THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS DINNER Washington Convention Center Washington, DC
9:45 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much, Cardiss Collins for your introduction, your support and your two decades in the United States Congress, making you the longest serving African American woman in the history of the Congress. (Applause.) Congressman Payne, thank you for your leadership here and for so much that you do, but especially for co-chairing, along with C. Payne Lucas, our mission to Rwanda to see the fine work done by the United States in that beleaguered land. (Applause.) And thank you Congressman Mfume for your brilliant leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus. (Applause.) It has been an honor and a privilege to work with you to move this country forward and to bring this country together.
There are so many distinguished Americans here tonight. But I can't help acknowledging the presence here and to say I am so glad to see here able to be here tonight of Rosa Parks. (Applause.) Thank you, ma'am.
I also want to say I'm a little jealous that I didn't see the rest of the program. Also all the things for the young people, and especially Reverend Flake's sermon this morning. (Applause.) The Vice President came in this morning when we had our meeting, and he said, you know that verse in Ezekiel about the dry bones? (Laughter.) And I said to him, I said, can there be life in these dry bones? (Laughter.) He said, yes, that one. Floyd Flake just gave one of the three or four best sermons I ever heard in my entire life about that. (Applause.) So I would like a tape or a transcript next week, if I could.
I want to congratulate you, too, on your message, embracing our youth for a new tomorrow. You know, when I ran for President, I did so out of a sense of obligation to the next generation. I often said in 1992 I did not want my daughter to grow up in a country in which she was part of the first generation of Americans to do worse than her parents and in which her beloved land was coming apart when it ought to be coming together.
The theme song of our campaign was "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." In order to do that, this country needs a clear mission and a good spirit. Our mission clearly has been to strengthen our economy and to preserve our security; to empower our people to seize the opportunities the future offers; to rebuild our American sense of community; to find strength in all this diversity we have rather than division and weakness; to try to make our government work or ordinary citizens again, not as a saviour, but as a sure partner; to try to summon Americans to the idea that we can do better and that we are doing better.
Now, in just a year and a half or so, we have seen over 4 million jobs come into this economy, a 20 percent drop in the African American unemployment rate. (Applause.) We have seen three
years of reduction in our terrible national deficit in a row for the first time since Mr. Truman was President of the United States. We have seen investments in new technologies and dramatic increases in trade. And just a few days ago, a distinguished panel of international economists for the first time in nine years said that the United States was once again the number one productive economy in the entire world. (Applause.)
We have begun the hard work of empowering our people -- everything from increasing the quantity of Head Start programs, to apprenticeship programs for young people who don't go to college, to dramatic increases in the availability of lower interest college loans, to job training programs for those who lose their work.
We have begun the work of rebuilding our community. By 1996 we should be able to immunize every child in America under the age of two. (Applause.) We passed the family leave bill and gave 15 million working families just above the poverty line a tax break so that people could be successful workers and successful parents.
We dealt with all aspects of the crime problem and tried to give our young people something to say yes to as well as something to say no to. We banned assault weapons against enormous odds. (Applause.) Passed the Brady Bill after seven years of delay. (Applause.)
We began to rebuild our communities and pull ourselves together. Just last week we kicked off AmeriCorps, the national service program, with now 15,000 and soon to be 20,000 young Americans all over this country like this young lady here, Erika Lomax, who's a teacher in the "Teach for America" corps. We can revolutionize this country from the grass roots up if we just give more people like Kweisi was when he was 16 or 18 or 20 something to do that is good and wholesome and pure and true that will lead to a better tomorrow. And we are making a beginning at that. (Applause.)
Now our young people will be working in everything from helping our elderly people to be more secure, to improving our environment, to tutoring kids, to keeping our streets safer, to dealing in drug prevention and education and treatment programs.
We passed the empowerment zone proposal, and we're about to finish the process of reviewing those. It's been the most remarkable thing I have ever seen, how communities have come together across racial and economic lines to try to find a way to get investment in jobs to those people who have totally left behind in every economic recovery for the last 20 years. We are making a beginning at that. (Applause.)
And I want to say a special word of thanks for one proposal to three of your members. Soon we will have ready for my signature the community development bank proposal, thanks in no small measure to Congressman Rush, Congressman Flake and Congresswoman Waters. And I thank them for that. (Applause.)
We're also trying to pull this country together in other ways, proving that an administration can be both diverse and excellent. One of the things I am proudest of that as of this night, it has been my privilege as your President to appoint more than twice as many African American judges to the federal bench than the last three presidents combined. (Applause.) And more than twice as many Hispanic judges to the federal bench than the last three presidents combined. (Applause.) The really important thing is that the American Bar Association has given well-qualified ratings to a higher percentage of this administration's appointments than in any of the last five presidencies. (Applause.)
I say that because unless we can find a way to go forward into the future together, all of our particular successes will not have the general result we want. Still it is so easy to see the glass is half empty instead of half full. And it is the spirit that burns within each of us that tells us we can get up every day and do a little better. That really keeps this country going. Our nation has always been made great because of the efforts of its people, the spirit of its people.
Yesterday, Congressman Mfume and Congressman Rangel and others invited me over to the Capitol, where we gave awards to a large number of African American veterans of World War II. And I couldn't help thinking as I looked out at those fine people -- (applause) -- the extraordinary lengths to which some of them had to go simply to serve their country. The Tuskegee Airmen flew nearly 1,600 missions. (Applause.) And they were the only fighter group never to lose a bomber in Europe in World War II. (Applause.)
Well, today we need all of our people, and we do not have a person to waste. And, yes, we can do better. We must and we will. But it is important to know that democracy is on the move in this country, in no small measure because of the contributions of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. (Applause.)
Before I go, I have to say a few words about Haiti. As you know, I had looked forward to being here tonight in a more jovial mood. I even like to -- I've gotten finally to the point in my life where I like to wear one of those tuxedos. When I used to complain about it, my momma used to tell me that I came from a family where she could still remember the first time anybody ever had a necktie, and I was not to complain about wearing a tuxedo; I should be proud to have the opportunity to do so. So I look forward to doing that sort of thing. And I always love to be with you. And there are hundreds of my friends here. But I came late, and a little out of style because, as you might imagine, I have been preoccupied today with the events in Haiti and the preparations we have been making at the Pentagon.
I just want to say a word or two about that, and how it relates to everything I have said before. Just because the Cold War is over does not mean the United States can withdraw from the world. Just because it is almost always not necessary to resort to force, and we must always do everything we can to avoid it, does not mean there are never circumstances in which it might be necessary.
What I want to say to you tonight is this: Our security interests in the world are many and varied. We must first finish the work of the Cold War and remove the nuclear threat from our children's future. And we are making real progress there. We must try to limit the spread of all weapons of mass destruction and contain terrorism and the truly astonishing new threat of global organized crime. We must also try to spread a system of free economies and open trading so that as people work together and deal with each other, their suspicions and animosities and hatreds go down, and their sense of the practical benefits of being more open and more free and more democratic come to them.
But we also have a special responsibility here in our own neighborhood, even as other countries do in their own neighborhoods, to deal with things which the world community condemns. And that is why we have sought for three years to restore democracy to Haiti -- to end violence and terrorism and human rights violations; to see that all parties lived up to their commitments; to keep democracy on the move in our hemisphere, and encourage those fledgling democracies to be brave and to go forward; to stabilize the borders and the territorial integrity of all countries, including ours.
I have done everything I could to that end, along with the United Nations, the Caribbean community, and the Organization of the American States. Now there is an international coalition committed to implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 940. Twenty-four other nations from around the world, with more to come, have already said they would come here to be with us to help to bring democracy back. I have great pride and confidence in our troops. And we are honored to have the support of these nations and of the United Nations.
Yesterday the international coalition gathered at the White House and heard a very moving address by President Aristide in which he said that there should be no violence; there should be no retaliation; there should be no recrimination; everyone should simply lay down their arms and go to work at building a country that has suffered for too long from hatred and violence and recrimination.
If it can be done in South Africa, surely it can be done in Haiti. (Applause.)
And then yesterday evening, as all of you now know, I asked President Carter and General Powell and Senator Nunn to go to Haiti and try our last best effort to have a peaceful transition, to follow the will of the international community to end the bloodshed, to restore democracy.
Tonight, whatever your feelings and wherever you're from, I ask you to remember this simple statement made by Prime Minister Arthur of Barbados yesterday when he said, and I quote, "The Haitian people have wished for democracy. They have suffered for it. They have voted for it. And now they are dying for it."
The time for idle discussion has ended. There is still a little time for serious discussion.
Tonight as we move toward Sunday, our worship day for those of us who are Christians, I ask all of you to say a prayer for all the people of Haiti, for the members of our Armed Forces, and for the cause of peace. We are doing our duty, and I am doing mine, as I believe it to be plain and evident. But we all must hope everyday and every way that we can go forward in peace.
My decisions are firm and clear. The mission is still in Haiti. Let us hope for its success. But whatever happens, let us resolve that we will stand against violations of human rights and terrorism in our neighborhood. We will stand for democracy. And we will keep our commitments and expect those who make commitments to us to keep theirs. (Applause.)
I ask you now as I leave to remember these things, and each in your own way as hard as you can say a prayer for peace and for the success of our effort there. It is a part of the future we wish to build for our young people and for our country into the 21st century.
Thank you, God bless you, and good night. (Applause.)
END10:04 P.M. EDT