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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 16, 1999
                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                      TO DNC GAY AND LESBIAN LUNCHEON

                              Mayflower Hotel
                             Washington. D.C.

12:55 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. First, I want to thank Mark and Peter and Andy and Charles for co-hosting, chairing this. And I thank all of you for being here.

You said some very kind things in your introduction. I'd like to thank you for being my personal friend for many years, and for all the issues we've discussed, and all the things we've talked about, including before I became President. I'd like to thank the people here from the White House, who have helped me to make this the most inclusive administration in history. And I want to thank all of you for all the issues that we've fought on.

We actually had a very good year last year in many ways, and I got most of what I wanted in the budget at the end. But we didn't get the hate crimes legislation, so I ask you to stay with me, and to make a good effort. I think we've got a much better chance to pass it in 2000, and I hope you will help me with that.

I also think we should keep trying to get a vote on the ENDO legislation, which I strongly support. And one final thing -- Sandy Thurman's here, we talked about this on the way in -- while we've made remarkable progress with HIV and AIDS in the United States, it is still raging out of control in much of Africa and increasingly in parts of Asia. And I think we ought to do more on that around the world, and we're going to try to do more.

But I want to ask for your support, as we go to the Congress, and ask them to take a strong stand on that. Otherwise, you're going to see whole countries collapse under the weight of AIDS-related death, AIDS orphans, and managing the situation. Those are three issues I wanted to mention.

The last point I'd like to make is this. I've said this a lot of times, and all of you have heard me give this speech, so I won't give the whole speech. But if we have enjoyed any success in these last seven years -- and I think we've had quite a lot of it -- part of it was because I had an idea of what I wanted America to look like at century's end and at the beginning of the new millennium.

It is very important to have a vision and to pursue it, and very important not to forget your mission when things happen which are designed to make you forget your mission. And so I think it is now, in this election season, I think it's very important for us, not only as Democrats, but as citizens, to get the American people to focus on the importance of doing that all over again, of having a vision for the first couple of decades of the 21st century, of imagining what we want America to be like, what we want the world to be like, and developing a strategy and a set of ideas to get there.

We have never before, ever, in my lifetime and perhaps never in our history, enjoyed as much economic and social progress and national self-confidence with the absence of domestic crisis or foreign threat. Therefore, we have the greatest opportunity in our lifetime, and perhaps ever, to shape the future for our children. We ought to spend a lot of time defining and debating what that future should be.

And when the next administration starts in the new century and the next Congress sits, they ought to sit and start with a mandate from the American people based on those big questions.

Now, I have been through enough elections to believe that the primary determinants of the outcome of the election are the quality of the candidates and the subject of the campaign -- assuming that both sides have enough resources to get their message out. The other guys will always outspend us, and we know why they've got more money than we do. And it's okay, as long as we have enough. But assuming we have enough, an election's outcome is determined by the quality of the candidates and the subject of the election. I believe if the subject of the election is, what are the big issues we have to deal with between now and the end of the next decade, we win, because the American people agree with us about the big things. And we just have to keep pushing forward.

The people of this country nearly always get it right, if they have enough time and enough information. That's why we're still around here after 200 years. We wouldn't be if that weren't true. And just on the issue of equal rights and the absence of discrimination, there's been a sea change in this country in the last seven years. We're a long way from where we were in '92, when, to put it mildly, there were some fairly visceral responses to the positions that I took in the campaign. It's a very different world out there now.

So I ask you not only for your money -- I'm grateful for that -- but I ask you to think about all the various ways in which we can make sure that the American people use this moment to be responsible dreamers, instead of just to fritter the election away in some distracted, indulgent or mean-spirited or short-sighted way. Because of this thing is about the big issues, and the long-time vision, we're going to do just fine. And you can have a big impact on that.

The only other thing I would say is, I think there is a very great deal we can accomplish next year. Conventional wisdom is, in election years you don't get much done. That's not necessarily so. I can remember we got a great deal done in 1996 in the election. In '98, we got a lot done in the 11th hour, simply because Congress wanted to go home. (Laughter.)

So stay with me, keep focused on this, too. We can get quite a lot done next year if we have the discipline to do it, and the will.

The last thing I want to say is, I am very grateful for having had the chance to serve and to work with you and to be President at this particular moment in history, when doors were being opened and a new chapter in the civil rights history of America was being written, and I hope we can do more and do better.

But I'm very grateful for having had the chance to do this, and I have said many times I wish we could have done more, but I'm glad we did what we did. And I feel very fortunate just to have had the chance to serve at this moment, thanks in no small measure because of the progress we've made on these issues, and I thank you for that, too.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 1:00 P.M. EST