THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Little Rock, Arkansas) _______________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 1, 1996
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE LITTLE ROCK COMMUNITY
Old Statehouse Little Rock, Arkansas
6:38 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I'm hoarse, folks, I can't shout over you. (Laughter.) You've got to help me tonight, I'm a little hoarse. Oh, I'm so glad to see you. Thank you for coming. Thank you. (Applause.)
I want to thank all of those who made this night possible -- thank my longtime friend, Joe Purvis, for bringing Little Joe and the BKs here. (Applause.) The magnificent Philander Smith Choir, thank you very much. (Applause.) Mayor Dailey, Mayor Hays, Judge Villines, thank you.
I want to thank the young children from Gibbs Magnate School and from Clinton Elementary School for these signs. Thank you. (Applause.) Hold up your signs, kids. The children made all these signs. Let's give them a hand, they did a great job. Thank you. (Applause.)
I thank Congressman Ray Thorton for being here tonight, for his service to our state. I think he's the only person in the history of Arkansas who represented two entirely different regions of our state in the Congress, president of our two largest universities, a very distinguished American citizen and a great future judge on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Thank you, Ray. And good luck to you and Betty Jo. (Applause.)
I thank my dear friend, Judy Collins, for being here tonight. Wasn't she magnificent? (Applause.) Thirty-two years ago this month, I went to hear Judy Collins sing at the George Washington University auditorium when I was a freshman at Georgetown. And I thought that I had never heard a voice like that; never would again. I talked about it for days. And if anybody told me then -- 32 years ago -- we'd both be here tonight, I wouldn't have believed it. But I like it and I'm glad to see her. (Applause.) I should tell you that she was eight years old at the time of that concert. (Laughter.)
I want to thank my good friends, Mack McLarty and Rodney Slater for being here. They are representing all the Arkansans who are serving you in Washington with great distinction, as have they. (Applause.)
Finally, let me say -- I see so many other folks here -- just my friends, my supporters, legislators, county officials, city officials, personal friends. I'm delighted to see all of you here. I was looking at David Pryor. He said I met him when I was 19, I did -- 30 years ago and a few odd months, in the hot summer Arkansas campaign of 1966 on the street of a small county seat in south Arkansas. And I thought, that guy's the best politician I've ever seen. (Laughter.) He had more moves than Magic Johnson working that street, and he still does. (Laughter.)
And let me say to you, David, and to Barbara, I remember when you were in the snows of New Hampshire. Many of you were also there. I remember when you stood with me when we were dropping in the polls and people said the campaign was over. And I remember how you stood by me in the first two years of our presidency under all matter of assault to stand up for what was right for America. (Applause.) You have done a lot of things for all of us to love you, David Pryor. But I will never forget that when it wasn't at all clear that I would be here on this night doing this in this way, you were always there because you thought it was right. And I will love you until the day I die. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, 20 years ago this year, when the people of our state elected me attorney general, I had my first reception, in January of 1977 -- nearly 20 years ago -- Hillary and I did right here in the Old Statehouse. And I remember what a cold and icy January it was -- do you remember, Mack -- all of my friends from North Arkansas just sort of slid down here on the ice and came to the reception. (Laughter.)
Over the years I have been back here many times because I love this building. In 1979, in my first term, I asked the legislature to give us some money to restore it to its original condition so it would be ready by the time we turned 150 years old as a state, in June of 1986, and they did. This is a treasure for me because here on this wonderful lawn, under these grand trees, in front of this great building, we can live again, all of us, the history of our state, and a big part of the history of our nation.
That's why I came here almost five years ago -- five years ago last month -- to declare my candidacy. And I used to be able to do this from memory, but, you know, in spite of all David said about me being young, I'm 50 now, I've got an AARP card -- (laughter) -- and that means you all have to cut me some slack. (Laughter.) So I brought a few notes here.
Five years ago when I was here I said when we started this campaign for the presidency, "All of you in different ways have brought me here today, to step beyond a life and a job I love, to make a commitment to a larger cause: preserving the American Dream, restoring the hopes of the forgotten middle class, reclaiming the future for our children."
In November of 1992, when I was declared the President-elect, I was right here again in the spot that embodies for me all that is best in our state and public service. (Applause.)
So I wanted to come here just as quick as I could get here, as I begin the last campaign of my life -- unless I decide to run for the school board some day. (Laughter.) And I want to say to all of you, you made possible something extraordinary in these last four years. And I came here to give you an accounting and ask you to rear back one more time and go with me through November and into the next four years. Will you do that? (Applause.)
Folks, four years ago, we had to weather all those snide charges about small southern state; we had to listen to all those people trying to rain on our parade. And I had to look at all those people who kind of looked at me askance when I said, it seemed to me that if we took the philosophy of governing that we had embraced here -- not who's to blame, but what are we going to do about it -- it would work in Washington, too. (Applause.)
Four years ago we had high unemployment, stagnant wages, crime and welfare rolls rising, cynicism on the rise, problems unmet, middle class dreams of America in danger. Four years later, after four years of getting rid of who's to blame and asking what are we going to do about it, look where we are. (Applause.)
With a simple but profound strategy -- opportunity for everybody, responsibility from everybody, and everybody that believes in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights is part of our American community and entitled to go with us into the future -- (applause) -- with that simple strategy we have over 10 million new jobs, almost 4.5 million new homeowners, wages are rising again for the first time in a decade, four years of declining crime, 1.8 million fewer people on welfare, 10 million Americans are about to get an increase because of the rise in the minimum wage on October 1st. (Applause.)
Twelve million Americans have gotten to take a little time off for the birth of a child or a sick parent without losing their job because of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Fifteen million of our hardest-pressed Americans have gotten a tax cut to help raise their children. And every single small business in America has been made eligible for a substantial reduction in taxes if they invest more in their business to grow the business more and help grow our economy. (Applause.)
Forty million Americans have had their retirement savings made more secure after the terrible, damaging years of the 1980s. Fifty million Americans are breathing cleaner air. And, yes, Senator Pryor said it all -- we fought a long, hard battle for health care and paid a big price for it, but when I signed the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill, 25 million Americans were told you cannot lose your health insurance because somebody in your family's been sick or because you have to change jobs. (Applause.)
So I say to you, my friends here at home, what I said on that train trip and on that bus trip, which I loved because I got to see all those folks that look just like you, who are just like you, that made this country go, the kind of people the President doesn't often see if he just gets in Air Force One and then jumps in the limo and goes to the event -- you get on a train, you get on a bus and you see the people that make this country go. And I'm telling you, we're better off than we were four years ago, and we are on the right track to the 21st century. (Applause.)
Now, I want to say --
THE AUDIENCE: Four more years. Four more years.
THE PRESIDENT: Sounds good. Thank you.
But let me say what I said at the convention one more time. You all taught me something when I had to run for reelection as governor all the time. (Laughter.) I remember one time I was at a rally in 1984, trying to get reelected. And I gave a great speech about what a good job I've done. An old boy came up to me after it was over and said, "Well, so what, Bill, that's what we paid you for." (Laughter.) "What are you going to do next time?"
And so I say, I realize that that's what you paid me for. And that's why when I spoke to the country and to our Democratic Party in Chicago on Thursday night, I tried to lay out what I thought the stakes were in this election. My record is relevant and so is Senator Dole's, but only insofar as it gives you some guidance about what we'll do in the next four years, because we can't undo the past if it's bad and we can't relive it no matter how good it is. We have to think about tomorrow.
But I will say this, with all respect: that's what this choice is. The choice is whether we're going to build a bridge to the past or build a bridge to the future. I want you to help me build a bridge to the 21st century. Will you do that? (Applause.)
Now, folks, you know what kind of bridge I want to build to the future and I don't have to tell you about the details. I want to build a bridge to the future that everybody has a chance to be a part of. And that means we have to do a lot more than we have done as a people to make sure every single person in this country -- not only the children, but the adults as well -- have access to lifetime education and that it's the best in the world. We have to do that. (Applause.)
You think what it would mean to Arkansas and to Arkansans if we passed a tax cut that said you can have the equivalent of a community college tuition for two years in your pocket as a tax credit so that everybody in this country can have two years of education after high school -- make it just as universal as a high school education is today. (Applause.)
Think what it would mean to Arkansans if we said every family in this state, except those like me who don't need it, can have a deduction for the cost of college tuition -- any tuition after high school up to $10,000 a year. (Applause.)
Think what it would mean to the people of this state if we could say to every unemployed person and every underemployed person, we want you to have access to a new kind of G.I. Bill -- a G.I. Bill for America's workers -- because this economy changes a lot and even when we're creating jobs, some people are always being left behind. So we're going to give you $2,600 a year to spend as you see fit getting an education and finding a new job so you can get a better job with higher skills and a brighter future. Think what the would mean if we could do that here for our people. (Applause.)
Think what it would mean when we hook up every classroom and every library and every school in this state not only with computers and trained teachers, but hook them up to the Information Superhighway so that for the first time in the history of America in the poorest school district in Arkansas, they can get the same information in the same time, with the same quality as people in the richest schools in this country do. Think what that will mean to the people of Arkansas and to our children. (Applause.)
And I want to build a bridge to the 21st century that keeps this economy going. That means we have to keep trading more. That means we have to keep investing more in technology and research. You heard Christopher Reeve talk at the Democratic Convention about that. It's not just a matter of humanity, it's a matter of our future. We are generating enormous opportunities, economic opportunities, as we search for the solution to medical mysteries.
We've doubled the life expectancy for people with HIV in four years. (Applause.) We now have seen for the first time in laboratory animals, animals that had their spines severed and were paralyzed, getting movement back in their lower limbs. It won't be long before we can do that for people. But we have to keep investing if we want to do that. (Applause.)
The Internet -- a lot of the kids in this audience just routinely hook into the Internet. The Internet got started as a government research project. We figured out how to do it, then we got out of the way and let the private sector take it over. But we have to keep investing. And I want you to support that kind of future that will grow the economy. (Applause.)
And let me say this: I want you to support us in our effort to balance the budget in the right way, in the right way. (Applause.) Now, when they sent me a budget, they said, here's our balanced budget: we're going to have this huge tax cut and give it some people that don't need it. And you're going to have to take it or we're going to shut the government down. And, oh, by the way, we're going to change Medicare into a two- class system so that the oldest, the poorest and the sickest seniors in this country get the shaft. And, oh, by the way, we're going to remove Medicaid's guarantee of health care to pregnant women and little children and the elderly in nursing homes and families with people with a disability in them. And, oh, by the way, even though we're moving into the 21st century, we're going to cut back on education -- everything from Head Start to college loans. And we're going to cut back on protecting the environment. And if you don't do it, we'll shut the government down.
I said, let her rip. I'm not going to put that on the American people. (Applause.) Now -- but I did say also, I'm not going to talk about who's to blame. You all won the Congress fair and square. You want to balance the budget, that's the right thing to do for America. Let's just balance that budget in the right way.
Now, let me remind all of you here what that means. I hear people all the time -- all these political consultants tell you, don't talk to people about balancing the budget. If things are going good, they're bored with it. Here's why you ought to care about it: because if we don't balance the budget and we do something that increases the deficit, what does that mean? We have to go borrow money while you're trying to borrow money. What does that mean? Your home mortgage, your car payment, your credit card payments go up. What else does it mean? It means businesses have to pay more to borrow money so they don't borrow as much, they don't invest as much, they don't create as many new jobs.
Arkansas has got a low unemployment now. But I want to see that unemployment rate spread to every county and every community that doesn't have a low unemployment rate yet. And we can do it, but we've got to keep it coming down. (Applause.)
Now, along comes our opponents who said for two years all they wanted to do was balance the budget. And they say, no, no, no, forget about that -- vote for us, we're going to give you a bigger tax cut. That's what they say, five times as big.
Here's the problem: Number one, if you hated the budget I vetoed last time, wait until you see this one. This one will take bigger cuts out of Medicare, Medicaid, education, the environment and worker pension funds. It's wrong. And you don't want me to do that, do you?
THE PRESIDENT: Even then, they won't pay for it. And the deficit will go up again. And that means higher interest rates and all those bad things.
Now, let me ask you a question -- just a little old question we might ask at a country crossroads at home: Would you go to the bank and borrow money to give yourself a tax cut?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, why would you hire somebody to do that for you? You wouldn't do that. You wouldn't do that. (Applause.)
Now, there's another alternative, but let me get down to that. I know -- I learned a long time -- I remember one time President Reagan came right here to this spot and gave a speech for the Republicans and tried to tell them they needed a different governor -- 1984 -- and I'm glad you all didn't listen. (Laughter.) And I know that even a President from Arkansas can't tell people from here how to vote, so I don't want you to do this for me, I want you to do it for you.
But you've got Winston Bryant and Vic Snyder over here trying to get into the Senate and the House -- (applause) -- with Boyce Davis and Marion Berry. (Applause.) And I want to tell you something. If you want this done right, if you want me to do more than say no, if you want me to be able to say yes to the right kind of balanced budget and the kind of programs that I advocated when I spoke to the country in Chicago on Thursday night, then send Vic Snyder to the House and send Winston Bryant to the Senate, and give us a chance to grow this country in the right way. (Applause.) This is terribly important.
Let me say just something else real briefly. It's not enough to create opportunity, we also have to have more responsibility. The other guys, they talked a lot about welfare reform and hating the government, but we reduced the government to its smallest size in 30 years. And we reduced the welfare rolls by 1.8 million. But I signed that welfare reform bill and I was proud to do it because -- here's the new deal -- there's a lot of legislators here, so you all listen to this. Here's the new deal. This deal says, for people who are poor and their children, eligible for welfare, you still get guaranteed health care, guaranteed food stamps and guaranteed child care if you go to work. But the income check can now be given to the states, and the states can decide whether to continue the income check or whether to develop a job program that will put more people into jobs. And they have to do that.
Now, here's what I want to say to you, folks: Now this is not a political issue anymore. Welfare is no longer an issue that conservatives can condemn liberals over, that politicians can condemn poor people over. We have gotten rid of the system people say they don't like. But if you want to require somebody with kids to feed to go to work, and require them to do it, they better have some work there to go to. (Applause.) That is the issue now. We have a responsibility to create these jobs. And we have to build a bridge to the 21st century that puts people to work who have never had a chance to go to work before. (Applause.)
It brings me to the other person over here I want to talk about. The biggest new job states will have to perform is figuring out a humane and decent and honorable way to create work for people on welfare who are able-bodied. It is not simple, it is not easy. And every time you vote for the governor, a lieutenant governor, a state official, a legislator, you ought to ask yourself, what kind of person am I electing and who is most likely to be able to be most energetic in growing the economy overall and trying to figure out specifically how to do these new deals, these new jobs, especially welfare reform.
I'll tell you what the answer to that is. The answer to that is Charlie Cole Chaffin -- (applause) -- and you ought to make her the lieutenant governor of Arkansas. (Applause.)
I want to just say one other thing about this responsibility business. I never believed for a minute what so many Americans did, that we couldn't do anything about crime. And when I went around the country, started running for President, I went to town after town where the crime rate was going down. And I asked them, why did the crime rate go down. And I talked to the police officers. They said, well, we put more police on the streets. We got them out of the cars. We've got them working in the neighborhoods. We've got them working with the kids. And it's working.
And I said, what else do you need? And they said, well, we could use a little help with these assault weapons, because we don't have them. And we could use a little other help.
So here's what we did. We passed a crime bill that's putting 100,000 police on the street. (Applause.) The other guys voted against it. Think about this in this race for Congress. Think about this in the race for Congress and senators. The other party led the fight against it. Then they tried to repeal the 100,000 police. Even after the crime rate had gone down for three years, they still tried to stop us from doing it.
And we're halfway home now and we need to finish that. We've got four years of declining crime rates. If we had four more years of declining crime rates they might be down where we could all live with it. (Applause.) And I want you to stay with a strategy that's working. Again, send Winston Bryant and Vic Snyder to Congress and let's keep the 100,000 police coming. (Applause.)
Now, the last thing I want to say is, you taught me -- not the other way around -- that when we work together we never lose. When we treat each other with respect we always win. When we behave with dignity and honor, we're always ahead. That's still a big problem. You have no idea how much time I spend as President dealing with foreign policy problems caused because people in other countries insist on killing each other because they're different from one another. You have no idea.
What is Bosnia about? What is the crisis in Northern Ireland about? What is the Middle East about? What are all these tribal wars in Africa about? Just something about people if you let them go unrestrained that makes them think that their lives mean more when they can look down on their neighbors and they'll even go to the point of killing them. And pretty soon they get to killing one another and they forget why they started fighting, they just can't quit anymore.
Now, that's why I react so strongly when churches burn in our country and in our state. It's wrong. (Applause.) That's why I got so upset the other day when those African American Special Forces personnel when home to their barracks in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and saw those swastikas on their doors. Now, folks, you read every week about some foreign policy crisis I'm dealing with. And I bet a lot of you think, you know, I wonder what Bill's thinking about that; he didn't learn much about that when he was governor.
I tell you one thing I know, if at midnight tonight I call those Special Forces and I tell them to be halfway around the world by noon tomorrow and put their lives on the line for you, they will do it. They do not deserve to have swastikas on their doors. (Applause.) This is not right. This is not right. (Applause.)
So I guess what I'd like to say is we talked about this "It Takes A Village" business, but it really is important. You've got to really decide, and the people of this country have to decide. Do you think we have to go forward together and that the role of the government is to be a part of our national village to give people the tools they need to make the most of their own lives? Or do you think we'd be better off with a sort of "you're on your own" philosophy? That's also a big part of this election.
I know that if we go forward together, if we get more opportunity for everybody and more responsibility from everybody, our best days are still ahead.
But I know one thing, you have got to be committed, every single one of you, to building that kind of a bridge. So think about this: All of you have been with me all of these years, this is our last go-round with the highest stakes for the largest number of people. The kind of country we'll be at the dawn of a new century and a new millennium will be determined by this election. What this country looks like when our children and our grandchildren are our age will be determined by the decisions we make in this election.
I have no right to ask you for anything for me, you have already given me more than I can ever repay. But for the sake of our children our state and our beloved country, one more time will you help me build that bridge to the 21st century? (Applause.)
Thank you, God bless you, let's go get it. (Applause.)
END 7:07 P.M. CDT