Remarks in West Palm Beach, Florida
Thank you very much, West Palm Beach. Thank you for being here today. Thank you for being there Tuesday; thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, on this beautiful Florida Sunday, we are just 2 days from electing the last President of the 20th century and the first President of the 21st century. I thank you all for being here, for your care, your concern, for your love for our country. I thank especially my great friend and former colleague when I was a Governor, Senator Bob Graham, who is one of the finest public officials in the United States Senate today, someone you can be very proud of. I appreciate his support. I thank him for that wonderful litany. I'd forgotten I'd done some of those things myself. [Laughter]
I thank my friend Lawton Chiles for his passionate devotion to the people of Florida and for his fighting instincts when he and Buddy MacKay were down for the count, in 1994, in a very difficult year. And everyone said they were gone. They said, "We're not gone, we're right here. We've done a good job, and we're going in the right direction. We believe the people of Florida will reelect us." And you did, and I thank you. For America and for Florida, I thank you. And I thank them.
I thank Buddy MacKay for being there for me from the beginning 5 years ago, Attorney General Bob Butterworth, Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson, Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford, my friends, good public servants. And thank you, Bob, for your insistence on our doing something about the tomato problem. I'm glad we were able to do it, and you deserve a lot of the credit for it. Thank you very much.
I thank the congressional candidates who are here today, Jim Stuber, Ken Cooper, and Robert Wexler. And I thank Congressman Peter Deutsch for the fine job he has done in the United States Congress.
Bob Graham talked about the budget that our friends on the other side passed. And they said that if I didn't cave in to it, that they would just close the Government. And then they said, "You Democrats, you love the Government, you'll never let us close it down, and we'll put this budget right on you." And I said, "It's not me you're putting it on. I'm going to be all right. Most of my life is lived. It's the American people you're putting it on, and I'd rather have the American people inconvenienced by 30 days of Government shutdown than hurt for 30 years by that budget." And they stood by me, and I thank them, or we wouldn't have been able to do it.
I want to thank my good friend Jimmy Buffett for singing for me today. Wasn't he great? [Applause] Four years ago Jimmy Buffett came to Tampa and sang for us. I'm glad he's here today. I want to thank the Sun Coast High School Chargers Sonic Sound, the Santa Luces High School Marching Chiefs. Thank you for being here.
And Madam Mayor, let me thank you. I have said all over this country that we are in a period of profound change in how we work and live and relate to each other and the rest of the world. Some of the issues that have been discussed today already illustrate that. I have tried to say to all my fellow Americans that, even more than normal, this is not a race of party. It is a race of country; it is a race about people. And Mayor, I'm honored to have the support of all the Republicans for Clinton and Gore around the country, and especially your support. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. I might say, if you pick up your Newsweek tomorrow, you will see that your mayor was named one of the 25 mayors to watch in the United States. And I'm going to be watching her; I think you will, too. Congratulations.
On this beautiful Sunday we should be grateful to be Americans and grateful for the privilege we're about to have. I can tell you this: As we get closer and closer to the election, it becomes more and more obvious that in this great democracy you count more than all of us in elected office. And those of us like me are simply coming to you, the boss, to get our contact renewed. It is now up to you to make these judgments.
Four years ago, amid a time of high unemployment and rising frustration, rising crime and welfare rolls and increasing division, I came to you and asked you to give Al Gore and Bill Clinton the chance to change the course of America, to go beyond the tired old political debates that had dominated Washington for too long, to go beyond insults to issues, beyond the politics of who's to blame to a politics of what are we going to do together to make our country a better place. I asked you to help me create more opportunity, demand more responsibility, and create an American community in which all of you have a place at the table and a role to play. I said then and I say again today that I believe the central role of our National Government is to give you the tools to make the most of your own lives and to create the conditions of security and freedom and opportunity that will make us all a better, stronger people. And I said that I thought that we ought to have a smaller Government, but it still ought to be strong enough to give you those tools and help you when you need it.
We have worked hard for 4 years now, and you don't have to take us on faith anymore; there is a record, a record that is good and strong. And that is the fundamental fact. We enter this election day with 10 1/2 —10.7 million more jobs; the lowest combined rates of unemployment and inflation in 27 years; the highest rates of homeownership in 15 years; with America number one in exporting and number one in automobile production for the first time since 1979—your country is number one again; with record numbers of new small businesses in every single year of the last 4 years; with declining poverty rates among seniors and African-Americans; with declining inequality among all people who are working, the biggest drop in income inequality among working people in 27 years; nearly 2 million fewer people on the welfare rolls; a 50 percent increase in child support enforcement; 4 years of declining crime rates, crime at a 10-year low. Folks, we are better off than we were 4 years ago, and we are moving in the right direction.
Now, I can't help noting on this Sunday that on the day that it was announced we had 210,000 more jobs, my opponent said that our economy was in the worst shape in 20 years. Now, that's not all bad because just 2 weeks earlier, our opponent said we were in the worst shape we'd been in in 100 years. [Laughter] So he's making the case for my reelection. I mean, who else do you know who could move us 80 years in 2 weeks? We're doing all right.
But let's face it. There is more to be done. We still have work to do to build that bridge to the 21st century. We still have work to do to make sure every American, without regard to race or religion or where they start in life, has a chance to live out his or her dreams. We still have work to do to make sure all of our citizens are acting responsibly. And we still have work to do to bring this country together as one community. I have tried to run this campaign in a way that would do that, to make this a campaign of issues and not insults. I thank Governor Chiles for what he said.
One of the more interesting aspects of the opposition's effort has been their obsession with my wife. [Laughter] Well, I'm obsessed with her too, but in a different way. And they think we're better off on our own. I think she was right when she said it takes a village to raise our children and build our future. And I want to say that Governor Chiles' announcement made two people in this audience especially happy: Hillary's mother and sister-in-law, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law who are here, Dorothy Rodham and Maria Arias Rodham. Thank you very much.
We have work to do. Your vote will decide what we're going to do on that great budget issue next time. Let's look at the record. The record is, this is not about liberal and conservative. Ask Senator Graham or Congressman Deutsch. Our administration has reduced the size of Government to its smallest size in 30 years, more than the previous two Republican administrations. We have eliminated more Government regulations than they did, eliminated more unnecessary programs than they did, privatized more Government operations than they did.
What we were not willing to do was to have a budget that in the name of balancing the budget actually shifted resources to a few who did not need it, away from those who did need it to protect the integrity of Medicare and Medicaid, our investments in education, the environment, technology, and the future of the people of Florida and the United States of America.
And so now you will have to decide. This is part of your work because your vote will decide whether we pass our balanced budget plan and keep on bringing interest rates down and growing the Florida and the American economy and have a targeted tax cut we can afford, targeted to childrearing, to education, to buying a first-time home, to dealing with medical costs, but to do all that in a way that protects the integrity of Medicare, of Medicaid's guarantees to poor children, to families with disabilities, to seniors in nursing homes; continues to invest in giving us a world-class education; and protects our environment so that we can pave the way for the 21st century. Your vote will decide.
Now, they shut the Government down twice. If they had succeeded and we had caved in, we would have 3 times the cuts in Medicare that the trustees said was necessary to bail out the trust fund, costing the average senior family $268 more a year in premiums and much more in out-of-pocket costs, in copays and deductibles that had nothing to do with saving Medicare. There's not a senior citizen in Florida that's not willing to do what it takes to preserve the integrity of this program. After all, American seniors have the highest life expectancy in the world and now the lowest poverty rate on record. But I would say, folks, that is a highclass problem. Isn't that what we should be working for? People who can live longer and live better. So let's reform it, but let's don't wreck it. Your vote will decide that.
Their budget, if they had succeeded, would have stopped our commitment to put 100,000 police on the street, even though it's helping the crime rate to go down. It would have abolished the Department of Education. It would have cut college aid to thousands, hundreds of thousands of students. It would have let polluters off the hook for cleaning up their own pollution. They tried to force those cuts by shutting the Government down. In this election you have to say, "You can shut the Government down, but you cannot shut down our future. We will not permit it."
So when you vote on Tuesday, you're not just choosing a President. Your vote will determine the budget, and the budget will determine a large measure of our common future—a future with strong Medicare for our parents or not; a future where all our children can go to college or not; a future with 100,000 more police on the street or not. With your help we can build a future in which all Americans have the tools and the chance—not a guarantee but a chance— to make the most of their own lives. That is your decision. Will you help me build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
Over the opposition of the leaders of the other party we passed the family and medical leave law. They said, "Oh, this will hurt the economy; this will be a terrible burden on the economy." We said the biggest problem working families have today is finding a way to meet their obligations at work and do their most important job, which is to raise their own children with good values and a good future and a good life. And we believe you ought to be able to take a little time off when a baby is born or a family member is sick without losing your job. That's what we said.
Well, it was just a debate before. Now we know who's right; 12 million families have taken some time off under the family leave law; we have 10.7 million more jobs—the fastest job growth, faster than any Republican administration in 70 years—and record numbers of new small businesses. We ought to expand the family leave law so people can have a little time off to go see the teachers of their children twice a year and take their family members to the doctor.
We passed health care reform in the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill, saying you can't lose your health insurance anymore just because someone in the family is sick or you change jobs. We passed a law that said mothers and newborn babies can't be kicked out of the hospital anymore after 24 hours.
Your vote will decide whether to embrace the balanced budget I have recommended, which gives free mammograms to women on Medicare, which gives help for respite care for the nearly 2 million American families caring lovingly and courageously for a family member with Alzheimer's, which adds another million children to the ranks of the health insured and helps working families keep their health insurance when they are between jobs for 6 months. Your vote will decide. Will you help me build that bridge? [Applause]
We've worked hard to protect our children. We've worked hard. We passed a law requiring new television sets to have a V-chip so parents could control what their young children see on television, because too much of it can be destructive for them. We have supported local school districts in things like school uniform policies, curfews, enforcement of their truancy laws. We've said if you drink and drive, you lose your license. And I'm asking every State to help me to deal with the serious problem of rising teen drug use by saying, if you want a driver's license, we want you to pass a drug test because we want to save our children from getting in trouble in the first place. We were the first administration ever to stand up to the problem that the tobacco companies cause when they market, advertise, deliver, and sell illegally tobacco to our young children. Three thousand kids a day start smoking; 1,000 will die sooner because of it. We have said no.
Now, on the V-chip, on the tobacco issue, we have been opposed by those from the other side. So your vote will decide. Will we stay with the V-chip? Will we stay with the fight to make our children tobacco-free? Will we stay with the safe and drug-free schools program when our opponents tried to cut it in half, when we need more people like those D.A.R.E. officers in our schools telling our kids these drugs can kill you, they're wrong, and they're dangerous? [Applause]
We passed the Brady bill, the assault weapons ban, the commitment to 100,000 police. Your vote will decide whether we finish the job of putting those 100,000 police on the street, whether we target violent teen gangs, whether we ban bullets whose only purpose is to pierce the bulletproof vests of police officers. Your vote will decide, and we need your help. Will you help us build that bridge? [Applause]
We have reduced the welfare rolls by nearly 2 million and passed a welfare reform bill that says we'll keep giving poor people health care and food and child care when they go to work, but able-bodied people will now have to turn a welfare check into a paycheck within 2 years. It is a good law. It is a good law, but your vote will decide whether it happens, because if you don't want to hurt the children and you do want people to work, there must be work for them to do. We have a strategy to create another million jobs to move people from welfare to work. Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
Your vote will decide whether we finish the job of saving the Everglades and whether we clean up 500 toxic waste sites where now 10 million American children are living within 4 miles of those toxic waste sites. Your votes will decide whether we continue to grow the economy while we preserve, indeed, improve our environment. Will you help us build a green environmental bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
Your vote will decide whether we open the doors of college to all Americans, whether we let people deduct the cost of a typical community college education from their tax bill so we can make 2 years of college just as universal as a high school education is today. Your vote will decide whether we give people a $10,000 tax deduction for the cost of any college tuition. Will you help us do that? [Applause]
Your vote will decide whether we hook every classroom in Florida up to the information superhighway so that for the first time ever the poorest, the most middle class, and the wealthiest schools in America all give their children access to the same information in the same way in the same time.
Forty percent of our 8-year-olds still can't read independently, partly because we have so many children coming here whose first language is not English. That will be cold comfort to them when they get older and they can't learn. We got 200,000 more work-study slots out of this recent Congress and the biggest increase in Pell grants in 20 years for college students. I'm going to ask 100,000 of those college students to go in as volunteers as a part of a million-person corps to make sure by the year 2000 every 8-year-old can pick up a book and say, "I can read this all by myself." Will you help me build that bridge to the 21st century? [Applause]
So you see, my fellow Americans, this is a very important election. It will shape the way we work and live. The frontiers of knowledge are being dramatically expanded. The possibilities for people are greater than ever before. We're growing closer together with the rest of the world in ways that can enrich us as never before.
This is an election about country and people, not about our party. It is true that I'm a Democrat by heritage, instinct, and conviction, and as proud of it today as I have ever been in my life. But over the course of our history, at various times either party has had the job of bringing the American people and moving us together into the future. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, but he kept our country together and helped us to abolish the curse of slavery. Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican, but he knew it was wrong for children to work 70 hours a week in factories when they ought to be in school. And he knew it was wrong to squander our natural heritage, and he knew it was wrong to let monopolies destroy the free enterprise system. He kept us together and moved us forward.
But today it is the responsibility of our party because of the ideas we established, because of the campaign we have run, because of the record we have made, and because of the ideas of those on the other side. They honestly believe we're better off on our own. I believe we're better off building that bridge to the future together. And you have to decide.
Look around this crowd today. Look around this crowd today. We have people here of all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Around the world today, people are fighting and killing each other because of their tribal, their racial, their religious, their ethnic differences. Every day we pick up the paper and see new heartbreak in Africa, hundreds of thousands of refugees driven from their homes, based on tribal fights between two tribes that cross into three nations—where people who don't have enough right now to get along with their children, instead of working together to give their children a better future, choose to kill each other and starve their children.
In Haiti, a dictatorship threatened the right of some of the poorest but best people in the world to live up to their own dreams. In Bosnia, where the people are literally biologically indistinguishable, they're in different so-called ethnic or religious groups by accident of history, people were willing to kill each other and their children. And in the Middle East, the Holy Land for the three great monotheistic religions of the world, one year ago tomorrow a great Prime Minister of Israel was murdered by someone in his own country who hated—hated the cause of peace more than he respected the human life of his nation's great leader.
In America we can beat that. The American people said no to hating the Federal Government after the awful tragedy of Oklahoma City. The American people said no to racial and religious hatred in the face of synagogues and Islamic centers being defaced and black churches being burned. We have said no, and we must say no on Tuesday to the proposition that we are all a bunch of isolated individuals. We are one nation, one community, going forward into the 21st century. Will you help us build that bridge? Will Florida be with us on Tuesday? [Applause]
Thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 12:10 p.m. at the West Palm Beach International Airport. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Lawton Chiles and Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay of Florida; Jim Stuber, Kenneth Cooper, and Robert Wexler, candidates for Florida's 16th, 22d, and 19th Congressional Districts, respectively; and Mayor Nancy Graham of West Palm Beach.
William J. Clinton, Remarks in West Palm Beach, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/221942