THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT DNC DINNER The Mayflower Hotel Washington. D.C.
7:29 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I will be quite brief because I want to just sit around and have a conversation. But I want to begin by thanking all of you, especially Andy, for taking on this role with the Democratic Party, and thank you, Terry, for tonight and for so much else. And I want to thank all of you who have helped us along the way, particularly those of you who have been part of our administration in some way or another. I'm very grateful to you.
I thought it was quite interesting, you made that reference to George Washington's speech to the Jewish community -- I've read it several times -- because it was actually quite a keen insight for a person to have in the 18th century; the tolerance implies that a superior group is abiding a group that's not equal. And I never thought much of that. I always tell people we ought to celebrate our diversity and affirm the primary importance of our common humanity, and that's the way I look at this.
I want to thank you, too, for the last eight years. It's been an honor to serve. I'm thrilled that it worked out as well as it did. (Laughter.) I believed eight years ago, and I believe more strongly today, that we need a unifying politics and a unifying policy, which is different from soothing words; it has to do with the decisions we make. And for example, I thought that you should be part of America's community. But I thought it in other ways, too.
I thought that we could have an economic policy that was pro-business and pro-labor. And sure enough, this is the first time in three decades we not only have the longest economic expansion in history, but we've got incomes going up at all levels. Average incomes have increased by 15 percent since 1992. After inflation. Real increase.
I thought it would be possible to grow the economy and improve the environment, and sure enough it turned out to be true. We have cleaner air, cleaner water, safer drinking water, safer food, more land set aside than any administration since Theodore Roosevelt, and three times as many toxic waste dumps cleaned up in our eight years as in the previous 12, under the other party.
So it seemed to me that you could be for in education more investment and for higher standards at the same time. And we've got test scores going up and the college-going rate at an all-time high.
I could go through this on and on and on, but I think the point I want to make is we sometimes think that we have to divide things up, and what we really have to do is fuse them, unite them, and move forward together. And it's worked. Everyone knows the economy is stronger, but I think it's worth pointing out also we have -- for the first time in a dozen years the number of people without health insurance is going down, not up. The schools are clearly getting better and the college-going rate is at an all-time high. The environment is cleaner. The crime rate is at a 26-year low. The welfare rolls are at a 32-year low. Teen pregnancy and teen drug abuse are down. The country is moving in the right direction.
And so I think the question we have to ask ourselves -- or the three questions -- that I hope that you'll help us in the next six days to ask and get answered properly are: Do you want to build on the prosperity, or adopt policies that will not allow us to pay the debt down and continue to invest in our future, but instead will take us back to deficits? Do you want to build on the social progress, or adopt policies which plainly will undermine the direction in which we're going? And the third thing, and maybe the most important, is how do we take all this effort toward one America a step further?
That's really what the hate crimes bill, the employment non-discrimination act, and the equal pay for women legislation is about. Are we going to continue to try to build the bridges of unity and the bonds of common interdependent community as we go forward? And I think if people -- the election is really about three things.
The court appointments are a part of that one America. And it's about far more than just preserving a woman's right to choose. It's also about whether the courts will or will not continue to restrict the ability of the national government to protect civil rights and human rights and the basic public interest. Most Americans don't know that just in the last year or so, a slim majority of the courts already invalidated a provision of the Violence Against Women Act, a provision of the Brady law, a provision of an anti-age discrimination law. So there are big issues here.
But when you boil them all down, are we better off than we were eight years ago, economically; and if so, do you want to build on the economic policy or reverse it? Are we going in the right direction and coming together as a society; if so, do you want to build on the progress of the eight years or take down the policies -- the environmental, the crime, the education, the health care policies? And should we continue to try to become one America? That's what hate crimes and NDA, and the equal pay for women, and all those initiatives -- and the court appointments -- are all about.
If people understand that this is an honorable election which I think should be conducted in almost a festive atmosphere, because the country is in so much better shape than it was eight years ago -- and nobody has to bad-mouth anybody anymore. You don't have to go around -- a lot of the venom has gone out of the American political scene. Somebody said that's because I'd absorbed a lot of it. (Laughter.) But anyway, and so -- you all supplied the serum and so I survived, it's all right. (Laughter.) But that's good. We ought to be festive, we ought to be upbeat, we ought to be happy. But we shouldn't be blinded to the fact that we're actually having a very important old-fashioned debate here. And in some ways we are reenacting the kind of debate we've had from the beginning of this country.
Today we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the White House. John Adams rolled into the White House 200 years ago today at about noon. And so -- and David McCullough, the great historian and biographer of Harry Truman, gave this beautiful sort of summary of what the White House was like 200 years ago, what Washington looked like, what the politics were, and the truly astonishing contributions of John Adams to our country's history.
He had a great eye for talent. He nominated George Washington to be head of the Continental Army. And when he became President, he nominated John Marshall to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And that's one reason we still have one country, instead of a bunch of loosely floating atoms out there.
So we celebrated that. And in that whole 200-year history, I do not believe there has ever been a time when we've been able to have an election where we have so much prosperity, we have so much social progress, with the absence of domestic crisis or foreign threat to our existence. Are there problems out there at home? Yes. Are there real problems out there, potential and real, around the world? Of course. But this is a very good time.
And we get to imagine the future we want to have for our children and our grandchildren, and then make a decision to build it. And the only concern I've ever had -- I know I sound like a broken record because I've been saying this for a year and a half -- the only concern I have ever had is that 100 percent of the people understand, first, what a unique moment this is. Younger voters, a lot of them don't even remember what it was like eight years ago and take all this for granted, which is something that shouldn't happen. And secondly, that they understand what the real differences are between the candidates for President and Senate and House, and what the consequences are, and they just make a choice, and everybody should be happy about it.
But I think that the closeness of the race indicates among other things some uncertainty in the electorate about exactly what is at stake and what the differences are, which means all of us have an opportunity the last six days to try to help bring some clarity to that.
The last point I want to make is on the issue of inclusion. It's been an honor for Hillary and me to have done what we have done, but I think it is a matter of indisputable historical fact that the Vice President supported everything I did for this community and made it clear, was unambiguous, would stand up and never once, ever, took a pass when time came to do that.
So I hope that, for whatever it's worth, 100 percent of your community will know that on election day. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 6:40 P.M. EST