THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Little Rock, Arkansas) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 7, 1999
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND THE VICE PRESIDENT AT GORE 2000 RECEPTION State House Convention Center Little Rock, Arkansas
8:03 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for being here and thanks for being in such a good humor. My remarks tonight could be summed up in two phrases -- thank you for everything; here's Al. (Laughter.)
I want to begin by saying to Mark Pryor how much I appreciate his taking on this responsibility for the Vice President. (Applause.) I once did the same thing in the same job for President Carter, and I hope you have the same result. (Applause.)
I want to thank Blanche Lincoln for being here, for her support of our administration and of the Vice President, but most of all, for the people of this wonderful state of ours. It really is true that -- you know, when Blanche decides that she wants something for Arkansas, you can let her wear you out, exhaust you, break you down until you're prostrate on the floor and you'll do it, or you can just go on and do it anyway. Those are really the only two alternatives.
I want to thank Congressman Berry and Congressman Snyder for representing you so well and being such steadfast allies. (Applause.) I thank them. I thank the members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have joined us here today from other states in the south. And I thank Senator Bumpers and Senator Pryor for coming. I miss them.
You know, Dale called me last week and told me a joke -- (laughter) -- and it isn't repeatable from this podium. (Laughter.) But It was just like old times. And I was kind of feeling low when he did it -- I worked for another three or four hours in a fabulous frame of mind after he did that. Now I've got to try to give the rest of this introduction without thinking about the punch line and laughing in the middle. (Laughter.)
I want to say just about three things tonight. The first thing I want to say is this. Yesterday, before I left Washington, we announced that the country has now produced more than 19 million jobs since I became President -- (applause) -- as part of the longest peacetime expansion in history, which has given us the highest home ownership, the lowest minority unemployment in history, a 30-year low in unemployment, a 32-year low in welfare rolls, a 26-year low in the crime rate.
The air and the water is cleaner, the food is safer, 90 percent of our children are immunized against serious childhood diseases for the first time. Because of the HOPE Scholarship, virtually every kid in this country can get a $1,500 tax credit to pay for tuition to go to college. A hundred thousand young people have served their country in AmeriCorps in four years -- it took the Peace Corps 20 years to reach that milestone. We have been a force for peace from Bosnia and Kosovo to Northern Ireland to the Middle East.
And what I want you to know is I could not have achieved any of those things without the leadership and the support and the aggressive efforts of Vice President Al Gore. (Applause.)
In 1993, when all the Republicans said that the country would go down the drain if Bill Clinton's idea of economics -- which was to return to basic arithmetic instead of smoke and mirrors -- took off, he cast the deciding vote on the economic plan. And the rest is history. We went from the biggest deficit to the biggest surplus in the history of the country. (Applause.)
We made the decision that we wanted to do something to try to bring economic opportunity to people in places who had been left behind with the empowerment zone program, the enterprise community program. He personally ran it, and it's been a terrific success. And a lot of you know that I was in the Mississippi Delta region of our state this week, and in the Delta and on Indian reservations and Appalachia a couple of weeks ago, trying to take nationally the approach pioneered by Al Gore, proving that we can bring opportunity to poor people who want jobs in this country. (Applause.)
Everybody in Arkansas ought to be concerned about whether we can get computers into all of our schools and hook them all up by the year 2000. And one of the things that we don't want to do is to go into the 21st century with a big digital divide between the rich and the poor. Al Gore led the fight to make sure that the federal government required all the schools in this country to have affordable rates, so that every classroom in the poorest schools in America can be hooked up to the Internet. He did that, and he deserves credit for it. (Applause.)
And there are so many more things that I can hardly list them all. But just let me say one thing. The management of our national security and for our foreign relations is very important. He has handled very important, complicated, difficult aspects of our relationships with Russia. He has dealt with any number of other countries. He played a major role in the decisions we made when they were not popular to liberate Bosnia and Kosovo from ethnic cleansing, to free the people of Haiti from a military dictatorship, to push ahead with our support for the peace process in the Middle East and Northern Ireland, to stand up to terrorists around the world and organize the world against it. In short, to prepare for the world we are living in.
People can say many things about these last six and a half years. Historians may have their different evaluations. There is one thing I will make you a prediction that there will not be a single voice of dissent on: Al Gore has been the single most influential, effective, powerful, important Vice President in the history of the United States of America. (Applause.)
Now, the second thing I want to tell you is this: He understands what the purpose of this election is. He understands it's a job interview. He wants you to hire him and he's gone to the trouble of telling you what he'll do if you give him the job.
Now, that may sound laughable to you. I think one of the reasons we've enjoyed the success we have is that I was forced to think through in advance what I'd do if I got the job, and I told the American people in greater detail than anyone ever had. Then when I asked Al to join me, we revised -- we sat down together, and we went over every plan, and we revised it, and we put it out again.
And now that he's running, he's told you what his economic policy will be, what his anti-crime policy will be, how he wants to use faith-based groups in communities to help solve social problems, how he wants to go out and do dramatic new things with medical research, to cure cancer and other things -- and exactly how he proposes to do it.
And here's why that's important. Our generation -- our generation, the baby boomers -- have got an opportunity, because of the work we've done the last six and a half years, to save Social Security, to save Medicare and provide a prescription drug benefit, and to do it in a way so that when we retire, our kids don't have to support us and undermine their ability to raise our grandchildren. We have the opportunity to invest in the education of all of our children, so that we'll have world-class opportunities for the poor, the rich, the in-between of all races and backgrounds, so that our country will be strong. And we have the opportunity to get this country out of debt for the first time since 1835. (Applause.)
Now, what I want you to understand is, we're living in a dynamic time. We're still embracing change. Our administration is the force for positive change. This is not going to be change versus the status quo election. This election is about what kind of change do you want; and do you want to build on what's worked, and go beyond it, or do you want to go back to the ways that got us in the ditch in the first place? That's what the issue is. And you don't have to guess with Al Gore, not only because of his record, but because he's given you a road map.
And the third thing I want to tell you is this: I have been with this man in every conceivable kind of circumstance -- good and bad, personal and political. We have talked about our children, we have talked about our parents and their deaths. We have talked about every conceivable subject, personal and political. I know him as few people do. He is a good person. He is a decent person. He is a strong person. If everything was on the line and I had to pick an American to make a decision that I knew would be good for my country when my daughter is my age, I would pick Al Gore, and so should you.
Ladies and gentlemen, Vice President Al Gore. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much for being here. Thank you very much. Thank you, Arkansas. Thank you, President Bill Clinton. Now, there's a real friend for you. You can tell that what he said means a lot. I've been awful proud to be his partner and work on the tremendous success that Bill Clinton has provided for our country.
You know, the Bible says, "by their fruits you shall know them." And Bill Clinton's work has produced the strongest economy in the history of the United States of America. (Applause.) Instead of quadrupling our national debt, his policies have tripled the stock market. Instead of a deep, triple-dip recession, we've got 19 million new jobs. We're moving in the right direction and the turnaround has been absolutely staggering. And America knows that this President works his heart out to do what will help hardworking American families.
And so, on behalf of all American families, I want to say, thank you, President Bill Clinton. (Applause.) And I want to say, thank you, Arkansas, for giving us President Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
And I want to thank Secretary Slater and Senator Lincoln and Mark Pryor, all the dignitaries who have been acknowledged and recognized. Blanche talked about knowing my family. Tipper and I have four children. I was just with my youngest on a climb up a snow-covered mountain. We had a great father-son experience. And it was a hard climb, but I enjoyed it a great deal.
And about a month ago, in case I haven't mentioned it yet, Tipper and I had our first grandchild -- our oldest daughter made us grandparents for the first time. (Applause.) Did I mention my grandson was born on the 4th of July? (Laughter.) Clearly a precocious child, wouldn't you say? How many other grandparents are here -- can I see a show of hands? Very good. I need some advice, because I'm a rookie. So afterwards when I visit with you individually I hope you'll give me some advice.
What I've learned so far is that, evidently, the preferred technique is just to give that grandchild whatever he wants. (Laughter.) And then if it causes any problems, give him back to his parents. Is that it? Well, I'm looking forward to practicing that technique.
Senator Lincoln talked about my mother and where I came from. I know many of you here; I've worked with you. I've got some family here. In fact, some of my family still lives in Arkansas. I was in Paragould a few years back and I asked -- thank you, cousin, waving at me there -- I asked how many people here are related to me, and about three-quarters of the room raised their hands.
Let me just tell you a couple of quick stories. My mother's mother
grew up in Paragould. She was an orphan and she was taken in by a
family there. And according to family lore, the following statement was
made: When my grandfather came across from West Tennessee at the age of
17, looking for work, met my grandmother at 16, they got married. And
her adoptive mother was asked by the neighbor, what kind of man did
And she said, didn't get no man at all, just got a slick-faced kid. (Laughter.)
Now, my mother was born shortly thereafter in West Tennessee and grew up as a poor girl in a rural community at a time when poor girls were not supposed to dream very much. But she dreamed of a time when men and women would be equal. And she worked hard, worked her way through college; took her blind sister, my Aunt Thellie, to college with her, and read lessons and took notes for both of them.
And she asked for a loan from the Rotary Club, and took the bus to Nashville, got a room at the YWCA, worked nights as a waitress in an all-night coffee shop for 25-cent tips, and became one of the first women in history to graduate from Vanderbilt Law School, and came to Texarkana to hang up her shingle and practice oil and gas law and divorce law at a time when that was unheard of for women. (Applause.)
Now, I tell you that story not just to tell you where I come from, but to make this point: I learned early on from the discussions my mother and father had at the breakfast table and the dinner table that women and men are not only equal, if not more so, we have to make certain that the progress we've had for women's rights in this century is only the beginning of the progress we've got to make for an equal day's pay for an equal day's work, and true equality in the 21st century. (Applause.)
Let me tell you a quick story about my dad. When I was seven years old, we lived, and I lived in the summers, in Carthage, Tennessee, on Fisher Avenue, which was a hill in the town of Carthage, 2,000 people. And at the top of the hill was a big mansion, the Chambers' Mansion, far bigger than any of the other houses there. And I learned later that, at the time it was built, there were no other houses there. It was all fenced in, with livestock and crops.
Well, one day when it came up for sale, they put up a sign that said, "Open House." And most of the people in our neighborhood had never seen inside and always wanted to, and so even though they had no intention of buying that big house, they all trooped up there to see what it looked like inside.
My dad had seen inside it when he was a young man, and he came and got me and took my hand and said, "Come, son, I want to show you something." And he took me up the hill and into the front door, and past the parlor and the ornate living room where most people were gathered, and right to the back of the house and down the stairs to the basement. And he pointed to a stone wall on one side of that basement, and said, look. And there were metal rings in that stone wall -- slave rings.
And it hit me like a ton of bricks. I'll never forget that instant as long as I live, because the shock of it came not only from the undeniable evidence of cruelty, but also from the contrast between the reality that existed then and the gentleness of my hometown as I understood it.
Of course, later I learned that even then, in the '50s, of course, there was so much inequality and so much prejudice. But it was a gentle, harmonious relationship. And that shock turned into optimism, because if we had come so far in less than a hundred years, then clearly we were moving rapidly in the right direction.
And I make you this pledge at the outset of my campaign to be President of the United States of America: I will make certain that the progress we have made toward equality and civil rights for people of all races and ethnicities and religions will be only the beginning of the progress we make toward true equality in the 21st century. That's one of our greatest challenges as Americans. (Applause.)
I'll tell you a third story that happened more recently. I had a visitor to my office in the White House who couldn't walk, couldn't talk, couldn't move with the exception of one finger. And with that one finger he guided an electronic car down the hallways of the West Wing and into my office. And he uses this one finger to pick out letters and form words and sentences, and with a computerized voice box he communicated.
His name was Stephen Hawking, the great astrophysicist who has been described by people who know about such things as the smartest man in the world. He wrote a book called The Brief History of Time. I pretended to read that book, maybe some of you did, too. (Laughter.) But it was a great privilege to listen to him for a short time. And when he left, and his car disappeared around the corner, my wife, Tipper, turned to me and said, Al, can you imagine how he would have been perceived 100 years ago? Would anybody have thought for a minute there is the smartest man in the whole world? And, of course, they would not have, because he wasn't connected, he couldn't communicate, he couldn't make himself heard.
All across America tonight there are men and women who are misperceived, who are not recognized for who they really are, who are not understood for the true values they have, the contributions they can make -- maybe because of prejudice and discrimination; maybe because they need healing and have not found it; maybe because they need forgiveness and have not been granted it.
There are children who have unlimited potential that may or may not be unlocked, depending upon the choices that we make as a free people. That's what this election is all about, what are we going to do to unlock that potential, to create a bright future that's worthy of our children and our grandchildren.
For the last six and a half years, we have had a tremendous record of success, thanks to President Bill Clinton -- not only in the economy, but also in falling crime rates, improved social conditions. Yes, we have a lot of challenges that remain. And, yes, it's true that no matter how good the statistics are, there are Republicans in Washington who carp and criticize.
It kind of reminds me a little bit, when I hear them constantly criticizing the President on this policy or that policy, kind of reminds me of a story I heard there recently about an English tourist who came to Washington and got a tour guide. And the tour guide took him to the Capitol Building and explained the House and the Senate and how our system works, and said, this building took us 12 years to build. And this English tourist was a little snobby, and he said, in my country we could have built that in half the time.
The tour guide got a little irritated, but took him over to the Jefferson Memorial, and explained about the Declaration of Independence and our nation's founding principles, and said, this took us 8 years to build. And once again, the reply was, we could have built it in half the time.
Well, he took him to the Lincoln Memorial, and told him about President Lincoln's healing of the nation after the Civil War, and pointed to the great statue behind the columns. And again the response was, we could have built that in half the time.
Well, by now the tour guide was feeling very irritated, and he took him to the Washington Monument. And he was fed up, and he parked beside it, and he just decided to remain silent, and not say anything, and he just waited. And finally, the tourist looked up, and he said, what's that? The tour guide said, I don't know. It wasn't there yesterday. (Laughter and applause.)
Well, this economy wasn't there yesterday, where the Republicans are concerned. (Applause.) But the question is, where do we go from here? We've built up the largest surplus our country has ever had. The Republicans want to blow it all in a risky tax scheme.
And here are the statistics that describe what it would do. Their scheme would give the top 1 percent four times as much as the entire bottom 60 percent. Now, let me say that again -- it's hard to believe, but it's true. They would give more money to the top 1 percent -- four times as much money to the top 1 percent, as to the entire bottom 60 percent. And they wouldn't leave one penny for Medicare or for Social Security.
Now, here's what I would do. I would make certain that, first of all, we save Social Security for our seniors, and save Medicare, and add a prescription drug benefit, and fix the entitlement program, and pay down the debt, and keep interest rates low, and balance the budget or better every year -- to keep our economy going, to keep the growth going, to empower families, to make it possible to build communities, and stronger families. (Applause.)
Now, that's a choice. That's a choice.
I need your help. I thank you for all that you have done for President Bill Clinton, and for the Clinton-Gore ticket. And now, I need your help. I need your vote. I want your vote, your support, and everything you can do to convince people to be for me.
I think that we've got to fill in the gaps in health care coverage. The Republicans want a two-tier Medicare system. They don't have a plan.
You know, I heard a story the other day -- they're against the patients' bill of rights. I'll enact that. That's an issue in this campaign.
I heard a story the other day about three neighbors who died and went to heaven and met St. Peter at the gate. And St. Peter quizzed them and asked the first one, what did you do on Earth? And she said, I was a doctor, I cured the sick all my life. St. Peter said, well, come on in to heaven. And he asked the second one, what did you do? And the second one said, I was a teacher, I taught children all my life. And St. Peter said, well, come on in to heaven. And he asked the third one, what did you do? And the third one kind of hesitated a little bit and looked sheepish and finally looked up and he said, I ran an HMO. (Laughter.) St. Peter hesitated. Finally, he said, well, come on in, but you can only stay three days. (Laughter and applause.) That's what they've been doing to us.
Now, I'll tell you one more story, and this is not a hypothetical story, this actually happened. It was told to me by a doctor in Michigan who had a patient come into an emergency room and went into full cardiac arrest, his heart stopped and he died right there. The doctor called on all his skill and got some help from his nurses and got one of those defibrilators and re-started the man's heart and eventually brought him back to life and restored his health.
They sent the bill to the HMO and the HMO refused to pay because they said it was not an emergency. Now, understand, this man was dead. (Laughter.) Well, now, to the Republicans the absence of a heart may not seem like an emergency, but to us it is. And that's why we need a health care patients' bill of rights. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, finally, I believe that the single most important priority for investing in the future is to create truly revolutionary progress in our public schools. We face an unprecedented situations. (Applause.) Sixty percent of the businesses in America now have jobs that are open that cannot be filled because they cannot find enough Americans with the educational attainment to take on the training necessary to fill those jobs. That's a problem. It's also an opportunity that can create a new surge of growth for us if we respond to the challenge.
Why should we respond? Well, for one thing, this generation of young people is now the biggest in history. I'm part of the baby boom and we were always told we were the biggest generation in history. But last summer this generation of youngsters just passed us by -- I kind of resent that. (Laughter.) I liked being part of the biggest generation, but they're the biggest generation now.
Why shouldn't we do for them what the World War II veterans did for the baby boomers? You know, they came home from winning that war -- are there any World War II veterans here? Could I see a show of hands? Thank you for winning the war. Thank you for securing our freedom. God bless you. (Applause.)
When you came home -- when these veterans came home, after saving Private Ryan, they saved public education. The schools were crowded then, but they built new schools and hired new teachers and got new textbooks. They passed the GI Bill. They made the biggest investment ever in history. And we're still reaping the benefits from that.
Now we have a generation that's even bigger, in classrooms that are more over-crowded, in buildings that were dilapidated years ago, and what are we doing about it? We are pushing and pressing the Congress. They will not pass legislation to modernize our schools. We're trying to connect all the classrooms. I'm making this the principal issue of this campaign. (Applause.)
If you do not want a President of the United States who takes the oath of office at high noon on January 20, 2001, committed heart and soul to moving heaven and earth to bringing about truly revolutionary change in our public schools, vote for someone else. But if you do want to see revolutionary progress, vote for me because I will flat bring it. (Applause.)
I want your endorsement of this agenda. I want smaller classrooms. I want modern schools. I want all of them connected to the Internet. I want to treat teachers like professionals for a change and reward them as professionals, and give them the training that they need, and set high standards and have accountability and testing for all new teachers. (Applause.)
You know, I truly believe that the place to begin -- and I'll make you this promise: if you elect me President I will make certain that we have high-quality pre-school available to every child in every family in every community all across the United States of America. (Applause.)
Now, finally, we have a family crisis in America. Seven out of 10 families with two parents, both parents are working. They're working 500 hours a year more than they did a generation ago. They're spending 22 hours a week less with children than a generation ago. There's been a quadrupling of single-parent families. And they're doing a great job, God bless them, they're heroines and heros out there. But they need help from caring communities, supported by national policies that are based on an understanding of how exhausting it can be to balance work and family and do well by children.
And make no mistake, there is a world of difference between the policies and approaches and the caring that would come in a Gore administration, compared to a Republican administration, making a right-wing U-turn back to the reactionary policies of the past that drove this nation's economy into the ditch and dis-invested in our schools. It makes a huge difference.
You know, I saw a movie a few years ago called, "Grand Canyon." And it had a scene in it -- and I'll close with this vignette -- where a character played by Danny Glover talked to another character played by Kevin Klein in a rundown neighborhood in a place in California called Compton. And a police siren was wailing as it went past, and a car alarm was going off. And most of the doors and windows had boards over them. And there was a mugging in the background, and graffiti and litter, obvious decay. Devastated community.
And the Danny Glover character looked up, and he said to the other character in surveying this scene -- he said, you know, it's not supposed to be this way.
I think we have the capacity as Americans to know when it's not supposed to be this way. When a baby is born to a crack-addicted mother, we know it's not supposed to be this way. When a child is afraid of guns in his or her classroom, it's not supposed to be this way. When rundown communities can't attract investment, even when they put payrolls in their banks, it's not supposed to be this way. When there's toxic waste and pollution that hurts people, it's not supposed to be this way. When we run up a surplus and have people say, let's just blow it away instead of meeting our primary needs, it's not supposed to be this way.
I think we also have been given the capacity to know how it is supposed to be. And the way it is supposed to be, we make in this country, the greatest country that has ever existed -- where children do not go hungry; where children do not want for health insurance; where families are strong, and communities are clean and livable, and safe; and where our nation is a shining light to all peoples, all around the world. (Applause.)
I want to be President of the United States to make it the way it is supposed to be. And I ask for your help and your vote and your support. Thank you, Arkansas. Thank you for being here. Thank you, my friends. God bless you. (Applause.)
END 9:38 P.M. CDT