William J. Clinton (January 27, 1998)
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of the 105th Congress,
distinguished guests, my fellow Americans:
Since the last time we met in this chamber, America has lost two patriots
and fine public servants. Though they sat on opposite sides of the aisle,
Representatives Walter Capps and Sonny Bono shared a deep love for this
House and an unshakable commitment to improving the lives of all our
In the past few weeks, they have both been eulogized. Tonight, I think we
should begin by sending a message to their families and their friends that
we celebrate their lives, and give thanks for their service to our nation.
For 209 years, it has been the president's duty to report to you on the
state of the union. Because of the hard work and high purpose of the
American people, these are good times for America. We have more than 14
million new jobs, the lowest unemployment in 24 years, the lowest core
inflation in 30 years, incomes are rising and we have the highest home
ownership in history. Crime has dropped for a record five years in a row,
and the welfare rolls are at their lowest levels in 27 years. Our
leadership in the world is unrivaled. Ladies and gentlemen, the state of
our union is strong.
But with barely 700 days left in the 20th century, this is not a time to
rest. It is a time to build--to build the America within reach, an America
where everybody has a chance to get ahead, with hard work; where every
citizen can live in a safe community; where families are strong, schools
are good, and all our young people can go on to college; an America where
scientists find cures for diseases from diabetes to Alzheimer's to AIDS; an
America where every child can stretch a hand across a keyboard and reach
every book ever written, every painting ever painted, every symphony ever
composed; where government provides opportunity and citizens honor the
responsibility to give something back to their communities; an America
which leads the world to new heights of peace and prosperity.
This is the America we have begun to build. This is the America we can
leave to our children--if we join together to finish the work at hand. Let
us strengthen our nation for the 21st century.
Rarely have Americans lived through so much change in so many ways in so
short a time. Quietly, but with gathering force, the ground has shifted
beneath our feet as we have moved into an information age, a global
economy, a truly new world.
For five years now, we have met the challenge of these changes as Americans
have at every turning point in our history, by renewing the very idea of
America, widening the circle of opportunity, deepening the meaning of our
freedom, forging a more perfect union. We shaped a new kind of government
for the information age. I thank the vice president for his leadership, and
the Congress for its support, in building a government that is leaner, more
flexible, a catalyst for new ideas, and most of all, a government that
gives the American people the tools they need to make the most of their own
We have moved past the sterile debate between those who say government is
the enemy and those who say government is the answer. My fellow Americans,
we have found a third way. We have the smallest government in 35 years, but
a more progressive one. We have a smaller government but a stronger
We are moving steadily toward a an even stronger America in the 21st
century--an economy that offers opportunity, a society rooted in
responsibility, and a nation that lives as a community.
First, Americans in this chamber and across this nation have pursued a new
strategy for prosperity: fiscal discipline to cut interest rates and spur
growth; investments in education and skills, in science and technology and
transportation, to prepare our people for the new economy; new markets for
American products and American workers.
When I took office, the deficit for 1998 was projected to be $357 billion,
and heading higher. This year, our deficit is projected to be $10 billion,
and heading lower.
For three decades, six presidents have come before you to warn of the
damage deficits pose to our nation. Tonight, I come before you to announce
that the federal deficit, once so incomprehensively large that it had 11
zeros, will be simply zero.
I will submit to Congress, for 1999, the first balanced budget in 30
And if we hold fast to fiscal discipline, we may balance the budget this
year--four years ahead of schedule.
You can all be proud of that, because turning a sea of red ink into black
is no miracle. It is the product of hard work by the American people, and
of two visionary actions in Congress: The courageous vote in 1993 that led
to a cut in the deficit of 90 percent and the truly historic bipartisan
balanced budget agreement passed by this Congress.
Here's the really good news: If we maintain our resolve, we will produce
balanced budgets as far as the eye can see.
We must not go back to unwise spending or untargeted tax cuts that risk
reopening the deficit. Last year, together, we enacted targeted tax cuts so
that the typical middle class family will now have the lowest tax rates in
My plan to balance the budget next year includes both new investments and
new tax cuts targeted to the needs of working families: for education, for
child care, for the environment.
But whether the issue is tax cuts or spending, I ask all of you to meet
this test: approve only those priorities that can actually be accomplished
without adding a dime to the deficit.
Now, if we balance the budget for next year, it is projected that we'll
then have a sizeable surplus in the years that immediately follow. What
should we do with this projected surplus?
I have a simple four-word answer: Save Social Security first.
Tonight, I propose that we reserve 100 percent of the surplus--that's
every penny of any surplus--until we have taken all the necessary measures
to strengthen the Social Security system for the 21st century.
Let us say--let us say to all Americans watching tonight, whether you're
70 or 50, or whether you just started paying into the system, Social
Security will be there when you need it. Let us make this commitment:
Social Security first. Let's do that--together.
I also want to say that all the American people who are watching us tonight
should be invited to join in this discussion, in facing these issues
squarely and forming a true consensus on how we should proceed. We'll start
by conducting nonpartisan forums in every region of the country, and I hope
that lawmakers of both parties will participate. We'll hold a White House
conference on Social Security in December. And one year from now, I will
convene the leaders of Congress to craft historic bipartisan legislation to
achieve a landmark for our generation, a Social Security system that is
strong in the 21st century.
In an economy that honors opportunity, all Americans must be able to reap
the rewards of prosperity. Because these times are good, we can afford to
take one simple, sensible step to help millions of workers struggling to
provide for their families. We should raise the minimum wage.
The information age is first and foremost an education age, in which
education will start at birth and continue throughout a lifetime. Last
year, from this podium, I said that education has to be our highest
priority. I laid out a 10-point plan to move us forward, and urged all of
us to let politics stop at the schoolhouse door.
Since then, this Congress--across party lines--and the American people
have responded, in the most important year for education in a generation--
expanding public school choice, opening the way to 3,000 charter schools,
working to connect every classroom in the country to the information
superhighway, committing to expand Head Start to a million children,
launching America Reads, sending literally thousands of college students
into our elementary schools to make sure all our 8-year-olds can read.
Last year I proposed--and you passed--220,000 new Pell Grant scholarships
for deserving students. Student loans, already less expensive and easier to
repay--now you get to deduct the interest. Families all over America now can
put their savings into new, tax-free education IRAs.
And this year, for the first two years of college, families will get a
$1500 tax credit--a Hope Scholarship that will cover the cost of most
community college tuition. And for junior and senior year, graduate school,
and job training, there is a lifetime learning credit. You did that, and
you should be very proud of it.
And because of these actions, I have something to say to every family
listening to us tonight: your children can go on to college. If you know a
child from a poor family, tell her not to give up, she can go on to
college. If you know a young couple struggling with bills, worried they
won't be able to send their children to college, tell them not to give up,
their children can go on to college. If you know somebody who's caught in a
dead-end job and afraid he can't afford the classes necessary to get better
jobs for the rest of his life, tell him not to give up, he can go on to
Because of the things that have been done, we can make college as universal
in the 21st century as high school is today. And, my friends, that will
change the face and future of America.
We have opened wide the doors of the world's best system of higher
education. Now we must make our public elementary and secondary schools the
world's best as well--by raising standards, raising expectations and raising
Thanks to the actions of this Congress last year, we will soon have, for
the very first time, a voluntary national test based on national standards
in fourth grade reading and eighth grade math.
Parents have a right to know whether their children are mastering the
basics. And every parent already knows the key; good teachers and small
Tonight, I propose the first ever national effort to reduce class size in
the early grades. My balanced budget will help to hire a hundred thousand
new teachers who have passed the state competency tests. Now with these
teachers--listen--with these teachers, we will actually be able to reduce
class size in the first, second and third grades to an average of 18
students a class all across America.
Now, if I've got the math right, more teachers teaching smaller classes
requires more classrooms. So I also propose a school construction tax cut
to help communities modernize or build 5,000 schools.
We must also demand greater accountability. When we promote a child from
grade to grade who hasn't mastered the work, we don't do that child any
favors. It is time to end social promotion in America's schools.
Last year, in Chicago, they made that decision--not to hold our children
back, but to lift them up. Chicago stopped social promotion and started
mandatory summer school to help students who are behind to catch up.
I propose to help other communities follow Chicago's lead. Let's say to
them stop promoting children who don't learn, and we will give you the
tools to make sure they do.
I also ask this Congress to support our efforts to enlist colleges and
universities to reach out to disadvantaged children starting in the sixth
grade so that they can get the guidance and hope they need so they can know
that they, too, will be able to go on to college.
As we enter the 21st century, the global economy requires us to seek
opportunity not just at home, but in all the markets of the world. We must
shape this global economy, not shrink from it.
In the last five years, we have led the way in opening new markets, with
240 trade agreements that remove foreign barriers to products bearing the
proud stamp, "Made in the USA." Today, record high exports account for
fully one-third of our economic growth. I want to keep them going, because
that's the way to keep America growing and to advance a safer, more stable
Now, all of you know, whatever your views are, that I think this is a great
opportunity for America. I know there is opposition to more comprehensive
trade agreements. I have listened carefully, and I believe that the
opposition is rooted in two fears: first, that our trading partners will
have lower environmental and labor standards, which will give them an
unfair advantage in our market and do their own people no favors, even if
there's more business; and second, that if we have more trade, more of our
workers will lose their jobs and have to start over.
I think we should seek to advance worker and environmental standards around
the world. It should--I have made it abundantly clear that it should be a
part of our trade agenda, but we cannot influence other countries'
decisions if we send them a message that we're backing away from trade with
This year I will send legislation to Congress, and ask other nations to
join us, to fight the most intolerable labor practice of all-abusive child
We should also offer help and hope to those Americans temporarily left
behind with the global marketplace or by the march of technology, which may
have nothing to do with trade. That's why we have more than doubled funding
for training dislocated workers since 1993. And if my new budget is
adopted, we will triple funding. That's why we must do more, and more
quickly, to help workers who lose their jobs for whatever reason.
You know, we help communities in a special way when their military base
closes. We ought to help them in the same way if their factory closes.
Again, I ask the Congress to continue its bipartisan work to consolidate
the tangle of training programs we have today into one single GI Bill for
Workers, a simple skills grant so people can, on their own, move quickly to
new jobs, to higher incomes and brighter futures.
Now, we all know in every way in life change is not always easy, but we
have to decide whether we're going to try to hold it back and hide from it,
or reap its benefits. And remember the big picture here: while we've been
entering into hundreds of new trade agreements, we've been creating
millions of new jobs. So this year we will forge new partnerships with
Latin America, Asia and Europe, and we should pass the new African Trade
Act. It has bipartisan support.
I will also renew my request for the fast-track negotiating authority
necessary to open more new markets, created more new jobs, which every
president has had for two decades.
You know, whether we like it or not, in ways that are mostly positive, the
world's economies are more and more interconnected and interdependent.
Today, an economic crisis anywhere can affect economies everywhere. Recent
months have brought serious financial problems to Thailand, Indonesia,
South Korea and beyond.
Now why should Americans be concerned about this?
First, these countries are our customers. If they sink into recession, they
won't be able to buy the goods we'd like to sell them.
Second, they're also our competitors, so if their currencies lose their
value and go down, then the price of their goods will drop, flooding our
market and others with much cheaper goods, which makes it a lot tougher for
our people to compete.
And finally, they are our strategic partners. Their stability bolsters our
The American economy remains sound and strong, and I want to keep it that
way. But because the turmoil in Asia will have an impact on all the world's
economies, including ours, making that negative impact as small as possible
is the right thing to do for America, and the right thing to do for a safer
Our policy is clear: no nation can recover if it does not reform itself,
but when nations are willing to undertake serious economic reform, we
should help them do it. So I call on Congress to renew America's commitment
to the International Monetary Fund.
And I think we should say to all the people we're trying to represent here,
that preparing for a far off storm that may reach our shores is far wiser
than ignoring the thunder 'til the clouds are just overhead.
A strong nation rests on the rock of responsibility. A society rooted in
responsibility must first promote the value of work, not welfare. We could
be proud that after decades of finger-pointing and failure, together we
ended the old welfare system. And we're now replacing welfare checks with
Last year, after a record four-year decline in welfare rolls I challenged
our nation to move two million more Americans off welfare by the year 2000.
I'm pleased to report we have also met that goal two full years ahead of
This is a grand achievement, the sum of many acts of individual courage,
persistence and hope.
For 13 years, Elaine Kinslow of Indianapolis, Indiana was on and off
welfare. Today she's a dispatcher with a van company. She's saved enough
money to move her family into a good neighborhood. And she's helping other
welfare recipients go to work.
Elaine Kinslow and all those like her are the real heroes of the welfare
revolution. There are millions like her all across America, and I am happy
she could join the first lady tonight. Elaine, we're very proud of you.
Please stand up.
We still have a lot more to do, all of us, to make welfare reform a
success; providing child care, helping families move closer to available
jobs, challenging more companies to join our Welfare to Work Partnership,
increasing child-support collections from deadbeat parents who have a duty
to support their own children. I also want to thank Congress for restoring
some of the benefits to immigrants who are here legally and working hard.
And I hope you will finish that job this year.
We have to make it possible for all hard-working families to meet their
most important responsibilities. Two years ago, we helped guarantee that
Americans can keep their health insurance when they changed jobs. Last
year, we extended health care to up to 5 million children. This year, I
challenge Congress to take the next historic steps. A hundred and sixty
million of our fellow citizens are in managed care plans. These plans save
money, and they can improve care. But medical decisions ought to be made by
medical doctors, not insurance company accountants.
I urge this Congress to reach across the aisle and write into law a
consumer bill of rights that says this: You have the right to know all your
medical options, not just the cheapest. You have the right to choose the
doctor you want for the care you need. You have the right to emergency room
care wherever and whenever you need it. You have the right to keep your
medical records confidential.
Now, traditional care or managed care, every American deserves quality
care. Millions of Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 have lost their
health insurance. Some are retired. Some are laid off. Some lose their
coverage when their spouses retire. After a lifetime of work, they're left
with nowhere to turn.
So I ask the Congress, let these hard-working Americans buy into the
Medicare system. It won't add a dime to the deficit, but the peace of mind
it will provide will be priceless.
Next, we must help parents protect their children from the gravest health
threat that they face: an epidemic of teen smoking spread by multimillion
dollar marketing campaigns. I challenge Congress. Let's pass bipartisan,
comprehensive legislation that will improve public health, protect our
tobacco farmers, and change the way tobacco companies do business forever.
Let's do what it takes to bring teen smoking down. Let's raise the price of
cigarettes by up to $1.50 a pack over the next 10 years, with penalties on
the tobacco industry if it keeps marketing to our children.
Now tomorrow, like every day, 3,000 children will start smoking, and a
thousand will die early as a result. Let this Congress be remembered as the
Congress that saved their lives.
In the new economy, most parents work harder than ever. They face a
constant struggle to balance their obligations to be good workers, and
their even more important obligations to be good parents.
The Family and Medical Leave Act was the very first bill I was privileged
to sign into law as president in 1993. Since then, about 15 million people
have taken advantage of it, and I've met a lot of them all across this
country. I ask you to extend the law to cover 10 million more workers, and
to give parents time off when they have to go see their children's teachers
or take them to the doctor.
Child care is the next frontier we must face to enable people to succeed at
home and at work. Last year, I co-hosted the very first White House
conference on child care with one of our foremost experts, America's first
lady. From all corners of America, we heard the same message--without regard
to region or income or political affiliation--we've got to raise the quality
of child care, we've got to make it safer, we've got to make it more
So here's my plan: Help families to pay for child care for a million more
children; scholarships and background checks for child-care workers, and a
new emphasis on early learning; tax credits for businesses that provide
child care for their employees; and a larger child-care tax credit for
Now, if you pass my plan, what this means is that a family of four with an
income of $35,000 and high child-care costs will no longer pay a single
penny of federal income tax.
You know, I think this is such a big issue with me because of my own
personal experience. I have often wondered how my mother, when she was a
young widow, would have been able to go away to school and get an education
and come back and support me, if my grandparents hadn't been able to take
care of me. She and I were really very lucky.
How many other families have never had that same opportunity? The truth is,
we don't know the answer to that question, but we do know what the answer
should be. Not a single American family should ever have to choose between
the job they need and the child they love.
A society rooted in responsibility must provide safe streets, safe schools,
and safe neighborhoods. We pursued a strategy of more police, tougher
punishment, smarter prevention with crime-fighting partnerships, with local
law enforcement and citizen groups, where the rubber hits the road.
I can report to you tonight that it's working. Violent crime is down,
robbery is down, assault is down, burglary is down for five years in a row
all across America. Now, we need to finish the job of putting 100,000 more
police on our streets.
Again, I ask Congress to pass a juvenile crime bill that provides more
prosecutors and probation officers to crack down on gangs and guns and
drugs and bar violent juveniles from buying guns for life. And I ask you to
dramatically expand our support for after-school programs. I think every
American should know that most juvenile crime is committed between the
hours of 3:00 in the afternoon and 8:00 at night. We can keep so many of
our children out of trouble in the first place if we give them some place
to go other than the streets, and we ought to do it.
Drug use is on the decline. I thank General McCaffrey for his leadership,
and I thank this Congress for passing the largest anti-drug budget in
history. Now I ask you to join me in a ground-breaking effort to hire a
thousand new Border Patrol agents and to deploy the most sophisticated
available new technologies to help close the door on drugs at our borders.
Police, prosecutors, and prevention programs, good as they are, they can't
work if our court system doesn't work. Today, there are large numbers of
vacancies in our federal courts. Here is what the chief justice of the
United States wrote: "Judicial vacancies cannot remain at such high levels
indefinitely without eroding the quality of justice."
I simply ask the United States Senate to heed this plea and vote on the
highly qualified nominees before you, up or down.
We must exercise responsibility not just at home but around the world. On
the eve of a new century, we have the power and the duty to build a new era
of peace and security. But make no mistake about it; today's possibilities
are not tomorrow's guarantees. America must stand against the poisoned
appeals of extreme nationalism. We must combat an unholy access of new
threats from terrorists, international criminals and drug traffickers.
These 21st century predators feed on technology and the free flow of
information and ideas and people, and they will be all the more lethal if
weapons of mass destruction fall into their hands. To meet these
challenges, we are helping to write international rules of the road for the
21st century, protecting those who join the family of nations and isolating
those who do not.
Within days, I will ask the Senate for its advice and consent to make
Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic the newest members of NATO. For 50
years, NATO contained communism and kept America and Europe secure. Now
these three formerly communist countries have said yes to democracy. I ask
the Senate to say yes to them, our new allies.
By taking in new members and working closely with new partners, including
Russia and Ukraine, NATO can help to assure that Europe is a stronghold for
peace in the 21st century.
Next, I will ask Congress to continue its support for our troops and their
mission in Bosnia. This Christmas, Hillary and I traveled to Sarajevo with
Senator and Mrs. Dole and a bipartisan congressional delegation. We saw
children playing in the streets where, two years ago, they were hiding from
snipers and shells. The shops were filled with food. The cafes were alive
with conversation. The progress there is unmistakable; but it is not yet
To take firm root, Bosnia's fragile peace still needs the support of
American and allied troops when the current NATO mission ends in June. I
think Senator Dole actually said it best. He said: "This is like being
ahead in the fourth quarter of a football game; now is not the time to walk
off the field and forfeit the victory."
I wish all of you could have seen our troops in Tuzla. They're very proud
of what they are doing in Bosnia, and we're all very proud of them. One of
those--one of those brave soldiers is sitting with the first lady tonight:
Army Sergeant Michael Tolbert. His father was a decorated Vietnam vet.
After college in Colorado, he joined the Army. Last year he led an infantry
unit that stopped a mob of extremists from taking over a radio station that
is a voice of democracy and tolerance in Bosnia. Thank you very much,
Sergeant, for what you represent.
In Bosnia and around the world, our men and women in uniform always do
their mission well. Our mission must be to keep them well-trained and
ready, to improve their quality of life, and to provide the 21st century
weapons they need to defeat any enemy.
I ask Congress to join me in pursuing an ambitious agenda to reduce the
serious threat of weapons of mass destruction. This year, four decades
after it was first proposed by President Eisenhower, a Comprehensive
Nuclear Test Ban is within reach. By ending nuclear testing, we can help to
prevent the development of new and more dangerous weapons, and make it more
difficult for non-nuclear states to build them.
I am pleased to announce that four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff--Generals John Shalikashvili, Colin Powell and David Jones, and
Admiral William Crowe--have endorsed this treaty, and I ask the Senate to
approve it this year.
Together we must also confront the new hazards of chemical and biological
weapons, and the outlaw states, terrorists and organized criminals seeking
to acquire them.
Saddam Hussein has spent the better part of this decade, and much of his
nation's wealth, not on providing for the Iraqi people, but on developing
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them.
The United Nations weapons inspectors have done a truly remarkable job,
finding and destroying more of Iraq's arsenal than was destroyed during the
entire gulf war. Now, Saddam Hussein wants to stop them from completing
I know I speak for everyone in this chamber, Republicans and Democrats,
when I say to Saddam Hussein, "You cannot defy the will of the world," and
when I say to him, "You have used weapons of mass destruction before; we
are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again."
Last year, the Senate ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention to protect
our soldiers and citizens from poison gas. Now we must act to prevent the
use of disease as a weapon of war and terror. The Biological Weapons
Convention has been in effect for 23 years now. The rules are good, but the
enforcement is weak. We must strengthen it with a new international
inspection system to detect and deter cheating. In the months ahead, I will
pursue our security strategy with old allies in Asia and Europe, and new
partners from Africa to India and Pakistan, from South America to China.
And from Belfast to Korea to the Middle East, America will continue to
stand with those who stand for peace.
Finally, it's long past time to make good on our debt to the United
More and more we are working with other nations to achieve common goals. If
we want America to lead, we've got to set a good example. As we see--as we
see so clearly in Bosnia, allies who share our goals can also share our
burdens. In this new era, our freedom and independence are actually
enriched, not weakened, by our increasing interdependence with other
nations. But we have to do our part.
Our founders set America on a permanent course toward a more perfect union.
To all of you, I say, it is a journey we can only make together, living as
First, we have to continue to reform our government, the instrument of our
national community. Everyone knows elections have become too expensive,
fueling a fund-raising arms race.
This year, by March the 6th, at long last the Senate will actually vote on
bipartisan campaign finance reform proposed by senators McCain and
Feingold. Let's be clear; a vote against McCain-Feingold is a vote for soft
money and for the status quo. I ask you to strengthen our democracy and
pass campaign finance reform this year.
But at least equally important, we have to address the real reason for the
explosion in campaign costs: the high cost of media advertising. I will--
for the folks watching at home, those were the groans of pain in the
audience--I will formally request that the Federal Communications
Commission act to provide free or reduced-cost television time--for
candidates who observe spending limits voluntarily. The airwaves are a
public trust, and broadcasters also have to help us in this effort to
strengthen our democracy.
Under the leadership of Vice President Gore, we have reduced the federal
payroll by 300,000 workers, cut 16,000 pages of regulation, eliminated
hundreds of programs and improved the operations of virtually every
government agency. But we can do more.
Like every taxpayer, I'm outraged by the reports of abuses by the IRS. We
need some changes there: new citizen advocacy panels, a stronger taxpayer
advocate, phone lines open 24 hours a day, relief for innocent taxpayers.
Last year, by an overwhelming bipartisan margin, the House of
Representatives passed sweeping IRS reforms. This bill must not now
languish in the Senate. Tonight, I ask the Senate: Follow the House; pass
the bipartisan package as your first order of business. I hope to goodness
before I finish I can think of something to say 'Follow the Senate' on so
I'll be out of trouble!
A nation that lives as a community must value all its communities. For the
past five years, we have worked to bring the spark of private enterprise to
inner city and poor rural areas with community development banks, more
commercial loans into poor neighborhoods, cleanup of polluted sites for
Under the continued leadership of the vice president, we propose to triple
the number of empowerment zones to give business incentives to invest in
those areas. We should. We should also give poor families more help to move
into homes of their own, and we should use tax cuts to spur the
construction of more low-income housing.
Last year, this Congress took strong action to help the District of
Columbia. Let us renew our resolve to make our capital city a great city
for all who live and visit here.
Our cities are the vibrant hubs of great metropolitan areas. They are still
the gateway for new immigrants from every continent who come here to work
for their own American dreams. Let's keep our cities going strong into the
21st Century. They're a very important part of our future.
Our communities are only as healthy as the air our children breathe, the
water they drink, the Earth they will inherit. Last year we put in place
the toughest-ever controls on smog and soot. We moved to protect
Yellowstone, the Everglades, Lake Tahoe. We expanded every community's
right to know about toxics that threaten their children.
Just yesterday, our food safety plan took effect, using new science to
protect consumers from dangers like e. coli and salmonella.
Tonight, I ask you to join me in launching a new Clean Water initiative, a
far-reaching effort to clean our rivers, our lakes and our coastal waters
for our children.
Our overriding environmental challenge tonight is the worldwide problem of
climate change, global warming, the gathering crisis that requires
worldwide action. The vast majority of scientists have concluded
unequivocally that if we don't reduce the emission of greenhouse gases at
some point in the next century, we'll disrupt our climate and put our
children and grandchildren at risk.
This past December, America led the world to reach a historic agreement
committing our nation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through market
forces, new technologies, energy efficiency.
We have it in our power to act right here, right now. I propose $6 billion
in tax cuts, in research and development, to encourage innovation,
renewable energy, fuel-efficient cars, energy-efficient homes. Every time
we have acted to heal our environment, pessimists have told us it would
hurt the economy. Well, today our economy is the strongest in a generation,
and our environment is the cleanest in a generation. We have always found a
way to clean the environment and grow the economy at the same time. And
when it comes to global warming, we'll do it again.
Finally, community means living by the defining American value, the ideal
heard 'round the world: that we're all created equal. Throughout our
history, we haven't always honored that ideal, and we've never fully lived
up to it. Often it's easier to believe that our differences matter more
than what we have in common. It may be easier, but it's wrong.
What we have to do in our day and generation to make sure that America
truly becomes one nation, what do we have to do? We're becoming more and
more and more diverse. Do you believe we can become one nation? The answer
cannot be to dwell on our differences, but to build on our shared values.
And we all cherish family and faith, freedom and responsibility. We all
want our children to grow up in the world where their talents are matched
by their opportunities.
I've launched this national initiative on race to help us recognize our
common interests and to bridge the opportunity gaps that are keeping us
from becoming one America. Let us begin by recognizing what we still must
Discrimination against any American is un-American. We must vigorously
enforce the laws that make it illegal. I ask your help to end the backlog
at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Sixty thousand of our
fellow citizens are waiting in line for justice, and we should act now to
end their wait.
We should also recognize that the greatest progress we can make toward
building one America lies in the progress we make for all Americans,
without regard to race. When we open the doors of college to all Americans,
when we rid all our streets of crime, when there are jobs available to
people from all our neighborhoods, when we make sure all parents have the
child care they need, we're helping to build one nation.
We in this chamber and in this government must do all we can to address the
continuing American challenge to build one America. But we'll only move
forward if all our fellow citizens, including every one of you at home
watching tonight, is also committed to this cause.
We must work together, learn together, live together, serve together. On
the forge of common enterprise, Americans of all backgrounds can hammer out
a common identity.
We see it today in the United States military, in the Peace Corps, in
AmeriCorps. Wherever people of all races and backgrounds come together in a
shared endeavor and get a fair chance, we do just fine. With shared values
and meaningful opportunities and honest communications and citizen service,
we can unite a diverse people in freedom and mutual respect. We are many.
We must be one.
In that spirit, let us lift our eyes to the new millennium. How will we
mark that passage? It just happens once every thousand years. This year,
Hillary and I launched the White House Millennium Program to promote
America's creativity and innovation and to preserve our heritage and
culture into the 21st century. Our culture lives in every community, and
every community has places of historic value that tell our stories as
Americans. We should protect them.
I am proposing a public-private partnership to advance our arts and
humanities and to celebrate the millennium by saving America's treasures
great and small. And while we honor the past, let us imagine the future.
Now, think about this. The entire store of human knowledge now doubles
every five years. In the 1980s, scientists identified the gene causing
cystic fibrosis; it took nine years. Last year, scientists located the gene
that causes Parkinson's disease--in only nine days! Within a decade, gene
chips will offer a road map for prevention of illnesses throughout a
lifetime. Soon, we'll be able to carry all the phone calls on Mother's Day
on a single strand of fiber the width of a human hair. A child born in 1998
may well live to see the 22nd century.
Tonight, as part of our gift to the millennium, I propose a 21st Century
research fund for pathbreaking scientific inquiry, the largest funding
increase in history for the National Institutes of Health, the National
Science Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute. We have already
discovered we have already discovered genes for breast cancer and diabetes.
I ask you to support this initiative so ours will be the generation that
finally wins the war against cancer and begins a revolution in our fight
against all deadly diseases.
As important as all this scientific progress is, we must continue to see
that science serves humanity, not the other way around. We must prevent the
misuse of genetic tests to discriminate against any American, and we must
ratify the ethical consensus of the scientific and religious communities,
and ban the cloning of human beings.
We should enable all the world's people to explore the far reaches of
cyberspace. Think of this: the first time I made a State of the Union
speech to you, only a handful of physicists used the World Wide Web--
literally just a handful of people.
Now in schools and libraries, homes and businesses, millions and millions
of Americans surf the Net every day.
We must give parents the tools they need to help protect their children
from inappropriate material on the Net, but we also must make sure that we
protect the exploding, global commercial potential of the Internet. We can
do the kinds of things that we need to do and still protect our kids. For
one thing, I ask Congress to step up support for building the next
generation Internet. It's getting kind of clogged, you know. And the next
generation Internet will operate at speeds up to a thousand times faster
Even as we explore this inner space, in the new millennium we're going to
open new frontiers in outer space.
Throughout all history, human kind has had only one place to call home: our
planet Earth. Beginning this year, 1998, men and women from 16 countries
will build a foothold in the heavens--the International Space Station. With
its vast expanses, scientists and engineers will actually set sail on an
uncharted sea of limitless mystery and unlimited potential.
And this October, a true American hero, a veteran pilot of 149 combat
missions and one five-hour space flight that changed the world, will return
to the heavens. Godspeed, John Glenn!
John, you will carry with you America's hopes, and on your uniform once
again you will carry America's flag, marking the unbroken connection
between the deeds of America's past and the daring of America's future.
Nearly 200 years ago, a tattered flag, its broad stripes and bright stars
still gleaming through the smoke of a fierce battle, moved Francis Scott
Key to scribble a few words on the back of an envelope, the words that
became our National Anthem. Today, that Star-Spangled Banner, along with
the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,
are on display just a short walk from here. They are America's treasures.
And we must also save them for the ages.
I ask all Americans to support our project to restore all our treasures so
that the generations of the 21st century can see for themselves the images
and the words that are the old and continuing glory of America, an America
that has continued to rise through every age against every challenge, a
people of great works and greater possibilities, who have always, always
found the wisdom and strength to come together as one nation, to widen the
circle of opportunity, to deepen the meaning of our freedom, to form that
more perfect union.
Let that be our gift to the 21st century.
God bless you, and God bless the United States.