William J. Clinton (January 27, 2000)
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, honored guests, my
We are fortunate to be alive at this moment in history. Never before has
our nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity and social progress with so
little internal crisis or so few external threats. Never before have we had
such a blessed opportunity--and, therefore, such a profound obligation--
to build the more perfect union of our founders' dreams.
We begin the new century with over 20 million new jobs. The fastest
economic growth in more than 30 years; the lowest unemployment rates in 30
years; the lowest poverty rates in 20 years; the lowest African-American
and Hispanic unemployment rates on record; the first back-to-back budget
surpluses in 42 years.
Next month, America will achieve the longest period of economic growth in
our entire history.
We have built a new economy.
Our economic revolution has been matched by a revival of the American
spirit: Crime down by 20 percent, to its lowest level in 25 years. Teen
births down seven years in a row and adoptions up by 30 percent. Welfare
rolls cut in half to their lowest levels in 30 years.
My fellow Americans, the state of our union is the strongest it has ever
As always, the credit belongs to the American people.
My gratitude also goes to those of you in this chamber who have worked with
us to put progress above partisanship.
Eight years ago, it was not so clear to most Americans there would be much
to celebrate in the year 2000. Then our nation was gripped by economic
distress, social decline, political gridlock. The title of a best-selling
book asked: "America: What went wrong?"
In the best traditions of our nation, Americans determined to set things
right. We restored the vital center, replacing outdated ideologies with a
new vision anchored in basic, enduring values: opportunity for all,
responsibility from all, and a community of all Americans.
We reinvented government, transforming it into a catalyst for new ideas
that stress both opportunity and responsibility, and give our people the
tools to solve their own problems.
With the smallest federal workforce in 40 years, we turned record deficits
into record surpluses, and doubled our investment in education. We cut
crime: with 100,000 community police and the Brady Law, which has kept guns
out of the hands of half a million criminals.
We ended welfare as we knew it--requiring work while protecting health
care and nutrition for children, and investing more in child care,
transportation, and housing to help their parents go to work. We have
helped parents to succeed at work and at home--with family leave, which 20
million Americans have used to care for a newborn child or a sick loved
one. We have engaged 150,000 young Americans in citizen service through
AmeriCorps--while also helping them earn their way through college.
In 1992, we had a roadmap. Today, we have results. More important, America
again has the confidence to dream big dreams. But we must not let our
renewed confidence grow into complacency. We will be judged by the dreams
and deeds we pass on to our children. And on that score, we will be held to
a high standard, indeed. Because our chance to do good is so great.
My fellow Americans, we have crossed the bridge we built to the 21st
Century. Now, we must shape a 21st-Century American revolution--of
opportunity, responsibility, and community. We must be, as we were in the
beginning, a new nation.
At the dawn of the last century, Theodore Roosevelt said, "the one
characteristic more essential than any other is foresight. . . It should be
the growing nation with a future which takes the long look ahead."
Tonight let us take our look long ahead--and set great goals for our
To 21st Century America, let us pledge that:
Every child will begin school ready to learn and graduate ready to succeed.
Every family will be able to succeed at home and at work--and no child
will be raised in poverty. We will meet the challenge of the aging of
America. We will assure quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans.
We will make America the safest big country on earth. We will bring
prosperity to every American community. We will reverse the course of
climate change and leave a cleaner, safer planet. America will lead the
world toward shared peace and prosperity, and the far frontiers of science
and technology. And we will become at last what our founders pledged us to
be so long ago--one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and
justice for all.
These are great goals, worthy of a great nation. We will not reach them all
this year. Not even in this decade. But we will reach them. Let us remember
that the first American revolution was not won with a single shot. The
continent was not settled in a single year. The lesson of our history--and
the lesson of the last seven years--is that great goals are reached step
by step: always building on our progress, always gaining ground.
Of course, you can't gain ground if you're standing still. For too long
this Congress has been standing still on some of our most pressing national
priorities. Let's begin with them.
I ask you again to pass a real patient's bill of rights. Pass common-sense
gun-safety legislation. Pass campaign finance reform. Vote on long overdue
judicial nominations and other important appointees. And, again, I ask you
to raise the minimum wage.
Two years ago, as we reached our first balanced budget, I asked that we
meet our responsibility to the next generation by maintaining our fiscal
discipline. Because we refused to stray from that path, we are doing
something that would have seemed unimaginable seven years ago: We are
actually paying down the national debt. If we stay on this path, we can pay
down the debt entirely in 13 years and make America debt-free for the first
time since Andrew Jackson was president in 1835.
In 1993, we began to put our fiscal house in order with the Deficit
Reduction Act, winning passage in both houses by just one vote. Your former
colleague, my first Secretary of the Treasury, led that effort. He is here
tonight. Lloyd Bentsen, you have served America well.
Beyond paying off the debt, we must ensure that the benefits of debt
reduction go to preserving two of the most important guarantees we make to
every American--Social Security and Medicare. I ask you tonight to work
with me to make a bipartisan down payment on Social Security reform by
crediting the interest savings from debt reduction to the Social Security
Trust Fund to ensure that it is strong and sound for the next 50 years.
But this is just the start of our journey. Now we must take the right steps
toward reaching our great goals.
Opportunity and Responsibility in Education
First and foremost, we need a 21st Century revolution in education, guided
by our faith that every child can learn. Because education is more than
ever the key to our children's future, we must make sure all our children
have that key. That means quality preschool and afterschool, the best
trained teachers in every classroom, and college opportunities for all our
For seven years, we have worked hard to improve our schools, with
opportunity and responsibility: Investing more, but demanding more in
Reading, math, and college entrance scores are up. And some of the most
impressive gains are in schools in poor neighborhoods.
All successful schools have followed the same proven formula: higher
standards, more accountability, so all children can reach those standards.
I have sent Congress a reform plan based on that formula. It holds states
and school districts accountable for progress, and rewards them for
results. Each year, the national government invests more than $15 billion
in our schools. It's time to support what works and stop supporting what
As we demand more than ever from our schools, we should invest more than
ever in our schools.
Let's double our investment to help states and districts turn around their
worst-performing schools--or shut them down.
Let's double our investment in afterschool and summer school programs--
boosting achievement, and keeping children off the street and out of
trouble. If we do, we can give every child in every failing school in
America the chance to meet high standards.
Since 1993, we've nearly doubled our investment in Head Start and improved
its quality. Tonight, I ask for another $1 billion to Head Start, the
largest increase in the program's history.
We know that children learn best in smaller classes with good teachers. For
two years in a row, Congress has supported my plan to hire 100,000 new,
qualified teachers, to lower class sizes in the early grades. This year, I
ask you to make it three in a row.
And to make sure all teachers know the subjects they teach, tonight I
propose a new teacher quality initiative--to recruit more talented people
into the classroom, reward good teachers for staying there, and give all
teachers the training they need.
We know charter schools provide real public school choice. When I became
President, there was just one independent public charter school in all
America. Today there are 1,700. I ask you to help us meet our goal of 3,000
by next year.
We know we must connect all our classrooms to the Internet. We're getting
there. In 1994, only three percent of our classrooms were connected. Today,
with the help of the Vice President's E-rate program, more than half of
them are; and 90 percent of our schools have at least one connection to the
But we can't finish the job when a third of all schools are in serious
disrepair, many with walls and wires too old for the Internet. Tonight, I
propose to help 5,000 schools a year make immediate, urgent repairs. And
again, to help build or modernize 6,000 schools, to get students out of
trailers and into high-tech classrooms.
We should double our bipartisan GEAR UP program to mentor 1.4 million
disadvantaged young people for college. And let's offer these students a
chance to take the same college test-prep courses wealthier students use to
boost their test scores.
To make the American Dream achievable for all, we must make college
affordable for all. For seven years, on a bipartisan basis, we have taken
action toward that goal: larger Pell grants, more-affordable student loans,
education IRAs, and our HOPE scholarships, which have already benefited 5
million young people. 67 percent of high school graduates now go on to
college, up almost 10 percent since 1993. Yet millions of families still
strain to pay college tuition. They need help.
I propose a landmark $30-billion college opportunity tax cut--a
middle-class tax deduction for up to $10,000 in college tuition costs.
We've already made two years of college affordable for all. Now let's make
four years of college affordable for all.
If we take all these steps, we will move a long way toward making sure
every child starts school ready to learn and graduates ready to succeed.
Rewarding Work and Strengthening Families
We need a 21st Century revolution to reward work and strengthen families--
by giving every parent the tools to succeed at work and at the most
important work of all--raising their children. That means making sure that
every family has health care and the support to care for aging parents, the
tools to bring their children up right, and that no child grows up in
From my first days as President, we have worked to give families better
access to better health care. In 1997, we passed the Children's Health
Insurance Program--CHIP--so that workers who don't have health care
coverage through their employers at least can get it for their children. So
far, we've enrolled 2 million children, and we're well on our way to our
goal of 5 million.
But there are still more than 40 million Americans without health
insurance, more than there were in 1993. Tonight I propose that we follow
Vice President Gore's suggestion to make low income parents eligible for
the insurance that covers their kids. Together with our children's
initiative, we can cover nearly one quarter of the uninsured in America.
Again, I ask you to let people between 55 and 65--the fastest growing
group of uninsured--buy into Medicare. And let's give them a tax credit to
make that choice an affordable one.
When the Baby Boomers retire, Medicare will be faced with caring for twice
as many of our citizens--and yet it is far from ready to do so. My
generation must not ask our children's generation to shoulder our burden.
We must strengthen and modernize Medicare now.
My budget includes a comprehensive plan to reform Medicare, to make it more
efficient and competitive. And it dedicates nearly $400 billion of our
budget surplus to keep Medicare solvent past 2025; and, at long last, to
give every senior a voluntary choice of affordable coverage for
Lifesaving drugs are an indispensable part of modern medicine. No one
creating a Medicare program today would even consider excluding coverage
for prescription drugs. Yet more than three in five seniors now lack
dependable drug coverage which can lengthen and enrich their lives.
Millions of older Americans who need prescription drugs the most pay the
highest prices for them.
In good conscience, we cannot let another year pass without extending to
all seniors the lifeline of affordable prescription drugs.
Record numbers of Americans are providing for aging or ailing loved ones at
home. Last year, I proposed a $1,000 tax credit for long-term care.
Frankly, that wasn't enough. This year, let's triple it to $3,000--and
this year, let's pass it.
And we must make needed investments to expand access to mental health care.
I want to thank the person who has led our efforts to break down the
barriers to the decent treatment of mental illness: Tipper Gore.
Taken together, these proposals would mark the largest investment in health
care in the 35 years since the creation of Medicare--a big step toward
assuring health care for all Americans, young and old.
We must also make investments that reward work and support families.
Nothing does that better than the Earned Income Tax Credit, the EITC. The
"E" in "EITC" is about earning; working; taking responsibility and being
rewarded for it. In my first Address to you, I asked Congress to greatly
expand this tax credit; and you did. As a result, in 1998 alone, the EITC
helped more than 4.3 million Americans work their way out of poverty and
toward the middle class--double the number in 1993.
Tonight, I propose another major expansion. We should reduce the marriage
penalty for the EITC, making sure it rewards marriage just as it rewards
work. And we should expand the tax credit for families with more than two
children to provide up to $1,100 more in tax relief.
We can't reward work and family unless men and women get equal pay for
equal work. The female unemployment rate is the lowest in 46 years. Yet
women still earn only about 75 cents for every dollar men earn. We must do
better by providing the resources to enforce present equal pay laws,
training more women for high-paying, high-tech jobs, and passing the
Paycheck Fairness Act.
Two-thirds of new jobs are in the suburbs, far away from many low-income
families. In the past two years, I have proposed and Congress has approved
110,000 new housing vouchers--rent subsidies to help working families live
closer to the workplace. This year, let us more than double that number. If
we want people to go to work, they have to be able to get to work.
Many working parents spend up to a quarter of their income on child care.
Last year, we helped parents provide child care for about two million
children. My child care initiative, along with funds already secured in
welfare reform, would make child care better, safer, and more affordable
for another 400,000 children.
For hard-pressed middle-income families, we should also expand the child
care tax credit. And we should take the next big step. We should make that
tax credit refundable for low-income families. For those making under
$30,000 a year, that could mean up to $2,400 for child-care costs. We all
say we're pro-work and pro-family. Passing this proposal would prove it.
Tens of millions of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. As hard as
they work, they still don't have the opportunity to save. Too few can make
use of IRAs and 401-K retirement plans. We should do more to help working
families save and accumulate wealth. That's the idea behind so-called
Individual Development Accounts. Let's take that idea to a new level, with
Retirement Savings Accounts that enable every low- and moderate-income
family in America to save for retirement, a first home, a medical
emergency, or a college education. I propose to match their contributions,
however small, dollar for dollar, every year they save. And to give a major
new tax credit for any small business that provides a meaningful pension to
Nearly one in three American children grows up in a home without a father.
These children are five times more likely to live in poverty than children
with both parents at home. Clearly, demanding and supporting responsible
fatherhood is critical to lifting all children out of poverty.
We have doubled child support collections since 1992, and I am proposing
tough new measures to hold still more fathers responsible. But we should
recognize that a lot of fathers want to do right by their children--and
need help to do it. Carlos Rosas of St. Paul, Minnesota, got that help. Now
he has a good job and he supports his son Ricardo. My budget will help
40,000 fathers make the choices Carlos did. And I thank him for being
If there is any issue on which we can reach across party lines it is in our
common commitment to reward work and strengthen families. Thanks to
overwhelming bipartisan support from this Congress, we have improved foster
care, supported those who leave it when they turn eighteen, and
dramatically increased the number of foster children going to adoptive
homes. I thank you for that. Of course, I am especially grateful to the
person who has led our efforts from the beginning, and who has worked
tirelessly for children and families for thirty years now: my wife,
If we take all these steps, we will move a long way toward empowering
parents to succeed at home and at work and ensuring that no child is raised
in poverty. We can make these vital investments in health care, education
and support for working families--and still offer tax cuts to help pay for
college, for retirement, to care for aging parents and reduce the marriage
penalty--without forsaking the path of fiscal discipline that got us here.
Indeed, we must make these investments and tax cuts in the context of a
balanced budget that strengthens and extends the life of Social Security
and Medicare and pays down the national debt.
Responsibility and Crime
Crime in America has dropped for the past seven years--the longest decline
on record, thanks to a national consensus we helped to forge on community
police, sensible gun safety laws, and effective prevention. But nobody
believes America is safe enough. So let's set a higher goal: let's make
America the safest big country in the world.
Last fall, Congress supported my plan to hire--in addition to the 100,000
community police we have already funded--50,000 more, concentrated in
high-crime neighborhoods. I ask your continued support.
Soon after the Columbine tragedy, Congress considered common-sense gun
safety legislation to require Brady background checks at gun shows, child
safety locks for all new handguns, and a ban on the importation of
large-capacity ammunition clips. With courage--and a tie-breaking vote by
the Vice President--the Senate faced down the gun lobby, stood up for the
American people, and passed this legislation. But the House failed to
We've all seen what happens when guns fall into the wrong hands. Daniel
Mauser was only 15 years old when he was gunned down at Columbine. He was
an amazing kid, a straight-A student, a good skier. Like all parents who
lose their children, his father Tom has borne unimaginable grief. Somehow
Tom has found the strength to honor his son by transforming his grief into
action. Earlier this month, he took a leave of absence from his job to
fight for tougher gun safety laws. I pray that his courage and wisdom will
move this Congress to make common-sense gun safety legislation the very
next order of business. Tom, thank you for being here tonight.
We must strengthen gun laws and better enforce laws already on the books.
Federal gun crime prosecutions are up 16 percent since I took office. But
again, we must do more. I propose to hire more federal and local gun
prosecutors, and more ATF agents to crack down on illegal gun traffickers
and bad-apple dealers. And we must give law enforcement the tools to trace
every gun--and every bullet--used in a crime in America.
Listen to this: the accidental gun death rate of children under 15 in the
United States is nine times higher than in the other 25 industrialized
nations--combined. Technologies now exist that could lead to guns that can
only be fired by the adults who own them. I ask Congress to fund research
in Smart Gun technology. I also call on responsible leaders in the gun
industry to work with us on smart guns and other steps to keep guns out of
the wrong hands and keep our children safe.
Every parent I know worries about the impact of violence in the media on
their children. I thank the entertainment industry for accepting my
challenge to put voluntary ratings on TV programs and video and Internet
games. But the ratings are too numerous, diverse, and confusing to be
really useful to parents. Therefore, I now ask the industry to accept the
First Lady's challenge--to develop a single, voluntary rating system for
all children's entertainment, one that is easier for parents to understand
If we take all these steps, we will be well on our way to making America
the safest big country in the world.
Opening New Markets
To keep our historic economic expansion going, we need a 21st Century
revolution to open new markets, start new businesses, and hire new workers
right here in America--in our inner cities, poor rural areas, and on
Our nation's prosperity has not yet reached these places. Over the last six
months, I have traveled to many of them--joined by many of you, and many
far-sighted business people--to shine a spotlight on the enormous
potential in communities from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta, from
Watts to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Everywhere I've gone, I've met
talented people eager for opportunity, and able to work. Let's put them to
For business, it's the smart thing to do. For America, it's the right thing
to do. And if we don't do it now, when will we ever get around to it?
I ask Congress to give businesses the same incentives to invest in
America's new markets that they now have to invest in foreign markets.
Tonight, I propose a large New Markets Tax Credit and other incentives to
spur $22 billion in private-sector capital--to create new businesses and
new investments in inner cities and rural areas.
Empowerment Zones have been creating these opportunities for five years
now. We should also increase incentives to invest in them and create more
This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. It is an American issue.
Mr. Speaker, it was a powerful moment last November when you joined me and
the Reverend Jesse Jackson in your home state of Illinois, and committed to
working toward our common goal, by combining the best ideas from both sides
of the aisle. Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with you.
We must maintain our commitment to community development banks and keep the
community reinvestment act strong so all Americans have access to the
capital they need to buy homes and build businesses.
We need to make special efforts to address the areas with the highest rates
of poverty. My budget includes a special $110 million initiative to promote
economic development in the Mississippi Delta; and $1 billion to increase
economic opportunity, health care, education and law enforcement for Native
American communities. In this new century, we should honor our historic
responsibility to empower the first Americans. I thank leaders and members
from both parties who have already expressed an interest in working with us
on these efforts.
There's another part of our American community in trouble today--our
family farmers. When I signed the Farm Bill in 1996, I said there was a
great danger it would work well in good times but not in bad. Well,
droughts, floods, and historically low prices have made times very bad for
our farmers. We must work together to strengthen the farm safety net,
invest in land conservation, and create new markets by expanding our
program for bio-based fuels and products.
Today, opportunity for all requires something new: having access to a
computer and knowing how to use it. That means we must close the digital
divide between those who have these tools and those who don't.
Connecting classrooms and libraries to the Internet is crucial, but it's
just a start. My budget ensures that all new teachers are trained to teach
21st Century skills and creates technology centers in 1,000 communities to
serve adults. This spring, I will invite high-tech leaders to join me on
another New Markets tour--to close the digital divide and open opportunity
for all our people. I thank the high-tech companies that are already doing
so much in this area--and I hope the new tax incentives I have proposed
will encourage others to join us.
If we take these steps, we will go a long way toward our goal of bringing
opportunity to every community.
Global Change and American Leadership
To realize the full possibilities of the new economy, we must reach beyond
our own borders, to shape the revolution that is tearing down barriers and
building new networks among nations and individuals, economies and
It is the central reality of our time. Change this profound is both
liberating and threatening. But there is no turning back. And our open,
creative society stands to benefit more than any other--if we understand,
and act on, the new realities of interdependence. We must be at the center
of every vital global network, as a good neighbor and partner. We cannot
build our future without helping others to build theirs.
First, we must forge a new consensus on trade. Those of us who believe
passionately in the power of open trade must ensure that it lifts both our
living standards and our values, never tolerating abusive child labor or a
race to the bottom on the environment and worker protection. Still, open
markets and rules-based trade are the best engines we know for raising
living standards, reducing global poverty and environmental destruction,
and assuring the free flow of ideas. There is only one direction for
America on trade: we must go forward.
And we must make developing economies our partners in prosperity--which is
why I ask Congress to finalize our groundbreaking African and Caribbean
Basin trade initiatives.
Globalization is about more than economics. Our purpose must be to bring
the world together around democracy, freedom, and peace, and to oppose
those who would tear it apart.
Here are the fundamental challenges I believe America must meet to shape
the 21st Century world.
First, we must continue to encourage our former adversaries, Russia and
China, to emerge as stable, prosperous, democratic nations. Both are being
held back from reaching their full potential: Russia by the legacy of
communism, economic turmoil, a cruel and self-defeating war in Chechnya;
China by the illusion that it can buy stability at the expense of freedom.
But think how much has changed in the past decade: thousands of former
Soviet nuclear weapons eliminated; Russian soldiers serving with ours in
the Balkans; Russian people electing their leaders for the first time in a
thousand years. And in China, an economy more open to the world than ever
before. No one can know for sure what direction these great countries will
choose. But we must do everything in our power to increase the chance they
will choose wisely, to be constructive members of the global community.
That is why we must support those Russians struggling for a democratic,
prosperous future; continue to reduce both our nuclear arsenals; and help
Russia safeguard weapons and materials that remain.
That is why Congress should support the agreement we negotiated to bring
China into the WTO, by passing Permanent Normal Trade Relations as soon as
possible this year. Our markets are already open to China. This agreement
will open China's markets to us. And it will advance the cause of peace in
Asia and promote the cause of change in China.
A second challenge is to protect our security from conflicts that pose the
risk of wider war and threaten our common humanity. America cannot prevent
every conflict or stop every outrage. But where our interests are at stake
and we can make a difference, we must be peacemakers.
We should be proud of America's role in bringing the Middle East closer
than ever to a comprehensive peace; building peace in Northern Ireland;
working for peace in East Timor and Africa; promoting reconciliation
between Greece and Turkey and in Cyprus; working to defuse crises between
India and Pakistan; defending human rights and religious freedom.
And we should be proud of the men and women of our armed forces and those
of our allies who stopped the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo--enabling a
million innocent people to return to their homes.
When Slobodan Milosevic unleashed his terror on Kosovo, Captain John
Cherrey was one of the brave airmen who turned the tide. And when another
American plane went down over Serbia, he flew into the teeth of enemy air
defenses to bring his fellow pilot home. Thanks to our armed forces' skill
and bravery, we prevailed without losing a single American in combat.
Captain Cherrey, we honor you, and promise to finish the job you began.
A third challenge is to keep the inexorable march of technology from giving
terrorists and potentially hostile nations the means to undermine our
defenses. The same advances that have shrunk cell phones to fit in the
palms of our hands can also make weapons of terror easier to conceal and
easier to use.
We must meet this threat: by making effective agreements to restrain
nuclear and missile programs in North Korea, curbing the flow of lethal
technology to Iran; preventing Iraq from threatening its neighbors;
increasing our preparedness against chemical and biological attack;
protecting our vital computer systems from hackers and criminals; and
developing a system to defend against new missile threats--while working
to preserve our Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia.
I hope we can have a constructive bipartisan dialogue this year to build a
consensus which will lead eventually to the ratification of the
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
A fourth challenge is to ensure that the stability of our planet is not
threatened by the huge gulf between rich and poor. We cannot accept a world
in which part of humanity lives on the cutting edge of a new economy, while
the rest live on the bare edge of survival. We must do our part, with
expanded trade, expanded aid, and the expansion of freedom.
From Nigeria to Indonesia, more people won the right to choose their
leaders in 1999 than in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell. We must stand
by democracies--like Colombia, fighting narco-traffickers for its people's
lives, and our children's lives. I have proposed a strong two-year package
to help Colombia win this fight; and I ask for your support. And I will
propose tough new legislation to go after what drug barons value most--
In a world where 1.2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day, we
must do our part in the global endeavor to reduce the debts of the poorest
countries so they can invest in education, health and economic growth--as
the Pope and other religious leaders have urged. Last year, Congress made a
down payment on America's share. And I ask for your continued support.
And America must help more nations break the bonds of disease. Last year in
Africa, AIDS killed ten times as many people as war did. My budget invests
$150 million more in the fight against this and other infectious killers.
Today, I propose a tax credit to speed the development of vaccines for
diseases like malaria, TB and AIDS. I ask the private sector and our
partners around the world to join us in embracing this cause. Together, we
can save millions of lives.
Our final challenge is the most important: to pass a national security
budget that keeps our military the best trained and best equipped in the
world, with heightened readiness and 21st Century weapons; raises salaries
for our service men and women; protects our veterans; fully funds the
diplomacy that keeps our soldiers out of war; and makes good on our
commitment to pay our UN dues and arrears. I ask you to pass this budget
and I thank you for the extraordinary support you have given--Republicans
and Democrats alike--to our men and women in uniform. I especially want to
thank Secretary Cohen for symbolizing our bipartisan commitment to our
national security--and Janet Cohen, I thank you for tirelessly traveling
the world to show our support for the troops.
If we meet all these challenges, America can lead the world toward peace
and freedom in an era of globalization.
Responsibility, Opportunity, and the Environment
I am grateful for the opportunities the Vice President and I have had to
work hard to protect the environment and finally to put to rest the notion
that you can't expand the economy while protecting the environment. As our
economy has grown, we have rid more than 500 neighborhoods of toxic waste
and ensured cleaner air and water for millions of families. In the past
three months alone, we have acted to preserve more than 40 million acres of
roadless lands in our National Forests and created three new National
But as our communities grow, our commitment to conservation must grow as
well. Tonight, I propose creating a permanent conservation fund to restore
wildlife, protect coastlines, and save natural treasures from California
redwoods to the Everglades. This Lands Legacy endowment represents by far
the most enduring investment in land preservation ever proposed.
Last year, the Vice President launched a new effort to help make
communities more livable--so children will grow up next to parks, not
parking lots, and parents can be home with their children instead of stuck
in traffic. Tonight, we propose new funding for advanced transit systems--
for saving precious open spaces--for helping major cities around the Great
Lakes protect their waterways and enhance their quality of life.
The greatest environmental challenge of the new century is global warming.
Scientists tell us that the 1990s were the hottest decade of the entire
millennium. If we fail to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, deadly heat
waves and droughts will become more frequent, coastal areas will be
flooded, economies disrupted.
Many people in the United States and around the world still believe we
can't cut greenhouse gas pollution without slowing economic growth. In the
Industrial Age that may have been true. In the digital economy, it isn't.
New technologies make it possible to cut harmful emissions and provide even
more growth. For example, just last week, automakers unveiled cars that get
70 to 80 miles a gallon--the fruits of a unique research partnership
between government and industry. Before you know it, efficient production
of biofuels will give us the equivalent of hundreds of miles from a gallon
To speed innovations in environmental technologies, I propose giving major
tax incentives to businesses for the production of clean energy--and to
families for buying energy-saving homes and appliances and the next
generation of super-efficient cars when they hit the showroom floor. I also
call on the auto industry to use available technologies to make all new
cars more fuel efficient right away. And on Congress to make more of our
clean-energy technologies available to the developing world--creating
cleaner growth abroad and new jobs at home.
The Opportunity and Responsibility of Science and Technology
In the new century, innovations in science and technology will be the key
not only to the health of the environment but to miraculous improvements in
the quality of our lives and advances in the economy.
Later this year, researchers will complete the first draft of the entire
human genome--the very blueprint of life. It is important for all
Americans to recognize that your tax dollars have fueled this research--
and that this and other wise investments in science are leading to a
revolution in our ability to detect, treat, and prevent disease.
For example, researchers have identified genes that cause Parkinson's
Disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer--and they are designing
precision therapies that will block the harmful effects of these faulty
genes for good. Researchers are already using this new technique to target
and destroy cells that cause breast cancer. Soon, we may be able to use it
to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. Scientists are also working on
an artificial retina to help many blind people to see and microchips that
would directly stimulate damaged spinal cords and allow people who are now
paralyzed to stand up and walk.
Science and engineering innovations are also propelling our remarkable
prosperity. Information technology alone now accounts for a third of our
economic growth, with jobs that pay almost 80 percent above the private
sector average. Again, we should keep in mind: government-funded research
brought supercomputers, the Internet, and communications satellites into
being. Soon researchers will bring us devices that can translate foreign
languages as fast as you can speak; materials 10 times stronger than steel
at a fraction of the weight; and molecular computers the size of a teardrop
with the power of today's fastest supercomputers.
To accelerate the march of discovery across all disciplines of science and
technology, my budget includes an unprecedented $3 billion increase in the
21st Century Research Fund, the largest increase in civilian research in a
These new breakthroughs must be used in ways that reflect our most
cherished values. First and foremost, we must safeguard our citizens'
privacy. Last year, we proposed rules to protect every citizen's medical
records. This year, we will finalize those rules. We have also taken the
first steps to protect the privacy of bank and credit card statements and
other financial records. Soon I will send legislation to the Congress to
finish that job. We must also act to prevent any genetic discrimination by
employers or insurers.
These steps will allow America to lead toward the far frontiers of science
and technology--enhancing our health, environment, and economy in ways we
cannot even imagine today.
At a time when science, technology and the forces of globalization are
bringing so many changes into our lives, it is more important than ever
that we strengthen the bonds that root us in our local communities and in
our national communities.
No tie binds different people together like citizen service. There is a new
spirit of service in America--a movement we have supported with
AmeriCorps, an expanded Peace Corps, and unprecedented new partnerships
with businesses, foundations, and community groups. Partnerships to enlist
12,000 companies in moving 650,000 of our fellow citizens from welfare to
work. To battle drug abuse and AIDS. To teach young people to read. To Save
America's Treasures. To strengthen the arts. To fight teen pregnancy. To
prevent youth violence. To promote racial healing.
We can do even more to help Americans help each other. We should help
faith-based organizations do more to fight poverty and drug abuse and help
young people get back on the right track with initiatives like Second
Chance Homes to help unwed teen mothers. We should support Americans who
tithe and contribute to charities, but don't earn enough to claim a tax
deduction for it. Tonight, I propose new tax incentives to allow low- and
middle-income citizens to get that deduction.
We should do more to help new immigrants fully participate in the American
community--investing more to teach them civics and English. And since
everyone in our community counts, we must make sure everyone is counted in
this year's census.
Within ten years there will be no majority race in our largest state,
California. In a little more than 50 years, there will be no majority race
in America. In a more interconnected world, this diversity can be our
greatest strength. Just look around this chamber. We have members from
virtually every racial, ethnic, and religious background. And America is
stronger for it. But as we have seen, these differences all too often spark
hatred and division, even here at home.
We have seen a man dragged to death in Texas simply because he was black. A
young man murdered in Wyoming simply because he was gay. In the last year
alone, we've seen the shootings of African Americans, Asian Americans, and
Jewish children simply because of who they were. This is not the American
way. We must draw the line. Without delay, we must pass the Hate Crimes
Prevention Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And we should
reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
No American should be subjected to discrimination in finding a home,
getting a job, going to school, or securing a loan. Tonight, I propose the
largest ever investment to enforce America's civil rights laws. Protections
in law must be protections in fact.
Last February, I created the White House Office of One America to promote
racial reconciliation. That's what Hank Aaron, has done all his life. From
his days as baseball's all-time homerun king to his recent acts of healing,
he has always brought Americans together. We're pleased he's with us
This fall, at the White House, one of America's leading scientists said
something we should all remember. He said all human beings, genetically,
are 99.9 percent the same. So modern science affirms what ancient faith has
always taught: the most important fact of life is our common humanity.
Therefore, we must do more than tolerate diversity--we must honor it and
My fellow Americans, each time I prepare for the State of the Union, I
approach it with great hope and expectations for our nation. But tonight is
special--because we stand on the mountaintop of a new millennium. Behind
us we see the great expanse of American achievement; before us, even
grander frontiers of possibility.
We should be filled with gratitude and humility for our prosperity and
progress; with awe and joy at what lies ahead; and with absolute
determination to make the most of it.
When the framers finished crafting our Constitution, Benjamin Franklin
stood in Independence Hall and reflected on a painting of the sun, low on
the horizon. He said, "I have often wondered whether that sun was rising or
setting. Today," Franklin said, "I have the happiness to know it is a
rising sun." Well, today, because each generation of Americans has kept the
fire of freedom burning brightly, lighting those frontiers of possibility,
we still bask in the warmth of Mr. Franklin's rising sun.
After 224 years, the American Revolution continues. We remain a new nation.
As long as our dreams outweigh our memories, America will be forever young.
That is our destiny. And this is our moment.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.