Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to the Saxophone Club in Santa Monica, California

August 08, 1996

Thank you very much. I am delighted to be here. I want to thank all of you for coming. I want to thank the cochairs of this event and Hannah Bond, the director of the Saxophone Club. Thank you all very much. I want to thank Dave Koz and his band, and B.J. and the Boys. And I want to say to my good friend Whoopi Goldberg—she is a national marvel, isn't she? And here she was tonight actually playing it straight. And that just shows you how serious she is about winning this election. If you're as serious as she is, we're going to be okay in November. I also saw Magic Johnson over there. I thank him for being here tonight. Thank you, Magic.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to be brief tonight so I can get out and shake hands and say hello to you, but I want to say just a couple of things—just bear with me for a moment in all your exuberance and let's—just be serious with me just for a minute.

I want to tell you a couple of stories. One is that yesterday Hillary and Chelsea and I had the privilege of welcoming the Olympic team to the White House. And we're real proud of them. And the day before, we saw the Paralympic team off to Atlanta to do their thing, and it was an incredible event. And of course, we had a chance to go down and speak to our Olympic team and visit the Olympics right before the games began.

And so I've been thinking a lot during this whole period and that long night when I stayed up all night after the bomb blew up in the park and we didn't quite know what had happened for a while, what is it that makes people love the Olympics so much, besides the fact that we all love sports? And I think that there are two or three things that make us love it even if we don't like sports so much. You know, we had 77,000 people who saw the women's soccer final. I mean, people really got into this.

Now, what is it that we like about it? Well, first of all, you've got people from 197 different countries, and they're all getting along for a change. They're all getting along for a change. Right before I went to the dining hall, the North Korean and South Korean teams had sat at adjoining tables and had talked. I've been trying to get them to talk for 3 1/2 years with no luck. [Laughter]

Secondly, they work the way we think the world ought to work. I mean, there's a set of rules and people follow them. And as long as you're following rules, the other people all respect you, even if you're different from them. And you can't win any medals if you sneak into your opponent's room at night and break his legs or if you stand up at a microphone like this and talk about what a terrible person your opponent is, how they're no good and corrupt and dishonest. You've just got to reach down deep inside and do your best, and everybody gets a chance, but nobody gets a guarantee. And most people don't win medals, but everybody is better off when it's all over. And we all feel good.

And in America we especially feel good because there were 197 different nations represented; there are representatives from 150 of those different countries in Los Angeles County tonight as we speak. So we identify with that, and we like it.

Now, I'll tell you a second story. I was up in Salinas today, and we were celebrating this remarkable effort they've made with all their community organizations to reach out to all the children in trouble and break this epidemic of gangs they have there and dramatically lower the murder rate among young people. And I went there to celebrate what they've done and also to point out that we announced today that for the first time in 7 long years the crime rate is going down among people under 18— for the first time in 7 years.

But it turns out that there was a gold medal winner from Salinas who was a member of our 4 by 400 relay team, a very handsome young man who showed up and got a bigger hand than the President did. It was terrific. And he has a twin brother who came within less than a second of making the Olympic team himself. And it turns out that at one point when these kids were very young they were so poor they were living in a car. But the fellow has an Olympic Gold Medal, an American dream story.

Now, what's all that got to do with this election? This election, in my opinion, is about what this country is going to look like when we start the new century and the new millennium and, for those of you young people who are in the Saxophone Club, what it's going to look like when you're my age and you have children. And what I want it to look like is a country where everybody, wherever they start out in life, no matter how poor they are, what their race is, what their station in life is, has a chance to live out their dreams if they're willing to be responsible and work for it. I want this to be a country where we relish our diversity, where we celebrate our differences and say, "We're not bound by any race or region or creed. We're bound by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. If you'll sign onto that, you're fine by me, and we like it."

And I want this to be a country that stands up for peace and freedom around the world and tells people that it's wrong to have a situation you've got in Bosnia, Burundi, the Middle East, or Ireland or anyplace where people are killed or persecuted because they're different from somebody else, from religion or race or ethnicity.

And if we do that, the next century is going to be the greatest era of human possibility that has ever existed. There are children in school today that within 10 years will be doing jobs that have not been invented yet, that have not been imagined yet. And more people will have more chances to live out their dreams than ever before. That's what I'm working for.

I was so elated yesterday that I got to participate in a comment about our space scientists discovering this piece of meteorite from Mars that took 16 million years to get here and has been hanging around in Antarctica for Lord knows how many thousands of years but seems to have evidence of a fossilized micro-organism—incredible thing. But whether it's—whatever pans out of it, what it shows is that there is a magnificent world out there of things we still don't know. And the explosion of knowledge and technology, if we can make sure everybody has a fair chance and if we can learn to live together amidst all our differences and if we can keep moving the world forward in a more peaceful way, it's going to be an incredible time out there.

Now, that is what this election is all about. And I want you to make just three simple arguments to people in the next 88 days. Number one, take President Reagan's test: Are we better off than we were 4 years ago? Well, if the test is the first time the deficit has gone down in all 4 years of a President's term since the 1840's, 10 million more jobs, 4.4 million more homeowners, 10 million people refinance their mortgages, a record number of new small businesses, a record number of new businesses owned by women and minorities—if that's the test—record exports—we're better off than we were. If the test is 4 years in a row of a declining crime rate, 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers that don't have handguns because of the Brady bill, then we're better off. If the test is 12 million Americans who got to take some time off from work when there was a baby born or a sick parent without losing their job, we're better off. If the test is no nuclear missiles pointed at the American people for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age, we're better off. So are we better off? Yes, we are.

Second question: What is the alternative? [Laughter] The answer is, you don't have to guess; you know what they will do, too. They've already done it once; I just vetoed it the first time. And I don't believe we can become a greater, stronger nation by saying we're going to balance the budget and using that as an excuse to wreck our ability to protect the environment for future generations or cutting back on education at a time when we need to be spending more for education—we ought to make sure that nobody who needs to go is ever deprived of the right to go to college, and everybody ought to get 2 more years of education—or running away from our obligations to provide health care to poor children and pregnant women and families with someone in it with a disability or seniors.

So there's a big difference here in what we think our obligations are. I believe the role of Government is not to be a bureaucratic pain in the neck. We have reduced the size of Government. We have put it on the side of creating jobs and promoting the economy. But I believe this: I think we have an obligation to protect the environment, to hold people together, and to give people the tools they need to make the most of their own lives. That is what we have to be doing, and that's what I'm committed to.

And the last thing I want to say to you is it's a big, bright world out there, but it matters what decisions people make. Don't let anybody tell you this is an election without consequences. This is an election of massive consequence in every single policy area you can think of.

You know, we've got 1.3 million fewer people on welfare than we had 4 years ago. We've got 1 1/2 million fewer people on food stamps. I'm all for looking for new and innovative ways to move people from welfare to work. That's why I signed that welfare bill. But it was wrong of the Congress to deny any access to benefits to legal immigrants who work here and pay taxes and through no fault of their own get in trouble. You know, you think about it Monday when you go to work. How many people come here and they work hard and they pay their taxes and through no fault of their own they get in a car wreck or they develop a serious illness. And this Congress wants to say to people they shouldn't even be entitled to a little help even if they've been paying their taxes, even if they've been in the military, legal immigrants that join the military.

Don't let this election become an excuse to divide us from anybody who is here lawfully, obeying the law, paying their taxes, doing their part; we ought to go and grow together. We shouldn't be divided on this. Don't do that.

If you want to know what we're going to do in the next 4 years, I'll tell you what we're going to do. We've gotten our house in order in the first 4 years. In the second 4 years, we're going to be dedicated to giving every single American the chance to participate in the economy that is emerging, to participate in the society that is emerging, and to know that we can grow the economy and preserve the environment and to know that we can be fair to our children and our parents and still have enough left for ourselves. We, in short, are going to go forward together. We are not going to be divided. And that is the central decision facing the American people.

There is too much out there for all of us if we'll just keep our heads on straight, listen to our heart, and say we're going to do it together. That's the spirit that we celebrated in the Olympics, and we need to make American life more that way.

Thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:04 p.m. at the Armand Hammer Museum of Art. In his remarks, he referred to comedienne Whoopi Goldberg and former NBA basketball player Earvin (Magic) Johnson.

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

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