Remarks at a Victory Celebration at the National Building Museum
Thank you. Let me join Tipper and Hillary and Al in telling you how glad I am to see all of you. I'm sorry we couldn't get everybody into the limited hotel space in Little Rock. Although, somehow or another, we had about 50,000 people in the street.
It's been a wonderful day. And I am full of gratitude to all of you and to all those whom you represent. I thank my Cabinet; I know that at least Secretaries Riley, O'Leary, and Brown are here. But all of them worked very, very hard. I thank Don Fowler. And along with Hillary and Tipper and Al and all of you, I send our prayers and best wishes to Don and his wife tomorrow. And I thank Chris Dodd for speaking out in his brave and aggressive and incredibly articulate way. And we did pretty well in Connecticut last night. I think that the people there agreed with him instead of all those that were attacking us and running us down.
I thank Marvin Rosen for taking on this hard job and doing it well and Peter Knight and all of our wonderful campaign staff and Richard Sullivan all the people at the DNC. I thank Terry McAuliffe and Laura Hartigan; they worked so hard with all of their people to make sure our campaign was financed early and well.
I want to thank those who entertained us tonight, and thank all of you. There are a lot of people in this audience and around this country who played a major role in this campaign.
I feel I have to say a special word of thanks to the mayors that are here. I know that Dennis Archer and also Mayor Ed Rendell of Philadelphia are here. I don't know if there are any other mayors, but if there are mayors or Governors here I don't know about, I thank you very much for what you've done. Thank you, Reverend Jesse Jackson, for what you did in this campaign and what you do in every campaign, all the miles you traveled, all the speeches you gave. Thank you for going to California and standing up, as I did, for what we believe. We don't always win when we stand up for what we believe, but we always come out ahead. And I thank you, sir, for that.
Let me say that a campaign is a fascinating thing—the people who give and give and give of their time, their money, their heart. This was an unusual campaign for me, in terms of the difference from the one before, because this time, everywhere I went I could actually see the evidence of our collective endeavors.
I was in Denver the other night and we had a nice little crowd and then folks were standing by the ropeline the way you are. I just was walking down the ropeline, and I started shaking hands with people. And within 5 minutes, I met a young woman who had obviously been a victim of domestic violence, who thanked me for the Violence Against Women Act, the hotline, the fact that we were moving to bring down domestic violence.
Then there were three women standing there with a little sign that said, "Thank you for putting more money into breast cancer research," who knew that we had uncovered now two of the genes which cause breast cancer and may someday be able to not only actually cure those cancers early but even to find out enough to prevent them in the first place.
And then I met a man—a big, big man who reached across four or five folks and shook hands with me and said, "I wish my wife were here tonight, but we adopted a baby 2 months ago and because of the family leave law, she's able to take a little time off from work to integrate that baby into our home life without losing her job."
And then I met a young man who said he had dropped out. But when we passed this new law to reform the college loan process so that he could pay the loan back as a percentage of his income and he didn't have to worry about going broke anymore, he had gone from being a college dropout to a good student in microbiology.
And then I met a lovely young woman who happened to be the daughter of one of the Federal agents who was there, who was a police officer in a smaller community in Colorado, who thanked me for the law enforcement part of the crime bill because her community was about to get five more police and she thought the children of her community would be safer and she would be safer doing her job because she was going to have help. That was in 5 minutes.
I was in Longview, Texas, the other day. We had 13,000 people at 8 in the morning, and that's hardly a hotbed of liberalism. [Laughter] I met a young single mother with two children who had gone back through the AmeriCorps program to serve in her community, get off public assistance, and was now going to the Kilgore Junior College there. And I met another woman whose husband had cancer, who got to save her job while she took care of her husband because of family leave. And I met a man who was a Vietnam veteran there with his wife. And he asked me—he said, "What did you all ever do with that bill to help the veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange whose children got spina bifida?" And I looked at him, and I said, "I signed it yesterday, and now those people will get disability as well as medical benefits for the first time." And he was real tall, so I was looking up at him—he was a head taller than I was—and he said, "Well, thank you very much for her." And I looked down at his little girl who was 12 years old in a wheelchair who had 12 operations because she contracted a condition that almost certainly she got because her husband served our country 20 years ago.
This is what this whole deal's about to me. You know, all this political business that you read in the newspaper, who's doing what and all that. And let me say something else. A lot of you contributed to our campaigns; a lot of you really stretched the limit; a lot of you went out and raised money for our campaigns. And you knew good and well you could have gotten a more direct benefit if you had put your money into the other side. I mean, they told you you'd get a big tax cut, and you maybe could have had other things. And you did it because you wanted your country to grow together.
As you know, I have said for 5 years, I think we ought to find a different system of financing our campaigns. But I want you to know that I appreciate that fact that you helped us stay competitive, even though the Republicans still raised $150 million or more, more than we did. We were able to stay competitive because people like you believed in the common ground of America. And I thank you for that. And I thank all of you for that. We had unprecedented financial support from the African-American community, from the Hispanic community. And I want to say as an Irish-American, I appreciate the support we got from every ethnic group, from the Jewish-Americans, from the Greek-Americans, and yes, from the Asian-Americans. I'm proud to have your support, and I thank you very much for it.
And let me say also, there are lots of other people who worked in our campaign. I went back to New Hampshire—I started my last day of my last campaign where we began our quest for the Presidency—and early in the morning in New Hampshire, on that last day, the 60 people who started out with me in 1991 and stayed with me when my death warrant was pronounced by the experts, gathered in a little restaurant. And they had all these pictures up everywhere. One of them was a young boy named Mike Morrison who was only a high school junior when I ran the last time and is now in college and was finally able to vote for me. And he said, "Mr. President," he said, "I'm in college now, and I'm a straight-A student." And I said, "Well, Mike, what do you like? What's your favorite courses?" And he said, "I like creative writing and critical thinking, and I'm writing essays." And he said, "You know, my teachers at our school, they think I should submit my essays to magazines, Readers' Digest and some others." And we talked about it awhile, and I thought about the first time I saw that boy joining with his high school classmates, carrying my banner down the middle of the aisle at the New Hampshire Democratic Convention.
Mike Morrison gets up every day and gets into a wheelchair. And he's a big, strong boy, and he was raised by his mother on a very modest income. He worked hard for me in 1992. And on election day, he promised to be a poll worker, but his mother's car broke down. It was a cold winter day in New Hampshire, and Mike Morrison took his wheelchair 2 miles along the side of a highway from his home to the polling place to be there, to give us a chance to do what we have done these last 4 years.
And the thing I'm so proud of about our campaign is that we've got all kinds of people with all kinds of abilities. And all of us have some disabilities. And we have together made a difference, partly because we decided we were going to do what we were doing together. Justin Dart went to every State in America to organize Americans with disabilities for the Clinton/Gore campaign. That's one reason we won some of those States. God bless you, and thank you. There are people here who organized Republicans for Clinton/Gore, and I thank you for that. And I thank you for what you did. Your numbers were significant.
And last night, when the vote came in and all across the country, I thought of all the people I had met along this journey and all the people whose lives have been touched and how much better off we all are when we work to give everybody not a guarantee but at least a chance, a real chance to be what God meant them to be.
I am very proud of you. I want you to be very proud of this campaign. I want you to be very proud of what has happened. There are millions and millions and millions of people whose lives have been directly touched by the fact that we offered them a chance to have a second chance—to have their main chance to be what they ought to be. And there's lots more to do.
But we should be very grateful we happen to be here in America at the time that I'm convinced it is more possible for more people to live out their dreams than ever before, if we simply meet our challenges and move ourselves closer to our ideals. And it has fallen to us now to do that.
The people decided to leave the Congress in the hands of the Republicans, but they sent a very strong message. A lot of the offices they won, they won by less than 1,000 votes. They don't want meanness. They don't want the politics of personal destruction. They want us to put the people first, the future first, and work together. All of that, too, you contributed to making happen. The whole feeling in this country is so different from what it was just a couple of years ago, and you helped to make that happen.
So I ask you tonight—I ask you tonight to sort of hold back your shoulders and take a deep breath and be very proud because you helped to make our democracy work and, of course, all of us believe, to make the right decision. And I ask you to wake up tomorrow— I hope, like me, you'll be a little less tired than you are tonight—but I ask you to wake up tomorrow with a new sense of optimism about your country, a new sense of belief in the future, and a new determination to continue the work of citizenship. We are making a difference. We're going to make a big difference in the next 4 years. And everybody's got a role to play. And everybody has something to do.
In closing, let me say a special word of thanks to Tipper and to Al and to Hillary. We four have had an unusual partnership. I doubt that there's been anything quite like it in the history of the Presidency and the Vice Presidency. But it has served America well.
And if I had served out my term as Governor and had been elected to another term as Governor instead of running for President, George Clinton and Bill Clinton would have been the two longest serving Governors in American history, and we could have been on a different list. So I think it's a pretty distinguished list, Mr. Vice President, myself.
Let's have a good time tonight. Let's wake up tomorrow proud that we won. And let's think about what we can do to build that bridge to the 21st century.
Thank you, and God bless you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 9:15 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Donald L. Fowler, national chairman, Senator Christopher J. Dodd, general chairman, Marvin Rosen, national finance chairman, and Richard Sullivan, finance director, Democratic National Committee; Peter Knight, campaign manager, Terry McAuliffe, finance chairman, and Laura Hartigan, finance director, Clinton/Gore '96; Mayors Dennis Archer of Detroit, MI, and Edward Rendell of Philadelphia, PA; Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, civil rights leader; and Justin Dart, former Chair, President's Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Victory Celebration at the National Building Museum Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/222008