THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Santa Monica, California) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release July 22, 1996
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT ASIAN DINNER FOR THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE
Los Angeles Ballroom Century Plaza Hotel Los Angeles, California
8:30 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please be seated. Thank you. Thank you for the wonderful, warm welcome. Thank you for being here in such impressive numbers.
I'd like to begin by saying a special word of thanks to our MCs, Steve Park and Amy Hill. I think they did a wonderful job and I think we ought to give them a round of applause. (Applause.) I also thought the East-West Players were terrific, and I thank them and the other entertainers who were here earlier tonight for taking their time to come here and make this evening more enjoyable for all of us. (Applause.) Thank you. A great job.
If I could learn how to beat those sticks like that I think I could intimidate the Congress by doing it, you know. Maybe I should take some instruction. (Applause.)
I'm honored to be here with the Chairman of the Democratic Committee, Don Fowler; the Chairman of the Democratic Party, Art Torres -- thank you for being here, sir. (Applause.) And thank you, March Fong Eu, for being a wonderful public servant and a great friend and a wonderful supporter. Thank you, Bob Matsui, for your leadership in the Congress and in the Democratic Party.
I should say also that one of those 197 Asian-Pacific Americans in my administration is Bob's terrific wife, Doris, who's also here tonight. Thank you, Doris, for your work. Thank you. (Applause.)
And I'd like to thank my longtime friend, John Wong, for being so effective. (Applause.) Frankly, he's been so effective, I was amazed that you were all cheering for him tonight after he's been around -- (laughter) -- and his aggressive efforts to help our cause.
Ladies and gentlemen, in 1992, when I ran for President, I had a very clear reason for doing so and a very definite idea about what it was I wanted to do. I ran because I thought our country was in danger of drifting divided into the 21st century in a way that would undermine the American Dream at home, split up our sense of community and weaken our ability to continue to lead the world in a positive way. And I wanted to see the United States go into the next century in an aggressive, united way with the American Dream alive for all people who come here from wherever who are willing to work for it; with this country coming together celebrating our diversity instead of being divided by it; and with America still the world's strongest force for peace and freedom and security and prosperity.
That is why I ran. Many of you in this room helped me in that election. And I have worked as hard as I could to achieve that vision by working to create opportunity, by working to build an inclusive American society, and by working to maintain our positive role in the world in this period of enormous change as we move from the Cold War to the global village, as we move from great industrial societies to a period when the entire world economy will be dominated more and more by information-based technology.
I am proud of the work we have done, first of all, to build the American community. Bob mentioned that we had 197 members of the Asian Pacific American community in our administration. I'm proud of that. It's more than any other previous administration by far. But if I get four more years, I intend to do better, because they have all served very well. (Applause.)
When I took office, it had been 14 years, 14 years since the last Asian Pacific American was nominated to the Federal bench. I have already nominated four and I intend to do better. (Applause.)
I have also tried to position the economy of the United States in a way that will enable us to take maximum advantage of what is happening all over the world. When I took office, we had quadrupled our debt in only 12 short years. And I asked the American people to let me serve so that we could reduce our deficit, invest more in our people and our technology, and expand trade. Many of you have been personally involved in the efforts we have made together to expand trade by Americans all over the world.
Now, for three and a half years we have had a chance to see the results of that. Mr. Matsui will remember when we adopted our economic plan in 1993, it passed by only one vote. And our friends in the other party said that it would bring on a recession. One of them even said he'd have to join the Democratic Party if my plan worked. That was Mr. Kasich, the Budget Chairman from Ohio. We're saving a seat for him at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. I wish he would come and take it, he'd be welcome there. (Applause.)
Well, anyway, three and a half years later, the United States has 10 million new jobs; the deficit has gone from $290 billion a year all the way to $117 billion. We would have a surplus today, and would have had a surplus last year if it weren't for the interest we have to pay on the debt that was run up in the 12 years before I took office. We have turned that situation around. We have concluded 200 separate trade agreements with countries in all parts of the world. Our exports are up 35 percent, to an all-time high. We concluded 21 trade agreements with Japan alone, and in those areas our exports have increased 85 percent.
We did, as Bob said, embrace NAFTA and the GATT world trade agreement. But, perhaps equally important, we tried to build more constructive relationships with our trading partners around the world -- with the Summit of the Americas, with all the Latin American and Central American and Caribbean countries; and with regular meetings of the Asian Pacific Economic Council nations leaders -- something that I'm proud we started in our administration in Seattle. Then we went to Indonesia, then in Japan and now we will be meeting this year in the Philippines. And I'm very much looking forward to that. It's helped us to make commitments to work together toward freer and more open trade, in a way that I believe also helps to reduce hostilities between countries.
I worked very hard to help to remove the threat of North Korea's nuclear program from the Asian Pacific area, and I'm very encouraged by the response that we received from the Chinese just this week supporting the initiatives to get the Chinese, the Americans, the North and South Koreans together to try to resolve this problem once and for all, so we can go forward together into a more peaceful and prosperous world. (Applause.)
We have worked hard to develop the sort of relationships with China that would enable us to have a fair, strategically calculated, positive, long-term, constructive relationship, and would enable us to continue the relationships we have enjoyed with Taiwan in anticipation of an ultimate peaceful resolution of the difficulties between those two countries. (Applause.)
Our commitments, which precede me by a long ways, I will reiterate. We support a one China policy, but we support a peaceful -- and only a peaceful -- resolution of the differences between Taiwan and the Republic of China. And we believe it can be done. (Applause.)
Now, if you look at where we are and where we need to go on the economy and on our relations with the rest of the world, I would just make a couple of observations. First of all, the Asian Pacific community knows as well or better than any group of Americans that education is the key to advancement in this country. The good news about America's relationship to the global economy is that we can create more jobs than any other wealthy world more quickly because we have so many entrepreneurs. In the last three years we've had more new small businesses started than at any time in American history.
I'm very proud of the fact that the Small Business Administration in our term has doubled the number of small business loans while cutting the budget, and has spread the activities to all different groups of Americans.
But if you look ahead, what we want is for everybody in America who works hard to have a chance to do well. And, therefore, we are going to have to do more to expand educational opportunity and to get more people the chance to go on and get a college education. Therefore, I have proposed two things I want to especially emphasize tonight. First, we should hook up every classroom in the United States of America -- every single one --to the Internet by the year 2000 and make sure all classrooms have teachers trained to teach the young people to learn whatever can be learned in that vast storehouse of knowledge. That will equalize educational opportunities among rich, poor and middle-class school districts all across America and we must do that. (Applause.)
The second thing we should do is to open the doors of college education to all Americans. In my first term we reorganized the college loan program to cut the cost and to change the terms of repayment so that more people could afford to go to college. If I am re-elected I want to give American families a tax deduction for the cost of college tuition, and a tax credit for two years of community college so we can make at least two years after high school in this country just as universal as a high school education is now. Every American ought to be able to go back and go to a community college. (Applause.)
Let me mention one other issue. There are many things I could speak about tonight, but I want to talk about one other issue. The Asian Pacific community has done so well in America and has enriched our country so much because you have found a way to preserve strong families and still work incredibly hard. I think the biggest challenge facing most American families today is how they can succeed at work and still succeed at home. They worry about their children being alone too many hours a day. They worry about whether they'll have destructive influences and see too much violence on television, for example. And I applaud the entertainment industry for developing these rating systems for TV programs that will go with the V-chip in the new televisions of the future. They worry about the fact that they may not be able to take a little time off from work if they really need to without losing their jobs.
I have worked very hard to make it possible for people to have strong families and strong work records, to succeed at home and at work. That's what the Family and Medical Leave law was about. Twelve million people since 1993 have been able to take some time off when a baby was born or when a parent was desperately sick without losing their jobs. And it has helped the American economy; it has not hurt the American economy. And I want to do more things like that to help. (Applause.)
The last point I want to make is this: If you think about what is truly special about America as we move into the 21st century, it is that this is the only country that has people from everywhere else in it. It's the longest-lasting democracy of any major country in the history of the world. We're 220 years old, but we have people from everywhere here. We are defined not by the race of our citizens, but by our willingness to adhere to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and tolerance and mutual respect and equal opportunity for all people. And it is a priceless resource. (Applause.)
I have struggled and worked as hard as I know how to keep us coming together and not let us drift apart. Think of what the new security problems in the world are. As the Cold War fades away, if we can secure a comprehensive test ban treaty, if we can continue to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the major powers, if we can secure nuclear materials from smuggling, we can let the nuclear threat edge more and more and more into history.
What then are the new security threats? They are threats that cross national lines -- terrorism, organized crime, drug smuggling, the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons and sophisticated conventional weapons that can be misused. And a lot of the problems caused from these things stem from prejudice based on race, ethnicity, religion and tribe.
Look at the hot spots of the world. Why do the Hutus and the Tutsis butcher each other in Rwanda and Burundi? Why did the people in Bosnia, a little country where the Muslims, the Croats and the Serbs are biologically indistinguishable -- why did they live in peace for decades and all of the sudden fall into a slaughter? Look at the heartbreaking agony in the Middle East and the fact that every time we make progress, there are those that try to kill the peace. Look at what happened in Northern Ireland where they had peace after decades for a year and a half, and the people desperately wanted it, and irresponsible leaders let it slide back into violence.
And we still deal with it here in a different way. If you look at what was alleged to have occurred in Arizona recently where our federal authorities working with state officials, uncovered a massive weapons cache with a militia group that was alleged -- and I say alleged, because they haven't been convicted yet -- but alleged to have had plans to blow up a whole lot of federal buildings.
If you look at the charges in the trial involving the destruction of the Oklahoma City federal building, if you look at the burning of all these black churches in America, and the defacing of some mosques and synagogues -- what do all these things have in common? People are defining themselves by their ability to look down on someone else because they are of a different race or of a different religion or a different creed.
What is America's great strength is that we don't look down on people because of that, we embrace people. We say if you follow the law, if you work hard, if you play by the rules, if you're a responsible citizen you can have a home in the United States, you can do well, we want you to succeed and our country will succeed. That is America at its best. (Applause.)
That is why I have said when it comes to affirmative action I think we ought to fix it, not end it. That is why I have said that we have to -- (applause) -- that's why I've said we have got to get to the bottom of these church burnings. That's why I have asked the Congress to support stronger initiatives against terrorism, to stand up to people who would put us against one another.
And let me just say this in closing. As most of you know, Hillary and I went to the Olympics, to the opening ceremony on Friday. And before that we were privileged to go through the Olympic Village and meet with a lot of the athletes from other countries, and to meet with the American Olympic team. And we both got to speak to them.
And I was looking at them, just as I'm looking at you, and it struck me that if our Olympic team just wasn't -- if they weren't all in the same room together, if they were just wandering around in the Village, you know, with the other athletes, we might think they were from Asian countries, or from African countries, or from the Middle East, or from Latin America, or from Scandinavia. They could be from anywhere, because they are from everywhere; bound together only by their shared values and their commitment to work. And they represent what is right about America and that is what we have to strengthen if we want to take this country into the next century as the kind of nation it ought to be and the kind of model for the world that it ought to be.
And if you think about the Olympics, one of the reasons we love the Olympics is that people have to win on their own merits. They don't win by criticizing their opponents. Nobody can get a medal -- (applause) -- no runner could win a medal by breaking his opponent's legs before the race. (Laughter.) Nobody is more respected by telling everybody what a bad person his opponent is.
In other words, in the Olympics, people don't lift themselves up by putting other people down. They lift themselves up by bringing out the greatness that is within them. And that is what we should want for all Americans. We shouldn't want a single person in this country to be under the illusion that he or she is a better person because they're not of a certain race or they don't have a certain religious conviction, or they happen to be born better off than someone else.
I believe the best days of this country are before us if we find a way to fight back our security problems, if we find a way to give everybody a chance to participate in the new economy, if we find a way to build strong families and strong communities. But the number one thing we have to do is to make up our mind we are going into the future together, and that America is the best positioned nation in the world because we have people from everywhere in the world in America. That should color every decision we make about how we treat each other, not only through our government programs, within our everyday relations.
Now, the election is three months, two weeks and one day away. (Laughter.) And I want to ask every one of you in the next three months, two weeks and one day, not to believe that coming here tonight to this great event -- which has helped us very much, and I thank you for your generosity -- but I ask you not to let your citizenship lapse now. I ask you to go back into your communities, talk to your family members, talk to your friends, talk to those with whom you work, talk to friends in other parts of America and tell them what this election is all about. The result of the election can be determined by what people believe the election is about.
I believe the election is about what America will look like when our children are our age; what kind of country will we be; will we go storming into the next century as a united and strong country and a great force for peace, or will we fall back into division and drift. If people vote for how they want this country to look when their children are their age, I'm not worried about the outcome.
You can help that occur. Most of you have come to this country and enjoyed great success because you have worked like crazy, because you have developed your gifts, because you have kept your family strong. If everyone in America could just do that, this would be an even greater nation.
So I ask you to work with us and walk with us and remember, tonight is a wonderful night, but we want three months, two weeks and one day from now to be a wonderful day. And you can help to make it so.
Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 8:58 P.M. PDT