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                        Office of the Press Secretary
                            (La Crosse, Wisconsin)
For Immediate Release                                   January 28, 1998



                         La Crosse Convention Center
                             La Crosse, Wisconsin            

5:16 P.M. CST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Secretary Riley. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for that standing ovation. I'm overwhelmed and grateful. (Laughter.) I want to thank Dick Riley for his great leadership. And I want to acknowledge with gratitude as well Congressman Ron Kind, and his wife Tawnee, and his son Johnny. Ron Kind is doing a superb job for this congressional district. He really does you proud. (Applause.)

I want to thank Attorney General Jim Doyle and his son Gabe who is here. And also, I want to say a very special word of thanks to my longtime friend, Mayor John Mettinger, and his wife Dee and his mother Audrey. John and Dee have been close to me and my family for a long time, and I'm really glad to have a chance to see and be with him again.

I want to acknowledge Senate President Fred Risser and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Kuala, and thank them for the great job they're doing. And I want to thank Mark Meyer and all the other distinguished guests, including these heroes behind us. And I'm going to call on a couple of them in just a moment to introduce and present to you the President.

But, first of all, I would like to say, Secretary Riley, I've been here to La Crosse many, many times. This is a community where I have a lot of friends. And I want to tell you this is not cold in January in La Crosse. (Applause.) In fact, I was just wondering how these folks were enjoying the heat wave here in January. (Applause.) I want to tell you, the last time I was in La Crosse in January, it was so cold people thought I was frozen stiff. (Laughter.) As a matter of fact, it wasn't that long ago that in real freezing temperatures lots of these folks came out and joined in creating the world's largest pacarena (sp) -- am I right about that? (Applause.) Well, maybe some of these kids here could teach me the pacarena a little bit later. I'll try to do it better than the macarena.

Ladies and gentlemen, last night President Clinton stood before the people of this country and outlined the state of our Union and issued a set of proposals for our future. And as he said, and as you know, because of his leadership and what's been done the last five years, the state of our Union is strong; and under his presidency, it's going to get even stronger. We need your help to make sure of that. (Applause.)

The 21st century can be the most prosperous, the most productive and the best time in all of human history if we share President Bill Clinton's vision and follow his leadership into the 21st century. (Applause.)

In order to talk about the virtues of the plan he presented to the American people, you've got to pause just for a minute and think back to what it was like five years ago -- a little bit more than five years ago -- when Bill Clinton and I came here, to La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1992, and asked you to help us bring change to America. At that time in America's history our future did not look so rosey.

You remember back to the time when we had a budget deficit of $300 billion a year, projected the year we took over to be $357 billion a year; projected to go on up to $500 billion a year. We were headed for real trouble. Unemployment was very high and on the way up. We were seeing bankruptcies increasing. We were seeing job creation go down, and we were seeing jobs being shipped overseas. Crime and welfare were both on the way up. Investment in education and opportunity were on the way down. The hunger for change was up, and hope for the future was down. It was time for a change. And Wisconsin helped to give our country change. Thank you. (Applause.)

And when we got there to Washington we started working for change. And President Bill Clinton did not miss a minute. He laid out before the United States Congress and the American people a blueprint for a new direction. And I'm here to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, over these last five years we have been able to see the results of that plan for change -- America is now headed in the right direction. We're seeing unemployment down. (Applause.) We've seen the creation of almost 15 million new jobs since you gave us the chance to bring change. And that budget deficit that was projected to be so high this year, this year this President is going to present to the Congress the first balanced budget in three decades. That's progress in the right direction. (Applause.)

And, at the same time he is presenting the first balanced budget in three decades, he is presenting the largest increase in spending for education since the G.I. Bill was passed after World War II. Those are the right priorities. (Applause.)

He didn't look for scapegoats; he looked for solutions. He moved us beyond the false choices and the empty debates of the past and he said it's time to bring our country together and travel in a new direction. He knew that we could eliminate the deficit and at the same time invest in our people, invest in our future, put people first. He knew that the old debate about whether or not government was the problem or government was the solution was really out-dated and no longer relevant to what we needed to be talking about in America.

He said, let's try a new way, a third way. Let's cut the size of the government, cut down the expense of government, but set the priorities in an effective way and have better government with more investments in education and protecting the environment and technology and jobs and strong families and the infrastructure for a bright future in America. That's what we're doing, with your help. (Applause.)

We've got more Americans owning their own private homes, a higher percentage and a higher absolute number, than in the entire history of the United States of America. Interest rates are down. Crime in all major categories has gone down five years in a row, because we're putting 100,000 community police officers on the streets, investing in prevention, taking the guns off the streets and sidewalks, and instead giving youngsters a chance to say yes to alternatives in life.

This is the kind of policy that can restore confidence in self-government. We've got cleaner water, cleaner air. We're cleaning up the toxic dump sites. We're redeveloping and cleaning up the brownfields, refocusing investment in our cities and in our towns, and strengthening our families and communities.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are seeing this nation move in the right direction. And I want to ask each and every one of you -- every single one of you -- to join me in standing beside and supporting President Bill Clinton as he leads our nation into the 21st century. (Applause.)

Now, we've got only 700 days between now and the dawn of the 21st century. And I am convinced that our nation is ready to seize the moment, seize this challenge and face up to it successfully. We want to follow and create a vision of a future in which every child can live out his or her dreams; in which every family has the opportunity to succeed. I believe that we're going to do that by following the blueprint that Bill Clinton laid out last night.

It's time for more and better child care and after-school programs. (Applause.) It's time for a health care consumer's bill of rights, so that medical people make the choices about health care in this country, not accountants and actuaries and economists, so that families can have the care they need. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, this President has already shown the way. It is time to continue following his lead and creating that bright future that empowers communities like La Crosse to create a better and brighter way of life. These heroes behind us here have used the tools that have been given to them by the community, by the state, by the federal government. They have used their own initiative. And they have helped to create a better way of life.

I'm proud to be here with them. And I would like to introduce to you two of these heroes from Wisconsin -- Lee and Ruth Mathison of Eau Claire, and I'm going to ask them to introduce the President. To me, Lee and Ruth embody the American community that President Clinton and I have worked so hard to build. They are building a better foundation for the 21st century and are giving so much to future generations.

They've been married 51 years this year. (Applause.) Ruth was a school teacher for 20 years and still volunteers, teaching 3rd graders to use computers at the Longfellow School. (Applause.) Lee was one of those who went overseas in World War II and helped to save our freedom. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, among other battles in that war. He has been a leader in his community for decades. He served as president of L.E. Phillips Senior Central. And he not only convinced the community that the senior center needed a new building, both he and Ruth devoted countless hours to getting that job done. They're also environmentalists. They volunteer with the Beaver Creek Environmental Reserve. And for these and many other reasons, they have been named this year Volunteers of the Year.

I am very pleased and honored to introduce to you to present the President, Lee and Ruth Mathison. Lee, Ruth, come on up here. (Applause.)

END 5:30 P.M. CST