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Remarks at the National Rural Conference Closing Session in Ames

April 25, 1995

First of all, let's give all the panelists a big hand for all the work they've done. [Applause]

I would like again to congratulate the Secretary of Agriculture and the Deputy Secretary and others on the fine work they did here. I want to thank the president of this fine university and all the people who have worked so hard to make this a success.

I want to remind all of you—I think you can see today that we care a lot about these issues and we're committed to doing something about them. So if you had ideas that were not expressed, fill out those forms and give them to us. They will not just be thrown away.

Finally, let me thank the State of Iowa, Senator Harkin, the Governor who is not here anymore but spent some time with us. Attorney General Miller was here, and we have the State treasurer, Mike Fitzgerald, and the State agriculture commissioner, Dale Cochran. Thank you all for being here.

Let me close by leaving you with this thought: The balance of power, political power, in this country has shifted. Never mind whether you think it's Republican, Democrat, liberal, or conservative. It's basically shifted to a suburban base. And most of those folks in the suburbs either once lived in a city or once lived in the country. But most—a lot of them are doing reasonably well in the global economy. And if they aren't, the only thing they may think they need from the Government is help with a student loan for their kids. And otherwise they may view anything any public entity does as doing more harm than good.

What we have seen today on this panel— and I know, and most of you don't, but I know that we had people up here who are Republicans and people who were Democrats. And I'll guarantee you, listening to this conversation, you couldn't tell one from another. Why? Because what works is practical commitment to partnerships and to solving problems each as they come up, to developing the capacities of people, to dealing with the options that are there, and to going forward.

So we have two problems today in coming up with good legislation in the farm bill and in coming up with other approaches that are appropriate. One is that Washington tends to be much more ideological and partisan than Main Street America, particularly rural America. And we need more of Main Street up there, not more of what's up there down here.

The other is that demographically our country's political center has shifted away from the urban areas and the rural areas into the suburbs, and a lot of the people who have to make decisions on these matters, without regard to their party or their philosophy, have no direct experience or direct lobbying in the best sense on these issues.

Therefore, I think what we need—I cannot tell you how strongly I feel this—is for, in States like Iowa and every other State here represented, we need for people of good will to try to get together at the community level, across party lines, and come up with positions on these matters that can be communicated to the Congress, because Dick Durbin and Tom Harkin and Senator Grassley and others on the Republican side will be trying to craft legislation that makes sense in some way that will be much more difficult unless your voice is heard in partnership, not partisanship, and the voice from the rural heartland. I implore you to do that.

Meanwhile, I pledge to you that your day here has not been wasted. I have learned a lot, and we will act on what we have learned.

Thank you so very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:47 p.m. in the Memorial Union at Iowa State University.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the National Rural Conference Closing Session in Ames Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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