Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in Vancouver, Washington

September 19, 1996

The President. Thank you. Hello, Vancouver! Thank you for being here in such wonderful numbers. Thank you for waiting for us. We have had a wonderful, wonderful trip all the way from Tacoma; we started this morning in the rain. There were about 25,000 people there, and then the Sun came out, and then the Sun went in, and the Moon came out—[laughter]—and we came to beautiful Vancouver. Thank you. Bless you.

Thank you, Gary Locke, for being with us and good luck—we need you. I hope you'll help him become the next Governor of the State of Washington. And thank you, Brian Baird, for taking on this brave fight for Congress. Congratulations on your great vote on Tuesday. Stick with him, folks. This young man can make it, and he'll represent you well.

Hillary and Tipper and Al and I, we've had a wonderful visit in Washington State. It's great to be back. I was just up the road, Woodland, where I came when the flood came, you know, and I saw some of the people I met there. I was so moved by the way they responded to the flood, by what they did, that I wrote about them in the book I put out this year as part of telling the American people what I wanted to do for the next 4 years.

And I have to tell you, when I go around to these communities in your wonderful State, I see all of the children coming out, full of hope for the future, I see all of you come out, determined to play a constructive role in this election, it is so different from the way it was beginning to be 4 years ago when we had a stagnant economy, rising crime, a more divided country, and increasing cynicism. Today, we're on the right track for the 21st century, and we need to stay right on it.

My fellow Americans, this election in 6 weeks and 5 days is an election for the last President of the 20th century and the first President of the 21st century. But by far more important, it's an election that will shape what America will be like when our children are our age.

The questions I try to ask and answer every day are: First, what do we have to do to keep the American dream alive for every American, every boy and girl willing to work for it? Second, what do we have to do to keep our country coming together? We're becoming increasingly diverse and different. How can we come together in mutual respect to build the bonds of strong communities to make a strong nation? How can we beat the odds and not become like so many other countries that are being torn apart by their differences, their religious, their racial, their ethnic, their tribal differences? That's not America. We need to be a strong community, just like this is a strong community. And finally, how can we keep on leading the world for peace and freedom and prosperity? We've worked on that for 4 years, with a simple strategy: opportunity for every American, responsibility from every American, and a real effort to build our community together.

Now, I tell you, yes, we're better off than we were 4 years ago, and it wasn't an accident. And yes, there are big differences between our opponents, the nominee for President, Senator Dole; Mr. Gingrich; and all of them—we fought over many different issues that we honestly disagreed on. They said if our budget plan passed, it would bring on a recession and increase the deficit; that's what they said. Well, 4 years later we've reduced the deficit 4 years in a row for the first time since the 1840's, we have 10 1/2 million new jobs, our auto industry is number one, we have record exports, record small businesses. I think we were right. We're moving in the right direction. We'll balance the budget if you'll give us 4 more years.

There's been a lot of talk—a lot of talk— about crime. Well, folks, you never heard a politician who was for crime, did you? I never heard a politician give a speech saying, "I really wish we had more crime." Of course, we're all against crime, but what I found when I came to Washington is, we'd had 6 long years of talks, and nothing but hot air and nothing to show for it.

We passed a crime bill that our opponents led the opposition to, to put 100,000 police on the street, to have a "three strikes and you're out" law, to have much tougher punishment, to ban 19 kinds of assault weapons, to protect hunting and sporting weapons. We passed the Brady bill over their opposition. What's happened? Four years in a row, we're halfway home on 100,000 police; we stopped them when they tried to repeal the 100,000 police; we took the assault weapons off the street; 60,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers didn't get handguns, but all the Washington hunters still have their hunting rifles. I believe we were right, and they were wrong, and we need to keep on going in that direction.

We've moved almost 2 million people off the welfare rolls, increased child support collections by 40 percent. There are a million fewer crime victims in America today. We are moving in the right direction. As the Vice President said, while growing the economy we've worked hard to make the air cleaner, the drinking water and the food safer, to protect our natural resources and to expand them.

Folks, we're moving in the right direction. And I want to ask you to help me build a bridge to the 21st century where we keep cleaning up the environment, where we keep bringing crime down. If we bring it down 8 years in a row instead of 4, it'll be about low enough so we'll actually be surprised when we see a crime on the evening news at night, and our children will be safe on the streets.

I want you to help me to keep building strong families. One of the most interesting issues of this election is that the first bill I signed when I became President was a bill, again, which was opposed by my opponent and Speaker Gingrich. They led the opposition to it, the family and medical leave law. They said it was bad for business, bad for business to say you could have a little time off when your baby is born or your parent's sick without losing your job. We did it. Twelve million families have taken advantage of it, and 10 1/2 million jobs later, we know it was good for business. America is stronger when we can raise our children and work and succeed at the same time.

So I want you to help me do better. I'd like to see people be able to take a little time off to go to their children's regular meetings with their teachers, the parent-teacher conferences, and take their folks to medical appointments, and we'll be stronger because of it. Will you help me build that bridge to the 21st century?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. I want to build a bridge to the 21st century where we keep this economy growing, where we expand trade even more. Washington State—because we've had over 200 separate trade agreements, the people of Washington are selling more airplanes, more computer software, and apples from Washington for the first time all the way in Japan. We need more of that, and I will give you more of it.

We need to balance the budget, and we can cut taxes. But we only can cut the taxes that we can pay for balancing the budget. Why? Because when we bring this deficit down, it keeps interest rates down; it means your car payment, your credit card payment, your house payments are lower; it means businesses can borrow money to hire people to grow the economy. We have to continue.

We cannot have a tax cut that's so big that we have to have the Government start borrowing more money again to drive up your interest rates. Somebody gives you that kind of a tax cut, they're going to take it right back out in higher interest rates for credit cards, car payments, and home mortgages, and businesses won't be growing again.

So yes, let's cut taxes for education, for childrearing, for medical care, for buying that first-time home. Let's don't charge people a tax on the gain when they sell their homes, but let's pay for it in a balanced budget. Let's do that.

Finally, let me remind you what is at stake. We also have to balance the budget without undermining our commitments to education, to the environment, to Medicaid's commitment to little children, to the seniors in nursing homes, to families with disabilities, most of them middle class families, without creating a two-tier system of Medicare that will be unfair to our seniors. We can do that, folks, without walking away from research.

I want you to think about this. We have to balance the budget, but we do not have to cut Head Start. We do not have to raise taxes on the poorest working people. We do not have to do it in ways that allow corporations to raid their workers' pension funds. We don't have to do it in a way that abolishes the safe and drugfree school program, the AmeriCorps program, gets rid of direct student loans which have helped millions and millions of young people in this country. They were wrong. Our way of balancing the budget is better. And I hope you'll support it. Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Finally, most important of all, we've got to create a bridge that all of our children can walk across that gives every American without regard to their age access to a lifetime of educational opportunity.

And I just want to mention two things. Number one, I want to see every classroom and library in America hooked up to the Internet by the year 2000, hooked up to the World Wide Web. I want to make sure that children in small towns, children in inner-city neighborhoods, children in Native American tribes on reservations—children everywhere—for the first time in the history of this country have access to the same learning in the same way at the same level of quality in the same time—everybody. It has never happened. We can do it. Will you help me build that bridge to the 21st century?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. And the second thing I want to say is, I want you to help me make a college education available to every single American citizen who needs it. And we propose to do it with three simple steps.

First, let families save in an IRA, an individual retirement account, and then withdraw from it tax-free if they're spending the money on a college education for their children or themselves.

Second, second, let's make a commitment that by the year 2000, at least 2 years of education after high school, a community college diploma, will be just as normal, just as usual, just as universal as a high school diploma is today. We can do it. Here's how: I propose to let you take a credit, just take it off your taxes, dollar for dollar, for the cost of tuition at the typical community college in America. You go find the college, reduce your taxes by the tuition. That way we'll pay for everybody who needs it to go to community college. And we can do it and balance the budget.

And third, third, for people who want to go to the 4-year colleges or to graduate school— of any age—people that were working and have to go back—I think we should allow you a deduction on your taxes of up to $10,000 for the cost of college tuition every year. Will you help me build that bridge to the 21st century?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Folks, there are 6 weeks and 5 days to this election. I have done everything I could do to make this an election of ideas, not insults, to stop the old-fashioned Washington politics of dividing people. There was a sign at our last rally that said, "We don't need division. We need vision." And I believe that. We need more of that.

So I want to ask you: Will you take some time every day that you possibly can between now and the election to reach out to your family members, your friends, your parents, your children, your cousins, your uncles, your aunts, your coworkers, the people you go bowling with, the people you ate lunch with and talk to them about what they want America to look like when we start that new century?

I'm telling you, there is no nation in the world as well-positioned as the United States for the 21st century. It is there for us if we build the right bridge. Our best days are ahead if you will help us build that bridge to tomorrow. Will you do it?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:27 p.m. at Fort Vancouver Park.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in Vancouver, Washington Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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