Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to the Community in Seattle, Washington

September 18, 1996

The President. Thank you, thank you.

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

The President. You know, ladies and gentlemen, I have to tell you that for 5 years I have been coming here. I read all about Washington, all about Seattle. This is the very first time it has ever rained on me. Now I know I have finally been accepted as one of you, and thank you. I am glad to be here. I also have a Seattle Fire Department cap that's keeping me a little dry here.

I want to thank Congressman Norm Dicks, who's up here. We're going to send him some help in the United States House of Representatives in November, aren't we? [Applause] He and Jim McDermott have had a pretty lonely time, and I want to help them. And I know you do, too.

Let me thank my good friend Mayor Norm Rice for his longtime friendship, for the great campaign he ran, for the incredible dignity he has shown, and for the sense of unity he and Gary Locke have expressed today. It made me proud to be a Democrat and proud to be an American.

I want to thank Gary Locke for what he said, for the campaign he has run, the campaign he is about to run, and the work he will do as the Governor of the great State of Washington. He will be a great partner, and I will work with him to make this State even greater. Thank you for everything you have done to support him, and stay with him until November.

My fellow Americans, I'm glad to see you here. I knew you wouldn't be deterred by the rain, but when the Secret Service told me that 30,000 people had gone through the mags, I knew that you wanted to keep America on the right track to the 21st century.

We are moving in the right direction. And I am proud of the fact that since I came here 4 years ago and asked you to support me in meeting our challenges, protecting our values, providing opportunity and responsibility for all Americans, and bringing this country together, not seeing it driven apart, having us relish our diversity instead of being destroyed by it, we are moving ahead.

We have 10 1/2 million more jobs than we had 4 years ago. We've cut the deficit by 60 percent, the first time since before the Civil War it's gone down all 4 years in a row. On October 1st 10 million Americans will get an increase in their minimum wage, thanks to the leadership of the Democratic Party. Twenty-five million Americans are now going to have a chance to keep their health insurance or get it because of the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill that says no more can you be denied health insurance because you changed jobs or just because someone in your family has been sick. And it's high time we did that for the American people.

The crime rate has come down for 4 years in a row. We just got a report a couple of days ago that there are one million fewer victims of crime than there were. Our crime approach is working. The Democrats were right to push it. More police, take the assault weapons off the street, enforce the Brady bill, give our kids something to say yes to, "three strikes and you're out:" it's working, and we need to continue to support it.

There are 1.8 million fewer people on the welfare rolls; child support collections are up 40 percent. We have improved the safety of our drinking water, our air, our food. We are protecting the natural heritage of this country. And I'm very proud that just today I was in the Grand Canyon, announcing the creation in Utah of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument of 1.7 million acres.

I am very proud that this week we had an agreement to protect and restore salmon to the Columbia River. And I am especially, especially proud that just last night we reached an agreement, and high time, to protect the old-growth timber in Washington and Oregon. We are moving in the right direction.

Washington is the most trade-dependent State in the country, and I am very proud of the fact that we have concluded over 200 trade agreements. We are now exporting everything from high-tech equipment to airplanes to, yes, even Washington apples around the world in the last 4 years. And we did it by replacing the old Washington politics of personal destruction and who is to blame with a new question, not who's to blame, not who we can bad-mouth, but what are we going to do to make this country a greater place for every single American who is willing to work for it.

In the two conventions of the great parties held this summer the issue before the American people was posed squarely and clearly: Are we going to build a bridge to the past or a bridge to the future? Do we believe that Government is our enemy, and we should be on our own, or do we believe that the First Lady is right: It takes a village, and we're going into the future together.

Rain or shine, I came here to ask you, will you help me build the bridge to the 21st century? [Applause] I want to build a bridge to the 21st century where every American has a chance to reap the bounty of America, starting with the finest education system in the world for everyone. Forty percent of our 8-year-olds can't read on their own. In the next 4 years I want an army of reading volunteers and trained tutors to go into our families and into our schools and help our parents and our teachers, so that by the year 2000 every single third grader in this country can hold up a book and say, "I read it all by myself." I want you to help me do that.

In this great high-tech home, I want us to make sure that every classroom in America not only has the computers they need, not only has the teachers trained to help the students with the computers, but is hooked up to the information superhighway so that we can say for the first time in the entire history of the United States, every child in every classroom from the poorest inner cities to the most remote mountain villages has access to the same learning at the same quality in the same time as every single child in the United States.

And finally, on education, we have to open the doors of college education to all Americans. I want to make in the next 4 years at least 2 years of college just as universal in the United States as a high school diploma is today. That is the way to move this country forward. I want to give a tax cut for the cost of a typical community college education, dollar for dollar, to every American who will go to community college and do a good job of any age, so that everybody can say, "No matter what happens to me, I can always go back and get the education I need to move up, not down in this competitive global economy."

And I want to give every family a deduction for the cost of college tuition of up to $10,000 a year for any kind of college cost. It would build America. It would help us grow together. It will move us forward. It will build that bridge.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to keep this economy going: more trade, more trade opportunities, more investment in research. Yes, a balanced budget, but let's balance the budget without wrecking Medicare, turning our backs on Medicaid's commitment to families with disabilities or children that are poor or women that are pregnant or the elderly who need our help. And I want to continue to invest in the environment and education, not turn our backs on it. And I want you to think about that when you vote in Norm Dicks' election and all these other races for Congress.

In 1994 the other party came to Washington, and they said, "Help us make a revolution. We're going to revolutionize America." Well, we saw what their revolution was. "You take our cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment. You let us raise taxes on the 9 million poorest working people in America. Let us raid pension funds. Let us let polluters write their own environment laws, or we'll shut the Government down." I told them to shut the Government down. Norm Dicks stood with me, and we stopped what they were trying to do.

And ladies and gentlemen, never forget— never forget—what stake you have. The University of Washington is the number one—the number one—public institution of higher education in America in the receipt of national research funds. This is important to our future. I just signed—we just signed an agreement— I didn't actually have to sign the agreement myself—but we just made an agreement, my administration and IBM, to build a supercomputer over the next couple of years that will do— listen to this—will do more calculations in one second than you can go home and pick up your hand-held calculator and do in 30,000 years.

We are going to keep this country on the cutting edge of technology if you will give the American people and the people of Washington, yourselves and your children, a United States Congress that understands we have to invest in research and education and the environment if we're going to grow this country. And we can balance the budget and do that. Will you help me build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]

I want to build a bridge to the 21st century where everybody has a chance to be responsible—1.8 million fewer people on welfare, moving from welfare to work. Here's what that new law says—and this is another reason you need Gary Locke as Governor—the new welfare reform law says this: We will continue the national guarantee of health care and nutrition to people who are poor and on welfare. If they go to work, we'll spend more than ever on child care so they don't have to hurt their kids. But we're going to take the welfare check and give that money to the States so they can decide how both to support people and move them, those who are able-bodied, into the workplace within 2 years.

Now, who do you trust to do right by the poor people of Washington and bring them into the mainstream? Gary Locke. I'm committed to helping him and the city of Seattle and other cities in this country create a million new jobs for those people in the next 4 years. I want you to help us both build that kind of bridge to the 21st century.

And finally, you know, our friends on the other side, they talk a lot about crime. They talked tough about crime for 6 years but nothing ever happened. We passed the 1994 crime bill. And they came into the State of Washington like a tornado into the rural areas telling all these people how terrible we were, how we were going to take their guns away from them and abolish their right to keep and bear arms. And there was a great revolution here in '94 in the congressional races.

Well, guess what? Unfortunately for them, we've had two hunting seasons since then, and not a single hunter in Washington has lost a rifle. But we did take 19 kinds of assault weapons off the street and 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers could not get handguns because of the Brady bill. We were right. They were wrong. You are safer. The crime rate's going down. Let them know about it in November and help us build a bridge to the 21st century where we're all safe.

We ought to extend the Brady bill and say, "If you beat up your spouse or your child, you shouldn't be able to get a handgun either." If police put their lives on the lines for us, we ought to say we haven't seen any game wearing bulletproof vests. We want to ban those copkiller bullets. And those who are opposed to us are wrong. Let's ban them, get rid of them, make our police officers safer and our streets safer.

We ought to build a bridge to the 21st century that brings us together as a community, beginning with strong families. You know what I hear all over America as the number one family problem? "How can I reconcile the demands of work and rearing my children? How can I do this? I need some help." That's why I'm very proud that the first bill I signed, over the opposition of the leaders of the other party, was the family and medical leave law.

And since then, 12 million times families have taken advantage of that law when a baby was born or a parent was sick so they could take care of their families without losing their jobs. And what have we got to show for it: 10 1/2 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in 7 years, record numbers of new small businesses. We are moving this country in the right direction.

We can help small business the way we have, make it easier for people to take out pensions and take them from job to job, give all small businesses a tax cut as we have when they invest more in their businesses. But don't ask people to hurt their families.

I want to expand family and medical leave to give people some time off to go to doctor's appointments and parent-teacher conferences at the schools so people can raise their kids and succeed at work. Will you help me build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]

And let me say, finally, we have got to build a bridge to the 21st century as everybody in Washington State knows that enables us to grow the economy while preserving our environment. We are working to save our natural treasures, from the Grand Staircase-Escalante, which I mentioned, to getting the gold mine out of the reaches of Yellowstone National Park, to saving the Everglades all the way across the country in Florida, to improving the quality of our air, the safety of our drinking water, the safety of our food. And we have more to do.

We've cleaned up more toxic waste sites in 3 years than the previous administrations did in 12. But we still have a long way to go: 10 million of our children still live within 4 miles of a toxic waste dump. If you'll give us 4 more years, we'll clean up 500 more so children will grow up next to parks, not poison. That's the way to build a bridge to the 21st century, and I want you to help me do it.

And finally, let me say this: We have to build a good community in America and be a part of a strong community in the world. I spend so much of the time you have given me to be President trying to deal with the new security challenges of this era, trying to combat the terrorists, trying to combat the ethnic hatred, trying to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction, not just nuclear weapons but biological and chemical weapons and other sophisticated weapons, trying to beat the drug runners and the organized criminals so that we can have a world that is open and free, where people can move around and share information but our children will be safe.

If you think about it, a lot of the time I spend is dealing with problems that are caused because people refuse to get along with each other and behave like sensible adults because people all over this world insist on looking down on others because they're of a different race, a different religion, a different ethnic group, a different tribe, or in same other way different from them. People insist on saying, "I'm important because I'm not you."

Well, Seattle is a rebuke to that. Seattle is a place where everybody has a home. You look around this crowd today, look around this crowd today. There are 197 nations represented in the Olympics and a whole lot of them are represented in this crowd of 30,000 in Seattle, Washington, United States of America today.

That's the world I want to live in. That's the country I want to live in. We cannot afford— we cannot afford—politicians who are waging war on legal immigrants for their own benefits. We cannot afford this church burning. We cannot afford the kinds of hatreds and wedge issues that have been too much a staple of our politics in modern time.

Think about the rest of the world. There is no country—no country—as well-positioned as the United States for the 21st century. But we have to make a decision. Are we all part of one village? Do we want to say, "You're on your own?" Do we really believe that we're all created equal in the eyes of God, or do we need to have somebody to look down on so we can feel important? I think you know the answer to that.

I think we ought to build a bridge to the 21st century that is wide and strong so that we can say to anybody we run across, any man or woman, boy or girl without regard to anything else, "All you have to do is believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, show up for work tomorrow or for school, do your best, obey the law, love your neighbor as yourself, and you're part of our community and we're willing to walk with you into the future." Will you help me build that bridge? [Applause] We need you, Washington.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:36 p.m. at the Pike Place Market.

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

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