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Teleconference Remarks to "Adelante Con Clinton" Participants

July 27, 1996

The President. Hello.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros. Mr. President, this is Henry, and Federico's on the line as well, and almost 50 other locations across the country, sir.

Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena. Good morning, Mr. President.

The President. Good morning.

Secretary Cisneros. Mr. President, we appreciate you being able to be with us, given the circumstances in Atlanta. I admire your statement of just a few moments ago to the country. And we know your time is very short, but we deeply appreciate your reserving some time to make a short statement to these communities across America. We have over 1,000 people in homes all across the country ready to roll out their "Adelante Con Clinton '96" effort, and we just appreciate your being here.

The President. Thank you very much. Thank you, Henry. Thank you, Federico. And I want to thank all the others who are there today, the Members of Congress and the other leaders, the call leaders: Jose Villareal, Don Mares, Peggy Anastos, Ray Sanchez, E.J. Salcinas, and Mayor Joe Serna, Luis Gutierrez, Freddy Ferrer, everyone else, thank you for doing this.

All of you know what happened at the Olympics last night. And I was up most of the night getting reports and following it. So I'm sorry I can't spend as much time as I planned to on the call. I want to thank you for the work you've done, and I'm looking forward to meeting with you, working with you. And as you know, "Adelante Con Clinton" is very important to what we're trying to do this year. And every one of you should know how much I personally appreciate it.

I want to say also a word, if I might, about how saddened Hillary and I were to hear yesterday about the death of Dr. Hector Garcia. We had both known him for more than 20 years, and he was to us a real American hero. From his service in World War II to his work as an ambassador through the American GI Forum, which he founded, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, on which he served, he was a clear voice for Hispanic civil rights. And I just wanted to say to all of you we should honor him best by committing ourselves to continue the work of his life. He was a remarkable man.

The other thing I'd like to say, just very briefly, is that it seems to me that as much as any group of Americans, Hispanic-Americans embody the spirit of what I have been trying to do as President to bring more opportunity to all Americans; to insist on more responsibility from all Americans for themselves, their families, their communities, and their country; and then to try to build a deeper sense of community that unites us. In this new world, I think the most important thing we can do is to give people the tools they need to build better lives for themselves. Secretary Cisneros is trying to empower people who are eligible for housing assistance to make more decisions on their own. And with our public-private partnership, we've now cut by $1,000 the average closing costs for first-time homebuyers. That's a remarkable thing.

That's what the Family and Medical Leave Act is designed to do. That's what the V-chip and the television rating systems for parents is designed to do. That's what our initiative to keep tobacco from being advertised and distributed and sold to young people is designed to do. That's what the EITC, the earned-income tax credit, which dramatically lowered taxes for working families with children who are on modest incomes—took 850,000 Hispanic-Americans alone out of poverty—that's what that's designed to do. That's what our education initiative is designed to do, making it easier for people to go to college, give people the tools they need to build their own lives. That's what our investments in infrastructure and technology, the things that Secretary Pena and others in our administration have done to invest in the economy—it's all designed to give people the tools they need. That's what our anticrime program was designed to do.

And I think it's very important that we continue to focus on that and to bringing our people together, not dividing them. And that's why I have opposed the outright repeal of bilingual education programs or putting in our bill on illegal immigration the denial of education to children of undocumented immigrants. I think that would be a big mistake, and things like the excessive cuts to children of legal immigrants in the welfare reform bill or the CCRI in California.

These things that tend to divide people I think weaken our country, when what we ought to be doing is pulling our country together around our shared values to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We should be more concerned about how we can hook up every classroom in America to the Internet by the year 2000 than by whether we should be kicking a few kids out of our classroom who'd be much better off in school than on the street.

And that is sort of in a nutshell what I want this election debate to be about. And I want our people to be on the side of opportunity, responsibility, and community, bringing us together. This terrible incident in Atlanta reminds us once again that the forces in the world today that are out to divide us are the enemies of democracy, the enemies of freedom, the enemies of decency. And we have to stand against it.

And I just want to thank all of you for being there and wish you well. And also, I want to, as I sign off—as I said, I wanted to thank all the Congress Members who are on the call. And I think Representative Gutierrez, Representative Velazquez, and perhaps Representative de la Garza are on the phone. But I wanted to say a special word of appreciation to Kika de la Garza who was such a distinguished Member of Congress all these years and is a great committee chairman and a wonderful friend to me. I wanted to thank him for that and thank all of you for doing this phone call today.

And again, please forgive me. I haven't had a lot of sleep, and I've got to go back to the matters at hand. But I'm profoundly grateful to you.

[At this point, Secretary Cisneros thanked the President for his participation.]

The President. Thank you. Thank you very much, all of you. God bless you, and have a good day.

NOTE: The President spoke by telephone at 11:13 a.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Teleconference Remarks to "Adelante Con Clinton" Participants Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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