THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT RECEPTION FOR MARK O'KEEFE AND CAROL WILLIAMS Sewell-Belmont House Washington. D.C. 7:20 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Well, first of all, thank you for your warm welcome and thank you for being here for Carol and for Mark O'Keefe. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for making the trip from Montana. Thank you, Senator Baucus, for your friendship and support and wise counsel to me over these last eight years. Thank you, Pat Williams, for casting that deciding vote, putting your own neck on the line and giving America a life line. (Applause.) I want to thank the other members of Congress and former members who are here, including Bob Matsui and his wife, Doris. And thank you, Bruce Morrison, for being here. I know your wife runs this joint -- (laughter) -- Nancy, thank you very much.
Carol, thank you for running. And I want to say a little more about this wonderful house in a moment. Thank you, Maggie O'Keefe, for coming out here from Montana and for being a teenager involved in public life. I think that's a good thing. And I want to thank Carol and Pat for something else. I want to thank you for your wonderful daughter, Whitney, who's been so great to Hillary and me these last several years, who is here. (Applause.)
You know, I love Montana. I think that the vacation that Hillary and Chelsea and I had in Montana when Ted Schwinden -- -- was governor and took us around, and up in a little helicopter at dawn over the Missouri River, in 1985, was one of the best family vacations we ever had. I still have a vivid memory of every part of it. Chelsea had the opportunity to work there last summer -- the summer before last, now -- for a few weeks on a ranch, for which I am very grateful.
And I had the opportunity to campaign there and to meet, among other things, with a large number of tribal leaders. I never will forget the experience I had there in 1992, which was one of the seminal events for me in steeling my determination to try to do something to get the relationship between the United States government and our tribal governments right, and to try to do more to empower the Native American population to be part of our prosperity and part of our national life. And I think that's one of the important parts of our administration's legacy. I've worked very hard on it. And I thank the Indian leaders who are here. (Applause.)
I think it's quite appropriate that Carol came here tonight to represent the ticket and to let me know that Pat and I are going to be part of an imminent spouses' club here in the next few months. (Laughter.) Actually, I kind of like it. The only thing I do not like about it is that-- Hillary used to tell me how nervous she was when I would go into a debate, and how she actually hated to sit in the audience because she would claw at the side of chairs. And at least if she watched it on television she could scream and yell and beat the table, you know?
So I watched her debate on television the other night. And I was absolutely a nervous wreck. (Laughter.) And my mother-in-law was so upset she actually went in another room to watch it on another television. I said, you can misbehave in front of me, I'm going to -- she said, no, I want to do this all by myself when I'm pounding the table. (Laughter.) So I finally know now what she and you, Carol, have been through all these years. But except for those moments, I kind of like being a spouse.
It's appropriate that we're meeting here at this beautiful place. The Sewell-Belmont House, I believe, is the oldest house in Washington, D.C. outside Georgetown. And someone told me tonight that I might be the first President to come here since Thomas Jefferson. When you go back through, just imagine that Thomas Jefferson was here. This does have one of the largest collections of suffragist memorabilia in the United States, and it was one of the first places designated as one of America's treasures by my wife and her millennium commission, when they were going around the country trying to identify the places that were profoundly important to our past.
I say all that because I think it is obvious to anybody who even goes to the Jefferson Memorial and reads what Mr. Jefferson had to say about slavery, that when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and the founders wrote the Constitution, they knew good and well that they were setting out perfect ideals that we were nowhere near realizing. After all, when we got started, only white male property owners could vote. And it took us a long time. And we still haven't completely integrated our ideals with the reality of life in America.
But to be here in honor of a great woman from Montana and her running mate, Mark O'Keefe, who had the vision to want to be her running mate, in a place where so much of the history of American women is memorialized, at a time when -- we just left a century where women didn't get to vote until the second decade of the 20th century -- and now we're celebrating a great frontier state that not only gave us Jeanette Rankin, but now has given us a woman nominee for Lt. Governor, and a wonderful woman, a longtime friend of mine, nominee for the House of Representatives. This is a great night, indeed.
The only thing I need to say to all of you about all this is that you know what I feel about the national elections and you know how important I think it is to build on the changes and the prosperity of the last eight years, and why I think it's important for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman to be elected, and why I think it's important that we win the Senate and the House. Yes, I want Hillary to be the senator from New York, I think it will be good for New York and good for America. But I think it would be a great thing if the policies and the ideas we have embraced could be ratified by the American people in a vote -- in which we are going to be out-spent nationwide, way over $100 million in these national elections, but where the American people know that we have been right on the issues and we're right on the issues facing our future.
But what's that got to do with a governor's race, a lieutenant governor's race in Montana? A great deal. For two reasons. Number one is, we have to keep the American economy going in order for Carol and Mark to be able to successfully implement their economic plans for Montana, to make sure every person in that state is a part of our future; and in order for them to have the economy that would generate the tax revenues to implement their education plans for Montana.
But, second, and more important, it runs the other way. Most of the important social progress we have made in the last eight years -- whether it is cutting the welfare rolls in half, or seeing a steep decline in crime, or any of the other things that have happened here to improve the fabric of our nation, including an increased high school graduation rate, a record college-going rate, increased test scores in math and science, a two-thirds increase in the number of our kids taking advance placement courses, all these things -- the federal government can do certain things here, but who runs the politics of a state and who drives the vision of a state is pivotal to the success of anything that the next President and the next Congress can do to shape the future of Americans at home.
I was just looking the other day, for example -- one of the things that I'm proudest of is that the Democrats insisted on including in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 a Children's Health Insurance Program, the biggest expansion of health care for our kids since Medicaid was established when Lyndon Johnson was President. And in two years and a couple of days, we have enrolled 2.5 million people in that program.
But there are at least 6 million children eligible for that program. There is a dramatic difference -- dramatic -- in the enrollment levels from state to state. And what is the determining event? The leadership at the state level, starting with the governor and someone else who is passionately committed, who is assigned to do this. That's just one example.
So I know that most of the people in Washington, a lot of you may be here because Pat and Carol are old friends of yours. Maybe you're here because you have ties to Montana. But what you need to understand is, if you believe in what we have been doing the last eight years, and you want more positive changes to occur in this direction, it is profoundly important not just to help in the congressional races and to make sure we prevail in the presidential race, but to make sure that we win every single solitary governor's race and lieutenant governor's race we can.
That's why this is important, quite apart from the way I feel about Carol and Pat and Whitney, and my feelings for Montana and the gratitude I feel because we won there in 1992. This is a big deal. If you really believe that we changed America, we turned it around, we're going in the right direction, and you want it to amount to something, then you've got to help them.
And I'm very grateful to all of you. I just saw Congressman Pomeroy back there, from neighboring North Dakota -- thank you for being here. So remember what Carol said. Thanks for being here. And if you can send her a little more money between now and election day, you ought to do that, too.
Thank you very much. ( .)
END 7:31 P.M. EDT