Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to the Community in Denver, Colorado

October 12, 1996

The President. Thank you.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. Thank you very much. Thank you. I must tell you, I have heard a great deal about this magnificent place, but nothing I have heard could have prepared me for how beautiful it is and how beautiful you are. Thank you for being here.

I want to thank the schools who are here, the people who are here from Red Rocks Community College, the people who are here from Red Rocks Elementary School. I want to thank Hazel Miller and the band who entertained us before we came here. They were good. I thank all of those who join me here, those who have spoken and others who are back there: Mrs. Romer, Mrs. Webb, the county commissioners, the legislators, Lieutenant Governor Schoettler, and others.

Let me just say that, first of all, I was profoundly impressed with what Karoline Smith had to say and with the life that she has made for herself. And I thank her for that. Last month the First Lady was here, and Hillary had a chance to visit Red Rocks Community College school-age child care program at the Stevens Elementary School. And I want to say more about this in a minute, but I want you to keep in mind what Karoline said, because whether you believe what she said—or remember the story your county commissioner and candidate for Congress, Betty Miller, said about she and her husband coming from families that didn't own cars and what they made of their lives— I want you to remember these stories because they embody a decision that you have to make about the future of America.

I want to thank Governor Roy Romer for being my friend and being your Governor and being a true inspiration to people all across America who believe in the nobility of public service and the possibility of educational improvement. I thank Mayor Wellington Webb for so many things, for being a great mayor and for—I want to thank him especially for the nice letter he wrote to Senator Dole before he came out here, detailing all the things that we had done together to make Denver a greater city. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I like that.

I want to thank Representative Pat Schroeder for her service to America in the Congress. Thank you. I want to thank David Skaggs for his fight for the environment of our country, for the education of our children, and for standing up with me against the budget that would have divided our country much more than it did when it shut the Government down. Thank you, David Skaggs, for being there when these people needed you.

I want to thank Tom Strickland—I'll say more about him in a minute—but I'm proud to be running on the same ticket as Tom Strickland and David and Betty.

Audience members. Joan!

The President. Joan, I mean—I'm sorry. I heard you.

I want to talk to you now a minute about the stories I asked you. I had all these notes; I'm not going to use them. I want you to think about it. You know, in this great debate we're having here, much more is at stake than whether I become President or Senator Dole does. What is really at stake here is what our country will look like when we start into that new century in a new millennium. It's what our Nation will look like when these children are their parents' age and when their children are their parents' age.

And there are these two different views about how we should go forward. The one view is that the Government is basically the problem in America and you are the solution and you know better than the Government how to do everything. And that makes a lot of sense, except that this is a democracy. The Government is you. It belongs to you.

The other view at one time might have been that most of our problems had to be solved by Government, but we've abandoned that long ago. I wanted to break out of this old debate when I became President and ask Americans to look to the future with common sense and a compassionate heart, to create a future in which there is opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and in which we all have a role to play and a place in this mosaic of America's community. And to me, what we need is a Government that is smaller and less bureaucratic. And we have, by the way, reduced the size of the Government and the burden of its regulations by more than our friends on the other side did in the 12 years they had to do it.

But the difference is, I believe that the Government should be smaller and less bureaucratic, but there are some things that we can do together better than we can do them alone. Sometimes we do them in our work units. Sometimes we do them in our religious institutions. Sometimes we do them in our organizations, our clubs, our charities, our nonprofits. Sometimes we do them in city and county government. Sometimes we do them in the State government. But there are some things that we do better together as a nation; we do. And that's the difference.

I think this is a better country because we made a national commitment to low-cost student loans that are even better and more affordable than they were before. That is not something you could have done on your own.

I believe this is a better country because we gave people like Karoline Smith a chance to move from welfare to education to work, to succeed at home as a parent and in the workplace. I think that's a national obligation. I think we're better.

I think this is a better country because we took action to protect Yellowstone National Park from a gold mine, because I signed a bill just this morning before I flew out here to continue our work to recover and preserve the Florida Everglades, because a few days ago I followed in the steps of Theodore Roosevelt and took Executive action to protect the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. I believe it's a better country because of that.

I believe this is a better country because we have invested more in research, because in the last 4 years we have uncovered two of the genes which cause breast cancer among women and which may permit us not only to cure it but to prevent it in the future. That's something we had to do together, and we did it together.

I believe we're a better country because of the money we put into research in dealing with drugs to help deal with HIV and AIDS, and the life expectancy has more than doubled in just 4 years. We are a better country because of that. We are a better country because of that.

Many of you just heard at the Democratic Convention in Chicago Christopher Reeve's moving address calling for a recommitment to medical research. About the same time, for the very first time ever, a laboratory animal whose spine had been completely severed had movement in its lower limbs because of nerve transplants to the spine from other parts of the body. This is a better country. And if we can do that for people, it will be a much better country. And you can't do that by yourself; we have to do that together. We're a better country because of that.

So this election is whether we're going to build a bridge to the future that we can all walk across together, or we're all going to try to build our separate little bridges. This election is whether we are better off saying you're on your own and anybody you elect to office immediately becomes your enemy and a big part of the problem, or whether you think my wife was right, it does take a village to build a country and bring us together and go forward.

It is true, as Tom Strickland said, that we're better off than we were 4 years ago. And I'm grateful for the chance to have been a part of that. You deserve a lot of the credit. Our role was to create the conditions and give you the tools to make the most of your own lives. But we do have more jobs, lower unemployment, much higher incomes—average income finally going up for the first time in a decade, about $1,600 after inflation in the last 2 years alone for middle class people.

I'm especially proud that last year we had the biggest drop in inequality among all classes of people who are working for a living in 27 years, the biggest drop in child poverty in 20 years, and the lowest poverty rate among American senior citizens ever recorded. I'm proud of that. We're moving in the right direction.

I'm proud that the crime rate has gone down for 4 years in a row. And I know and you know that most of the credit goes to the people who are out there on the street, the police officers, the others in the criminal justice system, the citizens of this country, and I might add also, the teachers, the parents, the community leaders who are trying to keep our kids out of trouble in the first place. I'm proud of that.

But we had 30 years of evidence. In 30 years before I became President, the violent crime rate tripled; the police forces of this country increased by only 10 percent. We were right to say this is something we should do together as a nation to put 100,000 more police on the street, to pass the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban to make this a safer country. It was the right thing to do; we're a stronger, better country because of it.

Now, I know when we did some of these things, a lot of people thought it was wrong in Colorado. And a lot of people thought it was wrong in my native State of Arkansas, where half the people have a hunting or a fishing license or both—actually, more than half. And they were all told—I got all these calls in Washington from people who still call me Bill, or worse—[laughter]—from home saying, "They say you're going to take my guns away." I said, "I'll tell you what, I'll buy you a new rifle if you miss a single hunting season because of the Brady bill or the assault weapons ban."

Well, it's been 2 years, and you heard the statistics: tens of thousands of felons, fugitives, and stalkers lost their handguns. We didn't take any hunting rifles away; we took weapons away. And now people who beat up their spouses and their children can't buy handguns either. And I think we're a better country because of it. I think we're a better country because of it.

So I ask you to think about the future. Think what happened—I think most everybody instinctively knows that it's right—look what happened in the last couple of weeks when your voices began to be heard in Washington; then an agenda that I had been advocating for 2 years all of the sudden became popular. We said you can't lose your health insurance anymore just because you changed jobs or somebody in your family's been sick. We said insurance companies can't force hospitals to kick women and their newborn babies out of the hospital after a day. We're finally going to help families that have— families that need some help with mental health coverage to get that.

We are finally going for the—we did something else that I'm particularly proud of for the very first time in history.

Audience member. Let me hear it. [Laughter]

The President. That's good. Keep doing that. That's good. [Laughter]

For the very first time in history, in a bill I signed just a few days ago, we are giving benefits to the children of American veterans who were injured because of their parents' service, because a lot of servicemen in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange and, terribly, some of their children got spina bifida. Finally, after all these years we're going to give them health care and disability payments that they need. And I'm proud of that. That's something we had to do together.

I think we did the right thing to raise the minimum wage for 10 million people. I think we did the right thing to say that we heard the cries of small-business people. We made every small business in the country eligible for a tax cut if they invest more in their business. We made it easier for them to take out pensions and for their employees to do so and to keep those pensions when they move from job to job—really important. Most of you work for small business today, and only half the American people have a good pension plan. And we made people who were self-employed eligible for a bigger tax deduction if they have to insure themselves. I'm proud that we did that. I think we're a stronger country.

I'm also glad we gave a $5,000 tax credit to people who will adopt children. There are lots of children out there that need homes, and we did the right thing.

So I guess Karoline was right: We started building that bridge to the 21st century 4 years go, but we've got a ways to go. Yes, we've reduced the deficit by 60 percent, 4 years in a row, first time that's happened in this century. I'm proud of that. But we ought to go on and balance the budget because that will keep interest rates down and America growing and prosperity coming. But we have to do it in a way that protects our obligations to each other, the things that we should be doing together.

We should reform Medicare, not wreck it. We should not walk away from the guarantee Medicaid gives to help working families whose parents are in nursing homes, who have children with disabilities. We should not walk away from pregnant women and little children. We should continue that. And we definitely should not undermine our investment in our future by cutting back on education, the environment, research, and technology.

Because the economy is strong and the deficit has been reduced, we should build on the tax cuts that have been passed in the last 4 years. We cut taxes for all small businesses, for 15 million of our hardest pressed working families. We can do more. But we ought to pay for it line by line. We shouldn't promise you we can do something we can't pay for and then blow up the deficit, wind up seeing bigger cuts than the ones I vetoed, weakening our economy.

So I want tax cuts that are paid for in my balanced budget, targeted to the things you need the most, to childrearing, to education, to buying a first home, not paying taxes when you sell your home, investing in health care. These are things we can afford. We ought to have them, and we will have them if you'll help us build that bridge to the 21st century.

We have more work to do in helping people to succeed at home and at work. I'm very proud the first bill I signed was the family and medical leave law. Again, I say, this is a classic example of this dilemma. If you believe that the Government is them and you are us, and you know best and people you elect don't know anything, that the minute you vote for them they lose all sense of connection with you, then you might agree with my opponent that the family and medical leave law was a terrible idea.

But I believe the biggest challenge we face today as a people is helping good, hard-working people to meet the conflicting demands of parenthood and work. Most parents are working. We're a stronger country because 12 million people got to take some time off when a baby was born or sick, or a parent or a spouse was sick, without losing their job. We're a better, stronger country, and our economy proves it. That's the kind of thing we ought to be doing, and we ought to build on it and make it stronger.

We passed this welfare reform bill after we had reduced the welfare rolls by 1.9 million— Karoline's one of them—1.9 million people moving into a more productive life, becoming educated, becoming taxpayers instead of receivers of tax dollars.

The new law says this—this is the challenge for the Governor and others in State government and for the county commissioners here and people in local government—it says we will continue to guarantee to people who are poor health care for themselves and their children and nutrition and, if they go to work, more for child care than ever before. But the portion of the Federal money that used to go to people in a monthly check will now be sent to the States, where they and the local communities will have 2 years to figure out how to turn everyone who's like Karoline into Karoline, to move people from welfare to work. That is the right thing to do. And I have a plan to help create a million jobs for those people. You cannot make people go to work unless they have work. Will you help me do that and build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]

But if you think about the future of Colorado and you look around here in this hallowed place, no two issues more define the future of this State than the decisions we make as a people on the environment and, even more, on education.

You know, when I was talking to Tom Strickland before we came out here, I said, "I can't go out there and ask them to vote for you just because you're a Democrat. Most people don't care that much about it. Why do you want this job? Why do you want this job? Why are you doing this? This other guy's a Member of Congress. He's got all this money. He's hard to beat. It's a rigorous endeavor. Why are you doing this?"

And he said, "Because I want my children to grow up in a State and a nation that preserves instead of destroys its natural heritage and because I want every child in this country to have the same chance my kids are going to have. And we cannot afford to continue the direction that the present Congress tried to take to undermine the environment and to walk away from our common obligation to educate all our people." That's a pretty good reason to vote for somebody for the United States Senate. That's a pretty good reason.

Folks, those Senators get a long term. They get 6 years. That's longer than the President gets. And they get to run more than once which means they get to serve longer than a President can serve. And there's something I think you all ought to think about, whatever your party or philosophy is, when you look at somebody who wants to go the Senate and says, "Give me a 6-year term, and by the way, I might ask you for another one and I might ask you for another one after that," you have to imagine what will happen to this person in those 6 years. Does this person have the capacity to continue to absorb all the changes that are going on in America, to feel the needs of all the people in this country, to understand when to say yes and when to say no and to grow into greatness in that role? I think Tom Strickland does. And that's another good reason to vote for him for the United States Senate, and I hope you will.

So let me say to you, the air and the drinking water is cleaner than it was 4 years ago. Our food safety standards are higher than they were 4 years ago. We saved an attack on our national parks, and we've done everything we could to expand them with new important preservation of our previous heritage. But we have more to do.

Do you know that two-thirds of our toxic waste dumps are very serious and that 10 million children still live within 4 miles of a toxic waste dump? So if you'll give us 4 more years, among other things we'll do on the environment is clean up those 500 dumps, so our kids will be growing up next to parks, not poison. Will you help us do that? [Applause]

And the last thing I want to ask you to do is to help me implement our education agenda. Their education agenda, the other side, their education agenda was to cut Head Start, cut back on college loans, eliminate the AmeriCorps program, the national service program——

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. ——and eliminate the Department of Education. That was their agenda.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. My agenda is as follows: Expand Head Start and keep doing it until all the kids who need to be there are there; recognize that 40 percent of the 8-year-olds in this country still cannot read independently and mobilize an army of reading volunteers to make sure by the year 2000 every 8-year-old can pick up a book and say, "I can read this all by myself."

I want to hook up every single classroom and library in this country to the information superhighway so that every child has access to the same information every other child has. And I intend to open the doors of college to every American of any age who wants to go.

We ought to say—there's been a lot of cheering here for Red Rocks Community College. But let me tell you, in the next 4 years, if we have the will and vision to do it, we can make 2 years of education after high school just as universal as a high school diploma is today. And I know how to do it. I want to give the American people a tax credit, a dollar-for-dollar reduction on their taxes for the cost of the typical community college tuition in America. It would be the best money we ever spent. Will you help me do that? [Applause] And will you help me give the American people a deduction of up to $10,000 a year for the cost of any college tuition at any level for people of any age, 40, 50, 60, if they need to go back? [Applause]

Folks, that's what this election is about. Does it take a village, or are you on your own? Does everybody want to build their own little bridge, or do you want to build a bridge to the 21st century wide enough, big enough, and strong enough for every single one of us to walk across?

Now, remember, this election is not in 24 days for you; for you, it starts Tuesday. Vote early, bring others, and lead the way in Colorado for all of America to walk in to the best days we have ever known.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:55 p.m. at Red Rocks Amphitheater. In his remarks, he referred to entertainer Hazel Miller; Gov. Roy Romer's wife, Bea; Mayor Wellington Webb of Denver and his wife, Wilma; Lt. Gov. Gail Schoettler of Colorado; Betty Miller, Jefferson County commissioner; Representative David Skaggs; Colorado senatorial candidate Tom Strickland; and Joan Fitz-Gerald, candidate for Colorado's Sixth Congressional District. S. 640, the Water Resources Development Act of 1996, approved October 12, was assigned Public Law No. 104-303. The proclamation of September 18 establishing the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is listed in Appendix D at the end of this volume.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to the Community in Denver, Colorado Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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