THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BILL-SIGNING CEREMONY U.S. Department of Agriculture Washington, D.C.
11:29 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, Reverend Lawson and Dave Lollis, for your stories. Thank you, Secretary Bentsen, for your work on this; and thank you, Secretary Espy and SBA Administrator Erskine Bowles, for your work on this important project.
Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary Bentsen and I were lamenting when he was up here that he didn't have a complete list of all of the members of Congress who were here. I'm going to try to name every one I saw. (Laughter.) And then I'm going to ask everybody who is here to stand up so that you can pick out who you think should be angry at me for missing. (Laughter.)
I see Senator Riegle, who has been mentioned; and Senator Sarbanes, Senator Mathews, Senator Kerry, Senator Bennett, Congressman Baucus, Congressman Fingerhut, Congressman Flake, who had so much to do with this legislation. Congressman Kanjorski, Congressman Kennedy, Congressman King, Congressman Menendez, Congressman Neal, Congressman Orton, Congressman Pickle, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Congressman Rush, who had a lot to do with this legislation, also. I know Congresswoman Velazquez, Congressman Watt. And I doubtless missed somebody, but would everybody here from Congress please stand so we can acknowledge your presence? Who did I miss. Oh, Congresswoman Waters, Congressman Bereuter -- Congressman Fields. I missed five; I apologize to all of you. (Laughter.)
Let me also say that this is the only public appearance I will make today, and I have an update that I feel I should give to the American people about the situation in Haiti. So I'd like to make a couple of remarks about that, and then return to the subject at hand, which has been an important one to me for nearly 10 years now.
First, let me say that I'm pleased to report that we're making good progress in our efforts in Haiti. Our troop contribution to the international coalition will soon be up to full strength -- about 14,000 American servicemen and women. But we have already begun to pull back or replace units who took part in the initial deployment, consistent with our original plan.
Among our men and women in Haiti are 1,000 military police. They're making contact with police precincts, where they'll keep a close watch on the police to see that there is professional action there with restraint. In the coming weeks, they'll be joined and ultimately replaced by hundreds of international police monitors from all around the globe, now having over 26 countries participating in this effort.
The United Nations human rights monitors will be returning to Haiti as soon as possible. We're beginning a weapons confiscation and buy-back program. Heavy weapons that were in the Haitian military's control are being turned over to our Armed Forces. At the same time we'll be working with Haitian authorities to buy back light weapons from the militia and civilians, and to help them to institute a licensing program for gun ownership. All these steps should help to reduce the level of violence there.
Already, the situation on the ground has become calmer and more peaceful, and as a result the first shipload of Haitian migrants from Guantanamo will go home to Cuba on Monday, carrying between 200 and 300 Haitian citizens. We expect more will return next week.
I'd also like to announce that it's planned to -- the U.S. Agency for International Development is increasing the food program so that we will be supplying, instead of 1 million, 1.3 million meals per day there. The first shipment will arrive on the 26th.
In short, our mission is going well. Of course, difficulties remain; they are part of any military undertaking. But I am very proud of the competence and the discipline our troops and their commanders have demonstrated. They are executing a complex operation with tremendous skill. They deserve our thanks and our admiration and our persistent support. Thank you. (Applause.)
Let me say to all of you that I have dreamed of this day for a long time. The possibility to sign this act into law, and more importantly, to unleash the energies of millions of Americans, too long denied access to the mainstream economics of our country, was one of the things that drove me into the campaign of 1992. Anyone who ever heard me give a talk anywhere probably knows that in almost every speech I talked about the South Shore Bank in Chicago, a place that I visited, got to know, and got to understand.
I've long admired the way they steered private investments into previously underprivileged neighborhoods, to previously undercapitalized and underutilized Americans, proving that a bank can be a remarkable source of hope and still make money in the free enterprise system.
Long before I ran for president, the founders of Shore Bank in Chicago helped us to launch the Southern Development Bank Corporation in Arkansas. My wife and I and our administration, including Bob Nash, who now works with Secretary Espy at the Agriculture Department worked to make an idea that had worked in an urban community in the north take roots in rural communities all over the southern part of our state.
In 1992 I visited an awful lot of places where I thought these same things would work. I'll never forget the first time we had people up to the governor's conference room to talk about what it was like when they got their first loan, when they thought their lives had ended, and that they were going to be consigned to public assistance or living off welfare, but instead were starting businesses and making money, some of them even able to hire other people. It made an impression on me that I will carry with me always.
Today, the $4.8 billion in credit for new businesses and new jobs into communities and into people who need it the most is the beginning of those stories, countless thousands of them, all across this country. It's also good for our economy.
This bill is an example of what I hope and believe must be the goal of government in the future. Nobody seriously believes that government can be society's savior anymore. But very few people seriously believe that government can sit on the sideline anymore. In the world of the 21st century, what government will have to do is to be a more effective partner and to find ways to clear away barriers so that people can be empowered to live up to the fullest of their own capacities.
This bill is not about bureaucracies and it's certainly not about distributing handouts; it's about new opportunity for people to assume responsibility to make good lives for themselves by making the private sector work in places where it had not gone before. That is what this bill is about. (Applause.)
This is a campaign commitment I am especially glad to be able to keep today because of what it says about what Americans will be able to do for themselves and what other Americans in the private sector will do for them and still make money.
Secretary Bentsen and I have worked hard, along with everybody else in this administration, to change the way government works -- to bring the deficit down, to shift our budget priorities from consumption to investment, to expand trade and to open markets. Secretary Espy has been especially active in the effort to change the way government functions here by increasing our ability to help the agricultural sector and redevelop rural America by drastically reducing the size of the Agriculture Department.
Ninety-three percent of the over 4 million new jobs which have been created since I became President have been in the private sector. I am very proud of that. That's a higher percentage of jobs coming in the private sector than had been the rule in the previous decade. We need to do more of that, and if we do our jobs well in government, we'll continue to be able to do more with fewer of us to create more of you in the private sector.
But our national economy clearly is not so much a national economy as a large number of regional and local economies. I was talking with a friend of mine last night who is an economist who said, you know, it's even become more difficult to talk about the inflation rate. In 93 percent of the industries in America, there is no inflation. The overall inflation rate sometimes obscures the fact that there is serious inflation in one or two sectors, and none anywhere else.
The overall unemployment rate similarly obscures the fact that the unemployment rate may be under three percent in some states in our country and still be very high in some isolated rural areas and inner cities where capital has not flown, where enterprise has not worked. But I believe that every American who is willing to work hard and learn can succeed in the free enterprise system. I do not believe that it is necessary to have 20 percent unemployment rate in inner cities and rural areas to keep this economy from overheating. I do not believe that. (Applause.)
And just as I have strongly supported our efforts to develop economic opportunity in our trading partners because I believe, for example, a wealthier Mexico, a wealthier Caribbean is good for America and builds our strength and builds jobs here. Surely it must be even more true that if there were no American willing to work without a job, if there were no American willing to start a small business and able a small business -- to start a small business -- who cannot do so, if none of those people existed, our economy would be stronger.
We would have more growth with less inflation, less social tension, fewer crime problems, fewer problems with broken families and broken home. We have got to find ways to reach into the isolated areas of America to bring the promise of America. Ultimately, that is what this whole idea of community development financial institutions are all about. And I know that we can do that.
I want to say again, too, especially in view of the people who are here today from the Congress, I am very proud of the fact that this was an all-American effort. That this had broad bipartisan support in the Congress, this had broad support in the country, from traditional banking institutions, traditional business institutions, and community organizers who for years felt that no one noticed the efforts they were making. Since this issue was put on the nation's agenda, more and more communities have become organized.
And, let me close with just giving you a few examples. Reggie White, the all-time NFL defensive leader in sacks, has now gone on the offensive, investing his earning in community development banks. Richard Dent, the all-pro defensive player for the Bears -- I think Richard is here today -- but he's injured, so he can't stand up. Can you? Good to see you. (Applause.) Richard is now with the 49ers but if he hadn't sustained his injury he couldn't be here today, so I'm not glad he's injured, but I am glad he's here. He is joining in, too.
Private sector involvement in these institutions is up almost a third, even before a single public penny has been spent in anticipation of the impact of this bill.
Today I'm proud to announce commitments from two of the nation's leading banks to help us in this effort -- $25 million from Nations Bank and $50 million from the Bank of America over the next four years. Their representatives are here. Would they please stand and receive our thanks, wherever they are? Thank you so much. (Applause.)
I hope very much that in the days ahead we can find other ways to bring new ideas into a spirit of partnership and empowerment with government. That, after all, was the idea behind reducing the size of the federal government in giving the money to the communities to hire police and to build prisons and to start prevention programs in the Crime Bill. It was the idea behind AmeriCorps, it was the idea behind reorganizing the student loan program so that it actually costs less than it used to, and still provides lower interest loans that 20 million young Americans are already eligible to refinance their present obligations to achieve; the idea behind the empowerment zones that we will announce this fall.
This is the sort of thing we ought to be doing up here, helping people out of the grass-roots to chart their course into a brighter future. I am proud to sign this bill, and I want, again, to say my profound thanks to all the members of Congress who are here, and those who are not in both parties, for making this such an allAmerican effort. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
I'd like to invite the members of Congress who are here to come up and be here at the signing. After all, you did it.
(The bill is signed.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much.
END11:47 A.M. EDT