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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 3, 1997
                      REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                            ANNUAL DINNER
                         Omni Shoreham Hotel
                           Washington, D.C.               

6:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, Governor Dean, for that wonderful introduction. And I thank the orchestra for playing me in. (Laughter.) Thank you, Governor Rossello, for your leadership in the DGA. And to our DNC General Chair, Governor Roy Romer, thank you for agreeing to do that. I hope it made the Democratic Governors feel better; it sure made me feel better when you did it. (Applause.)

Our Democratic National Chairman, Steve Grossman, thank you for being here tonight. And thank you, Santita, for singing again. You got me in a good humor before I had to come out and speak.

You all know that the Vice President is coming over later -- I'm just the warm-up act. (Laughter.) But that's probably as it should be. At least that's what he asked me to say right before I left the White House. (Laughter.) I thank you for understanding why I can't be here all evening. As you know, the State of the Union is tomorrow night, and I hope that the governors who are here will be staying for it. We have a place for all of you.

It's a very different city than it was a year ago. A year ago we had a cold wave -- and a cold wave in politics so bad that it shut the government down. And the American people had something to say about it in the months ahead after that, and then definitively in November. And it's a lot warmer outside this year than it was last year. And I like it. (Applause.)

All of you know that I have been deeply indebted to my own experience as a governor and to the Democratic Governors for many of the ideas that we have brought to bear over the last four years. Our country has produced 11.2 million jobs, for the first time in history in a four-year presidential administration. (Applause.) We have -- crime has come down in every year. The welfare rolls have dropped by 2.24 million, the largest amount in history.

Inequality among working people has started back down again, after a 20-year increase, with particular drops for single parents working to support their children, the elderly, and African Americans.

In the last four years, thanks to the work that we have done together, we have, first of all, reversed our country's addiction to supply-side economics, and substituted for it an economics based on investing in people, expanding trade, reducing the deficit, and ultimately, balancing the budget in the right way. (Applause.)

We have restored the family and community as the centerpiece of our social agenda with initiatives like the Family and

Medical Leave law, which we celebrated the fourth anniversary of just this week, and which I hope to expand in this coming session of the Congress -- and I hope you will help me do that. (Applause.)

When it comes to crime and welfare we replaced rhetoric with action, and that's why results have flowed. We have redefined the role of government -- no longer do the American people believe, and no longer are they being told that government is the enemy. They know that the role of government is to be our partner to give us the tools to solve our problems and to create the conditions in which Americans can flourish.

And finally, we have reaffirmed the importance of our national community. No longer is it commonplace in our national politics to see victory come from dividing Americans by race, by gender, or in any other way. And I'm proud of that; perhaps proudest of all that we have rebuked the people who want to divide us as a nation. That's what the Democratic Party is all about. (Applause.)

In the next four years -- well, you have to wait until tomorrow night to hear about that. (Laughter.) But let me say that in the next four years I will still depend upon the Democratic Governors for your ideas; two of them you know I have embraced with particular vigor -- the HOPE Scholarship, pioneered by Governor Zell Miller in Georgia -- (applause) -- and the idea of providing national certification to the most excellent teachers in America, pioneered by Governor Jim Hunt in North Carolina. I thank you both for that. (Applause.)

What I want to leave you with is that I think in the last four years we've basically unlocked the potential of our country by fixing a lot of things that were wrong and by redefining what the stakes are. In the next four years we have to take initiatives to shape America for the next 50 years. And what I want you to think about when you go back home is this: It's not very often that a country has a period of such enormous peace and prosperity and yet, is still confronted by such great challenges. And what has brought us to this moment in history is the incredible rate and scope of change of the time in which we live.

We're not just moving into a new century and a new millennium, we're moving into a whole new way of doing things. It's changing the way family life works, it's changing the way work life works, it's changing the way people relate to each other in society and across national borders. It poses particular challenges for our educators, but also challenges for all the rest of us.

We're also learning a lot of things that impose new responsibilities on us. I know that the Democratic governors heard from my friend, Rob Reiner, who is sitting out here at this table, who is passionately concerned about what happens to children from the time they're born until they're two or three years old. We now know things about those years that we never knew before. And that imposes upon us responsibilities we never had before -- because we now know we can prevent problems from occurring we didn't think we could, and we can unleash potential we didn't know was there, and that requires us to behave in a different way.

So, tomorrow night, I'm going to try to talk about the next steps I think we have to take. But I want you to think in big terms about this. Every time a governor is elected who has real vision and real understanding and a real willingness to take prudent risks to tap the potential of this moment. We have advanced the cause of freedom and democracy, and we've given more people a chance to light up their own lives. That's really what all this is about.

Democracies normally don't do very well in times of peace and prosperity. They sort of get complacent and kind of go to the golf course twice a week. Sounds like a good idea to me. (Laughter.) Unfortunately, we don't have that luxury now -- not if we're going to do what we ought to do.

So that's what this is about tonight. In the next two years we'll be seeing 38 governors races come up for a vote of the people, affecting 80 percent of the people who live in this country. And the decisions that will be made by those governors will chart the course for the next century. This is a very, very important time to be making these judgments. And I can tell you, having now been President for four years and having been a governor for 12 years -- I could tell you a lot of things about that -- (laughter) -- but the point I want to make is there are a lot of things that a President can do and a lot of things a President can't. There are some things that can and will only be done by the governors of this country, working with people throughout the states. It matters a great deal.

You know that. That's why you're here tonight. But as you think about this tonight and tomorrow night at the State of the Union and the work that I'm going to help you do in the next two years to try to make sure we elect more people from our party to the statehouses to move this country forward, just remember, usually democracies get lazy in times of peace and prosperity. The changes a and the challenges of this time do not permit us to do this. If we do it we will regret it for a very long time. If we don't, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)

END 6:50 P.M. EST