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Remarks at the National Governors' Association Dinner

February 02, 1997

Ladies and gentlemen, Governor and Mrs. Miller, Governor and Mrs. Voinovich, all the Governors and spouses and children and friends who are here, the leaders of the National Governors' Association, welcome back to the White House.

As all of you know, this is a very special dinner for Hillary and for me. I had to pinch myself this afternoon when I was preparing these notes—very elaborate—[laughter]—when I realized that this is the fifth time I have had the honor of hosting this dinner, which I also attended 12 times as a Governor.

Four years ago when you came here, I told you that I would do my best to chart a new course for our country, to give you a strong economy, a smaller and less obtrusive Federal Government, still one that could be very effective and innovative in dealing with the challenges before us and in forging a new partnership with the Governors to devolve more decisionmaking to the State level. Four years later, we can look back and see that that strategy has worked, thanks to your efforts and what all of us here have been able to do, working together.

Our economy is the strongest it's been in 30 years. Our Government is the smallest it's been since President Kennedy was here. Today one of our major newspapers carried a story chronicling the record decline in the welfare rolls over the last 4 years—2 1/4 million people— and at last giving the Governors and the States committed to welfare reform a share of the credit, along with the rising economy, for moving people from welfare to work. So this is a good time. Crime rates have dropped now for 5 years in a row, and we know now what to do to keep them coming down.

The main thing I want to say tonight is that we all, together, have an incredible opportunity, standing as we do on the edge of a new century, a new millennium, but also a profoundly different time in human affairs and standing at this point not only as the world's only superpower but one that is free of external threat and internal economic crisis, which means we have an opportunity almost unique in our history to think about not only what we need to do for our people today and tomorrow but what America needs 20 years from now, 50 years from now.

That is the sort of thing that people who were here before us thought about at the end of World War II, and the decisions they made gave us 50 pretty good years as Americans. Tuesday night, when I speak in the State of the Union Address, I'm going to ask the Congress to cross party lines with each other and with me and to think about how we can build the next 50 years for America, how we can bring about true excellence and complete opportunity in education, how we can finish the job of welfare reform so that everyone we are now requiring to work genuinely has the chance to work, how we can meet the other challenges that are before us. Many of them involve the leadership, the initiative, the strength and steadiness of our Nation's Governors.

And so I pledge to you to continue the partnership we've had, to try to deepen it, to try to enrich it, and beginning tomorrow, to try to continue to listen to you and to your concerns and to hear your advice. This has been a good 4 years for America. I look forward to the next 4. And I look forward to our continued partnership.

The National Governors' Association has been a unique and immensely valuable institution for the United States because it gives the Governors a chance, without regard to their regional and political differences, to reach common positions for the people of their States and to bring those positions not only to life in their States but also to bring them to Washington, where it's too often easy to forget about the real lives of real people out in the country. I know you will be doing that here, and I hope together we will be advancing those lives for 4 more years.

I now ask you to join me in a toast to our partnership, to the Governors, and especially to Governor and Mrs. Miller and to Governor and Mrs. Voinovich.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:50 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Bob Miller of Nevada, National Governors' Association chairman, and his wife, Sandy; and Gov. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, NGA vice chairman, and his wife, Janet.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the National Governors' Association Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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