THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Cincinnati, Ohio) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release March 10, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT DNC DINNER
Private Residence Cincinnati, Ohio
9:24 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, you can all tell I'm a little hoarse tonight. I don't know if I can shout over the machine back there, but I'll do my best. If you all start to turn blue -- (laughter) -- I promise to end the talk. I don't know if you can turn it off, or not. But let me say first to Stan, thank you for having me here, thank you for having all of us here in your beautiful home, in this modest little tent. (Laughter.) You know, it reminds me of the ones I used to camp out in when I was a Scout. (Laughter.) Pitch a little tent, get in your sleeping bag. (Laughter.)
Thank you, Dick Lawrence, and all the other co-hosts. Thank you, Governor Romer, for your passion and your commitment and your wonderful remarks. I think Linda Rock is here, too, our new National Finance Chair of the Democratic Party -- thank you. I want to thank Mary Boyle and Lee Fisher and Roxanne Qualls for running for public office. It's not so easy to do these days. They tell me -- I'm sort of impervious now. (Laughter.)
I'd also like to acknowledge a candidate for the Congress just across the state border in Kentucky, Ken Lucus, who is here. Ken, stand up. Thank you for running. (Applause.) These are two of the people that when they win will give us a net gain of four seats because we expect to change from Republican to Democrat in their seats. And we thank them. (Applause.) I want to thank David Leland for leading the Ohio Democratic Party.
And again, let me say to all of you, you're presence here, your support, means a lot to me. The people of Ohio have been very good to Al Gore and Bill Clinton. We won here in 1992 and when I won the primary, it put me over the top. At the Democratic Convention in New York, the votes of Ohio put me over the top. On election night in November in '92, when they announced Ohio, they said Governor Clinton had enough electoral votes to be President. Then, in 1996, our victory margin here was more than four times what it had been in 1992. So for all of you who are from Ohio, I thank you so very much.
For those of you who come from other states, I thank you for the effort you made to come here. We've got a lot of people here from Louisiana -- (applause) -- my neighboring state. They gave me a huge victory this last time and I'm very grateful to them for that, and elected another Democratic senator.
I want to give a little bit of a different talk tonight to kind of play off something Governor Romer said. I presume that most of you heard by State of the Union address, so just imagine that I just said it to you again -- that's what I want to do -- all the details. What I want you to think about is the big picture for our country and then where you fit in and why you're here.
When I became President it was apparent to me that we were going through a period of not only dramatic change in how we work and live and relate to each other and the rest of the world, but that it was change that was so different it was almost impossible to comprehend the full dimensions of it; and that Washington was essentially paralyzed by an antiquated view of government that only worked for people that were playing power games in Washington. And, in all candor, those who were telling us about it I think kind of liked the way it worked because it was easy to explain -- Democrats never met a program they didn't like and Republicans thought government was the source of all evil. And so they fought.
Now, for those of us who live out here in the real world, like Mayor Qualls, for example, I didn't know many Republicans who felt that way and I didn't know any Democrats who felt that way, and I didn't know any real people who thought you could run a country that way. And if we tried to run any organization, from our families to our businesses to our local governments, by spending all of our time maneuvering for power and personal destruction of our opponent, and wondering about how we would look in the paper tomorrow morning instead of what we would do for our children and grandchildren, our families, our communities and our businesses would all break down.
And so I basically asked the people to give me a chance to serve in '92 to try to build a country for the 21st century; to try to imagine what we wanted America to look like, take account of all these changes, and then figure out what the role of the government ought to be and what kind of government it would take to achieve that mission. That is simply all we've tried to do.
And I tried to get good people together, and I suggested we show up for work every day and good things would happen. And that's what has happened.
Now you don't hear people engaging in this old government is the salvation-government is the enemy argument. We know that the role of government is to give people the tools they need to make the most of their own lives, to create the conditions in which they can succeed, to provide for the security of our people, and to do what we can to be a catalyst for ideas in the future.
Your government now is the smallest it's been since John Kennedy, but it is a far more progressive government than it was six years ago. And I'm proud of what's been done. I'm glad that we are going to have the first balanced budget in 30 years, that we have the lowest unemployment rate in 24 years, and the lowest inflation rate in 30 years, and the highest home ownership in history, the lowest welfare roles in 27 years, and the lowest crime rate in 24 years, and 15 million more Americans have jobs. I am very proud of all that. But what I want to say to you is the American people did that in no small measure because we did things in Washington that made sense and sort of acted as a catalyst to make it possible.
What we need to do now is to take these good times and to imagine the future we want for our children and then go build it, and recognize that we're living in a time where knowledge is doubling every five years -- literally, every five years. Medical discoveries at NIH that used to take nine years, now because of the Human Genome Project can be done in a matter of nine days. Just in the health field alone, when we finish mapping the human gene and complete the kinds of things that are going on now with nerve transfers, it is conceivable that we will be able to solve health care problems that were once thought completely fatal. It is conceivable, if the rest of us will do our part, that we'll be able to get genetic maps that will enable us, if we have the discipline, to prevent all kinds of diseases and problems and conditions we used to worry about. It is conceivable that people who have had their spinal cords severed will walk again. It has already happened in laboratory animals with their spinal cord severed, it had movement in their lower limbs.
If you look at the environment -- I'm very worried about the problems of global warming. We now know that we have the technology to reduce pollution and grow the economy to a greater degree than ever before. Our ability to do that depends, in my view, on two things. We've got to be committed to modernizing relentlessly the government to do what works; and second, and far more important, we've got to be committed to being faithful to the things that got us started as a country in the first place.
You want to make peace in the Middle East, in Northern Ireland, fight the weapons of mass destruction, stand up against chemical and biological weapons, create an environment of global prosperity? You want to figure out how to make one America out of an every more diverse country? A school district across the river from me in Virginia has people, kids from 180 different countries, speaking 100 different languages in one school district.
You want to figure out how to give us the best system of education in the world? Everybody knows we've got the best system of college in the world, now we've opened the doors to everybody. Nobody thinks we've got the best system of elementary and secondary education in the world. You name an American problem; I argue you not only have to be modern in your thinking and willing to change, you've got to be faithful to how we got started. Roy talked about it in referencing Selma.
Why did you come here tonight? Because we've got a good economy and I have high numbers, or because you believe in the principles that got us here? I hope the answer is the latter. I hope the answer is the latter. (Applause.)
We've got a huge agenda. I mean, we're trying to finally pass comprehensive legislation to resolve the tobacco issue. We're trying to pass a Patient's Bill of Rights. We're trying to pass a bill that will lower class sizes in the first three grades of elementary school to 18 and help 5,000 schools be built or renovated. We've got a thousand things to do.
Let me just talk to you about three big things. How did this country get started? All these people came over here because they hated arbitrary power, unlimited, arbitrary power. And they said, we believe freedom works better. Freedom to do two things: freedom to pursue happiness and freedom to get together to form a more perfect union. Freedom, opportunity, union. If you look at the whole history of America, look at Abraham Lincoln, what was he about? Freedom, union and, oh, by the way, he signed the Moral Land Grant Act, which is the greatest thing that ever happened to higher education, built all the state universities in America.
Theodore Roosevelt -- from Abraham Lincoln through Theodore Roosevelt, I hate to admit it, the Republican Party represented -- more than we did -- opportunity, freedom and union. But from Woodrow Wilson through every single Democratic President down to the present day, the Democratic Party may not have been right on every issue, but we have been on the right side of history. It has been our party that has consistently stood for widening the circle of opportunity, deepening the meaning of America's freedom and bringing this country together and the world together around a union of civilized people, based on civilized principles.
That's why I'm here. That's why I hope you're here. That is what is going to take us into the 21st century, and that is why these people should be elected to the offices they seek in Ohio and Kentucky. That's why I hope you're here tonight. (Applause.)
You ought to try this every now and then -- you made a significant investment to come here tonight, and I'm going to hush now before you get pneumonia and sound worse than I do. (Laughter.) But every now and then, you ought to do what I do every day -- every day since I have been your President I have asked myself, what do I want my country to look like when we start the new millennium? What do I want my country to be like when my daughter has children her age. And for the last several months as I have read more and more of the history of our country in periods where Americans don't know much about it, and before the Civil War and after the Civil War, for example, I have asked myself, why really am I a Democrat. Why do I belong to this party? Why am I proud to be here? It's more than my granddaddy remembering that Franklin Roosevelt care about him. It's because of what we stand for and what we stand for is what got us started, what has carried us through and what will make the next century another American century.
Thank you and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 9:38 P.M. EST