Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in Springfield, Massachusetts

November 03, 1996

Thank you. Well, hello, Springfield! Thank you. Thank you for this wonderful, wonderful welcome. Thank you for being here in such large numbers—I can't even see the end of the crowd back there. Thank you for being here in such high spirits. I thank especially all the young people that are here tonight. This election is about you.

My fellow Americans, it's a great honor for me to be here in this State which has been so good to me and to our administration, a State which has given so much to our Nation. I have wanted to come here to this spot for a long time, and now that I see you here I don't know why it took me so long. I'm glad to be here.

Thank you, Mayor Albano, for making me feel so welcome. Thank you, Shannon O'Brien, for your remarks. Thank you, Congressman Kennedy, for warming up the crowd and for your support and your leadership. Thank you, Congressman Olver, and thank you, Congressman Neal. All three of these Members of Congress from Massachusetts stood up for America when the Government was shut down and the future of America was on the line and we were being asked to choose. We stood for your future and refused, refused to give in to the blackmail of this Congress, and they deserve your thanks forever. Thank you.

I want to thank all those who have performed here tonight: the West Springfield High School Band, the Pottenger School Children's Choir— they're here somewhere—and the Minutemen Marching Band. Thank you. I must say, this is the best sound effects I've ever seen. If I had another plane I'd just take them with me for the rest of the day.

I want to thank Senator Ted Kennedy for so many things. But you will never know what it was like these last 2 years, how close we came over and over again to having some people lose hard and give in, having some people give up on raising the minimum wage, having some people give up on finally saying that you can't lose your health insurance just because you changed jobs or somebody in your family's been sick, that we would give up on passing a law that says we're not going to let insurance companies kick women and newborn babies out of hospitals after 24 hours anymore. But Ted Kennedy never gave up. He never gave up, and he prevailed.

And thank you, John Kerry, for waging this long, courageous campaign many times against the odds, never giving up. Thank you for being a voice in Washington, for preserving our environment when it was out of fashion. Thank you for helping me to keep putting 100,000 police on the street when the Congress tried to stop us and we wanted a safe future for our children. Thank you for fighting a long and lonely battle for campaign finance reform. Long before it was popular you were there, and you will get everlasting credit when it becomes the law of the land next year. Thank you, John Kerry. And thank you for sponsoring our legislation to open the doors of college education to every single American. Thank you.

My fellow Americans, 4 years ago when Massachusetts gave me an enormous support and sent Al Gore and me to Washington to work for you, I had come to you and said we had to get our country moving, we had to change the politics of Washington, we had to stop the politics of insults and get to the politics of issues. We had to get away from the politics of division and embrace the politics of unity. We had to stop pointing our fingers at each other and ask what can we do together to get this country going in the right direction. You gave me the chance, and I came here to say thank you. Thank you for doing that.

Four years ago, amid a time of high unemployment, rising crime, rising frustration, and increasing division, you took a chance on me. You took me on faith, and you did not know. You've heard all these debates about where we stand and where they stand tonight. But there's one thing that hasn't been emphasized. We now have some evidence about which side is right. When I became President, the unemployment rate in Massachusetts was 7 1/2 percent. Tonight it is 4.2 percent.

Incomes are rising for the first time in a decade. Inequality—inequality among people who are working has gone down by the largest amount in 27 years. We have the lowest rates of poverty among senior citizens ever recorded. We have 10.7 million new jobs, record new businesses, record new exports. The United States is number one in auto production again for the first time since the 1970's. We are moving in the right direction.

The crime rate has come down for 4 years in a row. We have the lowest crime rate in 10 years. The welfare rolls have dropped for 4 years in a row as nearly 2 million Americans have found their way to work and greater dignity. Child support collections are up 50 percent—$4 billion a year for the children of this country.

We have worked hard to change the course of America and bring America together. And we have been a force for peace and freedom in the world, from the Middle East to Bosnia to Northern Ireland. And there are no Russian missiles pointed at any American children tonight for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age. We are moving in the right direction.

You know all the issues, but let me say to you that we are moving, at a time of great change, into a new world that we can't fully understand. We know that the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed back at a rapid rate. We know we are changing the way we work and live and relate to the rest of the world. When I became President, there were 3 million Americans working full-time and living at home and working at home. Today, 4 years later, there are 12 million Americans doing it. And 4 years from now, there will be 30 million Americans doing it.

When I became President, there was no known cure for stroke. Today, we have treatment for stroke because of medical research, for the first time ever. And two of the genes that cause breast cancer have been uncovered; we may be able to cure it. We are developing a supercomputer that will do more calculations in a second than you can go home tonight and do on your hand-held calculator in 30,000 years. The world is changing, my fellow Americans, and we had better make the right decisions about how to respond to that change.

There is too much personal negative attack in politics and too little analysis of what the basis of our differences are. Every issue that Congressman Olver, Congressman Neal, Senator Kennedy, Senator Kerry, and Congressman Kennedy mentioned—every one can be distilled into this: I believe that there are some things that we must do together as a nation to help give each other the chance to make the most of our own lives—not a guarantee but a chance. They believe you're better off on your own. That's what their budget was all about. And now you have to decide.

If their budget were the law of the land tonight, we would have had reductions in Medicare, cuts 3 times as great as those that were necessary to preserve the Medicare Trust Fund. It would have cost our seniors, no matter how poor, $268 more a year, plus more in out-ofpocket costs over and above that. We would have had the first cuts in student loans and Head Start in modern history. We would have had the first cuts in the Medicaid guarantee of health care to poor children, to middle class families who have family members with disabilities. Even they would have repealed the standards of quality care for seniors in nursing homes. We would have paralyzed the ability of our Government to protect the environment. We would have, in short, divided our country.

But they believe that that was right because they believe we're better off on our own. And you have to decide. They shut the Government down, not once but twice, to force these cuts on the American people. And because these Members of Congress stood with me, they said, "Oh, you Democrats will cave in; you're miserable when the Government is shut down." I said, "This is not about Government; it's about people. I'd rather see the American people inconvenienced for 30 days than irreparably damaged for 30 years. We will not give in to your cuts and your approach."

So now you have to decide about tomorrow, for this election is about tomorrow. This is an election of enormous moment, with great consequences and clear choices. You should all be happy that the choices are as clear as they are. I am well aware that I am not solely responsible for the fact that we have 10.7 million more jobs. But we did our part. We cut the deficit by 63 percent. We invested in education. We expanded the ability of Americans to sell their products around the world. And we did other things to grow the economy. That's why we have those 10.7 million more jobs. We did it together. I want us to do more together. We're not better off on our own. It takes a village to raise a child and build a country and build a future.

So you have to decide whether we will continue our work to balance the budget and protect the medical programs that our seniors, our people with disabilities, our poorest children depend upon; continue to invest in education, in the environment, and technology; and target our tax cuts to people who need them for purposes that are needed, education and childrearing and buying a first home and dealing with a medical cost—or whether we will adopt their scheme, which will blow a hole in the deficit, require bigger cuts than the ones I vetoed, and send the economy of this State into a tailspin. Will you stand with us to build America's future and build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]

You have to decide whether we were right to say people shouldn't lose their jobs if they have to take a little time off when a baby is born or a family member is sick and whether we shouldn't expand the family leave law to say people should be able to get a little time off to go visit their children's teachers and take their family members to the doctor. Will you help us do that? [Applause]

You have to decide whether we're going to clean up 500 more toxic waste sites. You have to decide whether we're going to really implement welfare reform in the right way. It's all very well to say people have to turn a welfare check into a paycheck. I'm for that, but I want the jobs to be there. You can't make people go to work unless there's a job. We have a plan to move a million people from welfare to work. Will you help us implement it and build that bridge? [Applause]

You have to decide whether we were right or they were when we passed the Brady bill and kept 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers from getting handguns. And now people who beat up their spouses and their kids won't be able to get them either. You have to decide if we were right. You have to decide whether you want us to finish the job of putting 100,000 police on the street or let them take away the police that are still to be placed. Why in the world they want to do that I don't know, but they do. You have to decide.

And more than anything else, you have to decide where we're going in the issues that will affect whether we can grow together. We did pass health care reform, but our balanced budget plan would give insurance to families who are between jobs for 6 months, would insure another million children, would give free mammograms to women on Medicare, would give respite care to the nearly 2 million American families caring courageously for a family member with Alzheimer's—all paid for. You get it in our balanced budget plan. They cannot do it. You have to decide. Shouldn't we do more to bring the American people together and help our families to succeed at work and at home? [Applause]

And you have to decide, more than anything else, you have to decide—and this is not just a matter of this cheering crowd. Remember the changes I described in the beginning. Education will no longer be just the province of youth. It will be the work of a lifetime. It will become a part of everyone's work life. We will have to learn and learn and learn. And we must begin to create an education system for the 21st century that gives every American child and every American adult the finest educational opportunities in the world. We cannot do it with their approach. They want to abolish the Department of Education. I want to give you world-class education, and you have to decide. You have to decide.

Thanks to Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry and others, we got 200,000 more workstudy positions for college students in this last budget. Here's what I want to do with half of those. And I want to ask you college students that have been cheering tonight, I want to ask you to help me. We have improved the student loan program. We've given 70,000 of our young people a chance to serve in AmeriCorps in their communities and earn their way to college. We have increased Pell grants by the largest amount in 20 years. But we must do more.

But we have to start with our young children. Do you know that 40 percent of the kids in this country can still not read a book on their own by the age of 8? It may be because we have so many people whose first language is not English. But that will be cold comfort to them as they move through school and fail to learn. I have a plan to mobilize a million volunteers to go into all the land to help parents and teachers teach our children to read. And I want 100,000 of those work-study slots to go to college students who will earn work-study by teaching children to read. Will you help do that? Will you be one of them? [Applause] By the year 2000, I want every 8-year-old in America to be able to pick up a book and say, "I can read this all by myself." Will you help us do it? [Applause]

Will you help us hook up every classroom and every library and every school in Massachusetts, the smallest rural school, the poorest inner-city school to the information superhighway so that for the first time in the history of America, every single child—poor, rich, or middle class, urban, rural, or suburban—every child for the first time will have access to the same knowledge in the same way in the same time? We can revolutionize the education of our children. Will you help us do it? [Applause]

Will you help us open the doors of college to all by saying we will give Americans a dollarfor-dollar reduction on their tax bill for the cost of a typical community college tuition so every American of any age can have at least 2 more years of education as universal as high school is today in the next 4 years? Will you help us? [Applause]

Will you help us to give America's families a $10,000 tax deduction a year for the cost of college tuition at any institution of higher education, graduate or undergraduate, in the United States? Will you help us? [Applause]

And most important of all, remember now, you may have your mind made up, but not everybody does. These are the choices at stake. It's not Senator Kerry and his opponent, President Clinton and Bob Dole, Democrats versus Republicans. It has fallen to our party and our administration at this moment in history to represent the idea that America must always put forward at a time of great change. Whenever we go through changes, we have the option to be more divided or more united. Whenever we have gone through changes, we've had the option to try to make sure everyone could prosper so we could move closer to our ideals.

This is not about money. It's about using the resources of America to enable people to live up to their God-given capacities. And you must decide. The great idea is whether we are going to give each other the conditions and tools to give everybody a chance to make the most of their own lives, or whether we will say, "You're on your own." The great idea is whether we will say, "There's the 21st century out there, America's best days, the time of greatest possibility in human history. Yes, there's a big river to ford and a deep valley to go into and a high mountain to climb; I hope you get there." Or would you prefer our approach, where we all roll up our sleeves, without regard to race, religion, gender, you name it, and say, "If you will work hard and do your part, we will together build a bridge to the 21st century wide enough and strong enough to take us to America's best days." Will you do that? [Applause] Will you be there Tuesday? [Applause] Will you be there between now and Tuesday and bring your friends? [Applause]

God bless you. Thank you, Massachusetts. I'll see you Tuesday. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:17 p.m. at the Court Square. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Michael Albano of Springfield and Shannon O'Brien, former Massachusetts State representative and senator.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in Springfield, Massachusetts Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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