards in Raleigh, North Carolina

July 30, 1998

Thank you very much. Thank you for being here. Thank you for waiting. Thank you for enduring the heat. I'll tell the Vice President 100 percent of the people in this crowd believe there is global warming now. [Laughter] Thank you so much.

I'd like to thank all the young people who provided our music over there. [Inaudible]— thank you very much. I'd like to thank the Lieutenant Governor, your Education Commissioner, and the other officials who are here; my old friend Dan Blue; my former Ambassador Jeanette Hyde and Wallace are here. Barbara Allen, your State chair, thank you very much. I saw Sheriff Baker here. I thank him for being here. I think every county ought to have a sheriff that's 9 feet tall. I wish I could find one everywhere.

I want to thank my good friend Erskine Bowles for coming home to North Carolina with me. You should know that on October 1st, when we have that balanced budget and surplus for the first time in so many years, there is no single person in America more responsible for the first balanced budget in a generation than Erskine Bowles. And it's a good thing for this country, and I appreciate it.

I thank my great friend Jim Hunt. We've been friends for 20 years now, a long time before some of you were born. And we've been out here working to try to improve education and move our country forward, move our States forward.

I want to thank Margaret Rose Sanford, Mrs. Terry Sanford, for being here tonight. Thank you for coming. But most of all, I want to thank John Edwards and his wife and his children for this race for the Senate.

You know, it's just a commonplace today that you can't beat a Republican incumbent running for the Senate because they have all the money—and that's why campaign finance reform never passes, I might add. [Laughter] And so times are good; people are happy; your opponent has money, he's already in; therefore, you can't win.

And John Edwards said, "I don't think so. I think we can do better." And I appreciate and respect that. I also want to thank them for giving up their anniversary dinner to come here and be with us. [Laughter] I'm not going to talk that long. It will still be open when we finish tonight. [Laughter]

I want to make a couple of brief points. It's hot, and you've heard it all. I feel like the guy that got up to the banquet and said, "Everything that needs to be said has already been said, but not everyone has said it yet, so you all sit tight." [Laughter] I'll be very brief.

First, I bring you greetings from the Vice President and the First Lady, who wish they could be here tonight. We want to thank the people in North Carolina who have been our friends since 1992, who stayed with us every step of the way, who believed in us when we were often under attack.

Here are the points I want to make, and they all bear on this race for the Senate. Number one: We came to office in 1992 carried by people who believed our country could do better if we had not only new leadership but new ideas. We not only had the right people, I believe we did the right things. We said, "We want a Democratic Party based on the old virtues of opportunity, responsibility, and community, but with new ideas for the 21st century."

Five and a half years later, we have the lowest unemployment rate in 28 years, the lowest crime rate in 25 years, the lowest welfare rolls in 29 years, the first balanced budget in 29 years, the lowest inflation in 32 years, the highest homeownership in American history, with the smallest Federal Government in 35 years, since John Kennedy was the President of the United States.

There were fights over these ideas. When we passed the budget in 1993 that reduced the deficit by over 90 percent, not a single member of the other party was with us. When we passed the crime bill to put 100,000 police officers on the street, which officers had been begging for—I just left Bristol, Tennessee, the airport, all these law enforcement officers standing there in east Tennessee, saying, "Thank you very much for still helping us to keep our community safe"—very few members of the other party were there. When we passed the family and medical leave bill that's allowed 12 1/2 million people to get a little time off from work when they've got a new baby or a sick parent, most of the people in the other party opposed us.

It was the Democratic Party that said, "Yes, balance the budget, but give 5 million poor children health insurance. Give a HOPE scholarship to make the first 2 years of college free for virtually all Americans; increase those Pell grants; increase those work-study funds; give tax deductibility for the interest rates on student loans. Let's make college universal for everybody who is willing to work for it." That was our party's legacy.

It was the Democratic Party that said, "We can grow the economy and improve the environment; we can't afford to do the reverse." And against often relentless odds, I can tell you today, compared to 6 years ago, we not only have more new jobs, we have cleaner air, cleaner water, safer food, fewer toxic waste dumps, the most land set aside for eternal preservation since the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. We are moving this country in the right direction.

I love John Edwards' idea for the way to conduct a Senate campaign. I'm convinced that one of the few reasons that I am President today is that when I went to New Hampshire in 1992, a State with fewer than a million people, with the first election, I just started having open townhall meetings—said, "Folks, come on in here. We're going to talk." And I'd talk 5 or 6 minutes, and they would ask questions for an hour or two. And pretty soon the word got around. This is a little State, keep in mind. So I went to a place, and they said, "Bill, if you get 50 people it's an acceptable crowd. If you get 150 people, it's a huge crowd." There were 400 people who showed up. Why? Because they wanted to participate in their democracy. John Edwards is trying to give this Senate race and this Senate seat back to you, and I hope that his opponent will accept his offer.

Here's the second point I want to make. Here's why you ought to be for him: Most people, when times are good, especially if times have been bad, want to take a breather. They want to say, "Oh, everything is fine in America today"—it's in my self-interest to say that. So people say, "Oh, everything is fine. Let's just relax and kick back and kick off our shoes," and "It's a hot summer. We'll drink lemonade and leave them all in."

But let me tell you, those of you who study what's going on know that the world is changing very fast still, every day. The way we work, the way we live, the way we learn, the way we relate to the rest of the world, it's changing. We cannot afford to sit back. We have to bear down. Pretty soon us baby boomers will retire, and we don't want to bankrupt our kids and our grandkids. That's why I say—and John Edwards says—don't you dare spend that surplus until we save the Social Security system for the next generation.

We have already 160 million Americans in HMO's and other managed care plans. We say, "Okay, manage the care; save the money. But don't turn people away from an emergency room. Don't turn people away from a specialist. Don't have an accountant making a decision a doctor should make with a patient to save lives and guarantee quality health care." That's what the Patients' Bill of Rights is all about.

We say America has the finest system of college education in the world, and most of our public schools are doing a good job. But nobody believes every American child has the finest elementary and secondary education in the world. So let's keep working until they do, with smaller classes in the early grades; hooking up all the schools, even the poorest, to the Internet; giving kids the chance to have opportunities in the summer and after school if they need it to learn more. In other words, let's make a commitment that our elementary and high school education will be world-class for everybody, just like college education is. That's my commitment, and that's his.

And so, I have never given a speech in a cool room in North Carolina. [Laughter] And I tell you, you got my blood running strong. You make me feel good. I can't wait to go home and tell about it. But don't you forget, this good man and his family, here before you on their 21st anniversary, defied all the conventional wisdom along with the good people that ran in the primary with him, and they said, "We can do better. Just because America's doing well, just because North Carolina's doing well, we have to think about the long-term challenges."

Folks, when times are good, that's the time to repair the house; that's the time to prepare for the future; that's the time to build on the confidence you have. You stay with him and bring him home to the United States Senate, and we'll build a stronger America together for the 21st century.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:35 p.m. in the Governor W. Kerr Scott Building at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. In his remarks, he referred to Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker of North Carolina; Lynda McCulloch, State education commissioner; State Representative Dan Blue; Jeanette Hyde, former Ambassador to Barbados, and her husband, Wallace; Barbara Allen, State Democratic Party chair; Sheriff John Baker of Wake County; Gov. James B. Hunt, Jr., of North Carolina; Margaret Rose Sanford, wife of former Gov. Terry Sanford; and Elizabeth Edwards, wife of candidate John Edwards.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Reception for Senatorial Candidate John Edwards in Raleigh, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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