View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 4, 1996
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                               DURING THE 

8:57 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Governor and Mrs. Thompson, Governor and Mrs. Miller, ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the White House. It's always a delight to have all of you here. I look forward to it every year, but I especially look forward to it this year.

As all of you know, we are living through a time of enormous change and great opportunity. I rather think the founding fathers would enjoy what is going on here today because we are debating a lot of first principles of American government; what should government do, which level of government should do it, what are our ultimate objectives. These are questions that governors live with in a very practical and immediate way every single day. And they are questions that, frankly, I have relished being a part of this public debate in America.

We are obviously moving into a time that is very different from any the American people have ever lived in before. Our economy is changing. We are now clearly in a global village that will be dominated for the rest of our lifetimes by information and technology. That requires certain changes in government, as well.

I believed when I came here, and I believe more strongly today, that the great questions before us are how we can make the American dream available to all Americans who are willing to work for it, how we can come together to deal with our challenges and our problems as one community amidst all our diversity, and how we can maintain the leadership of our great country for peace and freedom throughout the world.

We have many challenges, and I tried to deal with those at some length in the State of the Union address. One of our greatest challenges is to give the American people a government that commands their confidence and that does its part in meeting our common problems. We have reduced the size of the government in the last three years, it's now as small as it was in 1965. Next year it will be as small as it was when President Kennedy was living in this house. We have also given an unprecedented amount of power back to state and local governments and to individual citizens. We are about to do some more of that. And that is obviously what you are here to work on and try to reach common agreement among yourselves first, and then with the leaders of Congress and the White House. I am looking forward to this.

The thing I wish more of our citizens knew is how hard we are working to do the right thing over great issues of high principle. This is not a normal political debate. It is a profoundly important discussion of the direction our country will take, and what all our responsibilities will be in seeing that that direction is achieved in a way that benefits all the American people.

I am looking forward to our discussion tomorrow morning, to all the times that we have together, and I know that all the members of the Cabinet and the White House are, as well. To each of every one of you who has participated in trying to formulate the new policies, and trying to reach across partisan and other divisions to reach common ground, I thank you again for that. To each and every one of you who has had a good working partnership with our administration, I thank you for that.

I look forward to further progress. I do believe that the American people are now living, and will move into a future, which is characterized by greater possibilities for more people than have ever lived in this society. And what we have to do is to make sure that we can go forward together, and that every single one of our citizens who is willing to do what it takes can realize those possibilities in his or her own life; and that all of our children, without regard to their race, their income, their region, their station in life, have a chance to be a living embodiment of the American Dream.

If we keep that as our goal we can bridge our differences. And when we leave here, and when the work of this year is done, we will be much better prepared to reap the benefits of that age of possibility. It is in that spirit that I ask you all to stand now as I offer a toast to Governor and Mrs. Thompson and to all the governors and their spouses, and to our beloved United States.

(A toast was offered.) (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: -- (in progress) -- Gary Morris, thank you, Gary Hooker. We are doubly blessed tonight that Gary joined us because he just got married, and he's still here. And his wife, Elizabeth is here; thank you for coming. Please stand up. (Applause.) This man has a great gift and I'm so glad he shared it with us tonight.

You're all welcome to stay awhile, music will be out in the foyer. It's been a wonderful evening for Hillary and for me. And, again, you're welcome and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Thank you. Thanks again, it was great. (Applause.)

END 11:15 P.M. EST