[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book I)]
[February 1, 1993]
[Pages 29-32]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 29]]

Remarks at the Democratic Governors' Association Dinner
February 1, 1993

    Thank you very much, Governor Walters. And thank you, ladies and 
gentlemen, for that wonderful welcome.
    I am full of gratitude tonight as I remember that just a year ago 
when I was at this banquet, I came in from the cold of New Hampshire, 
cold in more ways than one--[laughter]--and received from the leadership 
of this organization a white scarf, which I wore for the remainder of 
the campaign in New Hampshire to stay warm, a cap which I still have, 
and a renewed sense that the battle in which I was engaged was worth the 
    I want to thank every one of you who had anything to do with that. I 
noticed in the audience tonight the Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, 
who did such a brilliant job as the head of our party and keeping us 
going; representatives of many groups, teachers, working people, and 
others out here in this audience, that have worked so hard to give us a 
chance to put our children first in this country again; and many others 
who raised money, knocked on doors, and walked along roads.
    I want to pay a particular tribute tonight to my good friend the 
Governor of Hawaii, not only for his leadership as the chair of the 
Democratic Governors' Association but for being my friend and supporter 
and for giving us a model of what an aggressive, active Democratic 
leader ought to be. Under John's leadership, the Democratic Governors' 
Association had one of its busiest and most successful years. There are 
now two more Democratic Governors. The DGA worked closely with our 
campaign, and largely as a result of that teamwork we won 8 of the 12 
races in which we were engaged last year, the best showing by the 
Democratic Governors since 1982 when I, as the youngest ex-Governor in 
the history of America, made my comeback. [Laughter] Now we have 
Democratic Governors in 30 of the 50 States, our best margin since 1985.
    I've also been impressed by John's extraordinary political 
leadership in Hawaii. When he was supporting me in the primary campaign 
last year, I kept angling for an invitation to Hawaii. I kept saying, 
``You know, I need to carry Hawaii. I haven't carried any western 
States. Don't you think I ought to show up out there?'' And he said, 
``If I can't carry Hawaii for you without your presence, I shouldn't be 
the Governor out here.'' And sure enough, we did. I think it has 
something to do with his native Hawaiian heritage. We were playing golf 
once together in Hawaii, John and I, and we played on a course on which 
there were no sand traps; there were only lava flows--[laughter]--so 
that the ball simply disappeared, never to be seen again. And we both 
hit long drives that sliced slightly into the lava flows. Mine 
disappeared; his hit a rock and bounced into the middle of the fairway. 
He informed me that his ancestors, who included King Kamehameha, who 
united the Hawaiian Islands, believed in a form of ancestor worship. And 
now, surely I can see the ultimate truth of his faith. Anyway, I think 
John and Lynne are great, and I hope that they will have many more years 
in public service. This country would be a lot better off if that 
    I also want to salute the new chair of the DGA, my friend David 
Walters from Oklahoma. He and Rhonda were among those who were in the 
snows of New Hampshire with me. I told them the other day when I saw 
them that I just looked at a picture of us a year ago; here we are now 
in Washington celebrating a new inauguration. A year ago, I have a 
picture of us with Mike Sullivan; the former Governor of Vermont, 
Madeleine Kunin; and the former Governor of Michigan, Jim Blanchard, 
standing at the Super 8 Motel in Manchester. [Laughter] And it's a great 
commentary on how we get things done in this country. I think David 
Walters and Ann Richards will be a great team; that is, if Ann Richards 
is not too boastful about the Super Bowl victory last night. [Laughter]
    I remember last fall when the Democratic Governors joined me in a 
western fly-around and a campaign we called ``Winning the West.'' Most 
people thought the Democrats had no chance in the West. We traveled to 
seven States and won six, in no small measure because of the inordinate 
support that the western Democratic Governors gave the Clinton-Gore 
    Democratic Governors from the South participated--[applause]--clap, 
Governor Roberts.

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That's good. You can clap for yourself. Democratic Governors in the 
South participated in a fly-around and campaigned for me in a region in 
which we invested relatively small amounts of money. They went to six 
States, and for the first time in 12 years we carried three of them.
    As someone who answered to the term ``Governor'' until just 12 days 
ago, I'm proud to be here with the men and women who have been my 
friends and colleagues in the struggle to deal with the legacy of the 
1980's, people who deal with the real problems of real people, who can't 
make excuses or print money when there's no money there, who struggle 
with health care and welfare and jobs and education and the ways that 
national economic trends and international development actually touch 
people's lives for good or ill.
    As you and I learned from the elections last year, the American 
people want their political system and their Government to end gridlock, 
to face problems, and to make progress. They're tired of a process 
that's been too divided by partisanship or dominated by special 
interests or driven by short-term advantage of politicians instead of 
the long-term interests of people. They sent us to the statehouse and to 
the White House to change America. And they want action now. That is our 
mandate, and we must never forget it.
    We have a chance to create a new Democratic majority in this 
country, rooted in the experience of governing and living. But we must 
never forget some basic things. First of all, we have to do this 
together: the Congress and the President, the States and the communities 
and the National Government.
    I see in the audience a person who ran for President last year and 
turned out to be the best supporter I ever had in the Presidential 
campaign, Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa, and I want to thank him. After a 
tough primary campaign, when he began to work for me, even in the 
primary when it was still going, I realized that he had gotten into this 
race for the same reason I had: He believed that we had to change this 
country. And the changes were more important than him or me or anybody 
else. Well, I still believe that. And if we remember that, we can 
    I think that you might be interested to know that there were some 
surveys conducted after the Inaugural week. After the television ratings 
turned out to be very high and there were huge crowds at all the events, 
the people had watched the gala all over America, and they'd watched 
that magnificent service at the Lincoln Memorial, and they'd watched our 
church service, and 800,000 people showed up at the Inaugural. But you 
know what people in America remembered most about the Inaugural week? 
That on the day after the Inauguration, we opened the White House to 
ordinary Americans. That is what registered out in the country.
    I say that because somehow we've all got to find a way to remember 
every day that the people who can't come to these dinners are the people 
we hold these dinners for. We also have to remember we got elected to 
try a new approach, to expand opportunity, not Government, to increase 
investment, and to show literally that we can reinvent Government.
    I was amazed, you know, the other crowd's had the White House for 12 
years, and they have presented themselves as businesslike and modern, 
you know, and tried to make the Democrats look like yesterday's crowd. 
Well, when I got to the White House, guess what I found? Same phone 
system Jimmy Carter had, with technology that was put in during 
Kennedy's time and changed only to put pushbuttons instead of dials. No 
E-mail, no conference calls, but anybody could pick up the button I was 
talking on anywhere in the White House and listen in on the 
conversation. [Laughter] So we could have the conference call we didn't 
want, but we couldn't have the one we did.
    People said last week, ``Well, you know, when you're going to do 
controversial things, you need to gin up your operation again and send 
the talking points out and communicate with people.'' There's not even 
any E-mail in the office. It's a yesterday place, and we need to make it 
a tomorrow place.
    I also want you to know that two of my Cabinet members have already 
met with every employee in their Departments, in their national 
headquarters, and were told, both of them, that they were the first 
Secretaries in 12 years to meet with all the employees in their 
Departments. The leadership of one of our Cabinet agencies abolished the 
executive dining room and saved $125,000 or $150,000 and brought the 
career employees up to the executive suite, and there were people who 
worked there for 25 years and had never seen where the bosses work. We 
are going to change the culture of

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the way this Federal Government works. We are going to reinvent it, and 
we're going to make it work again.
    We are going to try to do what our adversaries always talked about, 
and that is to empower people, not entitle them. Whether it's welfare or 
trade or industrial policy or technology policy, what the American 
people want is a hand up, not a handout, and we're going to give it to 
them, if we can get the kind of support we need across the country to 
support these changes.
    And most importantly, we're going to try to recreate a sense of 
partnership and community in America again, an America in which we don't 
have a person to waste. I believe as strongly as I can say that if we 
could create in this country a feeling burning in the heart of every 
American, that it was simply unacceptable to let one life go that could 
be saved, we could solve virtually every problem we have. Because if you 
look at every place where the system has broken down, the manifestation 
of that breakdown is somebody's life that is less than it ought to be. 
These children being shot in the streets--we're in Somalia, debating how 
we can keep peace in Somalia when the mortality rate is greater in some 
neighborhoods in the United States of America.
    The immunization initiative that you've read about that we're going 
to be announcing in the next few days, you know, we were actually 
criticized in a story in the New York Times for the idea that the 
National Government might use its purchasing power to buy enough 
vaccines to immunize all the kids in the country. And people say, well, 
that would be bad if we did that. It would be better if we don't and we 
let these kids get sick?
    All the factory workers in this country that are losing their jobs 
because we have no real strategy to create jobs, let me just say in 
parentheses here: As Democrats, we ought not ever to forget that there 
is a big difference between economic measurements of progress and 
whether that progress is manifested in the real lives of people. In the 
1980's, the stock market tripled, but the Fortune 500 companies reduced 
employment. And the difference was made up by small business. So we can 
have a strong economy on the surface where the stock market is booming, 
but if small business people can't get bank loans at the local bank, 
jobs won't be created for all these people that are losing their big 
employee jobs. And we have to remember things like that. With all this 
so-called economic recovery of the last 6 months, we're not creating 
jobs yet. And we've got to find a way to put people back to work. That 
is the ultimate and first test of whether life is working in America.
    Finally, let me reiterate a line that I borrowed from President 
Roosevelt for the Inaugural speech. We learned in the 1980's that we had 
to be about bold, persistent experimentation. That is what I want to try 
to convince Congress and the country we ought to do. It means that we 
will try some things that will not work. And when we do, we have to have 
the courage to quit. One of the weaknesses of our Government is that 
when we start something that doesn't work, or whether we start something 
that does, we keep on doing it. We have to have the courage to 
experiment, to try, to stop, to start again. I am convinced that if we 
do that, we can deal with the health care crisis; we can deal with the 
deficit; we can deal with all these problems, but ultimately, we can 
change the shape of people's lives. And if I might say--I know that it 
defies the momentary conventional wisdom--I think we're off to a pretty 
good start.
    The United States Congress in the next few days--maybe both Houses 
after the recess--will pass the new budget for the National Institutes 
of Health. And now we'll be able to go back to doing research, including 
fetal tissue, that offers great progress in dealing with children with 
diabetes and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's problems and other problems. I 
think that is progress.
    The United States Senate was good enough to confirm every one of my 
Cabinet members, save one, on the day after I became President, the 
first time in longer than a generation that that had happened. And I did 
get into a controversy. But you know something? If you just want me to 
do things that are easy, you should have elected somebody else 
    When we deal with things that are hard, there ought to be debate. 
There ought to be discussion. People ought to say they disagree. They 
ought to call the White House and jam the phone lines. And by the way, 
there's a 1964 switchboard in the White House. That's one reason that 
the phone lines are jammed. But I'm just telling you, I think this is 
exciting. We need to shake things up. We need to have a debate in this 
country again. We need to do things and talk about things, get them out 
and let

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people argue.
    I think together we can do what we were hired to do. But remember: I 
think we are about the business of creating a new Democratic majority 
if, but only if, we go to where the people are, lift them up, bring them 
with us, and change their lives. That requires a decent attention to the 
opinions of Republicans who want to help in change, too, and most 
importantly, a passionate determination never to forget that there is a 
real reason that most Americans remembered--2,000 of their number who 
won a lottery to come to the White House. They haven't felt like it was 
their house in a long time. You help me give it back to them, and we'll 
have a bright future.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 9:21 p.m. at the National Building Museum. 
In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Michael J. Sullivan of Wyoming and 
Gov. Ann Richards of Texas.