THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN STATEMENT ON WELFARE REFORM The South Portico
8:12 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I am on my way to Blair House to host an all-day meeting that is a bipartisan working session on welfare reform. We will have members of Congress, governors, and local officials there from all across our country. I am determined to work with them to pass welfare reform. I think it is perhaps the most pressing social problem we face in our country, and the time has come for Congress to act.
As I said in the State of the Union, what we need in welfare reform is a New Covenant of opportunity and responsibility. People on welfare who can work should go to work. Parents who owe child support should pay it. Governments don't raise children, people do. And we must have a national campaign against teenage pregnancy and births outside marriage.
If we're going to end welfare, let's do it right. We should require work and responsibility, but we shouldn't cut people off just because they're poor or young or unmarried. We should promote responsibility by requiring young mothers to live at home or in proper supervised settings and to finish school. But we shouldn't put them or their children out on the street.
I have worked on this issue since 1980. I know that the people who want to change welfare most are those who are trapped on it.
Yesterday, in preparation for this meeting, I met with four former welfare mothers who have managed to free themselves from the system. I listened again to the stories of people who have had great difficulty in trying to get the kind of support they need to get off of welfare, people who did not want to go on in the first place and were anxious to be off of it. I know that most people who are trapped in welfare will gladly take the work options if we can work out the system in the proper way. I also know that those who don't want to do the responsible thing must be required to do so.
But our job in the end is not to tear anybody down and not to use this issue to divide America, but to build people up, to liberate them, to give them the capacity they need to compete and win in this new economy. The American people want us to put politics aside and to get this done for our country. I am committed to doing it, and I believe the people who are coming to this meeting this morning are committed as well.
Wish us well. Thank you very much.
END8:15 A.M. EST