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Remarks at the Presidential Unity Fund Reception in New York City

October 20, 1996

The President. Thank you very much.

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

The President. Thank you. Thank you so much, all of you, for being here. Let me begin by thanking the Members of Congress who are here, who were just introduced, Congressmen Nadler, Manton, Engel, Congresswoman Maloney. I know that Carl McCall and Speaker Silver and Martin Connor and Ruth Messinger I think is here and Mark Green. And Judith Hope, our State Democratic chairman—I think you're all here. Thank you.

Thank you, Harry Belafonte, for being great and for always being there for us. And I want to thank Harry Belafonte for another thing, the early support and strong encouragement he gave me to restore democracy and freedom to the people of Haiti. Thank you, Harry Belafonte, for that as well.

I'd like to thank Whoopi Goldberg, who has been the most faithful supporter of our common efforts for the last 6 months in the United States. Whoopi emceed my birthday party, and she was a stitch, as always, and almost made it bearable turning 50, just listening to her. [Laughter] And she is a wonderful person behind all that good humor. And she doesn't have to do this. She does it because she loves her country and cares about what happens to other people and their lives. And I am very grateful to her for that.

And I'd also like to thank Marlo Thomas, who spoke earlier, who has been a wonderful, progressive force in our country for so long. And there's another terrific actor here who has come to a number of our events in the last few weeks. And I want to thank him for his support and say that I look forward for decades more of stellar performances. Mr. Kevin Spacey is here. Thank you, Kevin, for coming.

I want to thank Chairman Don Fowler and our general chairman, Chris Dodd. Thank you, Terry McAuliffe. Thank you, Senator Bob Kerrey, for not only raising a lot of money for the Democrats but for recruiting stellar candidates for the Senate. We've got a lot of folks out there that you're helping tonight you've never met. But believe me, you can be proud of them. They are good. I am proud of them, and I thank them.

To Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, let me say to all of you, a lot of you in this room know me better than you know Senator Daschle, who's from South Dakota—which if you've never been to South Dakota, I recommend a trip there someday. Last time we went to South Dakota, they delayed a high school football homecoming for an hour so I could have a rally in this little town, and 10,000 people showed up. It rained, they stayed, and then they went on to the football game. It's that kind of place. It was absolutely wonderful. But I want you to know that Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt have worked very hard to earn the trust of the American people, have worked very hard to make sure that we were working together to move forward in a prudent but progressive way, and I believe will fulfill their responsibilities in a way that will inspire an enormous amount of support even from people beyond the rank and file of the Democratic Party if the voters give them the chance to lead the Congress in the coming election.

Let me just say to all of you—I can be quite brief about this—most of you know what the consequences of this election are in specific terms. I mean, if you just look at the budget that was adopted in this last year, in the last couple of weeks right before the Congress had to go home and face reelection, as compared to the budget they wanted to adopt that I vetoed—they took 50,000 people out of Head Start; we put 50,000 more in. They cut the college loan program; we wound up with the biggest increase in Pell grants for needy college students in 20 years. That's the difference.

They cut environmental enforcement and ended the principle that the polluters should pay. We vetoed that, and they wound up fully funding our environmental program, setting aside the Sterling Forest here on the Atlantic seaboard. We're going to create three national parks in the Mojave Desert area of California. We're moving forward. But that's because the American people made their voice heard.

Now you've got these two different visions weighing in the balance. The big ideas, it seems to me, are pretty clear. Everybody knows that we're going into a time of greater possibility for people who are prepared for it than at any time in human history. There will be more opportunities for people in a position to seize them than at any time in human history. Within 4 or 5 years, it will be typical to see a kid in a school in Brooklyn doing a research project on a computer out of a library in Australia, for example. That will be typical. It will be usual. You'll have children who will be E-mailing each other from every African country that has an immigrant counterpart in a United States school. There will be unbelievable opportunities.

To give you some example, we've created 10 1/2 million more jobs, we Americans have, since I became President. More than half of them are in high-wage categories. Why? Because they're tied to the rest of the world more closely and into the things that we do well, to the emerging information society.

We believe that we have two great ideas here that are very important, that should permeate every single policy decision we make. We think that we ought to be building a bridge to the future wide enough and strong enough for everybody to walk across who is responsible enough to do their own part. We believe that. We believe that we'll be a stronger, better country and all the rest of us will do better if we give everyone a chance to live up to their Godgiven capacities. That's why we make a decision different from them on something like family and medical leave or putting 100,000 police on the street or the Brady bill or the assault weapons ban or a better student loan program. We just have different views of that. We believe that we should do things that help people to go forward together.

The second thing we believe is that we should be one community in harmony with each other, in harmony with our environment, and insofar as we can, a force for peace and freedom throughout the world. And if you look around this room—just take a look, think about this. Just take a look around this room tonight. You've got people here whose ethnic heritage is in Europe, Asia, south Asia, the Middle East, and— maybe we've got some Native Americans here; there have been Native Americans in every other crowd I've been in for the last week— and every continent in the world. You live in a country which is basically bound together by a set of ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the rest of our Constitution. And we say at our best points, "If you believe in these ideas and you show up and you obey the law and you respect your neighbors, you're part of our American community."

All over the world people are being convulsed by their ethnic, religious, tribal, racial hatreds. All over the world people are less than they ought to be. Children are being killed because one group has to be able to look down upon another group in order to look up to itself. All over the world, people are still taught the most ancient stupidity of all, that ultimately the most important thing about you is what you are not, when clearly the most important thing about you is what you are.

Now, we in the United States, we in this administration, and we on this stage, we believe that the best future for America is one that consists of our saying, "You may be different from us; you may even do things we don't think are right. We don't care as long as you believe in the same values embodied in the Constitution, you're willing to work, you're willing to be responsible, you're willing to treat your neighbors who are different from you with respect. You can be part of our country, you will be part of our community, and you will walk across the bridge to the 21st century with us." And that's important.

Now, if you believe that, it means that if we're going to balance the budget we can't do it in a way that hurts seniors who have no other way to take care of their health care needs except through Medicare and Medicaid. It means you can't walk away from working families that have children with cerebral palsy, for example, who couldn't stay middle class working families if they lost the guarantee that Medicaid gives them to buy those wheelchairs for their kids and so their kids can stay at home and stay in school and grow and do the very best they possibly can. It means you can't walk away from that.

It means you can't abandon the obligation the United States has to continue to clean up our environment while we grow the economy. It means you must invest more in education, not less, and open the doors of college education to all.

It means it's not enough to say that we're going to end welfare as we know it, give it to the States, and walk away. You can't require people to go to work unless you provide jobs for them and training for them and an opportunity to find their way to raise their children successfully the way everybody else does.

It means these things. It means you can't just look at children and say, "Stay off drugs," and then turn around and take away the funds that the schools are using to bring the police officers and the others into the schools to be role models, one on one, to these kids, not just a once-a-month speech but a daily positive presence in the lives of these children that give them a chance to reclaim their lives, look toward the future, and build something good for themselves.

So let me say this in closing: We do have just a few days left. The big danger in this election is that people won't show up who have the most riding on the outcome of it. And what I want to ask all of you to do is to promise yourselves that every day between now and election day you will contact somebody to tell them they ought to show up, to tell them there is a relationship between what we do in Washington and how you live here and in every other community around the country, that this country is better off than it was 4 years ago, that we do have good ideas for the next 4 years, and that we need to go into the 21st century walking across a bridge and walking across it together. And the decisions we make in these elections will determine both those things: Are we going to build a bridge, number one, and number two, are we going to walk across it together?

The best days of this country are ahead if we answer the questions right. That means people have to show up. Will you help us do that? Will you help us? [Applause]

God bless you. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10 p.m. at the Sheraton New York Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to H. Carl McCall, State comptroller; Sheldon Silver, State assembly speaker; Martin Connor, State senate minority leader; Ruth Messinger, Manhattan borough president; Mark Green, New York City public advocate; musician Harry Belafonte; comedienne Whoopi Goldberg; actress Marlo Thomas; Donald L. Fowler, national chairman, Democratic National Committee; and Terence McAuliffe, finance chairman, Clinton/Gore '96.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Presidential Unity Fund Reception in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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