THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT, THE VICE PRESIDENT AND SENATOR CLINTON AT TRIBUTE TO SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON Madison Square Garden New York, New York
4:50 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Chuck. Thank you, my friends. Thank you, New York. (Applause.) One point seven million times, thank you. You are the greatest. Thank you very much.
Mr. President, Senator Clinton, Chelsea -- Tipper and I are so honored to be here. Senator Schumer, Congressman Rangel, Chairperson Judith Hope, distinguished leaders and guests in the audience.
I'm very grateful that Senator Clinton invited Tipper and me to be with them and you here today. And I'm grateful for the opportunity I'll have after the President's remarks to give the Oath of Office in the ceremony at center stage. It's a very meaningful event -- a reenactment, but it's in many ways the real one, because this is the audience that made it happen, and we appreciate what you did. (Applause.)
She is a cherished friend, an admired leader, a great First Lady and, I predict, one of the best senators this state and this country will ever know. (Applause.) And I'd just like to take a moment to congratulate you, Senator Clinton, not only on winning, not only on all the votes you received, but on getting your votes counted and finishing the race on time and actually winning it. You did a great job. (Laughter and applause.) You know, some people overlook that part. (Laughter.)
I enjoyed the entertainment more than I can tell you. Didn't that fill our hearts? Wasn't that fantastic? Unbelievable. (Applause.) And I enjoyed the prayers. I have never heard so many applause lines in prayers -- (laughter) -- and I'm a Baptist. (Laughter.)
We had a great time on the floor of the Senate not long ago. We were a little late getting started; Senator Lott was outside looking for storm clouds. (Laughter.) There weren't any. (Laughter.)
The truth is, in extraordinary circumstances and in ordinary ones, when human rights are at stake around the world or when the adoption of one child is at stake in New York, when millions of children lack the health care they need or when a single family in Buffalo lack the opportunity it needs, Hillary Clinton's passion to serve and her basic commitment to people have enabled her to help those who need help and to open doors for those who have found them closed.
For 13 more days I'll have the privilege of serving as the President of the Senate, and I don't know as much about the Senate as Senator Robert Byrd, but I took the occasion to look at the history of New York's delegation and the history of the Senate seat that Hillary Clinton moved into.
It was from this seat that Robert Kennedy challenged the conscience of the nation, and Pat Moynihan challenged us to strengthen and protect the American family. Much earlier, this seat was held by Martin Van Buren -- (applause) -- thank you, it's always an applause line. (Laughter.) You know that he was the first President to be born under the American flag. And Aaron Burr -- that never gets applause. (Laughter.) He was the first and, hopefully, the last Vice President to fire a gun at a member of the President's Cabinet. (Laughter.)
And also in those early days, this seat was held for a brief time by a man named Governor Morris. Now, the history students here know very well that's actually his first name. You've seen that name signed on the Constitution; he fought for American independence, sat in the Continental Congress. He lost his seat because of his failure to support a governor named Clinton. (Laughter.) It's a true story. About 200 years ago, New York's Governor Clinton believed that Vermont should belong to New York. (Laughter.)
Well, most New Yorkers agreed -- most New Yorkers agreed. (Laughter.) Governor Morris didn't, and so New Yorkers kicked him out. (Laughter.) I'm not trying to give you any ideas, Senator; I know you've already introduced your first bill and Pat Leahy would really be opposed to that.
But my point is really a simple one: you can look at the scope of New York's history and the unbelievable quality of leadership for this nation that has been provided by New York, from the vision and compassion of Franklin Roosevelt to the soaring idealism of Robert Kennedy to the piercing wisdom of Mario Cuomo, the all around excellence and dedication of Chuck Schumer. Leaders like Bella Abzug, who broke down barriers and upheld justice. (Applause.) Charlie Rangel, with his tireless advocacy for those who need better schools and equal opportunity. (Applause.) And who in two years will be Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the United States Congress. (Applause.)
I mean, let's face it, New York's leaders haven't exactly been slouches. And that is why the people of New York chose so wisely when they elected this new senator. You can see her leadership in the fights that she has taken on for America's children and families; from affordable health care to sound economic policy to the expansion of Head Start, immunization, early childhood education and so many other causes -- internationally, as well.
So today's swearing in is especially meaningful for Tipper and me. It's one of the last events that the four of us will be doing together, and one of the last opportunities that I'll have to say on a stage like this what a great thrill it has been to be able to serve the people of this country under the leadership of President Bill Clinton, who turned the economy of this nation around -- (applause) -- who put this nation's economy on the right track, to reduce the crime rate, who brought inner cities back to life.
For all we've achieved together, though, my strongest memories are the times that we've spent on the bus together. And that bus started it's eight-year journey right here, outside this very building. (Applause.) And so in a very real sense, that journey has come around full circle, right back here.
We believed during that journey that this country could be made new again. And you know what? It has been. (Applause.) That mission is still underway. And, of course, there is much work to be done. And this much I know -- and I know it without reservation -- Senator Hillary Clinton is going to make this state very, very proud. She will be a strong and graceful voice for all those whose uniquely American Dream have yet to be fulfilled; and of no small consequence to Tipper and me, she will have as one of her youngest constituents, our grandson. So we really have a big stake in this. (Laughter.)
Now, my friends, I'll return to give the Oath of Office. But I am pleased and honored, for one of the last times that I'll have the opportunity to do so as Vice President, to introduce a great leader and a great friend; someone who gave me the opportunity to serve as his ally in that remarkable eight-year journey to a better America.
And I say without any fear of contradiction that he will be the most prominent and most instantly recognizable member of the Senate Spouse Club, President Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. First, let me say what a wonderful thing it is for Hillary and Chelsea and me to be here with Al and Tipper and with all of you.
I want to be brief today because this is Hillary's day and it's also a day when she very much wanted the Vice President and Mrs. Gore to come here and receive from you the kind of welcome that I knew you'd give them and that they deserved. I'm so proud of them. (Applause.)
You know, I'm kind of tickled about living in New York. I feel the way Garrison Keillor does about Lake Wobegone. (Laughter.) I was up here listening to that great church choir, and then our friends, Jessye Norman and Toni Morrison and Billy Joel, and how magnificent they were. Then we got the score in the ball game and I thought, here I am in New York, where all the artists, writers and athletic teams are above-average -- (laughter) -- and all the voters get their votes counted. (Laughter and applause.)
So I thank you. I thank Judith Hope for her strong leadership. I thank Charlie Rangel for eight years of wonderful partnership. (Applause.) I thank Chuck Schumer for taking me into his home in 1992, when I was running the first time, with his wonderful wife; and then for taking me through Queens, letting me see people and places I might never have otherwise seen; and for running in 1998, which everybody thought would be a bad year -- it turned out to be a pretty good one, thanks to Chuck Schumer's guts and drive and he is great. (Applause.)
I'm looking forward -- I hate it that I've got to wait two more years, but I'm looking forward to Charlie Rangel being the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. (Applause.) When that happens, you mark my words, it'll be the best show in America off Broadway. (Laughter.)
I do want to say just very briefly a serious word of appreciation to the Vice President and to Mrs. Gore. I thank her for from the time of the first bus ride that, as Al said, we took here, keeping the rest of us in a good humor, always seeing the glass as half full, always caring about our families, as well as our politics and always sticking up for people who others had forgotten -- whether they were people with mental illnesses or homeless people or others, reminding me always that I had to be their President, too. I am grateful to her. (Applause.)
And as I've said many times, and as has already been said here today, there's no question that in the history of the Republic, no person has had such a positive impact on the American people from the Office of Vice President that Al Gore has had -- it's not even close -- not even close. (Applause.)
I told somebody, he has more influence and did more things -- whether it was manage our technology policy, our environmental policy, giving all the poor schools the opportunity to hook up to the Internet, helping to supervise our reorganization of the space program, trying to do something about all the terrible congestion at the airports, dealing with big chunks of our foreign policy. Nobody ever had so much responsibility before. And I was showing up for work every day, too. (Laughter.) I'm really proud of him in ways that you will never know.
He has shown us all, in the last two months, under circumstances which have never before existed in our country -- and I pray to God never will again -- how we should all behave as Americans and patriots. (Applause.) I honor him for my friendship, for his advice, for his leadership, for what he's done for America for eight years -- but in the last eight weeks, he's shown us the strength of character that very few of us could emulate if we were in the same circumstances. (Applause.)
Now, I would also like to thank the people of New York who helped Hillary to win this race. She did, as Chuck Schumer said, win it the old-fashioned way, she earned it. But she wouldn't have earned it if you hadn't helped her, if you had shut her out and shut her down and turned away from her. I'd like to thank the people who helped her on Long Island, where the going was toughest. (Applause.) I'd like to thank the people who helped her in upstate New York and proved it wasn't so Republican, after all. (Applause.)
I'd like to thank those of you who had me to your counties in upstate New York. I had a lot of fun being there and I hope we all did some good together. I want to thank the people in this magnificent city for how good you have been to Hillary and to all of us. (Applause.) I want to thank you for making Chelsea feel welcome. She did a pretty good job for her mother, too, up here campaigning, I think; made a lot of votes, I think. (Applause.)
And I want to thank you for making it possible for me to give my wife good advice about how to run in New York. Everybody said how mean it was going to be. Do you remember what you did to me in the Democratic primary here in 1992? (Laughter.) I said, Hillary, look, these people are really good; but they just want to see how bad you can take a beating. (Laughter.) And they will beat you up and beat up you and beat you up, and take off your shoes and make you walk on coals -- (laughter) -- make you lie down on a bed of pins and needles. But if you just keep smiling, they'll know you got it and they will come. (Applause.)
I'm so proud of her, because she not only laid out a vision for what she wanted to do, she did it in a way that was consistently big and generous, that didn't descend to the level of her attackers. (Applause.) And when New York did to her what New York does, and she passed, then you came. (Applause.) And I told her all along -- she can tell you, I told her for 16 months, I said, trust me, if you are just even on the weekend before the election you're going to win big, they will come to you in droves, if you just be big and stay right. (Applause.) And you proved that I was right about you and I am grateful. (Laughter.)
But I had that awful primary experience to shore up my gratitude and know what was going to happen. (Laughter.)
Now, the last thing I'd like to say is this. In 13 days, at high noon, I'm going to give up being President.
THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, hey. You can "boo" about the nature of the transfer, but not about me giving it up -- I've had my time -- (laughter) -- and I had a very good time.
And what I want to remind you of is that politics is not about the politicians, it's about the people. And I am honored to become a citizen of New York. (Applause.) I will do my best to be a good one. And if you need to call me, sort of a de facto case worker for your Senator here. (Laughter.) I want to get around the state and go upstate and do what I can to help Hillary fulfill the commitments that she and Chuck have made to help the upstate economy and to help the neighborhoods here. (Applause.)
And I want to thank Senator Schumer and Congressman Rangel for passing the New Markets initiative Al Gore and I worked so hard on to build on the empowerment zone proposal that Al ran so well for nearly eight years, to keep the economy going. (Applause.)
So we want to work. I want to be a good citizen to you. But I want you to remember that Hillary ran and won because of you -- not because of her -- because of your children and your future and what we want to do together.
So the last thing I want to ask you to do is, I want you to keep your heart burning for two years to make Charlie the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. (Applause.) I want you to remember not only for four years, but for the rest of your life, what happened in the elections 2000 and what Al Gore did in the eight weeks afterwards. (Applause.)
But I want most of all for you to remember that America's work and New York's work is never done. And I want you to help my wife do a good job at what she ran for, which was to give people like you and people outside this hall, who will never be in a meeting like this, the chance to make the most of their lives and their children's lives. That's what I want to ask you more. You've given her a great gift, now help her use it for the purpose it was intended. (Applause.)
Last Wednesday, when Hillary was sworn into the Senate, I believe that Chelsea and I were the two happiest people on the planet. Chelsea, because she loves her mother and she's proud of her; me, for the same reasons, but also because when I met Hillary nearly 30 years ago now -- two more months, 30 years ago -- (applause) -- I thought that she had more capacity and more heart for public service than anybody I had ever met. And I worried when we started our lives together that somehow I would limit her service.
Your giving her this chance, in my mind, has reaffirmed the wisdom she made in moving to be with me so long ago and all the many roles she's played in giving to others and never asking for anything for herself until she made this race. And I can tell you this, you will not be disappointed, because I was right about her 30 years ago. (Applause.)
Thank you, God bless you. (Applause.)
Now, Mr. Vice President, please reenact the ceremony.
SENATOR CLINTON: Thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so very much. I am so gratified and so honored to be here with all of you and, once again, to take the oath, administered by the Vice President, that will give me the privilege of serving you.
I'm so pleased that so many people can be here. And in addition to everyone who has spoken and everyone whom Judith has introduced, I would also like to acknowledge that included in the audience, our Speaker, Peter Vallone; and public advocate, Mark Green; and controller, Alan Hevesi; and Bronx Borough President, Freddy Ferrer; C. Virginia Fields, the President of the Borough of Manhattan. (Applause.)
And two men who gave me so much support, good advice, made me laugh and were there with me every step of the way, my mayors, Ed Koch and David Dinkins. (Applause.)
It is such a great pleasure to be here with Judith Hope, who has done a superb job on behalf of our party throughout New York. (Applause.) And particularly in making it clear that there was an active, dynamic, Democratic Party in upstate New York and bringing people together who had never been brought into the political process, on behalf of the Democratic Party or Democratic candidates before. I think it's important that we continue that work, and I know that Chuck and Judith and every one of us will continue to work to make sure that upstate Democrats have a place at the table, and are included, as we keep building a strong Democratic Party for the future. And I thank all of you for your help and for being here with me today. (Applause.)
I want to thank again, not only Charlie Rangel, but the other Democratic members of the congressional delegation, some of whom could be with us today. I'm so grateful to all of you for your help. And I look forward, Charlie, to working with you and the entire delegation, as we really put the priorities of New York on the front of the congressional agenda. I think that there's an opportunity for us if we are united and focused to make real progress in the Congress. And I look to all of you to be good partners with Chuck and me.
I cannot think of a better partner to have than Chuck Schumer. I remember campaigning for Chuck in 1998 and knowing, because of his energy and determination, that he would not only win, but that he would be such a successful senator. And after he was elected, he'd occasionally call me from other places in the state and talk about what was going on. And his excitement was still as great as it had ever been, and is continuing today. He is so well respected in the Senate, and I am just so looking forward to working with my senior senator, on behalf of all of you, in the United States Senate. (Applause.)
And again, I want to thank Al and Tipper Gore for being here. (Applause.) And I have to say that it's been such a great pleasure for me to get to know Al and Tipper. I remember when we first met, when Bill asked Al to join the ticket. I remember the convention of 1992, right here. I remember getting on that bus and starting our journey to the White House together. And along the way, over the last eight years, I have just grown in appreciation for both Al and Tipper, and their commitment to public service and their commitment to our country.
I believe that this election of 2000 is not only one that we have to learn lessons from, but that we can never let anything like it ever happen again. (Applause.) I know that there are a lot of members of churches that I attended and visited during the past 16 months, and actually going back eight or nine years. And I know how often in a church or in a union hall or in an athletic field or anywhere that I appeared, I would urge people to be sure to vote. Because I believed, with all my heart, that the real secret of our democracy is not our leadership, but our citizenship. And that our most fundamental obligation as a citizen is to vote.
And when I think of all of those people in Florida, who went to the trouble and took the time because they believed they were exercising their citizenship responsibility to vote, and that their votes were not counted, it only deepens my commitment to ensuring that our democracy will remain strong and we will do whatever is necessary to reform our election system, so that every person's vote will always be counted, at every election from now into the future. (Applause.)
I want to thank all of the entertainers and the artists who are with us, people whom I admire and have such great feeling for. I want to thank, again, the Friendship Baptist Church Choir, from Buffalo. (Applause.) I want to tell them I'm glad they made the journey down to be with us. I want to thank the magnificent Jessye Norman; the Nobel prize winner, Toni Morrison; and the incomparable, Billy Joel, for everything they added to this event today. (Applause.)
And I particularly want to thank my husband, and my daughter and my family.
You know, when I began my listening tour, and I started traveling all over the state, and I spent the night in people's homes, and I had breakfasts, lunches and dinners with you, and I went into supermarket aisles and stood and talked with people, and I went to factory floors, and I visited every kind of setting you can imagine, I thought about how different it was to listen to the problems and challenges facing New Yorkers in 1999 and 2000 than it had been in 1991 and 1992.
I remember very well what our country was like, and what was happening because of the failure of leadership at our national level, right here in New York. And I am so proud of the leadership that the President has brought to New York and America and the world, because we are a better nation today then we were in 1992. (Applause.) And I could never have made this race and waged this campaign without the support of both Bill and Chelsea.
But now we have to ask ourselves, where do we go from here? You know, when the curtain comes down here, and Chuck and I and Charlie and the other members of the delegation return to Washington and begin the work of the Senate and the House, we know that we've got some big questions to answer. We've got some real hard issues to confront.
I'm looking forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I'm looking forward to working with the new administration, whenever and wherever that's possible. But my first and primary obligation is to you, is to serve the people of this city and state, and to make sure that New York's interests and needs are never forgotten -- (applause) -- to be there constantly as a voice and a vote, pointing out that this state, which has given so much to this country, deserves to have its fair share, deserves to be taken seriously, deserves to have the kind of economic, educational, health care, environmental and other policies that the people of New York are demanding.
So when I go back to the Senate, and start the work of the 107th Congress, I'm going to take with me all of the stories and memories, the faces of everyone I've met: from the little girl in Buffalo who asked me to please be sure that we could remain safe, and that the crime rate would keep going down, and that people who shouldn't have them, wouldn't have access to guns -- (applause) -- to the factory workers in Binghamton, who wanted to be sure that the economy kept growing, and that jobs kept being produced and that we were on the cutting edge of technology throughout New York, and who understand that if our economy is not strong and well-led from the top, it will have an impact on our bottom line and our futures here in New York.
And I remember all of the farmers that I met, from the tip of Long Island to Jamestown. And I respect so deeply the work they do, because it's not only the work of producing food, it's the work of maintaining a way of life that generations of New Yorkers have enjoyed and cherished. And as I walked the streets of Brooklyn or the Bronx or Queens, as I visited with transit workers on Staten Island, as I went from one end of Manhattan to the other, I could see the hope and the dreams and the aspirations of people of all ages.
But none of this will be possible if we don't continue to build on the policies that have worked for America. I want to be sure that the prosperity, the progress and the peace that we've enjoyed the last eight years, under the leadership of the President and the Vice President, continues. And I will be a strong voice and a strong vote, along with Chuck Schumer, to make sure we do everything possible to make that happen.
You know, when we got on the bus and we headed out, our first stop was in Camden, New Jersey. And there was a big banner that had been put up that was a scriptural quote that Bill had used throughout the campaign, from Isaiah: "Where there is no vision, the people perish."
Well, for eight years, we've had a vision. We've had a vision of inclusion that brings people together, regardless of race or gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or any other reason for divisiveness. (Applause.) We've had a vision of expanding economic opportunity that made it clear we were going to pay down our debt and close our deficit and spur investment and keep us on a steady course. We had a vision of educational attainment for every child, no matter where that child is or who that child's parents are. And I will not rest until we can look any child in this state in the eye and say, we are giving you equality of educational opportunity -- now it is up to you to do the rest with your teachers and your parents and your community. (Applause.)
We cannot say that yet today. You know as well as I do that I've been in schools where children don't have access to libraries, where they're crowded into the classrooms, where the building is falling down around them, where the number of computers is so few that they get on it maybe once every two weeks. We can do better than that. And I have a vision of making sure we provide quality, affordable health care to every New Yorker and every American, regardless of age, regardless of geography, regardless of any other condition. (Applause.)
And as someone who has traveled this state in places where my friends who were privileged to be born and grow up here have not yet seen, let me just tell you, this is the most beautiful state in the entire country. We have everything. (Applause.) And it is up to us to be good stewards of that beautiful environment, to make sure that the water we drink and the air we breathe and the ground we build on and that our children play on is safe. And I am committed in every way that I can, to build on the legacy of progress that not only this administration leaves behind, but those who have filled this seat before me have helped to shape.
I am very grateful to Senator Moynihan for his leadership, his guidance and his vision of the kind of government and people we could be. (Applause.)
And, finally, let me say that I believe that politics and government are a team sport. No one gets to any position in any organization alone. Everyone stands on the shoulders of others. Everyone is held up by countless hands. And I, among all of you, know so well, I would not be here were it not for each and every one of you. Everyone who hosted a house party, everyone who passed out literature, everyone who sent a letter, everyone who made a telephone call, everyone who contributed, everyone who worked a poll, every single one of you.
And every day that I get up and go to work in the Senate, or travel throughout our state, meeting with you, I will never forget the honor you have given me. And I hope that, together, we will demonstrate what is possible when there is a vision and people work side by side in order to realize it.
Thank you all so much for this honor and God bless you, God bless New York and God bless America. (Applause.)
END 5:30 P.M. EST