THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SUMMER JOBS EVENT
Prince George's Community Hospital Cheverly, Maryland
11:36 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Let's give Terence another hand. Wasn't he good. (Applause.) Well, I would say Terence has gotten quite a lot out of his job opportunity here. And he made quite a good speech. Maybe he needs a summer job with Wayne Curry or Congressman Wynn or Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend or the President, or something. He's very good, I think. (Applause.)
I'd like to thank my friend, Wayne Curry, for that wonderful welcome. I thank Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for her sentiments and her passionate work for our children. And I thank, in his absence, Governor Glendening for his support for so many good causes, but especially the one we have come here to advance today.
I thank Al Wynn. He didn't even come close to breaking the Barbara Mikulski step up here. (Laughter.) But every day he comes close to the ideal of what I think a congressman should be. I thank the state and the local officials who are here, and I thank the hospital. As Wayne said, it's quite an accommodation to take in a presidential visit, and I thank them for making me and Secretary Herman and our party feel so welcome.
I, too, want to say my personal thanks to Secretary Herman for her role in settling the General Motors strike. We want to keep this economy going and we don't do very well in America unless all of our auto workers are out there working hard and making cars. And I know we're all grateful for that.
Let me say to all the young people here in this audience on the summer job program, both those behind me on the stage and those out here in the audience, I am very proud of what you're doing here and I hope you are as well, because whether you're serving lunch in a cafeteria or escorting patients in the hallways, you're not only helping this hospital to help others, you're helping to build a better future for yourselves; proving that given the opportunity to work and to learn, there is no limit to what our young people can do.
I want to talk to you today about what we are doing to make sure more young people have the chance to continue to participate in summer jobs and to continue to improve their education. One of the principal reasons I ran for President in 1992 was to make sure that as we move into the 21st century, every young person in this country, without regard to their income, their race, their background, or where they live, would have the opportunity to make the most of his or her life.
I wanted to create a 21st century America, where the American Dream is alive for all our people, and where our people are coming together across all the lines that divide us into one American community, and where that gives us the strength to continue to lead the world to greater peace and freedom and prosperity. None of that can occur unless we make sure that every American has a first-class education, and then, that we have an economy that functions so every American can make the most of that education.
Right now in Washington, we are preparing the budget that will determine how we continue to reform, renew, and advance education next year. This isn't just a normal budget. Because of five years of strict budget discipline in our nation, this will be the first balanced budget in most of your lifetimes, the first one in 29 years. (Applause.) It is also a validation of our economic strategy that you can cut the deficit and continue to invest money in people -- in science and technology, in education, in the environment, in building the right kind of future. We have to do both.
To do our part I have proposed in this balanced budget a comprehensive education agenda with high national standards; more accountability; more school choice in charter schools; more well-qualified teachers; smaller classrooms; modernized schools equipped with computers and hooked up to the Internet; reading tutors for children who are falling behind; before- and after-school programs and summer school programs to keep young people learning in the classroom, not lost on the streets; and summer jobs programs like this one, to give young people the skills they need to succeed when they leave school and to give them something to do and a way to earn money during the summer.
I believe all these things are necessary to help all of you and people like you all across this country live up to their God-given potential. I believe they're necessary to make the America we all want in the 21st century.
I am very proud of the fact that today we are enjoying the lowest unemployment in 28 years, the lowest crime rate in 25 years, the lowest -- (applause) -- we have the smallest percentage of people on welfare in 29 years. And as I've said, we're about to have the first balanced budget and surplus in 29 years; the highest home ownership in history. I'm proud of that.
But this is a rare moment in American history when we have a lot of confidence about our ability to make things work in this country. And we have to use it as an opportunity to act, to give everyone -- everyone -- a chance. We can't let this moment pass us by. And we have to make progress, both parties together, especially when it comes to the interest of children, education, employment, and the future.
There are, as you have already heard from previous speakers, those in Congress who disagree with this agenda. They have proposed a narrow and much more partisan plan that, in my view, is not a step into the future, but a step backward. At a time when we should be increasing our investments in education and training, their plan actually cuts more than $3 billion from the plan I proposed. At a time when we should be raising standards and challenging our students to meet them, and helping school districts with a lot of poor children to do just that, their plan would prohibit the development of national tests for our schools. At a time when more children enter school now than anytime since my generation -- the baby boomers were in school -- I have proposed to expand Head Start. Their plan would deny 25,000 children the opportunity to participate in that important early learning program when compared with my budget.
My America Reads initiative -- which already involves volunteer students from 1,000 colleges and universities around America, and many churches and other organizations, going into the schools, working with children one on one to make sure they can read independently by the time they finish the 3rd grade -- it would give thousands more students a chance to have a tutor and to help them learn. Their plan would cut that program off without a penny.
At a time when we should be helping young people learn the skills they need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow, their plan would make it harder for 400 of our school districts across America to buy computers. It would cut $140 million from my proposal to expand after-school programs that keep young people learning in the classroom, not lost on the streets, in the hours of prime activity for juvenile crime. And believe it or not, the House Republican budget plan would even kill summer jobs programs like this one next year.
I'm sure when you started this program some of you didn't know how rewarding it would be. I was quite amused to hear what Terence said about his experience and the dress code. (Laughter.) But now that you know how rewarding these programs can be, now that you know that there is no limit to what you can achieve if you continue to work hard and be responsible citizens, you must surely know that other young people like you deserve the same chance next year and that you may need this chance next year.
Today, because of the budget we passed last year there are half a million young people just like you in summer jobs programs. And if my budget passes this year, there will be half a million next year. But if the House Republican budget passes, most of those children would not have a job next year.
And that's not all the Republicans plan to do away with. At a time when more families have both parents working, their plan would cut nearly $180 million from my proposal to make child care centers better, safer places for our children. At a time when we are struggling so hard around the world to protect children from being abused in other countries -- to send cheap products here -- it undercuts our ability to fight the exploitative practice of child labor. At a time when our nation is experiencing extremely severe weather, from crippling cold in the winter to record heat waves that have killed more than 100 people already this summer, the House Republicans want to eliminate the program called LIHEAP that today helps millions and millions of families -- millions of families with low-incomes -- a lot of them very vulnerable older people -- pay for home heating and this summer for cooling cost.
If this budget were to pass, those folks would be on their own. This is a time when we ought to be putting progress ahead of partisanship. We've got all the evidence in the world that when we do that it works. Look at how America is doing. The House Republican plan puts politics ahead of people and puts your future in the back seat. That is wrong. And if a bill like the one that is proposed by the House Republicans passes, I will veto it. (Applause.)
I have sent Congress a balanced budget that proves we can maintain our budget responsibility and still invest in our people. So far, Congress hasn't passed that budget or one of its own. Within less than two months they'll have to act because our new budget year will start. Because of the delay they may decide to send me a bare-bones budget that fails to expand the critical investments we need to make -- from education to summer jobs to school modernization to child care. But the last budget of the 20th century should be preparing our nation for the challenges of the next. I will not accept a budget that fails to do this.
There are those in both parties who understand this. It was mentioned earlier that Congress, just last Friday night, passed the Senate bid, the G.I. Bill for America's Workers, that consolidates scores and scores of disparate training programs into one program that will give skills grants to people in their working years, to adults who have to go back to school and learn new skills. It was one of the major commitments I made when I ran for President in '92. I have worked for four years on this. So there is the capacity there to forge this kind of bipartisan relationship. We have to do it for summer jobs and for education.
Let me just close with this -- it's not in my notes, but I was looking at Terence up there talking and I thought you might like to know that over 30 years ago I was involved in two federally-funded summer jobs programs. I didn't get to wear a shirt and tie to work, I was working at our National Park in my hometown doing basic maintenance and clearing work. And then I worked in a summer camp for disadvantaged young people where I was a counselor, after my first year in college. I loved that work and I loved those kids. And I was very grateful that my country gave me an opportunity to do something productive, to learn something, and to make a little money.
I hope when the history books are written it will look like a pretty good investment that was made in a young man from a modest family in a small time a long time ago.
You, too, will do great things. And in part, it will be because your country has believed in you and invested in you. And I don't want us to stop. I want us to do more.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 11:50 A.M. EDT