William J. Clinton (January 25, 1994)
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the 103rd Congress, my fellow
I am not sure what speech is in the TelePrompTer tonight, but I hope we can
talk about the State of the Union.
I ask you to begin by recalling the memory of the giant who presided over
this chamber with such force and grace. Tip O'Neill liked to call himself
"A Man of the House" and he surely was that. But even more, he was a man of
the people, a bricklayer's son who helped to build the great American
middle class. Tip O'Neill never forgot who he was, where he came from, or
who sent him here. Tonight he's smiling down on us for the first time from
the Lord's gallery. But in his honor, may we too also remember who we are,
where we come from, and who sent us here.
If we do that we will return over and over again to the principle that if
we simply give ordinary people equal opportunity, quality education, and a
fair shot at the American dream, they will do extraordinary things.
We gather tonight in a world of changes so profound and rapid that all
nations are tested. Our American heritage has always been to master such
change, to use it to expand opportunity at home, and our leadership abroad.
But for too long and in too many ways, that heritage was abandoned, and our
For 30 years family life in America has been breaking down. For 20 years
the wages of working people have been stagnant or declining. For the 12
years of trickle down economics we built a false prosperity on a hollow
base as our national debt quadrupled. From 1989 to 1992 we experienced the
slowest growth in a half century. For too many families, even when both
parents were working, the American dream has been slipping away.
In 1992 the American people demanded that we change. I year ago I asked all
of you to join me in accepting responsibility for the future of our
Well, we did. We replaced drift and deadlock with renewal and reform. And I
want to thank every one of you here who heard the American people, who
broke gridlock, who gave them the most successful teamwork between a
president and a Congress in 30 years.
This Congress produced a budget that cut the deficit by half a trillion
dollars, cut spending and raised income taxes on only the wealthiest
Americans. This Congress produced tax relief for millions of low-income
workers to reward work over welfare. It produced NAFTA. It produced the
Brady bill, now the Brady law.
And thank you, Jim Brady, for being here, and God bless you, Sarah. This
Congress produced tax cuts to reduce the taxes of nine out of 10 small
businesses who use the money to invest more and create more jobs. It
produced more research and treatment for AIDS, more childhood
immunizations, more support for women's health research, more affordable
college loans for the middle class, a new national service program for
those who want to give something back to their country and their
communities for higher education, a dramatic increase in high-tech
investments to move us from a defense to a domestic high-tech economy. This
Congress produced a new law--the motor voter bill--to help millions of
people register to vote. It produced family and medical leave--all passed,
all signed into law, with not one single veto.
These accomplishments were all commitments I made when I sought this
office, and in fairness, they all had to be passed by you in this Congress.
But I am persuaded that the real credit belongs to the people who sent us
here, who pay our salaries, who hold our feet to the fire. But what we do
here is really beginning to change lives. Let me just give you one
Family And Medical Leave
I will never forget what the family and medical leave law meant to just one
father I met early one Sunday morning in the White House. It was unusual to
see a family there touring early Sunday morning, but he had his wife and
his three children there, one of them in a wheelchair. And I came up, and
after we had our picture taken and had a little visit, I was walking off,
and that man grabbed me by the arm and he said, "Mr. President, let me tell
you something. My little girl here is desperately ill. She's probably not
going to make it. But because of the family leave law, I was able to take
time off to spend with her, the most important I ever spent in my life,
without losing my job and hurting the rest of my family. It means more to
me than I will ever be able to say. Don't you people up here ever think
what you do doesn't make a difference. It does."
Though we are making a difference, our work has just begun. Many Americans
still haven't felt the impact of what we've done. The recovery still hasn't
touched every community or created enough jobs. Incomes are still stagnant.
There's still too much violence and not enough hope in too many places.
Abroad, the young democracies we are strongly supporting still face very
difficult times and look to us for leadership.
And so tonight, let us resolve to continue the journey of renewal, to
create more and better jobs, to guarantee health security for all, to
reward welfare--work over welfare, to promote democracy abroad and to
begin to reclaim our streets from violent crime and drugs and gangs to
renew our own American community.
Last year, we began to put our house in order by tackling the budget
deficit that was driving us toward bankruptcy. We cut $255 billion in
spending, including entitlements, in over 340 separate budget items. We
froze domestic spending and used honest budget numbers.
Led by the vice president, we've launched a campaign to reinvent
government. We've cut staff, cut perks, even trimmed the fleet of federal
limousines. After years of leaders whose rhetoric attacked bureaucracy but
whose actions expanded it, we will actually reduce it by 252,000 people
over the next five years. By the time we have finished, the federal
bureaucracy will be at its lowest point in 30 years.
Because the deficit was so large and because they benefited from tax cuts
in the 1980s, we did ask the wealthiest Americans to pay more to reduce the
deficit. So on April the 15th, the American people will discover the truth
about what we did last year on taxes. Only the top one--the top 1.2
percent of Americans, as I said all along, will face higher income tax
rates--let me repeat, only the wealthiest 1.2 percent of Americans will
face higher income tax rates and no one else will, and that is the truth.
Of course, there were, as there always are in politics, naysayers who said
this plan wouldn't work, but they were wrong. When I became president, the
experts predicted that next year's deficit would be $300 billion, but
because we acted, those same people now say the deficit's going to be under
$180 billion, 40 percent lower than was previously predicted.
Our economic program has helped to produce the lowest core inflation rate
and the lowest interest rates in 20 years, and because those interest rates
are down, business investment and equipment is growing at seven times the
rate of the previous four years. Auto sales are way up, home sales at a
record high. Millions of Americans have refinanced their homes and our
economy has produced 1.6 million private-sector jobs in 1993, more than
were created in the previous four years combined.
The people who supported this economic plan should be proud of its early
results--proud. But everyone in this chamber should know and acknowledge
that there is more to do. Next month I will send you one of the toughest
budgets ever presented to Congress. It will cut spending in more than 300
programs, eliminate 100 domestic programs, and reforms the way in which
governments buy goods and services.
This year we must again make the hard choices to live within the hard
spending ceilings we have set. We must do it. We have proved we can bring
the deficit down without choking off recovery, without punishing seniors or
the middle class, and without putting our national security at risk. If you
will stick with this plan, we will post three consecutive years of
declining deficits for the first time since Harry Truman lived in the White
House. And once again, the buck stops here.
Our economic plan also bolsters our strength and our credibility around the
world. Once we reduced the deficit and put the steel back into our
competitive edge, the world echoed with the sound of falling trade
barriers. In one year, with NAFTA, with GATT, with our efforts in Asia and
the national export strategy, we did more to open world markets to American
products than at any time in the last two generations. That means more jobs
and rising living standards for the American people, low deficits, low
inflation, low interest rates, low trade barriers and high investments.
These are the building blocks of our recovery. But if we want to take full
advantage of the opportunities before us in the global economy, you all
know we must do more.
As we reduce defense spending, I ask Congress to invest more in the
technologies of tomorrow. Defense conversion will keep us strong militarily
and create jobs for our people here at home.
As we protect our environment, we must invest in the environmental
technologies of the future which will create jobs. This year we will fight
for a revitalized Clean Water Act and a Safe Drinking Water Act and a
reformed Superfund program.
And the vice president is right; we must also work with the private sector
to connect every classroom, every clinic, every library, every hospital in
America into a national information superhighway by the year 2000. Think of
it. Instant access to information will increase productivity. It will help
to educate our children. It will provide better medical care. It will
create jobs. And I call on the Congress to pass legislation to establish
that information superhighway this year.
As we expand opportunity and create jobs, no one can be left out. We must
continue to enforce fair lending and fair housing and all civil rights
laws, because America will never be complete in its renewal until everyone
shares in its bounty. But we all know, too, we can do all these things--
put our economic house in order, expand world trade, target the jobs of the
future, guarantee equal opportunity.
But if we're honest, we'll all admit that this strategy still cannot work
unless we also give our people the education, training and skills they need
to seize the opportunities of tomorrow. We must set tough, world-class
academic and occupational standards for all our children and give our
teachers and students the tools they need to meet them.
Our Goals 2000 proposal will empower individual school districts to
experiment with ideas like chartering their schools to be run by private
corporations or having more public school choice, to do whatever they wish
to do as long as we measure every school by one high standard: Are our
children learning what they need to know to compete and win in the global
Goals 2000 links world-class standards to grassroots reforms and I hope
Congress will pass it without delay. Our school to work initiative will for
the first time link school to the world of work, providing at least one
year of apprenticeship beyond high school. After all, most of the people
we're counting on to build our economic future won't graduate from college.
It's time to stop ignoring them and start empowering them. We must
literally transform our outdated unemployment system into a new
reemployment system. The old unemployment system just sort of kept you
going while you waited for your old job to come back. We've got to have a
new system to move people into new and better jobs because most of those
old jobs just don't come back. And we know that the only way to have real
job security in the future, to get a good job with a growing income, is to
have real skills and the ability to learn new ones. So we've got to
streamline today's patchwork of training programs and make them a source of
new skill for our people who lose their jobs. Reemployment, not
unemployment, must become the centerpiece of our economic renewal. I urge
you to pass it in this session of Congress.
And just as we must transform our unemployment system, so must we also
revolutionize our welfare system. It doesn't work; it defies our values as
a nation. If we value work, we can't justify a system that makes welfare
more attractive than work if people are worried about losing their health
If we value responsibility, we can't ignore the $34 billion in child
support absent parents out to be paying to millions of parents who are
taking care of their children--. If we value strong families, we can't
perpetuate a system that actually penalizes those who stay together. Can
you believe that a child who has a child gets more money from the
government for leaving home than for staying home with a parent or a
grandparent? That's not just bad policy, it's wrong and we ought to change
I worked on this problem for years before I became president, with other
governors and with members of Congress in both parties and with the
previous administration of another party. I worked on it with people who
were on welfare, lots of them. And I want to say something to everybody
here who cares about this issue. The people who most want to change this
system are the people who are dependent on it. They want to get off
welfare; they want to go back to work; they want to do right by their
I once had a hearing when I was a governor and I brought in people on
welfare from all over America who had found their way to work and a woman
from my state who testified was asked this question. What's the best thing
about being off welfare and in a job. And without blinking an eye, she
looked at 40 governors and she said, when my boy goes to school and they
say "What does your mother do for a living?" he can give an answer. These
people want a better system and we ought to give it to them.
Last year, we began this. We gave the states more power to innovate because
we know that a lot of great ideas come from outside Washington and many
states are already using it. Then this Congress took a dramatic step.
Instead of taxing people with modest incomes into poverty, we helped them
to work their way out of poverty by dramatically increasing the earned
income tax credit. It will lift 15 million working families out of poverty,
rewarding work over welfare, making it possible for people to be successful
workers and successful parents. Now that's real welfare reform.
But there is more to be done. This spring I will send you a comprehensive
welfare reform bill that builds on the Family Support Act of 1988 and
restores the basic values of work and responsibility. We will say to
teenagers if you have a child out of wedlock, we'll no longer give you a
check to set up a separate household, we want families to stay together;
say to absent parents who aren't paying their child support if you're not
providing for your children we'll garnish your wages, suspend your license,
track you across state lines, and if necessary make some of you work off
what you owe.
People who bring children into this world cannot and must not walk away
But to all those who depend on welfare, we should offer ultimately a simple
compact. We will provide the support, the job training, the child care you
need for up to two years, but after that anyone who can work, must, in the
private sector wherever possible, in community service if necessary. That's
the only way we'll ever make welfare what it ought to be, a second chance,
not a way of life.
I know it will be difficult to tackle welfare reform in 1994 at the same
time we tackle health care. But let me point out, I think it is inevitable
and imperative. It is estimated that one million people are on welfare
today because it's the only way they can get health care coverage for their
children. Those who choose to leave welfare for jobs without health
benefits, and many entry level jobs don't have health benefits, find
themselves in the incredible position of paying taxes that help to pay for
health care coverage for those who made the other choice, to stay on
welfare. No wonder people leave work and go back to welfare, to get health
care coverage. We've got to solve the health care problem to have real
Health Care Reform
So this year we will make history by reforming the health care system. And
I would say to you, all of you my fellow public servants, this is another
issue where the people are way ahead of the politicians.
That may not be popular with either party, but it happens to be the truth.
You know, the first lady has received now almost a million letters from
people all across America and from all walks of life. I'd like to share
just one of them with you. Richard Anderson of Reno, Nevada, lost his job
and, with it, his health insurance. Two weeks later, his wife, Judy,
suffered a cerebral aneurysm. He rushed her to the hospital, where she
stayed in intensive care for 21 days. The Anderson's bills were over
$120,000. Although Judy recovered and Richard went back to work at $8 an
hour, the bills were too much for them and they were literally forced into
"Mrs. Clinton," he wrote to Hillary, "no one in the United States of
America should have to lose everything they've worked for all their lives
because they were unfortunate enough to become ill." It was to help the
Richard and Judy Andersons of America that the first lady and so many
others have worked so hard and so long on this health care reform issue. We
owe them our thanks and our action.
I know there are people here who say there's no health care crisis. Tell it
to Richard and Judy Anderson. Tell it to the 58 million Americans who have
no coverage at all for some time each year. Tell it to the 81 million
Americans with those preexisting conditions; those folks are paying more or
they can't get insurance at all or they can't ever change their jobs
because they or someone in their family has one of those preexisting
conditions. Tell it to the small businesses burdened by skyrocketing costs
of insurance. Most small businesses cover their employers, and they pay on
average 35 percent more in premiums than big businesses or government. Or
tell it to the 76 percent of insured Americans, three out of four whose
policies have lifetime limits, and that means they can find themselves
without any coverage at all just when they need it the most.
So, if any of you believe there's no crisis, you tell it to those people,
because I can't.
There are some people who literally do not understand the impact of this
problem on people's lives, but all you have to do is go out and listen to
them. Just go talk to them anywhere, in any congressional district in this
country. They're Republicans and Democrats and independents. It doesn't
have a lick to do with party. They think we don't get it, and it's time we
show that we do get it.
From the day we began, our health care initiative has been designed to
strengthen what is good about our health care system--the world's best
health care professionals, cutting edge research, and wonderful research
institutions, Medicare for older Americans. None of this--none of it
should be put at risk. But we're paying more and more money for less and
less care. Every year, fewer and fewer Americans even get to choose their
doctors. Every year, doctors and nurses spend more time on paperwork and
less time with patients because of the absolute bureaucratic nightmare the
present system has become.
This system is riddled with inefficiency, with abuse, with fraud, and
everybody knows it. In today's health care system, insurance companies call
the shots. They pick whom they cover and how they cover them. They can cut
off your benefits when you need your coverage the most. They are in
What does it mean? It means every night millions of well-insured Americans
go to bed just an illness, an accident, or a pink slip away from having no
coverage or financial ruin. It means every morning millions of Americans go
to work without any health insurance at all--something the workers in no
other advanced country in the world do. It means that every year more and
more hard working people are told to pick a new doctor because their boss
has had to pick a new plan. And countless others turndown better jobs
because they know, if they take the better job, they'll lose their health
If we just let the health care system continue to drift, our country will
have people with less care, fewer choices, and higher bill.
Now, our approach protects the quality of care and people's choices. It
builds on what works today in the private sector, to expand employer based
coverage, to guarantee private insurance for every American. And I might
say, employer based private insurance for every American was proposed 20
years ago by President Richard Nixon to the United States Congress. It was
a good idea then, and it's a better idea today.
Why do we want guaranteed private insurance? Because right now, nine out of
ten people who have insurance get it through their employers--and that
should continue. And if your employer is providing good benefits at
reasonable prices, that should continue too. And that ought to make the
Congress and the president feel better. Our goal is health insurance
everybody can depend on--comprehensive benefits that cover preventive care
and prescription drugs, health premiums that don't just explode when you
get sick or you get older, the power--no matter how small your business is
--to choose dependable insurance at the same competitive rates that
governments and big business get today, one simple form for people who are
sick, and most of all, the freedom to choose a plan and the right to choose
your own doctor.
Our approach protects older Americans. Every plan before the Congress
proposes to slow the growth of Medicare. The difference is this. We believe
those savings should be used to improve health care for senior citizens.
Medicare must be protected, and it should cover prescription drugs, and we
should take the first steps in covering long-term care.
To those who would cut Medicare without protecting seniors, I say the
solution to today's squeeze on middle class working people's health care is
not to put the squeeze on middle class retired people's health care. We can
do better than that. When it's all said and done, it's pretty simple to me.
Insurance ought to mean what it used to mean. You pay a fair price for
security, and when you get sick, health care is always there--no matter
Along with the guarantee of health security, we all have to admit, too,
there must be more responsibility on the part of all of us in how we use
this system. People have to take their kids to get immunized. We should all
take advantage of preventive care. We must all work together to stop the
violence that explodes our emergency rooms. We have to practice better
health habits, and we can't abuse the system. And those who don't have
insurance under our approach will get coverage, but they will have to pay
something for it, too. The minority of businesses that provide no insurance
at all, and in so doing, shift the cost of the care of their employees to
others, should contribute something. People who smoke should pay more for a
pack of cigarettes. Everybody can contribute something if we want to solve
the health care crisis. There can't be anymore something for nothing. It
will not be easy, but it can be done. Now in the coming months I hope very
much to work with both Democrats and Republicans to reform a health care
system by using the market to bring down costs and to achieve lasting
health security. But if you look at history, we see that for 60 years this
country has tried to reform health care. President Roosevelt tried,
President Truman tried, President Nixon tried, President Carter tried.
Every time the special interests were powerful enough to defeat them, but
not this time.
Campaign Finance Reform
I know that facing up to these interests will require courage. It will
raise critical questions about the way we finance our campaigns and how
lobbyists yield their influence. The work of change, frankly, will never
get any easier until we limit the influence of well financed interests who
profit from this current system. So I also must now call on you to finish
the job both houses began last year, by passing tough and meaningful
campaign finance reform and lobby reform legislation this year.
You know, my fellow Americans, this is really a test for all of us. The
American people provide those of us in government service with terrific
health care benefits at reasonable costs. We have health care that's always
there. I think we need to give every hard working, taxpaying American the
same health care security they have already given to us.
I want to make this very clear: I am open, as I have said repeatedly, to
the best ideas of concerned members of both parties. I have no special
brief for any specific approach, even in our own bill, except this: if you
send me legislation that does not guarantee every American private health
insurance that can never be taken away, you will force me to take this pen,
veto the legislation, and we'll come right back here and start all over
But I don't think that's going to happen. I think we're ready to act now. I
believe that you're ready to act now. And if you're ready to guarantee
every American the same health care that you have, health care that can
never be taken away--now, not next year or the year after, now is the time
to stand with the people who sent us here. Now.
As we take these steps together to renew our strength at home, we cannot
turn away from our obligations to renew our leadership abroad. This is a
promising moment. Because of the agreements we have reached this year, last
year, Russia's strategic nuclear missiles soon will no longer be pointed at
the United States. Nor will we point ours at them.
Instead of building weapons in space, Russian scientists will help us to
build the international space station.
And of course there are still dangers in the world: rampant arms
proliferation, bitter regional conflicts, ethnic and nationalist tensions
in many new democracies, severe environmental degradation the world over,
and fanatics who seek to cripple the world's cities with terror. As the
world's greatest power, we must therefore maintain our defenses and our
responsibilities. This year we secured indictments against terrorists and
sanctions against those harbor them. We worked to promote
environmentally-sustainable economic growth. We achieved agreements with
Ukraine, with Belarus, with Kazakhstan, to eliminate completely their
nuclear arsenals. We are working to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of
nuclear weapons. We will seek early ratification of the treaty to ban
chemical weapons worldwide. And earlier today we joined with over 30
nations to begin negotiations on a comprehensive ban to stop all nuclear
But nothing--nothing--is more important to our security than our nation's
armed forces. We honor their contributions, including those who are
carrying out the longest humanitarian airlift in history in Bosnia----
those who will complete their mission in Somalia this year and their brave
comrades who gave their lives there. Our forces are the finest military our
nation has ever had, and I have pledged that as long as I am president they
will remain the best-equipped, the best-trained and the best-prepared
fighting force on the face of the earth.
Last year, I proposed a defense plan that maintains our post-Cold War
security at a lower cost. This year, many people urged me to cut our
defense spending further to pay for other government programs. I said no.
The budget I send to Congress draws the line against further defense cuts.
It protects the readiness and quality of our forces. Ultimately, the best
strategy is to do that. We must not cut defense further. I hope the
Congress without regard to party will support that position.
Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable
peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don't
attack each other. They make better trading partners and partners in
diplomacy. That is why we have supported, you and I, the democratic
reformers in Russia and in the other states of the former Soviet bloc. I
applaud the bipartisan support this Congress provided last year for our
initiatives to help Russia, Ukraine and the other states through their epic
Our support of reform must combine patience for the enormity of the task
and vigilance for our fundamental interest and values. We will continue to
urge Russia and the other states to press ahead with economic reforms, and
we will seek to cooperate with Russia to solve regional problems while
insisting that, if Russian troops operate in neighboring states, they do so
only when those states agree to their presence and in strict accord with
But we must also remember as these nations chart their own futures, and
they must chart their own futures, how much more secure and more prosperous
our own people will be if democratic and market reform succeed all across
the former communist bloc. Our policy has been to support that move and
that has been the policy of the Congress. We should continue it.
That is why I went to Europe earlier this month, to work with our European
partners to help to integrate all the former communist countries into a
Europe that has the possibility of becoming unified for the first time in
its entire history, it's entire history, based on the simple commitments of
all nations in Europe to democracy, to free markets, and to respect for
With our allies, we have created a partnership for peace that invites
states from the former Soviet bloc and other non-NATO members to work with
NATO in military cooperation. When I met with Central Europe's leaders,
including Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, men who put their lives on the line
for freedom, I told them that the security of their region is important to
our country's security.
This year, we must also do more to support democratic renewal and human
rights and sustainable development all around the world. We will ask
Congress to ratify the new GATT accord, we will continue standing by South
Africa as it works its way through its bold and hopeful and difficult
transition to democracy. We will convene a summit of the Western
hemisphere's democratic leaders from Canada to the tip of South America.
And we will continue to press for the restoration of true democracy in
And as we build a more constructive relationship with China, we must
continue to insist on clear signs of improvement in that nation's human
We will also work for new progress toward the Middle East peace. Last year
the world watched Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat at the White House when
they had their historic handshake of reconciliation. But there is a long,
hard road ahead. And on that road I am determined that I and our
administration will do all we can to achieve a comprehensive and lasting
peace for all the peoples of the region.
Now, there are some in our country who argue that with the Cold War,
America should turn its back on the rest of the world. Many around the
world were afraid we would do just that. But I took this office on a pledge
that had no partisan tinge to keep our nation secure by remaining engaged
in the rest of the world. And this year, because of our work together,
enacting NAFTA, keeping our military strong and prepared, supporting
democracy abroad, we have reaffirmed America's leadership, America's
engagement, and as a result, the American people are more secure than they
But while Americans are more secure from threats abroad, I think we all now
that in many ways we are less secure from threats here at home. Everyday
the national peace is shattered by crime.
In Petaluma, California, an innocent slumber party gives way to agonizing
tragedy for the family of Polly Klaas. An ordinary train ride on Long
Island ends in a hail of nine millimeter rounds. A tourist in Florida is
nearly burned alive by bigots simply because he is black. Right here in our
nation's capital, a brave young man named Jason White, a policeman, the son
and grandson of policemen, is ruthlessly gunned down.
Violent crime and the fear it provokes are crippling our society, limiting
personal freedom, and fraying the ties that bind us.
The crime bill before Congress gives you a chance to do something about it,
a chance to be tough and smart. What does that mean? Let me begin by saying
I care a lot about this issue. Many years ago, when I started out in public
life, I was the attorney general of my state. I served as a governor for a
dozen years. I know what it's like to sign laws increasing penalties, to
build more prison cells, to carry out the death penalty. I understand this
issue and it is not a simple thing.
First, we must recognize that most violent crimes are committed by a small
percentage of criminals who too often break the laws even when they are on
parole. Now those who commit crimes should be punished, and those who
commit repeated violent crimes should be told when you commit a third
violent crime, you will be put away and put away for good, three strikes
and you are out.
Second, we must take serious steps to reduce violence and prevent crime,
beginning with more police officers and more community policing. We know
right now that police who work the streets, know the folks, have the
respect of the neighborhood kids, focus on high crime areas, we know that
they are more likely to prevent crime as well as catch criminals. Look at
the experience of Houston, where the crime rate dropped 17 percent in one
year when that approach was taken. Here tonight is one of those community
policemen, a brave, young detective, Kevin Jett, whose beat is eight square
blocks in one of the toughest neighborhoods in New York. Every day he
restores some sanity and safety, and a sense of values and connection to
the people whose lives he protects. I'd like to ask him to stand up and be
You will be given a chance to give the children of this country, the law
abiding working people of this country, and don't forget, in the toughest
neighborhoods in this country, in the highest crime neighborhoods in this
country the vast majority of people get up every day and obey the law, pay
their taxes, do their best to raise their kids. They deserve people like
Kevin Jett, and you're going to be given the chance to give the American
people another 100,000 of them, well trained, and I urge you to do it.
You have before you crime legislation which also establishes a police corps
to encourage young people to get an education, and pay it off by serving as
police officers, which encourages retiring military personnel to move into
police forces--and enormous resources for our country, one which has a
safe schools provisions which will give our young people the chance to walk
to school in safety and to be in school in safety instead of dodging
bullets. These are important things.
The third thing we have to do is to build on the Brady Bill--the Brady Law
to take further steps----to take further steps to keep guns out of the
hands of criminals.
Now, I want to say something about this issue. Hunters must always be free
to hunt, law abiding adults should always be free to own guns and protect
their homes. I respect that part of our culture. I grew up in it. But I
want to ask the sportsmen and others who lawfully own guns to join us in
this campaign to reduce gun violence. I say to you, I know you didn't
create this problem, but we need your help to solve it. There is no
sporting purpose on earth that should stop the United States Congress from
banishing assault weapons that outgun police and cut down children.
Fourth, we must remember that drugs are a factor in an enormous percentage
of crimes. Recent studies indicate, sadly, that drug use is on the rise
again among our young people. The Crime Bill contains--all the crime bills
contain--more money for drug treatment, for criminal addicts, and boot
camps for youthful offenders that include incentives to get off drugs and
to stay off drugs. Our administration's budget, with all its cuts, contains
a large increase in funding for drug treatment and drug education. You must
pass them both. We need then desperately.
My fellow Americans, the problem of violence is an un-American problem. It
has no partisan or philosophical element. Therefore, I urge you find ways
as quickly as possible to set aside partisan differences and pass a strong,
smart, tough crime bill.
But further, I urge you to consider this: As you demand tougher penalties
for those who choose violence, let us also remember how we came to this sad
point. In our toughest neighborhoods, on our meanest streets, in our
poorest rural areas, we have seen a stunning and simultaneous breakdown of
community, family, and work, the heart and soul of civilized society. This
has created a vast vacuum which has been filled by violence and drugs and
gangs. So I ask you to remember that even as we say no to crime, we must
give people, especially our young people something to say yes to. Many of
our initiatives, from job training to welfare reform to health care to
national service will help to rebuild distressed communities, to strengthen
families, to provide work, but more needs to be done. That's what our
community empowerment agenda is all about--challenging businesses to
provide more investment through empowerment zones, ensuring banks will make
loans in the same communities their deposits come from, passing legislation
to unleash the power of capital through community development banks to
create jobs, opportunity, and hope where they're needed most.
But I think you know that to really solve this problem, we'll all have to
put our heads together, leave our ideological armor aside, and find some
new ideas to do even more.
The Role Of Government
And let's be honest, we all know something else, too. Our problems go way
beyond the reach of government. They're rooted in the loss of values and
the disappearance of work and the breakdown of our families and our
communities. My fellow Americans, we can cut the deficit, create jobs,
promote democracy around the world, pass welfare reform and health care,
pass the toughest crime bill in history and still leave too many of our
The American people have got to want to change from within if we're going
to bring back work and family and community. We cannot renew our country
when, within a decade, more than half of the children will be born into
families where there has been no marriage. We cannot renew this country
when 13-year-old boys get semi-automatic weapons to shoot 9 year olds for
kicks. We can't renew our country when children are having children and the
fathers walk away as if the kids don't amount to anything. We can't renew
the country when our businesses eagerly look for new investments and new
customers abroad but ignore those people right here at home who'd give
anything to have their jobs and would gladly buy their products if they had
the money to do it.
We can't renew our country unless more of us--I mean all of us--are
willing to join the churches and the other good citizens, people like all
the black ministers I've worked with over the years or the priests and the
nuns I met at Our Lady of Help in East Los Angeles or my good friend Tony
Campolo in Philadelphia, unless we're willing to work with people like
that, people who are saving kids, adopting schools, making streets safer.
All of us can do that.
We can't renew our country until we realize that governments don't raise
children; parents do. Parents who know their children's teachers and turn
off the television and help with the homework and teach their kids right
from wrong--those kind of parents can make all the difference. I know. I
had one. And I'm telling you we have got to stop pointing our fingers at
these kids who have no future and reach our hands out to them. Our country
needs it. We need it. And they deserve it.
And so I say to you tonight let's give our children a future. Let us take
away their guns and give them books. Let us overcome their despair and
replace it with hope. Let us, by our example, teach them to obey the law,
respect our neighbors, and cherish our values. Let us weave these sturdy
threads into a new American community that once more stand strong against
the forces of despair and evil because everybody has a chance to walk into
a better tomorrow.
Oh, there will be naysayers who fear that we won't be equal to the
challenges of this time, but they misread our history, our heritage, even
today's headlines. All those things tell us we can and we will overcome any
When the earth shook and fires raged in California; when I saw the
Mississippi deluge the farmlands of the Midwest in a 500 year flood; when
the century's bitterest cold swept from North Dakota to Newport News it
seemed as though the world itself was coming apart at the seams. But the
American people, they just came together. They rose to the occasion,
neighbor helping neighbor, strangers risking life and limb to stay total
strangers, showing the better angels of our nature.
Let us not reserve the better angels only for natural disasters, leaving
our deepest and most profound problems to petty political fighting.
Let us instead by true to our spirit, facing facts, coming together,
bringing hope and moving forward.
Tonight, my fellow Americans, we are summoned to answer a question as old
as the republic itself, what is the state of our union?
It is growing stronger but it must be stronger still. With your help and
God's help it will be.
Thank you and God Bless America.