THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT DEDICATION CEREMONY OF THE NEW NASHVILLE WHARF
Port of New Orleans New Orleans, Louisiana
11:00 A.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I'll tell you what, it's been a cold winter in Washington; it's good to be down here in more ways than one. (Applause.) I want to thank Irwin Joseph for his fine introduction and for his years of distinguished leadership. I thank Ron Brinson for welcoming me back to the Port of New Orleans. And I thank all of you who work here who make this a success.
I'm delighted to be here with so many of your officials and former officials. I want to thank my good friend, Senator John Breaux, who always brings his sense of humor to every endeavor -- something we need more of in Washington, D.C., I might add. (Applause.)
I want to thank Senator Bennett Johnston and to tell you that I will miss him a great deal. He's always helpful to me if I help Louisiana first. (Laughter and applause.) I want to give you an -- I was sitting here thinking as I was coming today, well, Bennett is going to retire and he'll lose interest in all this stuff. And Mayor Morial was up here speaking, and talking about how the crime rate had come down in New Orleans with the help of the community policing efforts which were at the core of the crime bill we passed in 1994 -- and I'm very proud of that. So I said -- (applause) -- thank you. So I said to Senator Johnston, I said, I think it's just great that things are going better in New Orleans. The crime rate is coming down, the juvenile crime rate is coming down, the economy is up.
He said, yes, it is, and he said, I've got just one more little project here I want to talk to you about. (Laughter.) So you may get him for free after next year for all I know. (Laughter.)
I want to thank my longtime friend, Congressman Bill Jefferson, and his colleague, Congressman Cleo Fields, who is out here in the audience. (Applause.) I want to also echo the positive things that were said about your fine young Mayor. I love working with him. And let me tell you something -- New Orleans is one of the few cities in America today where not only the crime rate is going down, but the crime rate among juveniles is going down, not only because you're being tougher on crime, but you're giving these kids something to say yes to so they can stay out of trouble in the first place. And that's a real tribute to the Mayor, and I respect him for that. (Applause.)
I want to thank Lt. Governor Blanco and Attorney General Ieyoub for being here. They're over there to my left. (Applause.) And I thank the religious leaders for coming, and I want to thank all the former officials who are here. I see two New Orleans natives, your former State Treasurer, Mary Landreau (phonetic), and my dear friend, Congresswoman Lindy Boggs. Thank you, my dear, for being here. (Applause.) Thank you.
I'd like to thank the people who provided the music today, the James River Movement and the St. Augustine High School Band. Let's give them a big hand over there. (Applause.)
You know, I feel sort of like a preacher who gets up to give a sermon and I'm preaching to the saved, and besides that, it's already been given by everybody who's spoken before. (Laughter.) I wanted to come here to help you dedicate this new national wharf because it is the symbol of the decision that you have made to reach out to the rest of the world, to compete and win.
When I became your President I had a very straightforward vision of what I thought our country had to do to deal with the challenges of the new information age and the new global economy. I wanted to see this country go into the next century, which is now only four years away, with the American Dream alive and well for every American who was willing to work for it, without regard to their race or their region or where they started out in life. I wanted to see our country remain the world's strongest force for peace and for freedom, for security and prosperity around the world, because that makes us safer and stronger. And I wanted to see us come together more as a people around our basic values of responsibility and opportunity and work and family, and most importantly, as a community.
In my State of the Union address I tried to address all these things and to say what is to me the most important lesson I have learned as your President, which is that whenever we are divided we defeat ourselves, but whenever we are united America always wins. (Applause.)
I want to thank the members of Congress who are present here for helping us to change the economic direction of this country; to implement a strategy that will permit the American Dream to be more available to all Americans as we move into this new world; for helping us to reduce the deficit, to increase our investment in people and research and technology; and to expand trade on fairer terms.
Four years ago, this country was drifting with high unemployment and stagnant incomes. In the last three years and two months, our economy has produced 8.4 million jobs. And I am proud of that, and you should be, too. (Applause.) The combined rates of unemployment and inflation and home mortgages are the lowest they have been in 27 years.
We now see the United States leading the world again in key industries from autos to telecommunication. Today, just today, for the third year in a row, the distinguished World Economic Forum in Europe has said that the United States is the world's most productive, strongest economy. That is what the American people have produced, and they should be very proud. (Applause.)
Here in Louisiana, over 160,000 new jobs have been created in the last three years. Bank lending has increased. New homes are increasing by 15 percent a year. Homeownership in our country is now at an all-time high. And in each of the last three years there has been a record number of new businesses.
I know that we are all concerned, and I want to say more in a moment, about the impact of large businesses having large layoffs. But you should know that entrepreneurs in America, small business people, in each of the last three years have created far more jobs than have been laid off by large companies, so that we are, net, 8.4 million ahead. No other country in the world has a record even remotely approximating that in the last three years. And it's a great tribute to the people who are out there in the private sector working hard, not only the business owners and the management, but the workers who have done so much to become more productive and competitive in this global economy.
I'm also proud of the fact that our country is getting its act together at home. All across America the crime rate, the poverty rate, the welfare rolls, the food stamp rolls, the teen pregnancy rates are down in America. That is good news for the United States. (Applause.)
And I'm proud of the fact that our country has remained the world's strongest force for peace and freedom and security and prosperity. As your CEO has said, we have led the world toward broader trade agreements. We've also led the world back from the brink of nuclear disaster. There's not a single nuclear missile pointed at an American citizen today, for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age, and I am proud of that. (Applause.)
When I leave you I'll have the honor of going up to review our troops in Fort Polk. The brave men and women who have just returned from Haiti will be especially honored because there they helped to restore democracy, to stop the flow of desperate refugees to our own shores. When I sent them to Haiti I promised that they would finish the job and come home soon. And I will be saluting them for a mission accomplished. (Applause.)
Even as our -- (audience interruption) -- you know -- wait, wait, wait a minute, wait a minute. We can't both -- wait, wait, wait. We can't both talk at the same time. I'll tell you what -- (applause.) Wait a minute. I'll tell you what I'll do. If you'll let me finish, then I'll ask people who want to hear you go outside that door right there and hear you after I finish. (Applause.)
But let me say that even though what I said to you is true and accurate, and this country is clearly in better shape than it was three years ago, we know that this is a record for the American people to build on, not to sit on, because we know that a lot of important challenges still remain out there for our people. We know that even as our economy has created more jobs, too many people still work without a raise; too many people fear this downsizing or layoffs that could take their own lives away from the stability they now enjoy in the flash of an eye.
We know that even though the crime rate is dropping dramatically, a lot of people are still afraid when they walk down the street, and the rate of violence in our country is still entirely too high, and we're losing too many of our young people still to drugs and gangs and crime. (Applause.)
We know that even as people all across the world take strides for peace, none of us are immune from the things that we have seen in the bombs in London, or in Israel, or the poison gas in Japan, or even in Oklahoma City.
So this is a time of great opportunity, but also a time of great challenge. This is, as I said in the State of the Union, the age of greatest possibility the American people have ever known; the greatest period of change in 100 years, since the time when millions of us moved from the farm to the factory, from the country to the city and the towns. I am proud of the work that we are doing to take advantage of this change, but I know we have more to do.
How will we as a nation do for all Americans what you have done here, to turn the challenge of the new economy into opportunity? Well, we're going to do it the way we have always done the right things, by working together. I say again, this country has been hurt more by permitting itself to be divided, by forces for short-term gain when what we really needed to do was to work together for the long run. And we dare not let that happen today. (Applause.)
You heard others before me talk about trade. I want to put it in a larger context. I said in the State of the Union and I say again to you here, there are at least seven major challenges we have to face if we're going to fulfill our mission of opening the American Dream to all Americans who will work for it, and pulling the American family together, and maintaining America's leadership.
First, we have to strengthen America's families and give all our children a decent childhood. (Applause.) Yes, we have to invest in their education, their health care and nutrition. But we also have to give their parents the capacity to shape their lives. That's why I fought so hard for the V-chip in these new television stations. If you're going to have 500 television stations, give parents back the right to control what their young children see. I think it's important. (Applause.)
We have to renew our schools and open the doors of college education to everyone. If you look at the differences in wages today in America, you see that the single most significant thing is the level of skills that workers have, which means that we not only have to open the doors of college education to all Americans, we have to make available continuing education and training throughout the lifetime of every single solitary American worker. (Applause.)
And that's why I say to you the best thing we could do to cut taxes if we pass the balanced budget plan this year, which I still hope we will, the politics notwithstanding -- the best tax cut we could give American families is a tax deduction for the cost of education after high school for up to $10,000 a year. That would make a difference to America's families. (Applause.)
For people who have to change jobs we have to provide a greater measure of economic security in a way that doesn't undermine our ability to create jobs. What does that mean? If you lose a job you should immediately be able to get a voucher to take to the local community colleges or wherever you need it to get an education to start a new job in life. If you change jobs you ought to at least be able to take your health insurance with you, and you ought to be able to take a pension with you when you go. That's what we need to do. (Applause.)
I say again, I laud what the Mayor has done here, but we cannot stop in our fight against crime and violence until every child has a chance to grow up safe, and until when you turn on the television news at night and you see the reports of a crime you are surprised. We have to make it the exception, not the rule, again in America. (Applause.)
As you and Louisiana know, we have got to find a way to grow our economy and improve our environment. And we have proved time and again in the last three years that is not a choice you have to make. We do not have to choose between a clean environment and a growing economy. If we do it right we can have both. And that ought to be the priority of every American citizen. (Applause.)
And finally, we have to restore America's faith in government. We have to restore your faith that you're getting your money's worth, that we're doing our job, and that we're not doing things we shouldn't do that you should be doing for yourselves. In the last three years we have taken significant strides. The government is smaller. By the end of this year the government will be as small in Washington as it was when President Kennedy gave his speech here 34 years ago. That is something all Americans need to know. (Applause.)
The government is less bureaucratic. We're getting rid of 16,000 pages of federal regulations. The government is getting more effective. The Small Business Administration has cut its budget and doubled its loan volume. The government is trying to be more responsive to you. Almost three-quarters of all the people on welfare in the United States today are in welfare reform experiments that the federal government has told the states to have at it and try to move people from welfare to work. (Applause.)
These are important changes. But there is more to do. We ought to pass the right kind of balanced budget that gets interest rates down, grows the economy, balances the budget, but doesn't wreck Medicare and Medicaid and doesn't walk away from education and the environment. (Applause.)
We ought to pass the line item veto, that my friends in the other party have said they're for for 100 years, to give the President the ability to x out unnecessary spending. And we ought to pass campaign finance reform. We ought to do things that will increase your confidence that Washington is doing your business, because that is exactly what we need to do. (Applause.)
And finally, let me say, if you ask me to say in a sentence, well, Mr. President, what is the role of government in Washington in the 21st century, I would say that our primary job is, first, to protect your security, and second, to give you the ability as citizens, as families, as communities, to meet your own challenges and make the most of your own lives. The government cannot do certain things for you, but we can create an environment in which you are empowered to make the most of your own lives. That is our responsibility. (Applause.)
Now, it is against that background that you have to understand why I thought this was so important today -- for me to come down here and be a part of this dedication. This is a picture of America's future, because of the work that is being done, because of the way it's being done, and because of the people who are doing it -- and because you are doing it together.
Thirty-two years ago when President Kennedy stood here, or thirty-four years ago, he told our nation that we had a choice -- to trade or to fade. Not a bad line for 34 years ago, is it? (Laughter.) And you know that we chose to compete. I come here to reaffirm that choice today. A fifth of all America's trade is conducted through the ports of the state of Louisiana. So much cargo is crammed into these wharfs that the current port can't keep up with the demand. The terminal where we're standing was operating at full capacity just a week after it opened. Wharf C, which opens in several months, is expected to be at capacity within a day after it opens.
That's what happens when Americans work together. This port was expanded and rebuilt by the state and the city. The business opportunities have been seized by the employers and the workers. Our national government has done its part by getting the deficit and interest rates down, and growing the economy and expanding the barriers to trade, so that we have more opportunities to sell to more people.
Through this port passes steel from Gary, Indiana, bound for Japan; trains designed and made in Minneapolis steaming for South America; thousands of crates of pharmaceuticals made right here in Louisiana bound for Europe and beyond. Ninety thousand men and women across Louisiana already earn their living because of this port. The future is going to bring more trade, more opportunity and more jobs because you embraced the challenge of change and looked to the future with confidence.
One thing has remained constant throughout our history: Our people have always had a restless energy and determination to conquer new frontiers; to make real the promise of the American Dream in each new generation. Today that spirit and that legacy demands that we compete and win in a world marketplace that can be punishing and uncertain, but also deeply, deeply rewarding.
All change is unsettling. Every change requires pain as well as bringing gain. But if we remember our mission, that we're trying to make the American Dream available to everybody who will work for it, we're trying to keep our country the world's strongest force for peace and freedom, and we're trying to bring the American people together -- if we remember that mission we can make the right decisions.
Take the trade issue that has been so much debated again in recent months. If you hear the debate you would think there are only two choices -- that in the face of competition, some of which is unfair and much of which comes from countries that pay people wages we couldn't live on -- we should just try to build walls around our country again. The problem is walls don't permit this port to operate.
Then others would say there is one other opportunity and that is simply to have pure open trade in which our markets are open to others and we hope that they'll open their markets to us. But in a world of stiff competition what you need is fair rules. What you need is a genuine market. What we need is trade that is both free and fair -- truly open, two-way open trade. The Port of New Orleans proves that if you have two-way open trade, Americans will do very well and we'll be just fine in the future. (Applause.)
And let me emphasize just one of the benefits that comes from two-way open trade. We know that jobs tied to international trade, on balance, pay higher than average wages. Now, in 1992, the year before I took office, only 20 percent of the new jobs created in the United States paid above average wages. Since that time, we have conducted 200 new trade agreements -- 20 with Japan alone. Trade in America is at an all-time high, up one-third in three years; trade with Japan up more than a third. In the areas of agreement, the 20 areas of agreement, trade is up 80 percent with Japan.
What is the result? One big result is that in 1995, instead of 20 percent, over 55 percent of the new jobs created in this economy paid above average wages. We have to do more of that. We have to keep going in that direction. (Applause.)
And so I say to you, my fellow Americans, you are pointing the way to the future. Every step in the future is fraught with uncertainty. In a dynamic and open world there aren't the guarantees that used to exist. But we can do very well and we can achieve our mission. But we must not be afraid.
I'm reminded, you know, that -- whenever I come home I remember all my old stories, whenever I come back to the South. I'm reminded of the old story of the minister who had been a fairly bland minister, and he determined that he had to step up his preaching style. And so he worked and worked and worked for months to develop a sermon that he felt was the finest, most barn-burning, most emotion-generating sermon he had ever delivered. And he filled the church one day and, boy, he gave a stemwinder. Nobody could believe it, it was magnificent. And the punchline was, "I want everybody who wants to go to heaven to stand up right now." And the whole congregation leapt to their feet, except one lady in the front row who sat stone still. And she hadn't missed a Sunday in 40 years; the most faithful member of the church wouldn't get up.
He was crestfallen. He said, "Sister Jones, don't you want to go to heaven when you die?" And she jumped right up. She said, "Oh, I'm sorry, Preacher, I thought you were trying to get up a load to go right now." (Laughter.)
Well, folks, we have to go right now. We have to go right now into this future. And you have to send a message that America can win in this new future. If we work together and we do the right things and we stay true to our values, we can win in the future. We need not be afraid of the world toward which we are moving if we keep our mission in mind, if we stay true to our values, and above all, if we remember when we are divided we defeat ourselves; when we are together America always wins.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 11:28 A.M. CST