Remarks at the Democratic National Committee Saxophone Club Reception
The President. Thank you, Hillary. Thank you, Chairman Wilhelm and DeGee and Vernon and Ann Jordan. And thank you especially, Sean Foley and Jessica Wasserman, for leading the Saxophone Club. I want to thank, too, Sean Burton and Jonathan Mantz, for helping to hold the Saxophone Club together, and the Home Builders and Occidental Petroleum, that helped to support this event tonight. I also want to thank the entertainers. I'm kind of sorry I didn't see Hootie and the Blowfish. [Laughter] And I know Paula Poundstone was funny, because she always is. And I'm hoping I get to hear a little bit of Chaka Khan and the St. Augustine Church Choir. Thank you all for being here.
We just came, as you know, from another event for the Democratic Party, and one that was immensely successful. But it struck me in that moment that the people who were there were a stunning answer to those who say that this is a cynical and selfish country and that you are as well.
We had two pieces of good news already today; one's light, and one's not so light. The light one is that the United States won the soccer game tonight. I identify with our soccer team, you know, they start as underdogs in this deal. I like that. [Laughter] And they're doing well. And the thing that potentially and, I hope and pray, will ultimately affect your future in a very positive way is the formal notification I received this afternoon that the North Koreans are willing to suspend their nuclear program— [applause].
Then it occurred to me that at the event where I just was, there were lots of people there and they weren't all Democrats. Some were independents. Some came up to me and said they were Republicans; they were proud to be there at our party's event. Virtually every one of them, when our economic program passed last year, paid higher taxes so we could bring the deficit down and give a tax break to lower income working people with families. Those people aren't cynical. They did something that they believe is good for their country, good for their children, and good for their future. And I am grateful to them, because they are a rebuke to the cynicism.
And then I look out at all of you and I realize—first of all, I look out at some of you, and a couple of you are my age, which makes me feel good. [Laughter] Somebody said some are older. I can tell you, you look good out there with all these young people, but you can't turn it back. Even I can't do that for you. [Laughter] But you are a rebuke to this notion that—this whole idea of Generation X. You know, it's a bunch of hooey.
What I want to say to you in brief is this: First, let me thank you for keeping the Saxophone Club together. It means a lot to me. It means more than you could possibly know that there are young people who work in and around this town who believe in this administration, who have stayed together, who were not just in it for the campaign and are not just sunshine soldiers but are actually here for the long haul to make America a better place. I thank you for that. It means so much to me.
The second point I want to say is this: We are doing what you hired us to do, and that's important. When we had all those events in the campaign, I told you I was fighting for your future. And I still am. And when we took office, I said I wanted to get the economy going, to bring the deficit down, to invest more in our people, to make Government work for ordinary people, and to empower people like you to seize your future. And you look—unemployment is down, jobs are up, new businesses are up. We're moving in the right direction. We're going to have 3 years of deficit reduction in a row for the first time since Truman was President. Hardly anybody was here then. We're empowering people, 90,000 more kids in Head Start, 20 million more college students eligible for low interest student loans and better repayment, national service will start this fall, with 20,000 people year after next—100,000 young Americans revolutionizing the problems of this century. So, I tell you, we are fulfilling the mission that you voted for, that you worked for, that you are a part of, and your future is at stake.
And the third thing I want to say to you is this: I'm glad you're here and I'm glad you're happy and I'm glad you're enthusiastic. You've made me happy, and you've given me new energy. But let me tell you, what is at stake this year and next year and the next year is far bigger than Republicans and Democrats and President Clinton. It's about what the attitude of the American people is and what will be the dominant spirit of the American people as we move toward the 21st century.
When we're having this enormously important debate on health care—and let me just say, I put out a plan on health care and Hillary and I worked hard on it, but we said we know it can't be the end-all and be-all. We're happy to change it. But for goodness' sakes, work with us without regard to party or region. Work with us and help to cover all Americans and solve this terrible problem. That's what we said.
And it seems pretty simple to me. This is the only country in the world with an advanced economy hadn't figured out how to cover everybody, but we're spending 14 percent of our income on health care. Today in the Washington Post, there was an article on the German health care system, pointing out they're spending 8.5 percent of their income on health care, and they've got 99 percent coverage. Now, I don't honestly believe that they're that much smarter than we are. And I don't think you do. What is the problem? Well——
Audience members. Republicans!
Audience members. Dole!
The President. Listen, it isn't all Republicans.
I've had Republican doctors, Republican nurses, Republican home health operators, Republican business people come up to me and say, "I support what you're doing. We have got to have universal health coverage."
What is the problem? Congressman Grandy from Iowa—wait, wait, Gopher—relieved of the burden of running for office now for Congress, finally came out and said that the Republicans had been given, quote, "marching orders by their leader to not cooperate. Don't offer any amendments; you cannot vote for anything."
Audience member. Boo-o-o! What about the country?
The President. What about the country, yes. Not what about the Democrats, what about the country? And let me tell you what's at stake. This is a big deal. When you leave here, this will still be at stake. They believe that they can win, based on two things, in '94 and beyond: first, the overwhelming cynicism of the American electorate, bombarded every day by negativism, obsessively covered with process and conflict instead of substantive product. They believe that the American people will either not know what we have done or they won't believe it. And then they think they can divide us in a cultural war over moral issues, racial issues, and ethnic issues. They must be proved wrong.
You look around this room and you will see a picture of America. The diversity of this country is our ticket to the future. It will make us rich; it will make us strong; it will make us powerful. It will make your lives more interesting than any generation of America that went before if we can figure out how to go into these cities and into these poor rural areas and lift these children up and if we can figure out how to live together instead of avoiding our problems and dividing ourselves.
But we must not become mired in the cynicism and the negativism that dominates the debate here every day. And you know better, and you can cut through it. And it's your life. You've got more years ahead of you than I do. I've already had more good things happen to me than I ever deserved or I ever could have dreamed of. I'm up here thinking about what's going to happen to my daughter and her children and your future. And I'm telling you, we cannot cut it if we permit an election in 1994 to reward the people who have stopped progress and tried to create gridlock, because there is so much cynicism that either people can't find out what happened good or they don't believe it if they do, and then they're diverted. We cannot let that happen. And so I ask you to leave here thinking that.
Perhaps the biggest honor I've had as your President is to represent this country at the 50th anniversary of the landings in Italy and D-Day. And I just want to—we're having a good time, this is a light night, but I want to tell you one very serious thing. Those people did not put their lives on the line so that their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren should live cynically in America. You couldn't look at row upon row of graves over there and think, "Well, we're just sunk; we're just stuck in gridlock; we just can't make anything good happen."
I want to tell you something. Most of the folks I've known in public life the last 20 years in both parties were honest and decent and worked hard and tried to do right. This thing we're dealing with now is plumb out of hand, if you will forgive me using some Arkansas dialect. All this whole negative business and all this cynicism, it is an indulgence, and you cannot afford it. And it is not you that is doing it. You are not the cynical generation. It is the people that are older than you that are filling the airways full of this stuff that you don't even want to listen to. And you leave here determined not just to help your President and our party but to help your country and your future. This country was not built by cynics, it was built by believers. And it will be continued by believers.
God bless you, and good night.
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:10 p.m. at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Sean Foley and Jessica Wasserman, cochairs, Sean Burton, director, and Jonathan Mantz, assistant director, Saxophone Club; rock band Hootie and the Blowfish; comedian Paula Poundstone; and singer Chaka Khan.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Democratic National Committee Saxophone Club Reception Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/219766