Remarks to the Americans with Disabilities Act Roundtable
Thank you very much. Secretary Rubin, Attorney General Reno, to the distinguished members of this panel, Senator Harkin and Congressman Hoyer, Chairman Coelho, Dr. Hitt, Gil Casellas, Marca Bristo, the members of the administration who are here—I see Reed Hundt and Patsy Fleming out there—I thank all of you for being here to celebrate this fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Five years ago, when the ADA became law, we became the first nation in the world to commit ourselves to equal rights and equal opportunities for all citizens with disabilities. Because of the ADA, our country is stronger today. Our fellow citizens are being judged by their ability to contribute, not by their disabilities. Now all of you and millions of others all across this country have an opportunity they never had before to make the most of their own lives.
That opportunity is critical to what we have to do as a nation to meet the great challenges we face and to move forward into the next century. In many ways, the ADA is the perfect example of what I mean when I talk about our job is to create more opportunity and demand more responsibility from all of our citizens.
The ADA has meant more opportunity for 49 million Americans with disabilities to do their part to make us a stronger and better country. It has meant that more people can go to work and participate in community life and do things that most Americans take for granted, like helping to take care of their families or getting a good education or registering and voting. It's also a perfect example of what I have meant in recent weeks when I have urged the American people to come together to find common ground in order to move forward together as a nation.
That was true across party lines. Members of both parties, including three who are here today, Senator Harkin, Representative Hoyer, and former Congressman Tony Coelho, fought for the ADA in the Congress. And President Bush signed it into law. The ADA became law because Americans, like so many of you, worked together in the best interest of everyone, putting party behind country. There was a realization that the best way to keep our country moving forward was to allow every American, regardless of whether he or she used a wheelchair, was blind, had a mental disability, or was HIV-positive, to live up to his or her God-given potential.
And today, even as we celebrate the rights gained under the ADA, the budget cuts proposed by the congressional majority would sharply reduce the services and the supports that enable people to effectively exercise the rights granted by the ADA. Under the proposed cuts, States would be forced to drop 1.4 million people with disabilities from Medicaid rolls, and 4 million disabled Americans on Medicare would have to pay more every year for the same health care. They also have proposed eliminating funds for training special education teachers.
Now, we have to join together to maintain our commitment and our common ground. I will vigorously implement and enforce the ADA through the Cabinet and the administration. We will not allow Americans with disabilities to be kept from realizing their dreams by closed doors or narrowed minds.
We should also celebrate, all of us, this fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the best way possible: By all, each of us, rededicating ourselves to creating a society of equal access and equal rights for all. That is the best kind of affirmative action for all the American people.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:22 a.m. in the Cash Room at the Treasury Department. In his remarks, he referred to Tony Coelho, Chair, President's Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities; R. Scott Hitt, Chair, Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS; Gilbert F. Casellas, Chairman, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Marca Bristo, Chair, National Council on Disability; Reed F. Hundt, Chair, Federal Communications Commission; and Patricia S. Fleming, Director of National AIDS Policy.
William J. Clinton, Remarks to the Americans with Disabilities Act Roundtable Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/221972