THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New York, New York) ______________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 26, 1993
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT FUNDRAISER DINNER FOR MAYOR DAVID DINKINS
Sheraton New York Hotel New York, New York
9:55 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Mayor, Mrs. Dinkins, Senator Moynihan, Governor and Mrs. Cuomo, distinguished leaders of this magnificent city, other distinguished head table guests. You know, when I do a speech, because sometimes, as you will remember, I'm a little long-winded -- (laughter) -- my acute advisors always say, "Now, Mr. President, imagine what you want the headline to be."
What is the headline? I think I've already heard the headline. The headline is the Mayor would very much like to have his job for four more years and we ought to give it to him. (Applause.)
I always love to come to New York, but I certainly would have come here tonight just to listen to my Senate Finance Committee chair and your brilliant Governor and the Mayor give these speeches. And now I feel like I did the night I gave my first speech in public life, in January 1977, at the Pine Bluff Rotary banquet. (Laughter.)
It started at 6:30 p.m. There were 500 people there. Everybody in the whole place was introduced except three people -- they went home mad. (Laughter and applause.) Kind of like Dave did. And I got introduced at a quarter to 10:00 p.m. (Laughter.) And the guy that was introducing me was the only person in the crowd more nervous than I was. (Laughter.) And so he looked -- everybody got awards and the whole deal had gone on, and the first words out of his mouth were, "You know, we could stop here and have had a very nice evening." (Laughter.)
And that's kind of how I feel. (Laughter.) It is wonderful to be back in New York, wonderful to be here with all of you, and wonderful to be here on behalf of Mayor Dinkins. (Applause.)
I do want to thank publicly in this city, I think for the first time I've had a chance to do it, Mario Cuomo for giving the finest speech at the 1992 Democratic Convention nominating me for President. (Applause.) And I want to thank --
(Disturbance in audience.)
THE PRESIDENT: You know -- let them go.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I had something to say about that. It's too bad they're going to miss it. (Laughter and applause.)
I do want to thank Senator Moynihan. I want all of you to remember what he said tonight because he has done a magnificent job as the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. And if it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here tonight, because if he hadn't crafted a budget we could pass with that great landslide in the Congress -- (laughter) -- I'd be home worrying about something else, and David Dinkins wouldn't want me here. So I thank you, Pat Moynihan, for doing a great job for New York. (Applause).
There was a lot of talk here tonight about the Democrat Party, and I want to tell you that I'm a Democrat by heritage, by instinct, by conviction. But I also wanted to be a part of a party that could change this country, and in the process, if necessary, change itself.
Franklin Roosevelt revolutionized this country by committing himself to bold, persistent experimentation in a time of change. And a lot of people up here can tell you that I'm going around all the time just asking people for new ideas. Reverend Jackson came to see me the other day, and I pulled him off in the corner and tried to pick his brain about some new things we could do to create jobs. I called Andrew Young in a distant land, which I -- having a good time -- and asked him to help me to convince America to have an expansionist view of trade and how it could be used to create jobs.
I do that a lot, and I listen a lot, and I tell you, my friends -- (applause) -- it is very important that tonight we be for David Dinkins not for just all our yesterdays, but most importantly for all our tomorrows. (Applause.) And just once in a while I forget what this business is all about and then something will happen in a flash of an eye and bring it all back home again.
You know, we passed the family leave law in Congress and I signed it instead of vetoing it a few months ago. (Applause.) And I read a column the other day that said, you know, the President is up there passing laws -- the family leave law, the Earned Income Tax Credit -- what does that mean to ordinary people, people can't identify with it.
Well, let me tell you what happened to me today. I got up this morning and I went for my customary jog on Sunday morning, and when I came back to the White House I entered through the ground floor as I normally do, and I looked up and there was a family there touring the White House on Sunday morning -- a very unusual occurrence. And the woman who was giving them the tour said, "Mr. President, this is a family with three children. One of these children is desperately ill and was in the Make a Wish Foundation, and her wish was to come to the White House for a tour and to see you."
So I went over and I shook hands with the little girl and I talked to her for quite a while, and her sisters and her parents. And then I went up and I got ready to leave to come up here and went back to see them and was taking the picture, and as I walked off that young girl's father grabbed me by the arm, and he said, "You know, my daughter may not make it, but I've had some very important time with her because of that family leave law. And if it hadn't passed, I couldn't have taken off work. They would have taken my job away from me. And I want you to know what it has done." (Applause.)
And today the Mayor and I went to Queens with Claire Schulman and Tom Manton and Gary Ackerman and a number of the other members of Congress who are here. And we listened to people talk about the changes that still need to come, talking about this is the United States, you know. We're supposed to be the leader of the world. It's the end of the Cold War; I'm going to go to the U.N. tomorrow and people will say there's America, the only superpower. America is not only the only superpower, it's got the third worst immunization rate in the Western Hemisphere and is the only major country that still can't figure out how to give affordable health care to all of its citizens. And I heard those stories today in Queens.
That may sound like rhetoric here at a speech tonight, but in that diner in Queens today which I visited running in the Democratic primary in New York, there were people talking about their lives, their jobs, their businesses going broke. Why were they paying three and four times the national average for health insurance? Why did they lose their health insurance because they got sick? That's what they bought the health insurance for. And on and on and on.
And it reminded me again of why we are in this business. We are here because we hope that if we work together and we work hard and we are smart, that somehow we can enable people to live up to the fullest of their God-given potential, and rebuild this fragile American community of ours.
That's why I ran for President, and that's why I came here for David Dinkins tonight. (Applause.)
Most of this has already been said, but I -- you know, I left my speech over there. I'm just sort of talking from the heart tonight, and besides that, I'll be briefer if I do that. (Applause.) But I was thinking to myself on the way up here tonight -- today -- why do you really believe this man should be reelected? And there are basically three reasons I really believe it.
Number one, you've already heard -- under very difficult circumstances he's made you good Mayor, he has been a good Mayor. (Applause.) I have heard all these stories about New York's financial problems for years. All I know is under difficult circumstances with no help from Washington, you have produced four budgets and improved your bond rating. And that counts for something. (Applause.)
I was so proud to hear you clap for something that really to me is what government's all, about when the Mayor talked about leaving the libraries open six days a week. That's a big deal, and not very many cities do it. (Applause.)
He started a health care program, which is consistent with what we're trying to do in Washington, not only to provide coverage for people, but to guarantee access to people who need it through public health clinics that give primary and preventive services, not just expensive emergency care when it's too late and people are already sick. (Applause.)
And anybody can talk tough about crime. And almost every American -- I want to be clear about this -- almost every American desperately now is worried about the insecurity of life, the fragility of life in all of our cities and our small towns and our rural areas. So I say this not against anybody else, but it is simply a fact that your Mayor, beginning with the man who is now my drug czar, who used to be your chief of police, started this community policing program to put more police on the street, in the neighborhood, knowing their friends and neighbors, to deploy them in a different and smarter way. And it is simply true that now for two years in a row, in the seven major categories the FBI keeps, New York is one of the few cities in America that has had a decline in the crime rate. That should be rewarded. (Applause.) Are you going to punish a person for producing the results you say you want? (Applause.)
So I say to you, I was always worried that I never would quite fit in modern politics, which is so much television and 30 seconds and sound bite and look macho, whether you are or not, and all that sort of stuff. I hired out to do things. And here's a guy who has done things. And I came up here to say well done. I think you ought to be rewarded. (Applause.)
The second thing I want to say to you is that the truth is that all of us who do a good job should not on that account alone be reelected, because that's what you paid us to do. So if you do a good job, it really only counts if it's an indication that you'll do another one if you get another term. And that's why I liked all the energy he put out tonight. He plainly wants to do it all over again in the worst way, and that's important. (Applause.)
But secondly, I have reviewed the Mayor's ideas. He gave me a whole list of things today I could do to help New York fulfill its potential. This jobs program is a good program, and not only that, it is consistent with what we are doing in defense conversion, in technology policy, in developing community financing institutions, in working with Congressman Rangle for the empowerment zones to get capital -- private capital -- back into distressed areas. It will work.
So you really want in the next four years to have someone who will be doing things that fit with what's happening in Washington. Otherwise why did you vote for me in the first place if I can't help you? (Applause.)
And the last thing I'd like to say is I think you ought to vote for him because he really does believe that we have to find strength and peace and harmony in our diversity; that we cannot become what we ought to be by being divided against one another. And I think that is maybe the most important thing of all. (Applause.)
This has been two incredible weeks for me. I'm going to the U.N. tomorrow, you know; it's a bookend of that incredible day, Monday two weeks ago, when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands and riveted the world. (Applause.) And I ask you, think of this -- if after all the decades of fighting each other they finally came to the conclusion that peace in their land that they love and a normal, decent future for the children of their people required them to seek some harmony, some accommodation, some working together; and when they shook hands it was so electric that no one in the world thought that that was an act of weakness, it was instead an act of strength, can we not learn this lesson in our multiethnic cities? (Applause.)
Can we not see that across the lines of race and religion, those people who believe in family, those people who believe in work, those people who believe in putting their children first, those people who never violate the law and always pay their taxes and always show up for the basic things in life, have more in common than they do separating themselves, and they have to learn to vote across their racial lines, to vote across their religious lines, to reach out and make alliances that will enable us to live together. If you want to deal with the crime problems, and I do; if you want to pass a bill making illegal assault weapons so they don't get in the hands of teenagers --and I do -- (applause) -- if you want to pass this health care reform bill and make it a right for all Americans that can never be taken away -- and I do -- don't we have to begin by getting the family of this country together, the people who have the same values and have the same hopes for their children, and say we can do this together?
You know, let's be candid. I looked -- all the way up here, I said to myself, why has Dinkins got a race? I'm going to get in a lot of trouble for saying this. (Laughter.) I said to myself -- I read the record and then I actually read some of his position papers, something I bet you haven't done, some of you. (Laughter.) And I thought about how it would sit. And I know him personally inside, and I said, why has this guy got a hard race?
Let's face it. There are two reasons -- I think. One is he doesn't give enough speeches like the one he gave here tonight. (Applause.) Because he is a humble man in an age that values self-promotion. (Applause.) Right? Because he is a quietly tough man in an age that values loud and piercing rhetoric; and to be fair, it is sometimes necessary because so many of us are caught in the blur of events and the frustration of our times. It is a style thing, folks. Don't get the style confused with the substance. He's got the substance. (Applause.)
And the second reason is that too many of us are still too unwilling to vote for people that are different than we are. (Applause.) This is not as simple as overt racism. That is not anything I would charge to anybody who doesn't vote for David Dinkins or Bill Clinton or anybody else. It's not that simple. It is this deep-seated reluctance we have against all our better judgment to reach out across these lines. It is not as simple as overt racism. It's this inability to take that sort of leap of faith, to believe that people who look different than we are really are more like us than some people who look just like us but don't share our values or our interests or our conduct. (Applause.)
This is a big deal to me. I would not be here tonight, I would never have been reelected Governor of Arkansas in 1982, I would not have been elected President of the United States through all those tough primaries if it hadn't been for African American and Hispanic voters and Asians voters, people who were different from me voting for me. (Applause.) I wouldn't be here. (Applause.)
So I read in the paper about the demographics of the Dinkins vote. And there will be some differences just because people think differently ideologically. But I want to remind you that David Dinkins, as was reminded to me tonight, when the Scud missiles were falling on Israel, went to Israel. (Applause.) He wants to represent all the people of New York. (Applause.)
Look who he had introduce him and be a part of this program tonight. This is a big deal, folks. This is not just New York. This is L.A. and this is rural south. This is everyplace. We are being tested. We are going through a time of profound change. And we right now don't have the sense of personal security to make the changes we need to make. We need more confidence in ourselves and confidence that we can meet all these challenges that are out there, and confidence that the 21st century will also be an American century. And in order to do it, we have to get our act together so we can feel good about the people we elect. We have to make our streets safer, our families stronger. We have to make all these economic changes. But we first must be more secure.
I ask you, think about the handshake between Rabin and Arafat. Think about what it means for the future of the Middle East if we can keep it going. (Applause.) And then ask yourselves, this man who has a good record, who has a good plan, who has a good heart, has earned the right to your vote, and you ought to make sure he gets it and is returned to City Hall.
Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)
END10:19 P.M. EDT