THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Chicago, Illinois) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release June 25, 1997
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT "VICTORY IN ILLINOIS" DINNER HONORING SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN
Sheraton Hotel and Towers Chicago, Illinois
8:00 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mayor and Mrs. Daley; Reverend Barrow, Representative Jones and Chairman Lapel, Mr. Houlihan. I'm sorry Paul Simon left. I have sat in on so many of his speeches and he sat in on so many of mine -- I was sort of getting used to getting back to our old routine. I miss Paul Simon in the Senate, but I'm glad he's still here caring about Illinois. He doesn't have an axe to grind and I think we ought to listen to his recommendations.
Let me also say that I had a good time, Mayor, when I got off the plane and I took my little helicopter to Meigs Field, soon to be Daley Park -- (laughter) -- and there were still people there when I got out and they said, welcome home, Mr. President, and I love that. Chicago has sort of become my second home, Illinois has. And you all remember that on St. Patrick's Day in 1992 the victory we had here and up in Michigan pretty well assured the nomination and I will always be grateful for that.
And I try to water my Chicago roots whenever I can. You know, we had the Bulls at the White House the other day. And Scottie Pippen got up and referred to me as his "home boy." (Laughter.) After which Michael Jordan said that Hillary would always be first in the hearts of Chicagoans. That's a battle I was glad to lose. (Laughter and applause.)
The Mayor was terrific leading the mayors this year. He did a great job. You should all be very proud of him. And they had a great meeting in San Francisco. I was afraid that his tenure might be tarnished by the outbreak of civil disobedience here when they started inter-league play in baseball. (Laughter.) And I want to congratulate you for doing whatever was necessary to avoid that. (Laughter.)
Let me say, we're all among friends tonight, I want to make a fairly pointed and brief argument for why I'm here and why I hope that Senator Carol Moseley-Braun will be reelected. In 1992, when I ran for President, I had an idea that we could only change America if we changed the way we were doing politics, if we broke out of the debates which were always dividing people into yesterday's categories. It's okay to be a liberal or a conservative, but it's not okay to be irrelevant in American politics. It's not okay to be divisive for the sake of being divisive. It's not okay to be interested in rhetoric only, and no reality. It's not okay to trap yourself in a pattern of conduct which never permits progress to occur.
And it was obvious to me that we had to change what we had to do, and that we weren't even asking the right questions. So I started with what I thought the right question was: What would I like America to look like when my daughter is my age? How would I like America to go into this new century? What do we need to do to prepare America to go into the new century?
I still believe in what I said then: I want our country in the 21st century to be a place where every American without regard to race, gender, or background, has a chance to live out his or her dreams; where our communities are full of citizens who are exercising their individual responsibilities for themselves, their families, their communities, and their country; where we are celebrating our diversity, but coming together as one America in a strong united community; and where, because we did these things, we can still lead the world to greater peace and freedom and prosperity. That's what I still want for our country in this new century.
What is the principal way we have to achieve that? We have to look at every significant area of national life and ask ourselves, does it create more opportunity for all; does it induce more responsibility from all; does it help us build a community of all Americans? If the era of big government and big centralized bureaucracies is over, that doesn't let government off the hook. Far from it. In some ways, we should be more active. But it does mean we have to focus on what works, which is giving people the tools they need to empower them to seize their own opportunities and solve their own problems and build their own lives and their own community.
So we took that approach. In the economy we said we have to bring the deficit down, it's killing America. But we have to invest more in our children, in our future, in technology and science and research. We can't just stop investing in medical research because we've got a deficit. We have to cut in the right way. And our opponents said it couldn't be done. Some of those in our own party said it couldn't be done because you couldn't cut and invest. And every single person in the other party said that if my economic plan passed in 1993 the country would go into a nose dive, we'd have a terrible recession, it would be the awfulest thing you ever saw. And so every single one of them voted against it, which means that if Carol Moseley-Braun had not been in the Senate we would not have prevailed.
Now, on that alone, she deserves your support for reelection. The state of Illinois is a lot better off today than it was the day I was sworn in as President in 1993, and that economic program we passed by one, single solitary vote in the Senate and in the House is a big reason. Vice President Gore even had to vote in that. And as he says, whenever he votes, we win. (Laughter.)
But she was there. She stood up. She listened to all the nay-sayers and said, I don't believe that's right. Well, now, before this balanced budget plan passed we cut the deficit by 77 percent; we got 4.8 percent unemployment rate, the lowest unemployment in 24 years; the lowest inflation in 30 years; and something that's very important to Democrats, the biggest decline among inequality among working people in over 30 years. And Carol Moseley-Braun played a major role in bringing that about and she deserves your support because of it and I hope you will give it to her. (Applause.)
We thought we could be tough and smart about crime and give the streets back to the people if we just listened to people like Mayor Daley, who had been a prosecutor, the police officers of our countries, the community leaders, and fashioned a crime bill that made sense. We did it and we supported the innovative work going on in communities all over this country. Last year we had the biggest decline in crime in 36 years -- in 36 years. (Applause.) And not all, but nearly all, of the folks in the other party opposed us on that and said what we really need is tough talk and more jails and nothing else. We said what we need is more police, tougher punishment on people who were serious offenders, but more aggressive efforts to prevent young people from getting in trouble in the first place. And that strategy has worked. That strategy has worked. (Applause.)
Now, it's not as if this is a debatable point. You know, we've had the debate and now we've got the evidence. And it would seem to me that the people of Illinois would want to support someone who is out there advocating policies that work, and a direction that's good for the ordinary citizens of Illinois, for the business community and the working people -- for the poor, the middle class and the wealthy -- because we're going together and we're going forward together.
And I could give you example after example of that. But we have changed the way politics works in Washington. It drives some people crazy but we've done it. There are lots of people who really, I think, in Washington who are just kind of unhappy when the country is happy. You know, they would prefer it if the world really worked like those talk shows, you know, where people scream at each other and call each other names and hurl labels around like they really meant something.
But out here in the real world, in all those little towns I visited on the bus in Illinois in '92 and '96, those people don't need talking heads screaming at each other -- they need reasoned public debate by people who care deeply about their future and what their children's lives will be like, actually producing results that make a difference. And that's what we're trying to do. And that's what you ought to reward, because that's what helps the people of Illinois to build a better future.
And if you just look at this budget debate that we're having -- it's a historic, marvelous thing. And I still believe, even though we're disagreeing mostly because members of Congress, being contentious as they are, some of them don't want to adhere to the terms of the agreement at some point. But if you look at that agreement, it would balance the budget but it would give us the biggest increase in health care investment for children since Medicaid passed in 1965. It would balance the budget, but it would give us the biggest in educational investment for our children since 1965, and the biggest increase in access to colleges and universities since the G.I. Bill was passed 50 years ago. That's what's in that balanced budget.
And make no mistake about it, those priorities are there because of our side and what we believe and what we brought to the table. And I think they deserve to be supported.
And I'll just give you three specific examples of things that bear the imprint of Carol Moseley-Braun -- one in the past -- I'll give four: two in the budget and one still in the future. Number one, she was a co-sponsor of the Family and Medical Leave Act. It was the first bill I signed as President. (Applause.) Every month, my staff pulls for me a representative sample of mail I get from ordinary American citizens, people I've never met, people I never will meet. And among the most moving letters I have ever received are those that come from people who tell me, my wife got sick, my child got sick, my father was dying; I got to take a little time off from work without losing my job, I got to be true and faithful to my family and true and faithful to my job, and I didn't lose it. I'm a better employee and America is a better place because of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Believe me, if people who thought like us had never attained the White House and kept the majority in Congress when we did, it never would have become the law of the land. The other side said, it's going to hurt the economy. It was the first bill I signed in '93.
If it's hurting the economy, it's doing a poor job of it. (Applause.)
I believe we're a better place when people can succeed at home and at work. This is a problem that affects Americans of all income groups. A lot of upper income people tear their hair out worrying about how they can do what they're supposed to do at work and still do right by their children. This Family Leave Act symbolizes the values this country ought to stand for.
Two things in the budget. Number one, in 1993 we knew we would have to do something extra if we wanted our cities and people who had literally been physically isolated from the mainstream of life to have any chance whatever to participate in the free enterprise system and succeed. So we created the empowerment zone concept, which Carol Moseley-Braun supported and Chicago is participating. We created the Community Development Financial Institutions Act to set up banks like the South Shore Bank here in Chicago all over America so that people who could otherwise never get any credit to start their own business -- very often a self-employed business -- in isolated inner cities and poor rural areas would have a chance to do that.
Hillary did a lot of work on these things when we were still living in Arkansas, and has been all over the world promoting these kind of community financial institutions and these microenterprise businesses and loans to them in developing countries. It is amazing how much your government has done to help people who would otherwise be desperately poor in countries all over the world to get credit to start their own businesses, and we had never done anything to help our own people do the same things. Carol Moseley-Braun was a co-sponsor of that, in this balanced budget amendment we more than double the funds for the community development financial institutions. Everybody ought to have a chance to participate in this economic boom, and it won't be good enough for me until everybody does. And that's what she's trying to do. (Applause.)
Number two, the cities of this country have worked and worked and worked to bring back economic vitality, and we now see unemployment in our 50 largest cities falling by a third in the last four years. We've got economic growth coming back, and one of the biggest barriers to growth in the city is an environmental problem, where sites have been abandoned, where economic activity used to occur, and it is not economical for someone else to come in and redevelop those sites and put people to work because of the cost of environmental clean-up. And our balanced budget -- and these sites, by the way, are called brownfields. Most Americans don't know what that is. You read of -- a brownfield is a place almost always in a city where people used to make money and they left and it's now polluted and people can't afford to go in and make money there again. Otherwise, the cities would very often be the most economical places to invest for new business because that's where the labor pool is -- very often.
So what we have done is to come up with a strategy to give tax credits to people who invest there and also to invest a lot more money through the Environment Protection Agency to try to help clean them up so we can have economic vitality coming back to the cities. Carol Moseley-Braun is one of the chief cosponsors of the brownfields legislation. It's a very important part of Chicago's future, and important to Illinois. And you ought to be for it. (Applause.)
And the last thing I want to say is Carol Moseley-Braun is the first person who came to me and said, Mr. President, I know the national government has never done this before, but we ought to try to do something about the crumbling buildings in our country's school system. We've got too many places like a school district where I was in Florida recently, when I had my unfortunate accident, where the children were going to school in 17 trailer houses, as well as the regular school building. That's how over-crowded they were.
I was in Philadelphia the other day -- the average age of a school building in Philadelphia is 65 years of age. Now, a lot of those schools are very well built, but they're in poor repair. And there are a lot of school districts that simply don't have the property tax base and simply don't have a high enough percentage of parents living in the school district as property owners, to do everything they need to do to rebuild these buildings. I'm trying to put a computer in every classroom and library in the country. It will be of precious little comfort if the ceiling is leaking and the windows are cracked.
And Carol Moseley-Braun said we ought to do something about this. And she persuaded me to offer a partial solution to a huge national challenge. And in the budget agreement I could not persuade the leaders of the Congress, the majority, to go along with it. But I still believe in the end well get this done -- especially if you reelect her -- because it's the right thing to do.
But here's a case where she was out front on an issue, she said we have a national interest -- we're fixing to have the biggest increase in investment in education from the National Government in a whole generation and we're going to leave tens of thousands of our children in substandard physical facilities where it will be very difficult for them to learn and for the teachers to teach. And we can't solve the whole problem, but we ought to give states and localities the incentive to do more and say, if you will do more, we'll do more to help you; you have to carry your load, but if you will, we'll do more to help you.
That is leadership. That's what you hire people for. You hire people to make good decisions, to make your life better, to give you the tools to make the most of your own lives and you hire people to look to the future and come up with leadership ideas that may not be accepted when they're first floated but that have merit, that are right and that in the end are going to prevail if you give the people who are advocating them the chance to serve long enough to do it.
That's my simple case to you. This is a better country today because in 1992 the state of Illinois sent Carol Moseley-Braun, a Democrat, to the United States Senate instead of her opponent. If you had sent her opponent there the economic program I advanced would have failed by one vote and this would be a different country today. You should reward people who do things that are good for this country. (Applause.)
And it's a better country because we have someone like her up there advocating these innovating approaches in the environment, in the economy, in families, and in education.
Listen, our best days are still ahead of us. Don't kid yourself, this country has got a brilliant future. But we have to face our challenges.
And I close with this point -- about 10 days ago I went out to San Diego and gave a speech about race -- not yesterday's racial challenges but tomorrow's. And I pointed out, among other things, that today we already have five school districts in America where the children come from over 100 different racial and ethnic groups. In a matter of a year or two, we'll have 12 school districts.
We have a large number of our biggest countries, including this one, where there are people from over 100 different racial and ethnic groups. Today we have one state, Hawaii, where there is no majority race. In three years, California will join Hawaii, and they represent 13 percent of the total population of America. But within 30 years, America will have no majority race.
We must find a way to work with each other across racial lines, to sit down and talk honestly with each other, and to realize that we have a deep and profound stake in the success of each other's children. That's what I couldn't help thinking about when those kids were up here singing tonight. You didn't care what color they were, did you? And you didn't care what their backgrounds were. And they made you feel better, didn't they? You felt better when they were singing than you've felt all night long. Why? Because they represented the best of you, and all of your hopes for the future.
One of the things I like about Carol Moseley-Braun is, she can work with different kinds of people. She can reach
across the lines that divide, and she gets up there every day and tries to get something done. And that's why I tried to become your President. That's the test that I always wanted to measure myself against. But most importantly, that's the right thing for all those children that were up here singing.
So you think about those things, and think about them today, tomorrow and through November of 1998, and send her back to the Senate so we can send America forward.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 8:12 P.M. CDT