THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Santa Monica, California) ______________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release January 17, 1995
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE NORTHRIDGE COMMUNITY TO MARK ANNIVERSARY OF THE 1994 EARTHQUAKE
Northridge Oviatt Library California State University Santa Monica, California
10:00 A.M. PST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. What a great day. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you so much, Mayor Riordan. Thank you for your outstanding leadership, for being such a good working partner, for putting the interest of all the people of this community first.
Thank you, Dr. Wilson, for your leadership and for hosting this wonderful event on this beautiful campus with its beautiful buildings, all standing -- thank goodness. I'm glad to see you all here. (Applause.)
I thank Congressman Berman and Congressman McKeon, Lt. Governor Davis, Supervisor Yaroslavsky, and of course, the people who are here with me today. I'd like to introduce them all. The Secretary of Transportation Frederico Pena; the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros; and the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency James Lee Witt. They have done a great job for you. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, even as we recall the devastation here today, we know that nature has struck again here at home in California with the floods, and with the extraordinary fury in the earthquake in Japan. I know all of you join with me in extending our profound condolences to the families of those in the Osaka-Kobe area of Japan who have suffered such a tremendous loss in the last day.
We have spoken with the Japanese government and, with their agreement, based on our experiences here, I have ordered a high-level team that includes representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Transportation to leave for Japan shortly to see if anything we learned here can be helpful to them there. (Applause.)
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, is in Japan now and he has already stated that our military forces there are also available to help them in any appropriate way. You know what they're going through.
So I'd like to ask before I begin my remarks, if we could just have a moment of silence for the victims of the flood here in California and the victims of the earthquake in Japan.
(A moment of silence is observed.)
Thank you. (Applause.)
I am so glad to be here at Cal State Northridge. (Applause.) This is -- you are now the symbol of the ability of the people of this state to keep coming back after adversity upon adversity, as well as the symbol of California and America's future, because of the educational opportunities open to all kinds of people from all walks of life, and all different backgrounds here at this fine institution.
The most damaging earthquake ever recorded on our continent destroyed a great deal here when it hit a year ago. But, as the Mayor said, even though it shook you, it didn't break you. It didn't break your faith in the future. How else can you explain the fact that here there is a baseball team known as the Earthquake Kids? (Applause.) I want to ask them to be recognized here in a minute, but I do want to note, as the spring slowly approaches, that they did something the pros couldn't -- they kept baseball going. (Applause.) And they won the national championship in the Little League World Series. Let's give them a hand. Would the team stand please? (Applause.)
You know, you might think that Californians have had too many opportunities to show heart. (Laughter.) The wonderful sainted Mother Teresa once said that she knew God wouldn't give her any more than she could bear; she just wished God didn't have such confidence in her sometimes. (Laughter.) That's the way I feel about you from time to time. (Laughter.) I told the Mayor last night that I hope that there would be no simmering volcano uncovered around here -- (laughter) -- anytime in the future. Fires, earthquakes and devastating floods are quite enough.
But in these disasters where lives are lost and others are shattered I know it's not easy to keep going and to keep your heart. A year ago I said that we would not leave you to pick up the pieces alone, that we would stay on until the job was done. We have kept that pledge today, and today I renew that pledge into the future. (Applause.)
Since the flooding began a few days ago, I have been working closely with Governor Wilson and Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein and your other officials to help fight the flooding. The disaster I declared across California and the work of FEMA and other agencies are already helping to move on the road to recovery.
This afternoon, I'll have a chance to go to Northern California to view some of the damaged areas there. But I say again to the victims of this disaster: You are not alone. We will work with you to help you reclaim your lives, as the earthquake victims have been reclaiming theirs.
Who would have thought a year ago that the highways and bridges could be rebuilt and reinforced in just a fraction of the time the experts have predicted, and the time the law allowed until we changed the way things worked. (Applause.) The Santa Monica Freeway was reopened on April the 11th, the Golden State Freeway on May the 17th, the Simi Valley Freeway partly opened in February, and fully opened in September. I could go on and on. Who would have thought this campus would reconvene classes in one month? The main section of the library behind me was reopened in 64 days, a job that would normally have taken a year -- a great tribute to your president and to all of the leaders of this fine institution. (Applause.)
I just verified with James Lee Witt what strikes me as an astounding statistic -- there were 5,600 school buildings damaged a year ago, and today all but 40 are open, doing business, educating our children and giving them something to look forward to. (Applause.)
This happened because we put aside politics and worked on being partners -- partners as citizens, as businesses, as government, partners in the person of people like Ramona Sanches Vega, a volunteer who sought out families living in their cars because their homes were too damaged; she helped them to get housing. People like your own college president, who did make the impossible, possible on this campus. People like so many of you in this audience who did countless things for your friends and for total strangers that will never be recorded anywhere except in the minds and hearts of those whom your touched.
For government's part, 27 federal departments and agencies worked with state and local officials in unprecedented ways to produce, as Mayor Riordan said, the most efficient and effective disaster operation in American history. (Applause.) So far, over $11.5 billion in aid has come to California to help to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake. But in addition to that, the whole system was literally reinvented, with new technologies, ways found to cut business as usual and the bureaucracy that too often goes with government assistance. Decisions were based on need, not paperwork and rules. More than 270,000 homeowners received federal grants to help repair their homes. More than half a million people were given grants or lowinterest loans for disaster housing.
I know there are those today who say that government is inherently bad, always gets in the way and never amounts to anything. Well, I say, look at the difference it made in dealing with the disaster. It can work if we put people first and think about how to make it work. (Applause.)
But this institution is another example of how government can work. We can't wait for disaster to strike to deal with our long-term challenges. Every day millions upon millions of Americans fight other kinds of struggles -- to get and keep new jobs, to provide health care for their families, to deal with the struggles of modern life and to strengthen the ties of community when there are so many pressures that divide us one from another. And anytime an American loses one of those fights, it's a disaster for our future as well.
Everyone knows that we live in an era of enormous change, a time of great uprooting of things both good and bad. As we change from what is popularly been called the Industrial Age to the Information Age, from the Cold War of global division to a globe united in economic cooperation and one which must unite to deal with the common threats to all of us in terrorism and ecological destruction -- in this era of change, our biggest challenge is to simply keep alive the American Dream for all of our people; to make sure that we go into the next century just five years away still the strongest country in the world, the most profound force for peace and freedom, and still with the American Dream alive for all people, regardless of their race, their region, their religion, their background, the capacities they came into this world with. (Applause.)
My simple belief is that in this time, we know that the government cannot really solve problems for people, but I think we know that the government cannot walk away, either. The role of government in this age is to be a partner; to help give people the tools they need to solve their own problems, to fulfill their own dreams, to make their own future. And I am determined to see that the rest of your government works as well as the disaster team did in the California earthquake. That is a good standard for all of us to meet. (Applause.)
I believe, my fellow Americans, that we need to do three things: We need a new economic strategy that I have fought for, for two years, appropriate to the new world we're all going to live and compete in. We need a new form of government that is smaller, less bureaucratic, more creative, more oriented toward flexibility in solving people's problems, but one that is an effective partner, not a disabled or a mean participant on the sidelines, just telling people what to do instead of helping people to do it. (Applause.)
And, third, and most important, I think we need what I call, and have for three years now, called my contract with America a New Covenant, one that says here are certain opportunities and here are your responsibilities. How are we going to rebuild the American community to look like this crowd does unless we all have opportunity and we all assume responsibility? If there is all -- (applause) -- if all you do is assert rights and there are no responsibilities, pretty soon nothing good happens. If all people do is go around being responsible and they're never rewarded for it, pretty soon they get tired of it. We need both -- more opportunity and more responsibility in this country. And that's how we're going to rebuild America and keep the American Dream alive. (Applause.)
We have made a good beginning. We have 5.6 million more jobs. We have a lower federal deficit. We've taken $11,000 in debt off of every family in America, and that means a brighter future. We have the smallest federal government we've had in over 30 years, but we're doing things more effectively. We're also offering opportunities to people that demand that they assume more responsibility -- from expanding Head Start to making college loans more affordable for more people. (Applause.)
But we all know that there is a lot more to be done. More than half the adult work force in America is working harder today for lower wages than they were making 10 years ago. Another one million Americans in working families lost their health insurance last year. Millions of American workers wonder if their retirement is secure, and we're working hard on that.
We see a lot of upheaval. There are still a lot of people who don't feel safe on their streets, in their neighborhoods, in their schools. Even though the crime rate is coming down where people have done what has been done here in Los Angeles -- to put more police on the street and to work on projects like the Community Build project that we supported that the Mayor and I visited yesterday, where ex-gang members are teaching other kids to lead the gangs to turn away from violence, to go to education and work and away from things that are destructive. We have a long way to go. (Applause.)
That's why I so strongly hope that we can, together, without regard to party, make a commitment that, in this year, we will go back when the Congress is in full session and working, and adopt what I call the Middle Class Bill of Rights. Let's just don't have indiscriminate tax cuts, let's control the deficit and focus tax relief on the people who need it most, on strengthening families and making education more available to all American people. That will get us into the next century. (Applause.)
I think we should lower taxes in families with young children. I think we should make all Americans able to save money in an IRA and then withdraw it, tax-free, to pay for their own education or health care, or to help them care for their parents. (Applause.) I think we should give people who need more training because they're unemployed the right not just to sign up for a government program, but to get a check which says, this check can be spent at the educational institution of your choice to raise your income. That's what I think we should do. (Applause.)
But more important than anything else, in the next century in the Information Age, having an education will have more to do with income and options and choices than ever before. And so I believe that we should finally -- and we should have done it long ago -- we ought to make all educational expenses after high school tax deductible. (Applause.) That's important. (Applause.)
We made interest paid on home mortgages tax deductible decades ago. Why? Because owning a home was important to the idea of the American Dream. In the 21st century we may not get to homeownership if we don't have an education. Let's make that tax deductible. That's important to our future. (Applause.)
And I might say, that is the essence of what we ought to be about, because you cannot take advantage of that opportunity without being responsible. People can offer you an education, but you have to get it. That is what we ought to be doing -- giving opportunity in return for responsibility.
The New Covenant comes down to this: We deserve opportunity, but we have to earn success. And that is what the people of California have shown over and over and over again.
Let me close with this. The great writer, Wallace Stegner, called this part of America "hope's native home." It was built by people he called, and I quote, "The stickers, not just those who pillage and run, but those who settle and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in."
Today, we salute all of you, the stickers, the settlers, the rebuilders of this great state. Let us take what you have done here and use it as a model for our entire beloved country into the 21st century. (Applause.)
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END10:18 A.M. PST