View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 15, 1999
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                             AT DNC DINNER
                         Corcoran Museum of Art
                            Washington. D.C.    

10:30 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Robert left his cards up here, so I'm going to take them home and put them in my keepsake album. (Laughter.) If he ever gets mad at me, I'll call him on the phone and read this speech back to him. (Laughter.)

I want to thank all of you for being here, and for being there for Hillary, for me, for Al and Tipper, for our administration over all these last years and especially during the last year. I'm going to miss Steve Grossman and his team at the DNC. I thank Len Barrack. I thank Carol Pensky -- this is her last event. And I thank Steve. They took the helm of a party that was troubled and made it far from troubled in two years.

I want to thank all the staff members who have been here. I have in some ways the most sympathy for this group of people because they have to hear me give the same speech over and over and over again. (Laughter.) And I want to thank the members of the administration who are here, and Congressman Dingell and Debbie, thank you for being here; Governor Ann Richards, who made some of my campaign stops in the '98 campaign even more memorable than normal. (Laughter.)

I want to say a special word of thanks, as Hillary did, to Sheryl Crow, who is a good friend, a good Democrat, and an unbelievable artist. And she's getting better every single year -- unbelievable. (Applause.)

Hillary said that we met Robert and Lynda in 1993, actually just before they got married, at the Kentucky Derby. It was an amazing event. I'd never been before and actually have never gotten a chance to go back since. But it was the last year in office of Governor John Wye Brown -- all of you will remember how sort of staid and laid back John Wye Brown is. (Laughter.) He had Al Hirt playing at the breakfast before the -- My Old Kentucky Home. And all I remember about the Kentucky Derby is that I was perfectly sure what horse would win, and the only person in this vast party John Wye Brown had assembled who would bet on the horse I recommended was Lynda Carter. And I have been for them ever since, whatever the issue is. (Laughter.) Oh, and the horse won by three lengths. (Applause.)

I really admire them both for so many reasons. It's not easy to do this -- to sort of get out front, get your friends here. Some of you came all the way across the country to be here because they asked you. And I appreciate that and hope the weather is not so bad you can't get back. Those of us who are in Washington don't want anybody to be trapped here who doesn't want to be. (Laughter.) We all came here voluntarily, but we want you to be able to leave and come, to go as you please. (Laughter.)

Finally, let me say, you can't imagine -- you know, Al and Tipper and Hillary and I, we've done a lot of campaigning together, we did in '92, we did in '96, we do a few events together now even though out lives are considerably busier and often with conflicting schedules. But I think that one of the real secrets of whatever success we've had for the American people has been that we have really tried to be a team; we've tried to be friends; we've tried to be family; and we've tried to be frank with each other. And each person has made a unique contribution. And then we've tried to model that in dealing with the Democratic Party and the House and the Senate groups and all of our friends around the country that are involved in whatever initiative we're involved in. It seems to me, that's the way people ought to live, but it turns out it's a fairly effective way to do business.

And I think it's fair to say that Tipper Gore has given the mental health issue more visibility than it's ever had on the national stage, and it will have an enduring, positive impact. I think it's clear to anybody who has looked at it that whatever even my harshest critics would have to say, that the Vice President has been far and away -- not even close -- the most influential person in his position over more issue, achieving more for the American people than anyone who has ever held his position in the entire history of the republic. (Applause.) Not only that, as you will hear me say increasingly in the months ahead, and any mistakes we made were my fault. (Laughter.)

Of course, I don't even know how to talk about what I believe Hillary has meant to the success of our endeavors. She's been on every continent. She's gone to places more people in her position don't go, both in America and beyond our borders, into little villages in Africa and Asia and Latin America, and the Indian Subcontinent, to talk to women and their children -- especially their daughters -- about what their lives can be and what we should do to help them. She's gone all over America to save the Star-Spangled Banner and Thomas Edison's lab, and Harriet Tubman's home, and the national treasures that we believe we should hold close to our hearts as we move toward the millennium. And just a thousand other things.

And she has done it under circumstances I think are probably more difficult than anyone who has ever done it before. I love her for it, but our country should love her for it as well. (Applause.)

You know, I keep hearing that books and books and books will be written on how we won seats in the midterm election in 1998. Since the Civil War the President's party has only won midterm elections under Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, each in their first midterm election -- and, as you heard, not since 1822, in the sixth year. And I can save you a lot of reading -- it is not complicated. We showed up for work every day, and we remembered who we were working for. And we wanted power not to just have it and exercise it against anybody, but just to use it for a little while to advance the American people's dreams.

It is not complicated. And we had people like you who helped us raise enough money that even though we were outspent by $100 million, we at least had enough to get our message out. And we said, look, we will work for you; here's where our country is, here's where we're going, here's what we'd like to do. It was not complicated.

We're proud to be members of our party, but we believe progress should take precedence over partisanship. We believe unity should take precedence over division. We believe political power should be used with purpose to advance the lives of people only. And if you give us a little help, we will, now that the country is working again -- and the economy is perhaps the best in history and the welfare rolls are the lowest in 29 years, and the crime rate is the lowest in 28 years, and we've got the lowest peacetime unemployment since 1957 -- now that the country is working again, we would like to look to the long-term challenges of America.

We would like to deal with the aging of America by saving Social Security and Medicare and thinking about other things so that we baby boomers don't have to burden our children and our grand children when we retire. We would like to look to the flowering of our children, the largest and most diverse group of schoolchildren we've ever had, and make sure that every one of them has a chance to have a world-class education.

We would like to look to the strength of our families and make sure that they have health care that is adequate, affordable, and quality health care, which is why we want this patients' bill of rights. We would like to continue to grow the economy under increasingly competitive and difficult conditions. We would like to remain the world's strongest force for peace and freedom and prosperity. And we think we have the obligation to do that, which is what our efforts in the Middle East and Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Kosovo and other places in the world are all about.

And if that's what you want us to do, we're ready to try harder, but we need a little help. That's what we said. (Applause.)

Now, on Tuesday night I will be given the great honor that comes to the President once a year to report on the State of the Union, and then to amplify in greater detail what this agenda means and what I hope we can accomplish in a bipartisan manner in the Congress in the coming years. But when you go home tonight and you ask yourselves why you came and what you believe in, I hope -- whether it was worth your time and your money -- I hope you will be proud of what has happened in these last six years. But I hope you'll also be determined to make the most of the days ahead.

This six-year thing is arbitrary. It gets in people's minds, gets in administration's minds and they think, oh, well, I'm 75 percent through. I think there's still 25 percent of the time left. Just a question of how you look at it. And in the rhythm of life, it seems to me that you get hired to show up every day. And I get the same daily wage now I did on the first day I was President, so it seems to me I ought to put in the same level of effort.

But if I could say in a more serious vein in closing, there are many reasons that I am a member of this party, besides the fact that my granddaddy would turn over in his grave if I weren't. (Laughter.) And we could talk about that all night. But on the eve of the new millennium, when we're living in a new world economy and an increasingly new world society, when you are communicating with each other in different ways and people are living and working in different ways, when there are vast prospects for us coming together with different kinds of people, and also new threats because of our increasing openness and interconnection with the rest of the world, there are three basic things I'd like for you to remember, because I hope it says what we're about.

One is, we honestly believe that no person is better than any other, and that every child in this country, without regard to race or religion or station in life or circumstance, ought to have the chance to live up to his or her God-given abilities. And the role of government should be to create the conditions and give them the tools, and give their parents the support, so that they have a chance to do it.

Two is, we honestly believe that none of those individuals can make the most of their lives alone, and that our membership in a community will enrich our own lives as it enriches others.

Today was Martin Luther King's 70th birthday. Some of the most brilliant things he ever said were about the importance of community; about how, no matter how brilliant you are, no matter how strong you are, no matter how rich you are, no matter how whatever you are, your life can only take on full meaning and texture if you are part of a community. And that's why I have worked so hard against all the divisions of the country to make us one America.

And number three is that the essence of our democracy is that the people rule, and those of us who are elected are literally representatives of them -- whether in a representative branch of Congress, or in the executive branch of the President, the power we exercise every day is not ours. We exercise it on behalf of the country as a whole. And its only legitimate purpose is to advance all those little children out there and living up to their God-given abilities, and advance our efforts to come together as one America, and to advance our efforts to meeting the challenges and seize the opportunities of our time.

Our administration has been about that. Every day has been a joy. Even the bad days have been an honor. And I believe America is better off. And Tuesday night I'm going to ask the country to go back to work, because we've still got a lot to do.

Thank you, and God bless you.

END 10:45 P.M. EST