Remarks at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey
Thank you. Thank you so much, Reverend Carter, Reverend Thomas, Congressman Payne, Mr. Mayor, Mayor Collins, Congressman Torricelli.
Ladies and gentlemen, first of all I'd like to say, you know, about this time of year people in our line of work are tired on Sunday morning. [Laughter] They hurt from head to toe. I'm not tired anymore. [Laughter] I thank the choir for its magnificent music. And I'm glad to see all of you out here in this historic church. Dionne Warwick, it's good to see you.
Now, when Reverend Thomas said I lived in America's house and he made that remark about the White House—[laughter]—well, that got my attention. But I've tried to make it your house, too.
I want to say a special word of thanks to this church for something else, and that is that the chief operating officer of our whole national campaign is a member of this church, Ted Carter, and he's here with me today. Ted, where are you? Stand up. Where's Ted? There he is, back there. He's a very modest person that has such an important job, but you raised him up right here. Congratulations.
Ladies and gentlemen, the message we have already heard is the most important message we will hear today. But when he was alive, President Kennedy used to say that we must always remember that here on Earth, God's work must be our own. And there are many questions before us now in this last Presidential election of the 20th century, and the first Presidential election of the 21st century. You know them all: Will we have more jobs; will we have better education; will we continue to expand health care; will we give the little children that came to the airport to visit me today a cleaner environment to grow up in, whether they're in the inner city or in small towns?
But there are two great questions in which all others can be answered. The first is whether we're going to keep trying to go forward to build a bridge to the future together, a bridge that everybody can walk across, or are we going to say, "You're on your own, New Hope; I hope you do well. I'll come back and see you every now and then"? Or are we going to say, "No, no, no, we're all in this together; we're going forward together"? We have to decide that.
The great British poet John Donne once said that "No man is an island. Every man's death diminishes me. Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." We have to ask whether we believe that. I believe that. And I believe that all of us will be better when each of us has a chance to live up to our Godgiven capacity.
I am glad that there are 10 1/2 million more people working than there were 4 years ago, but I'm not glad that there are so many million who still want to work who don't have jobs. And I won't rest until they do. I'm glad that there are more educational opportunities than there were 4 years ago, but I'm sad that there are still so many children who don't have what they need in their schools and for their future. And so I say to you, this will be a better country if that bridge to the future is wide enough and strong enough for everybody to walk across. Our obligation is to help each other live up to what God meant us to be. That's our obligation.
The second thing we have to do is to decide whether we think it is a blessing or a curse that we're all so different. That's really the meaning of the pastor's reference to the White House. [Laughter] You know, when Hillary and our daughter, Chelsea, and I went to open the Olympics in Atlanta, it was a wonderful thing. Maybe you saw it on television, where they're all walking out there and there were all these groups were going by, holding their flags, in their different uniforms. They were from 192 different nations and national groups. In our biggest county, Los Angeles County, in one county in America there are people from over 150 of those places. It used to be in America all the racial issues were black and white. Now, like everything else in life, it's hard to see black and white. That's another reason we need to show up in church, to be reminded what some things are.
So there we have it. Now, you look at the whole world. Pick up the paper this morning. Where are they fighting and killing each other around the world? Where are they even killing each other's children because they're of different religions, different races, different ethnic groups, different tribal groups? Is it in the Middle East, is it in Bosnia—no more, thank God—is it in Rwanda and Burundi, where tribal battles led people to slaughter each other's children and parents, or Northern Ireland, where the Catholics and the Protestants still fight over what happened 600 years ago?
And people say to me, why are you so upset because a few little churches burned in the South? Because I know that deep inside every heart there is a dark spot with a capacity to define ourselves and our lives not by who we are, as children of God, but by who we are not: Who can we look down on today, who can we feel better than today. It's a big issue in this country today. And everything I have said about every issue, whether it was affirmative action or immigration or education, has been driven by my vision that this country is blessed by God to have so many people in it from different places, different races, different religions, different points of view.
We are living in a global society. It won't be very long before the children in Newark will be getting on computers and they will be able to research their papers when they're in high school out of libraries in Australia or Asia. The world is getting smaller. What better place to live than the greatest democracy in human history that has people from everywhere in it, when the only thing you have to do to be American is to say, "I believe in the principles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I will obey the law, and I will show up tomorrow for work." That's the other big question.
Now, whether it's me or Mr. Torricelli or Congressman Payne or the mayor or anybody else, there's a thousand different issues. But the real question is, as we look toward that tomorrow of the 21st century, whether we're all going to go there together or just let those who already have it go there, and whether we believe that we still are one nation under God, even though we're one nation of many different faiths and religions and creeds and tribes and backgrounds. And if we make those two decisions right, everything else will come out all right. We'll make all the other decisions right.
This preacher up here preached a message today. He doesn't have to tell you the answer to every question. He told you, "You get the first question right, everything else will come out all right."
God bless you. On November 5th, be there. It is your responsibility. It is your responsibility. It is your responsibility.
NOTE: The President spoke at 12:32 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Rev. Joe A. Carter, assistant pastor, New Hope Baptist Church; Rev. Vincent L. Thomas, pastor, First Gravel Hill Baptist Church, Smithfield, VA; Mayor Sharpe James of Newark; and singer Dionne Warwick. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/222084