Monday, October 5, 1998
Vol. 34, No. 40
Remarks at a Democratic National Committee dinner in San Jose, California
William J Clinton
�� September 25, 1998
� Thank you. Thank you, John. I sort of hate to speak after that.
[Laughter] He made a better case than I could have made for myself.
I thank you. And I want to thank Mayor Susan Hammer for her
friendship and her leadership of this great city.
hope that because of this event tonight you'll receive even wider
publicity, and you'll have throngs of children coming here, learning
all the things that they need to see about their own future.
[Applause] Thank you very much.
� I want to thank all of you for being here tonight. Some of you
are probably in danger of overexposure.There are several people
here who were with Hillary last night in Seattle. [Laughter] And
you've already heard the better of the two speeches, I can tell you
� We've been working-I was in Chicago today, and she was in Portland
and Seattle last night, and we're going to, as you know, spend the
night with our daughter tonight. And then I'm going on to San Diego
tomorrow and then to Texas and then back to Washington. But I can't
thank you enough, all of you, for the kind things that you said, as I
was going around before the dinner, about my family and what we're
dealing with. And I just want to thank you on a very personal basis.
Even Presidents have to be people from time to time, and you made me
feel like one tonight, and I thank you very much.
� I also want to thank you for giving me a way to work with this
community. When I came out here with Al Gore and we were working in
1992, I felt that it was imperative that we establish a strong
relationship with the people and the companies of this area for what
we could do together to rebuild the American economy, and then to
build an American future that is worthy of our people. And you
mentioned a few of those issues, but it's just the last list of
issues. We've worked on a lot of things over the last 6 years,
things that I never would have known very much about, and that most
Presidents probably wouldn't, had it not been for your input and your
consistent involvement, and even, sometimes, your stimulating
argument. And I thank you for that.
� I don't know that that was the greatest endorsement my Vice
President could ever get, what John said. [Laughter] But it's not all
bad. I do want to say something about him. I thank you for working
with him. As you all know, one of the reasons I asked him to become
my Vice Presidential partner is that he had a background in
technology issues far superior to mine and a consuming interest in
grateful to you.
� I think that when the historians write about this administration,
they may differ on whether our economic or social policies were right
or wrong, but one thing is absolutely beyond question, and that is
that the Vice President has had more influence on more important
issues in more areas than any person in the history of this country
that ever held that job. And he's made it possible for us to do a
lot of the things that we've done, and I'm very grateful to him.
� Now, if I could just run over-you mentioned a couple of things.
We have worked out the so-called H-lB visa issue. It vill be coming
to my desk soon. And it was done in a way that's really good for
everybody in America, because in addition to permitting more sisas of
high-skilled people to come into our country and strengthen us, it
also provides a lot more funds to train our own people, to upgrade
their skills. So it's a good, good bill. It has the best of both
� The securities reform legislation is now in conference and they're
who are working the issue are very familiar with. But I think we'll
be successful there. I think we've reached a broad agreement on
encryption policy and now you just have to make sure you work with us
on the implementation of it so that the rules don't contradict the
policy, but instead reinforce them. And I think we can do that.
� There's legislation to implement the world intellectual property
agreements to which we are a part, and there's some problems there,
but I think that on balance it does a lot of good. And I hope you'll
help us get it right and get it through. The bill which keeps the
Internet from being interrupted for a period of time by various kinds
of local taxes is making its way through the Senate, and there are
some extraneous issues that are having an impact on it, but those of
you who are working it understand that, and I remain committed to it.
And I think we can be successful there. And I think it's very, very
� One other thing I'd like to just say to you is a lot of you are
very concerned, as you should be for your own markets, with the
situation in Asia. And I am -working very, very hard to help those
contagion. I believe we're doing about all we can do at this time,
but we need some support, and I'll say more about that in a minute.
� Now, I mention these issues partly to make a specific point to
Silicon Valley, but partly to make a more general point. Today I was
at Moffett Air Force Base, and we had an open arrival. And
typically, when we do this, a couple hundred people will show up that
are associated some way or another with the base facility. There
were about 600 people there today, and they were all different kinds
of people talking about very specific things about their lives,
things that had changed-- the schools their kids were in, the family
and medical leave law, or other things that we had all been involved
� I entered public life because I thought it would give me an
opportunity to work vith people to help them make the most of their
lives. I believe that Washington would serve America better if we
worried more about the people that lived outside Washington than
where people stood on the totem pole inside Washington. And I think
you believe that, too. And that's what I ask you to think about
� I'll be very brief. I want to mention to you what I think are the
central questions facing the country in this election season which is
unfolding rapidly now, and then what I think are some of the central
questions facing this country over the next 20 years, because I ask
you to begin thinking about it. We were talking about it at one of
the tables tonight. And this community has got to continue to be
involved in America to help us raise our imaginations and raise our
visions toward these long-term issues as well.
� I tell all my fellow Democrats that, contrary to what you might
think, the great enemy of our cause in this election is not
adversity, it is, instead, complacency. Because oftentimes, when
people are doing well and things are doing well and they have a high
level of comfort and confidence, particularly if they come through a
very wrenching time-and our country came through a pretty wrenching
time in the late eighties and early nineties, indeed throughout the
decade of the eighties-the tendency is to say, "We'd like to relax a
little bit. We're tired. Things are good for us now. We just want
to not think about this." In this case, "this" is politics right
� You live in a world that never permits that, because it's changing
so fast. One thing I'd like to ask you to do is to think about how
you can communicate that sense of urgency to the rest of your fellow
Americans. And that's what I hope to do here tonight-because even
though people may not understand it in the way you do, if you're
struggling to develop a new product, a new service, keep up with some
new discovery, the truth is that everyone else's life is more dynamic
than most people realize as well.
� And while I am profoundly grateful that we have the lowest
unemployment rate in 28 years and the lowest crime rate in 25 years
and the smallest percentage of people on welfare in 29 years, and
next week the first balanced budget and surplus in 29 years, and the
highest homeownership in history, and we just learned yesterday the
lowest AfricanAmerican poverty rate ever recorded, the biggest
increase in wages in 20 years-I'm grateful for allthat. The truth
is that this is a dynamic world. And so the right thing to do is not
to rest on that but to build on it, to ask ourselves, "Okay, what
else needs to be done?"
major issues that, to me, are very important. We had a big vote on
one in the House today. There are some who say, "Well, we're going
to have a surplus for the first time in 29 years and it's just a few
weeks from the election, so let's have a tax cut." And even though
I'm not a candidate anymore and won't be running for anything
anymore, I understand the appeal of that, but I think it's dead
wrong. For one thing, I'd just like to see the red ink turn to black
and dry before we start spending again. [Laughter] I've been working
for this for 6 years. I'd just like to see it dry, you know?
� And in a more serious way, in this world financial situation we
have been a pillar of stability and strength and responsibility, and
we need to communicate that to pe ople. And I know it's popular to
offer a tax cut right here before an election, but in this case it
would be wrong.
� And there's another reason it's wrong. It's wrong because we
finally have, I believe, a bipartisan consensus for making
preserve it when the baby boomers retire-and at present rates, at
least, there will only be hvo people working for every one person
drawing. And I can just tell you the baby boomers are-and a lot of
you are too young to be one-[laughter]but, basically, the baby boom
generation is everybody between the ages of 52 and 34. And when that
group-only the present group in school is bigger than the baby boom
generation. And when that group retires, unless we act now in a
modest, measured, disciplined way-and if we don't do anything until
the time comes to face it, and with every year it will become a more
severe decision because you'll be closer in time to it-we'll have the
decision of either cutting benefits for seniors so much that we'll
erode the safety net, which today accounts for 48 percent of the
people on Social Security being lifted out of poverty-that is, they
would be in poverty were it not for Social Security.
� Or, in the alternative, we'll decide we can't bear that, and we'll
raise taxes dramatically to maintain the old system, in which case we
will undermine the standard of living of our children and
grandchildren, which would be equally wrong. And that's not
necessary. But in order to avoid it, we have to make an
ought to do something for the next 30 years and not for the next 30
days, and save Social Security before we entertain a tax cut out of
this surplus. I think it is very important.
� The second issue, if we want to continue to lead the world
economy, we at least have to pay our way. For 8 months now, I've
been trying to get the Congress to approve our contribution to the
International Monetary Fund. Now, it's not perfect. And the IMF is
having to make adjustments, too, to recognize the new realities of
the global economy. But it is the most important instrument for
helping countries, first of all, reform as they should, and then if
they do, get back on their feet; and, secondly, for helping us limit
the contagion that is now gripping so many Asian economies from
bleeding over into Latin America, for example, our fastest growing
market as a country, and into countries that have done a good job in
managing their own economies. I think it is absolutely imperative.
� And it's pretty hard to make an issue this, normally, esoteric, an
issue in an election year. But I'm telling you, if ve don't exercise
our responsibility to try to stabilize the global economy, as Alan
prosperity in a sea of dislocation. We have got to do this, and I
feel very strongly about it.
� The third thing that I think is very important is that the
education agenda be continually pushed forward. Eight months ago I
put before the Congress an education program based on the best
research about what is working in our schools. Among other things in
the balanced budget, not spending the surplus, it would provide funds
for another 100,000 teachers to be hired to take average class size
down to 18 in the early grades. It would provide a tax incentive
program to rebuild, remodel, or build 5,000 schools at a time when
it's a big problem. It has the funds to continue our part of hooking
up all the classrooms to the Internet by the year 2000. It has funds
for another, over a several year period, 3,000 charter schools-and
thank you, Reed Hastings, for all the work you've done here in
California. California is leading the way, thank you very much.
� And a lot of other things that are very, very important, including
paying the college expenses of 35,000 young people who can then pay
their college expenses off by going into inner-city areas and other
expenses off. It contains the best examples of the most reform-
oriented, big-city school system in the country, which I visited
again today, I think for the sixth time, in Chicago, where they have
ended social promotion. And underperforming students in what used to
be thought of as the worst big-- city school system in the country-I
went to a school district today where 100 percent of the kids live in
Cabrini-Green, one of the most economically challenged housing
projects in America. They have doubled their reading scores and
tripled their math scores in 4 years.
� And there is no social promotion, but they don't just throw the
kids out. Every child that doesn't perform has to go to summer
school. And they have after-school tutoring programs, so that now
the summer school program in Chicago is the sixth biggest school
district in America-the summer school. Over 40,000 children get 3
square meals a day there. But learning is beginning to occur because
they have standards and accountability-but support. They don't treat
children who don't perform as failures; they treat them as people who
need more support and more help. And I think that's important.
need to pass the education program. Two other things I want to
mention. I have worked very hard for the last 6 years, along with
the Vice President, to persuade the American people that we can
improve the environment and grow the economy. And compared to 6
years ago, the air is cleaner; the water is cleaner; the food is
safer; lots of toxic waste dumps have been cleaned up. But there are
still people who just don't believe it. And we're having a huge
environmental fight up there, and protecting these environmental
initiatives is very important.
� Finally, I strongly believe that Congress ought to pass a uniform
Patients' Bill of Rights for the country. And there may even be some
disagreement about that in this audience, but I'd just like to tell
you what my experience is here. There are 160 million Americans in
managed care plans. Forty-- three big managed care companies are
supporting this legislation. Why? Because they provide these
protections, and they know that they're being punished in the
marketplace for doing what they believe is right.
� Now, a lot of you are employers, and you're concerned about
are actually happening in America today. In big cities, if somebody
walks outside a hotel and gets hit by a car, depending on what the
coverage of the plan is, they might drive past three hospitals to get
to an emergency room covered by the plan, instead of going to the
nearest emergency room. There are places where, even if your doctor
recommends you see a specialist and says, "I'm sorry. I can't do
this," they still can't get to see a specialist until they go through
three or four layers of approval.
� Many times all these horror stories you hear about people being
denied care are not quite accurate. Actually, almost always, or more
than half the time, the managed care company does approve the
procedure, but the delays are so great that it's too late to do the
� Another big problem for small businesses is when the employer
changes providers, very often immediately all the employees are
affected by it. Now, that sounds reasonable. Except if you're
pregnant, and you're 6 months pregnant, you shouldn't have to give up
your obstetrician for months 7, 8, and 9. If you're in the middle of
middle of the treatment. That's what this bill does. And it also
protects the privacy of medical records, which I think is very, very
� So I think this Patients' Bill of Rights is the right thing to do
for the country, and I hope it will pass. Those are the big issues,
to me, that we ought to be fighting for.
� Now, in the election, the voters vill have a clear choice. Do
they want this kind of progress, or do they want partisanship? Do
they want this to focus on people, or do they want this to focus on
politics? And you can help us.
� Now, if you look at the long run-let me just mention something
very briefly, just a few things that I wish you'd begin to think
about. How are we going to change Social Security and Medicare so
that we legitimately care for the elderly without bankrupting their
children and grandchildren? What are we going to do? We'll be
making those decisions-I hope and pray-in the first 6 months of next
year. How are we going to do this? The Medicare Commission will
Social Security in December.
� The second question: What else do we need to do in education, to
really provide world-class education, K through 12, in America?
Everybody knows we've got the best system of higher education in the
world, how are we going to give every child, without regard to their
circumstances in life, that opportunity?
� Third question: How can we convince people that the problem of
climate change is real and the biggest long-term environmental
challenge, closely related-especially in California-to the problem of
ocean degradation, which is fast becoming a global problem? And how
can you here, who know it to be true, convince people that there is
no longer an iron link between old-fashioned, industrial-era energy
usage and economic growth? Because, make no mistake about it, that,
in the end, is what is holding back our advances in the environment.
Most people who are in decisionmaking capacities honestly believe you
can't grow an economy unless you use energy in the way we've been
using it for the last 50 years, and unless you use more of the same
kind. You can help; you can make a huge difference there.
be done fairly soon-to modify the world financial system and the
world trading system so it works for ordinary people and it limits
these huge boom/bust cycles without interrupting the free flow of
capital? I am very worried that in country after country after
country, ifyou have year after year after year of falling living
standards, that people will fall out of love with free markets and
� It's only been the last 3 or 4 or 5 years that, for the first time
in all human history, more people are living under governments that
they chose themselves than dictatorships of one kind or another.
This is a precious gift, this gift of freedom, but we have to prove
that it will work for ordinary people. And the United States has to
take the lead in that. And all of you have a huge stake in it-a huge
stake in it.
� Everything you want to do with the Internet rests on the premise
that people will get freer and freer and freer, and that it is a very
good thing. And you know I believe that. So we have got to deal
� And finally, I just ask you to help meI got the last report of the
President's Initiative on Race last week, and I've got this on my
mind, too. If you think about what I do in foreign policy as your
representative-- we're worried about Kosovo today. What is Kosovo?
It's an ethnic conflict between Serbs and Albanian Muslims. What is
going on in the Middle East? It's an ethnic and religious conflict.
I'm going to do a lot of work on that next week. What is the
conflict that we're celebrating-I hope the final end of-- in Northern
Ireland? It's a religious conflict.
��You may have been reading-a few years ago we had this horrible war
in Rwanda, where over three-quarters of a million people were killed
in a tribal conflict. And now in the Congo there are five different
countries intervening in their conflict there and part of it is the
settling of old scores among tribal conflicts.
� Now, here in Silicon Valley, you see people from all over the
world, from all different racial and ethnic groups and religious and
cultural backgrounds, finding a way to work together to make common
can preserve and advance the American system and give deeper meaning
to the Constitution of the United States as we grow more diverse,
than anything else that will permit us to be a powerful force for
good in the 21st century.
� And so I say to you, I hope you'll keep working on that, and I
hope you'll keep lifting that up, because I see deep in the heart of
people all over the world this almost compulsive drive to define
themselves in negative terms, in the fact that their life has meaning
because they are not the "other," whatever the "other" is. And just
the way you do things here is a constant, daily rebuke to that. And
that's what America has to do. We have to prove that we are bringing
out the best in each other if we hope to be a positive force in
bringing out the best in people throughout the world.
� Finally, let me just say that I believe that the best days of this
country are still ahead of us. And I believe that we have been given
a precious gift, but an enormous responsibility. The real question
before is, now that we have all this prosperity, now that we have all
this confidence, now that we have this dominant position in the
relax? Are we going to feed on each other? Are we going to care for
each other and build a better tomorrow? I think I know what your
answer is, and I want you to help me make that America's answer.
� Thank you, and God bless you.
� NOTE: The President spoke at 9:55 p.m. at the Tech Museum of
Innovation. In his remarks, he referred to dinner host John Doerr;
Mayor Susan Hammer of San Jose; and Reed Hastings, chief executive
officer, Technology Network. This item was not received in time for
publication in the appropriate issue