Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to the Saxophone Club in Denver, Colorado

July 21, 1996

Thank you for the wonderful welcome. Thank you, Holly Barnes, for your introduction. I want to thank Chairman Don Fowler and Mayor Webb and Governor Romer and Secretary Pena. I told Wellington, by the time Roy got through talking, I said, I kind of hate to come up here to talk, I'm ahead right now. If I just quit right now I'll be ahead.

I got in from the Olympics the night before last at 3:30 in the morning. Weren't they great? [Applause] And I said, and I wonder when I get to Denver, after being up until—I got in at 3:30, we didn't go to sleep then—I said, I wonder if by the time I get to Denver and it's 2 hours earlier or later—whatever it is— [laughter]—I wonder if I'll still be able to talk or if I'll just be scrambled eggs. [Laughter] I'll do my best.

I want to thank all of you who worked on this committee tonight. John Hickenlooper and my good friends Mike Driver and Jim Lyons and Deana Perlmutter and all the other committee members, thank you. I thank Barry Fey for helping us tonight to put this together. I thank Los Lobos; they're wonderful. I was so happy that they were going to be here.

You know, I loved the whole idea of the Saxophone Club, which got started back in 1992 by some young people who thought we ought to find a way for people to contribute, to be active, to be a part of our political life, who may not have all the money in the world to give to a political event, but could give something and wanted to be a part of something and wanted to be a part of our campaign, to make it look like America and work like America in the best sense. And I love the Saxophone Club, and I was thrilled to come out here and see this great example of defense conversion and base re-use and the future of America with all of you here. It was great.

Now, I just want to leave you with a couple of thoughts. This election is 3 months and 2 weeks and about 3 days away—[laughter]—more or less. More or less. And I want you to leave here committed to bringing some measure of this enthusiasm to communicating with your friends and your family members and the people with whom you work and study and come in contact about what it means to them.

You know, tonight, before I went to the dinner that I previously attended, I met with about 16 or 17 women from the greater Denver area, all different kinds of women, just talking about their hopes for their children and their grandchildren and the struggles they were having mixing work and school and raising their kids and just all the things they were thinking about. And I felt so good when it was over because they were such impressive people and they represented what I am hoping we can bring to all the American people.

I want to just give you two or three arguments that I want you to make to everybody between now and November. Four years ago, I got into this remarkable adventure because I was convinced that our country was drifting into the 21st century instead of charging into it and because I thought we were being more divided when we needed to come together and because I thought our leadership in the world was being undermined because of our problems at home. And I had this vision of what we are going to look like when we go ripping into the next century with the American dream alive for every single citizen willing to work for it, with America coming together and celebrating our diversity as an enormous strength instead of being divided by, and with our country still the world's strongest force for peace and freedom and prosperity around the world.

That is the way to guarantee you the future to which you're entitled and to make the future for your children and your grandchildren be what it ought to be. And I had a fairly simple strategy. I said I'm going to emphasize things that create opportunity, that call forth greater responsibility and that bring us together. I'm going to try to stop all the politics of division and start putting people together. I'm going to try, for example, to answer the real question for most working families, which is how do you succeed at home and at work? How do you avoid sacrificing one for the other and instead come together and move forward together?

Now, I want you to make three arguments to everybody you see between now and then. Argument number one: We had a vision; we had a strategy; we had a plan. We implemented it, and the results were good. And we had to fight them on every step of the way on most of what we did.

We put our economic plan into effect. They said it would bring on a recession. It brought on 10 million new jobs. And 8 million people refinanced their homes, and 3.7 million Americans became first-time homebuyers. We had record numbers of new businesses in each of the last 3 years. We expanded trade at a record level, 200 separate agreements. It's working economically.

We had a plan to fight crime. They fought us every step of the way. We said we need more police on the street, we need tougher punishments, but we need to give our kids something to say yes to. We need to do something about the assault weapons, and we need to do something to require waiting periods so we can check to see if people have violated the law. And we implemented it.

And for 4 years in a row now, the crime rate has been coming down in America. And all those people that jumped me about the assault weapons ban and the Brady bill, let me tell you something, there's not a single hunter in Colorado that has lost a rifle because of the assault weapons ban or the Brady bill. But I'll tell you who has lost out: There are 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers that don't have handguns today because of the Brady bill. It was the right thing to do.

When it came to welfare reform I said I thought we ought to be good to the kids and tough on work, not tough on the kids and easy on work. We had a big argument in Washington about it. But I believe we were right: 75 percent of the American people on welfare today are already under welfare-to-work experiments, and there are 1.3 million fewer people on welfare than there were the day I took the oath of office, and I'm proud of that.

They said the Government was the problem and we ought to get rid of it. I said the Government had a lot of problems and we ought to fix them so that we could have a Government that would be on our side and help us to make the most of our own lives. So today we have a Government that's 240,000 people smaller than it was the day I took the oath of the office. We're getting rid of 16,000 pages of regulation, but we didn't give up on things like protecting the environment and the public health. We fought them every step of the way, and we prevailed on something that was very important.

And the world is a safer place and we are further along the road toward peace because of the things that have been done. A lot of them were unpopular, but they were the right things to do. So the first thing you can say is, the President and his team, they had a plan. They implemented it, and it's gotten good results. And they did it by bringing the American people together across the lines of race and religion and region and income and all the other ways we're divided, by getting people together.

The second point I want you to make is that there's a big choice in this election, and the voters should be very happy because there is no guesswork. [Laughter] Now, you know— you're laughing, but it's true. I mean, when you voted for me, when I carried Colorado in 1992, you took a chance on me. You took Governor Romer's word for me—[laughter]—I mean, you know, you sort of took a chance. You said, I think I'll vote for him. Well, now you know who I am, and you know what I've done, and you know what I will do. But you know who they are, and you know what they've done, and you know what they will do. And you know you know what they will do, because they already did it, and I just vetoed it the first time.

So if your idea—this is very serious. We're having a good time, and I want you to have a good time, but this is dead serious. I'm telling you, if you want the budget that they passed in 1995—that created a two-tiered system of Medicare putting the oldest, the poorest, and the sickest seniors at the most vulnerability, that walked away from a 30-year commitment we had to health care and families with children and other members with disabilities, to poor pregnant women and their infant children, to elderly people in nursing homes—if you believe the way to balance the budget is to gut the Nation's support for a clean environment and for education, you can have it. They did it once, but I vetoed it. If they have the Congress and the White House, within 6 months it'll be the law of the land. You tell people that.

There's no guesswork in this election. Choose—if you want that instead of continuing to walk into the future, you can get it. I think I know what choice people will make if they understand it clearly.

And the third thing, and maybe the most important thing of all, is that this country's business is not finished. Are we better off than we were 4 years ago? You bet we are. Are we ready to go into the 21st century in the shape America deserves to be in? No, we are not. No, we are not. We still have a lot of challenges. Economically, our challenge is to take our ability to create jobs and give it to all the American people so that everybody has a chance to live up to the fullest of their Godgiven abilities. And the only way to do that is to improve the quality and the reach of education in America. We should not be cutting back on education, we should be investing in it and expanding opportunity.

Let me tell you something. We're on the verge of having a system, because of the technological changes in the information age, which could give a student in the smallest, poorest, rural community in Colorado or my home State of Arkansas every bit of educational opportunity that students in the wealthiest suburban districts in America have because of the computer and the information age. And I am determined to hook up every classroom in America to the information superhighway by the year 2000.

There's a lot of talk about tax cuts in the air in Washington. We have to be careful because we've got to balance that budget. But there is one tax cut that would pay for itself many times over. We ought to give people a tax deduction for the cost of college tuition and a tax credit for 2 years of community college, no matter what their rate, anywhere in America. That would be the best money we ever spent.

It would allow us to grow together and go forward together.

We have a lot of unfinished agenda in the environment. We still have to prove, really prove, that we can grow the economy and not just maintain the environment but improve it. We just got a new cable setup in Washington, and they've got one of these sci-fi—the Sci-Fi Channel on it. And my daughter's got me interested in science fiction again. So when I come in late at night, sometimes I take the channel and I channel surf the way you do, and I settle on the Sci-Fi Channel. It is astonishing how many science fiction movies about the future project an America on an Earth with a destroyed environment, isn't it? Still, they just assume we're going to be so dumb we're going to use it up. We're going to burn up the air and cut down all the trees and pollute all the water. And we'll all be living in some kind of bubble. It's amazing, still, those movies are just pouring out. That does not have to be the case.

But it is an outmoded idea that you can grow the economy and stick it to the environment. You have to grow the economy by preserving and enhancing the environment. That is our challenge as we move through the 21st century.

So those three arguments—I want you to go out and make those three arguments. Number one, the President had an idea. He had a plan. We implemented it. The results are good. We're better off than we were 4 years ago. Number two, we don't have to guess in this election. There's a huge difference. And there's no status quo option. There are these two different bridges you can walk across to the 21st century, and we like the one we're on, not the one they tried to put us on. And number three, there's a lot of unfinished business here. And the ideas that Bill Clinton and Al Gore and the new Democratic Party have brought to America are the right ideas. That's the argument I want you to make.

And I want you to just think about what you saw the other night at the Olympics. And let me just tell you a little something that you didn't see. You know, Hillary and I went to the Olympics; we got to spend all day kind of just gawking around at those great looking athletes. And we went and had lunch with a lot of the international athletes. But I want to tell you something. I met a young man from Ireland who almost had tears in his eyes who said, "You know, I loved it when we had peace in Ireland, and it broke my heart when they broke the peace. You and America helped to bring us peace. I hope you can get it back for us."

I met a young man from Croatia who was a whole head taller than me, which is a pretty good size even today. [Laughter] And he thanked me for Ron Brown's trade mission to Croatia where Ron and the other people from our Government, those business leaders, died, and for his successor, Mickey Kantor, to come over and finish it. I mean, this guy's talking to me about a trade mission at the Olympics because of what America meant to his country.

I met a young man with the Palestinian team who said, "Mr. President, the Palestinians, my people, we're a very old people, but we never had an Olympic team, not ever, until we made peace with Israel. And I thank you for that. And you need to know that a lot of us want to keep that peace. We want to keep that peace."

And then Hillary and I went—then we went to meet with the American team. And I looked at them, and I thought, you know, if they were just all divided up walking around, you wouldn't know where they were from. Some of them look like they were from Latin America, others look like they were from Asia, others look like they're from the Middle East. Some of them looked like they were from Scandinavia. You know what? They all were. [Laughter] That's the unique thing about this country. And that's what makes this special.

Look around this room tonight. We're bound together by a set of ideas, a set of values, a set of beliefs. Oh yes, we have to fight it, too. That's what this church burning business is all about. When people put swastikas on mosques or on the doors of African-American soldiers at Fort Bragg in the Special Forces, or they torch the Islamic centers that have been burned in this country, we still have to fight that. But it's tearing the heart out of Rwanda and Burundi and Bosnia and the Middle East and Northern Ireland.

And that's the last thing I want to tell you. We've got to do this together. The thing that makes us magic is when we are helping each other do better, when we're lifting each other up, when we don't define ourselves by our resentments, and we don't define ourselves by whether we can look down on somebody that looks different from us. That's what makes us special. That's our genius. That's what's good about America.

And I want to say this, especially to the young people in this audience—you know, I've learned as I get older that the definition of young is whoever's younger than you are. [Laughter] My friend who died last year at the age of 89, Senator Bill Fulbright, was having dinner a couple of years ago with Mike Mansfield, who was our Ambassador to Japan for many years. At the time, Fulbright was 87 and Mansfield was 90. And Mansfield still—he's 92; he walks 5 miles every day. He looked at Fulbright, who was 87, and he said, "Now how old are you?" And he said, "87." And Mansfield said, "Oh, to be 87 again." [Laughter] I say that because young is whoever's younger than you. Most of you are younger to me. I get my AARP card this year. [Laughter]

So what I want you to think about is this, particularly if you're thirty-something, twentysomething: Imagine what you would like your country to look like when your children are your age. Imagine what you would like your country to look like when you have grandchildren that are your age. And I'll bet you anything you want the American dream alive and well for everybody who have worked for it. You want America to be coming together, not drifting apart. And you want your country to still be the world's leader for peace and freedom and prosperity.

That is what this is all about. It's not about me or the Vice President or Senator Dole or the Republicans. It's about what this country's going to look like in the 21st century. We're not drifting now; we're roaring there. And I want us to keep doing it.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:15 p.m. at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. In his remarks, he referred to Holly Barnes, event organizing committee member; Donald L. Fowler, national chairman, Democratic National Committee; Mayor Wellington E. Webb of Denver; Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado; Barry Fey, owner, Fey Concerts; and musical group Los Lobos.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to the Saxophone Club in Denver, Colorado Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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