[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1994, Book I)]
[January 25, 1994]
[Pages 126-135]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union
January 25, 1994

    Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the 103d 
Congress, my fellow Americans:
    I'm not at all sure what speech is in the TelePrompter tonight--
[laughter]--but I hope we can talk about the state of the Union.
    I ask you to begin by recalling the memory of the giant who presided 
over this Chamber with such force and grace. Tip O'Neill liked to call 
himself ``a man of the House.'' And he surely was that. But even more, 
he was a man of the people, a bricklayer's son who helped to build the 
great American middle class. Tip O'Neill never forgot who he was, where 
he came from, or who sent him here. Tonight he's smiling down on us for 
the first time from the Lord's gallery. But in his honor, may we, too, 
always remember who we are, where we come from, and who sent us here. If 
we do that we will return over and over again to the principle that if 
we simply give ordinary people equal opportunity, quality education, and 
a fair shot at the American dream, they will do extraordinary things.
    We gather tonight in a world of changes so profound and rapid that 
all nations are tested. Our American heritage has always been to master 
such change, to use it to expand opportunity at home and our leadership 
abroad. But for too long and in too many ways, that heritage was 
abandoned, and our country drifted.
    For 30 years, family life in America has been breaking down. For 20 
years, the wages of working people have been stagnant or declining. For 
the 12 years of trickle-down economics, we built a false prosperity on a 
hollow base as our national debt quadrupled. From 1989 to 1992, we 
experienced the slowest growth in a half century. For too many families, 
even when both

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parents were working, the American dream has been slipping away.
    In 1992, the American people demanded that we change. A year ago I 
asked all of you to join me in accepting responsibility for the future 
of our country. Well, we did. We replaced drift and deadlock with 
renewal and reform. And I want to thank every one of you here who heard 
the American people, who broke gridlock, who gave them the most 
successful teamwork between a President and a Congress in 30 years.
    This Congress produced a budget that cut the deficit by half a 
trillion dollars, cut spending, and raised income taxes on only the 
wealthiest Americans. This Congress produced tax relief for millions of 
low-income workers to reward work over welfare. It produced NAFTA. It 
produced the Brady bill, now the Brady law. And thank you, Jim Brady, 
for being here, and God bless you, sir.
    This Congress produced tax cuts to reduce the taxes of 9 out of 10 
small businesses who use the money to invest more and create more jobs. 
It produced more research and treatment for AIDS, more childhood 
immunizations, more support for women's health research, more affordable 
college loans for the middle class, a new national service program for 
those who want to give something back to their country and their 
communities for higher education, a dramatic increase in high-tech 
investments to move us from a defense to a domestic high-tech economy. 
This Congress produced a new law, the motor voter bill, to help millions 
of people register to vote. It produced family and medical leave. All 
passed; all signed into law with not one single veto.
    These accomplishments were all commitments I made when I sought this 
office. And in fairness, they all had to be passed by you in this 
Congress. But I am persuaded that the real credit belongs to the people 
who sent us here, who pay our salaries, who hold our feet to the fire.
    But what we do here is really beginning to change lives. Let me just 
give you one example. I will never forget what the family and medical 
leave law meant to just one father I met early one Sunday morning in the 
White House. It was unusual to see a family there touring early Sunday 
morning, but he had his wife and his three children there, one of them 
in a wheelchair. I came up, and after we had our picture taken and had a 
little visit, I was walking off and that man grabbed me by the arm and 
he said, ``Mr. President, let me tell you something. My little girl here 
is desperately ill. She's probably not going to make it. But because of 
the family leave law, I was able to take time off to spend with her, the 
most important time I ever spent in my life, without losing my job and 
hurting the rest of my family. It means more to me than I will ever be 
able to say. Don't you people up here ever think what you do doesn't 
make a difference. It does.''
    Though we are making a difference, our work has just begun. Many 
Americans still haven't felt the impact of what we've done. The recovery 
still hasn't touched every community or created enough jobs. Incomes are 
still stagnant. There's still too much violence and not enough hope in 
too many places. Abroad, the young democracies we are strongly 
supporting still face very difficult times and look to us for 
leadership. And so tonight, let us resolve to continue the journey of 
renewal, to create more and better jobs, to guarantee health security 
for all, to reward work over welfare, to promote democracy abroad, and 
to begin to reclaim our streets from violent crime and drugs and gangs, 
to renew our own American community.
    Last year we began to put our house in order by tackling the budget 
deficit that was driving us toward bankruptcy. We cut $255 billion in 
spending, including entitlements, and over 340 separate budget items. We 
froze domestic spending and used honest budget numbers.
    Led by the Vice President, we launched a campaign to reinvent 
Government. We cut staff, cut perks, even trimmed the fleet of Federal 
limousines. After years of leaders whose rhetoric attacked bureaucracy 
but whose action expanded it, we will actually reduce it by 252,000 
people over the next 5 years. By the time we have finished, the Federal 
bureaucracy will be at its lowest point in 30 years.
    Because the deficit was so large and because they benefited from tax 
cuts in the 1980's, we did ask the wealthiest Americans to pay more to 
reduce the deficit. So on April 15th, the American people will discover 
the truth about what we did last year on taxes. Only the top 1--
[applause]--yes, listen, the top 1.2 percent of Americans, as I said all 
along, will pay higher income tax rates. Let me repeat: Only the 
wealthiest 1.2 percent of Americans will face higher income tax rates, 
and no one else will. And that is the truth.

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    Of course, there were, as there always are in politics, naysayers 
who said this plan wouldn't work. But they were wrong. When I became 
President, the experts predicted that next year's deficit would be $300 
billion. But because we acted, those same people now say the deficit is 
going to be under $180 billion, 40 percent lower than was previously 
    Our economic program has helped to produce the lowest core inflation 
rate and the lowest interest rates in 20 years. And because those 
interest rates are down, business investment and equipment is growing at 
7 times the rate of the previous 4 years. Auto sales are way up. Home 
sales are at a record high. Millions of Americans have refinanced their 
homes. And our economy has produced 1.6 million private sector jobs in 
1993, more than were created in the previous 4 years combined.
    The people who supported this economic plan should be proud of its 
early results, proud. But everyone in this Chamber should know and 
acknowledge that there is more to do.
    Next month I will send you one of the toughest budgets ever 
presented to Congress. It will cut spending in more than 300 programs, 
eliminate 100 domestic programs, and reform the ways in which 
governments buy goods and services. This year we must again make the 
hard choices to live within the hard spending ceilings we have set. We 
must do it. We have proved we can bring the deficit down without choking 
off recovery, without punishing seniors or the middle class, and without 
putting our national security at risk. If you will stick with this plan, 
we will post 3 consecutive years of declining deficits for the first 
time since Harry Truman lived in the White House. And once again, the 
buck stops here.
    Our economic plan also bolsters our strength and our credibility 
around the world. Once we reduced the deficit and put the steel back 
into our competitive edge, the world echoed with the sound of falling 
trade barriers. In one year, with NAFTA, with GATT, with our efforts in 
Asia and the national export strategy, we did more to open world markets 
to American products than at any time in the last two generations. That 
means more jobs and rising living standards for the American people, low 
deficits, low inflation, low interest rates, low trade barriers, and 
high investments. These are the building blocks of our recovery. But if 
we want to take full advantage of the opportunities before us in the 
global economy, you all know we must do more.
    As we reduce defense spending, I ask Congress to invest more in the 
technologies of tomorrow. Defense conversion will keep us strong 
militarily and create jobs for our people here at home. As we protect 
our environment, we must invest in the environmental technologies of the 
future which will create jobs. This year we will fight for a revitalized 
Clean Water Act and a Safe Drinking Water Act and a reformed Superfund 
program. And the Vice President is right, we must also work with the 
private sector to connect every classroom, every clinic, every library, 
every hospital in America into a national information superhighway by 
the year 2000. Think of it: Instant access to information will increase 
productivity, will help to educate our children. It will provide better 
medical care. It will create jobs. And I call on the Congress to pass 
legislation to establish that information superhighway this year.
    As we expand opportunity and create jobs, no one can be left out. We 
must continue to enforce fair lending and fair housing and all civil 
rights laws, because America will never be complete in its renewal until 
everyone shares in its bounty.
    But we all know, too, we can do all these things--put our economic 
house in order, expand world trade, target the jobs of the future, 
guarantee equal opportunity--but if we're honest we'll all admit that 
this strategy still cannot work unless we also give our people the 
education, training, and skills they need to seize the opportunities of 
    We must set tough, world-class academic and occupational standards 
for all our children and give our teachers and students the tools they 
need to meet them. Our Goals 2000 proposal will empower individual 
school districts to experiment with ideas like chartering their schools 
to be run by private corporations or having more public school choice, 
to do whatever they wish to do as long as we measure every school by one 
high standard: Are our children learning what they need to know to 
compete and win in the global economy? Goals 2000 links world-class 
standards to grassroots reforms. And I hope Congress will pass it 
without delay.
    Our school-to-work initiative will for the first time link school to 
the world of work, providing at least one year of apprenticeship beyond 
high school. After all, most of the people we're

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counting on to build our economic future won't graduate from college. 
It's time to stop ignoring them and start empowering them.
    We must literally transform our outdated unemployment system into a 
new reemployment system. The old unemployment system just sort of kept 
you going while you waited for your old job to come back. We've got to 
have a new system to move people into new and better jobs, because most 
of those old jobs just don't come back. And we know that the only way to 
have real job security in the future, to get a good job with a growing 
income, is to have real skills and the ability to learn new ones. So 
we've got to streamline today's patchwork of training programs and make 
them a source of new skills for our people who lose their jobs. 
Reemployment, not unemployment, must become the centerpiece of our 
economic renewal. I urge you to pass it in this session of Congress.
    And just as we must transform our unemployment system, so must we 
also revolutionize our welfare system. It doesn't work. It defies our 
values as a nation. If we value work, we can't justify a system that 
makes welfare more attractive than work if people are worried about 
losing their health care. If we value responsibility, we can't ignore 
the $34 billion in child support absent parents ought to be paying to 
millions of parents who are taking care of their children. If we value 
strong families, we can't perpetuate a system that actually penalizes 
those who stay together. Can you believe that a child who has a child 
gets more money from the Government for leaving home than for staying 
home with a parent or a grandparent? That's not just bad policy, it's 
wrong. And we ought to change it.
    I worked on this problem for years before I became President, with 
other Governors and with Members of Congress of both parties and with 
the previous administration of another party. I worked on it with people 
who were on welfare, lots of them. And I want to say something to 
everybody here who cares about this issue. The people who most want to 
change this system are the people who are dependent on it. They want to 
get off welfare. They want to go back to work. They want to do right by 
their kids.
    I once had a hearing when I was a Governor, and I brought in people 
on welfare from all over America who had found their way to work. The 
woman from my State who testified was asked this question: What's the 
best thing about being off welfare and in a job? And without blinking an 
eye, she looked at 40 Governors, and she said, ``When my boy goes to 
school and they say, `What does your mother do for a living?' he can 
give an answer.'' These people want a better system, and we ought to 
give it to them.
    Last year we began this. We gave the States more power to innovate 
because we know that a lot of great ideas come from outside Washington, 
and many States are already using it. Then this Congress took a dramatic 
step. Instead of taxing people with modest incomes into poverty, we 
helped them to work their way out of poverty by dramatically increasing 
the earned-income tax credit. It will lift 15 million working families 
out of poverty, rewarding work over welfare, making it possible for 
people to be successful workers and successful parents. Now that's real 
welfare reform.
    But there is more to be done. This spring I will send you a 
comprehensive welfare reform bill that builds on the Family Support Act 
of 1988 and restores the basic values of work and responsibility. We'll 
say to teenagers, ``If you have a child out of wedlock, we will no 
longer give you a check to set up a separate household. We want families 
to stay together''; say to absent parents who aren't paying their child 
support, ``If you're not providing for your children, we'll garnish your 
wages, suspend your license, track you across State lines, and if 
necessary, make some of you work off what you owe.'' People who bring 
children into this world cannot and must not walk away from them. But to 
all those who depend on welfare, we should offer ultimately a simple 
compact. We'll provide the support, the job training, the child care you 
need for up to 2 years. But after that, anyone who can work, must, in 
the private sector wherever possible, in community service if necessary. 
That's the only way we'll ever make welfare what it ought to be, a 
second chance, not a way of life.
    I know it will be difficult to tackle welfare reform in 1994 at the 
same time we tackle health care. But let me point out, I think it is 
inevitable and imperative. It is estimated that one million people are 
on welfare today because it's the only way they can get health care 
coverage for their children. Those who choose to leave welfare for jobs 
without health benefits, and many entry-level jobs don't have health 
benefits, find themselves in the incredible position

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of paying taxes that help to pay for health care coverage for those who 
made the other choice, to stay on welfare. No wonder people leave work 
and go back to welfare to get health care coverage. We've got to solve 
the health care problem to have real welfare reform.
    So this year, we will make history by reforming the health care 
system. And I would say to you, all of you, my fellow public servants, 
this is another issue where the people are way ahead of the politicians. 
That may not be popular with either party, but it happens to be the 
    You know, the First Lady has received now almost a million letters 
from people all across America and from all walks of life. I'd like to 
share just one of them with you. Richard Anderson of Reno, Nevada, lost 
his job and with it, his health insurance. Two weeks later his wife, 
Judy, suffered a cerebral aneurysm. He rushed her to the hospital, where 
she stayed in intensive care for 21 days. The Andersons' bills were over 
$120,000. Although Judy recovered and Richard went back to work at $8 an 
hour, the bills were too much for them, and they were literally forced 
into bankruptcy. ``Mrs. Clinton,'' he wrote to Hillary, ``no one in the 
United States of America should have to lose everything they've worked 
for all their lives because they were unfortunate enough to become 
ill.'' It was to help the Richard and Judy Andersons of America that the 
First Lady and so many others have worked so hard and so long on this 
health care reform issue. We owe them our thanks and our action.
    I know there are people here who say there's no health care crisis. 
Tell it to Richard and Judy Anderson. Tell it to the 58 million 
Americans who have no coverage at all for some time each year. Tell it 
to the 81 million Americans with those preexisting conditions. Those 
folks are paying more, or they can't get insurance at all, or they can't 
ever change their jobs because they or someone in their family has one 
of those preexisting conditions. Tell it to the small businesses 
burdened by the skyrocketing cost of insurance. Most small businesses 
cover their employees, and they pay on average 35 percent more in 
premiums than big businesses or Government. Or tell it to the 76 percent 
of insured Americans, three out of four, whose policies have lifetime 
limits, and that means they can find themselves without any coverage at 
all just when they need it the most. So if any of you believe there's no 
crisis, you tell it to those people, because I can't.
    There are some people who literally do not understand the impact of 
this problem on people's lives. And all you have to do is go out and 
listen to them. Just go talk to them anywhere in any congressional 
district in this country. They're Republicans and Democrats and 
independents; it doesn't have a lick to do with party. They think we 
don't get it. And it's time we show them that we do get it.
    From the day we began, our health care initiative has been designed 
to strengthen what is good about our health care system: the world's 
best health care professionals, cutting-edge research and wonderful 
research institutions, Medicare for older Americans. None of this, none 
of it should be put at risk.
    But we're paying more and more money for less and less care. Every 
year fewer and fewer Americans even get to choose their doctors. Every 
year doctors and nurses spend more time on paperwork and less time with 
patients because of the absolute bureaucratic nightmare the present 
system has become. This system is riddled with inefficiency, with abuse, 
with fraud, and everybody knows it. In today's health care system, 
insurance companies call the shots. They pick whom they cover and how 
they cover them. They can cut off your benefits when you need your 
coverage the most. They are in charge.
    What does it mean? It means every night millions of well-insured 
Americans go to bed just an illness, an accident, or a pink slip away 
from having no coverage or financial ruin. It means every morning 
millions of Americans go to work without any health insurance at all, 
something the workers in no other advanced country in the world do. It 
means that every year more and more hard-working people are told to pick 
a new doctor because their boss has had to pick a new plan. And 
countless others turn down better jobs because they know if they take 
the better job, they will lose their health insurance. If we just let 
the health care system continue to drift, our country will have people 
with less care, fewer choices, and higher bills.
    Now, our approach protects the quality of care and people's choices. 
It builds on what works today in the private sector, to expand employer-
based coverage, to guarantee private insurance for every American. And I 
might say, employer-based private insurance for every American was 
proposed 20 years ago by Presi-

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dent Richard Nixon to the United States Congress. It was a good idea 
then, and it's a better idea today.
    Why do we want guaranteed private insurance? Because right now 9 out 
of 10 people who have insurance get it through their employers. And that 
should continue. And if your employer is providing good benefits at 
reasonable prices, that should continue, too. That ought to make the 
Congress and the President feel better.
    Our goal is health insurance everybody can depend on: comprehensive 
benefits that cover preventive care and prescription drugs; health 
premiums that don't just explode when you get sick or you get older; the 
power, no matter how small your business is, to choose dependable 
insurance at the same competitive rates governments and big business get 
today; one simple form for people who are sick; and most of all, the 
freedom to choose a plan and the right to choose your own doctor.
    Our approach protects older Americans. Every plan before the 
Congress proposes to slow the growth of Medicare. The difference is 
this: We believe those savings should be used to improve health care for 
senior citizens. Medicare must be protected, and it should cover 
prescription drugs, and we should take the first steps in covering long-
term care. To those who would cut Medicare without protecting seniors, I 
say the solution to today's squeeze on middle class working people's 
health care is not to put the squeeze on middle class retired people's 
health care. We can do better than that.
    When it's all said and done, it's pretty simple to me. Insurance 
ought to mean what it used to mean: You pay a fair price for security, 
and when you get sick, health care's always there, no matter what.
    Along with the guarantee of health security, we all have to admit, 
too, there must be more responsibility on the part of all of us in how 
we use this system. People have to take their kids to get immunized. We 
should all take advantage of preventive care. We must all work together 
to stop the violence that explodes our emergency rooms. We have to 
practice better health habits, and we can't abuse the system. And those 
who don't have insurance under our approach will get coverage, but 
they'll have to pay something for it, too. The minority of businesses 
that provide no insurance at all, and in so doing shift the cost of the 
care of their employees to others, should contribute something. People 
who smoke should pay more for a pack of cigarettes. Everybody can 
contribute something if we want to solve the health care crisis. There 
can't be any more something for nothing. It will not be easy but it can 
be done.
    Now, in the coming months I hope very much to work with both 
Democrats and Republicans to reform a health care system by using the 
market to bring down costs and to achieve lasting health security. But 
if you look at history we see that for 60 years this country has tried 
to reform health care. President Roosevelt tried. President Truman 
tried. President Nixon tried. President Carter tried. Every time the 
special interests were powerful enough to defeat them. But not this 
    I know that facing up to these interests will require courage. It 
will raise critical questions about the way we finance our campaigns and 
how lobbyists yield their influence. The work of change, frankly, will 
never get any easier until we limit the influence of well-financed 
interests who profit from this current system. So I also must now call 
on you to finish the job both Houses began last year by passing tough 
and meaningful campaign finance reform and lobby reform legislation this 
    You know, my fellow Americans, this is really a test for all of us. 
The American people provide those of us in Government service with 
terrific health care benefits at reasonable costs. We have health care 
that's always there. I think we need to give every hard-working, tax-
paying American the same health care security they have already given to 
    I want to make this very clear. I am open, as I have said 
repeatedly, to the best ideas of concerned Members of both parties. I 
have no special brief for any specific approach, even in our own bill, 
except this: If you send me legislation that does not guarantee every 
American private health insurance that can never be taken away, you will 
force me to take this pen, veto the legislation, and we'll come right 
back here and start all over again.
    But I don't think that's going to happen. I think we're ready to act 
now. I believe that you're ready to act now. And if you're ready to 
guarantee every American the same health care that you have, health care 
that can never be taken away, now--not next year or the year after--now 
is the time to stand with the people who sent us here, now.

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    As we take these steps together to renew our strength at home, we 
cannot turn away from our obligation to renew our leadership abroad. 
This is a promising moment. Because of the agreements we have reached 
this year, last year, Russia's strategic nuclear missiles soon will no 
longer be pointed at the United States, nor will we point ours at them. 
Instead of building weapons in space, Russian scientists will help us to 
build the international space station.
    Of course, there are still dangers in the world: rampant arms 
proliferation, bitter regional conflicts, ethnic and nationalist 
tensions in many new democracies, severe environmental degradation the 
world over, and fanatics who seek to cripple the world's cities with 
terror. As the world's greatest power, we must, therefore, maintain our 
defenses and our responsibilities.
    This year, we secured indictments against terrorists and sanctions 
against those who harbor them. We worked to promote environmentally 
sustainable economic growth. We achieved agreements with Ukraine, with 
Belarus, with Kazahkstan to eliminate completely their nuclear arsenal. 
We are working to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. We 
will seek early ratification of a treaty to ban chemical weapons 
worldwide. And earlier today, we joined with over 30 nations to begin 
negotiations on a comprehensive ban to stop all nuclear testing.
    But nothing, nothing is more important to our security than our 
Nation's Armed Forces. We honor their contributions, including those who 
are carrying out the longest humanitarian air lift in history in Bosnia, 
those who will complete their mission in Somalia this year and their 
brave comrades who gave their lives there. Our forces are the finest 
military our Nation has ever had. And I have pledged that as long as I 
am President, they will remain the best equipped, the best trained, and 
the best prepared fighting force on the face of the Earth.
    Last year I proposed a defense plan that maintains our post-cold-war 
security at a lower cost. This year many people urged me to cut our 
defense spending further to pay for other Government programs. I said 
no. The budget I send to Congress draws the line against further defense 
cuts. It protects the readiness and quality of our forces. Ultimately, 
the best strategy is to do that. We must not cut defense further. I hope 
the Congress, without regard to party, will support that position.
    Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a 
durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. 
Democracies don't attack each other. They make better trading partners 
and partners in diplomacy. That is why we have supported, you and I, the 
democratic reformers in Russia and in the other states of the former 
Soviet bloc. I applaud the bipartisan support this Congress provided 
last year for our initiatives to help Russia, Ukraine, and the other 
states through their epic transformations.
    Our support of reform must combine patience for the enormity of the 
task and vigilance for our fundamental interest and values. We will 
continue to urge Russia and the other states to press ahead with 
economic reforms. And we will seek to cooperate with Russia to solve 
regional problems, while insisting that if Russian troops operate in 
neighboring states, they do so only when those states agree to their 
presence and in strict accord with international standards.
    But we must also remember as these nations chart their own futures--
and they must chart their own futures--how much more secure and more 
prosperous our own people will be if democratic and market reforms 
succeed all across the former Communist bloc. Our policy has been to 
support that move, and that has been the policy of the Congress. We 
should continue it.
    That is why I went to Europe earlier this month, to work with our 
European partners, to help to integrate all the former Communist 
countries into a Europe that has a possibility of becoming unified for 
the first time in its entire history, its entire history, based on the 
simple commitments of all nations in Europe to democracy, to free 
markets, and to respect for existing borders.
    With our allies we have created a Partnership For Peace that invites 
states from the former Soviet bloc and other non-NATO members to work 
with NATO in military cooperation. When I met with Central Europe's 
leaders, including Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, men who put their lives 
on the line for freedom, I told them that the security of their region 
is important to our country's security.
    This year we must also do more to support democratic renewal and 
human rights and sustainable development all around the world. We will 
ask Congress to ratify the new GATT ac-

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cord. We will continue standing by South Africa as it works its way 
through its bold and hopeful and difficult transition to democracy. We 
will convene a summit of the Western Hemisphere's democratic leaders 
from Canada to the tip of South America. And we will continue to press 
for the restoration of true democracy in Haiti. And as we build a more 
constructive relationship with China, we must continue to insist on 
clear signs of improvement in that nation's human rights record.
    We will also work for new progress toward the Middle East peace. 
Last year the world watched Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat at the White 
House when they had their historic handshake of reconciliation. But 
there is a long, hard road ahead. And on that road I am determined that 
I and our administration will do all we can to achieve a comprehensive 
and lasting peace for all the peoples of the region.
    Now, there are some in our country who argue that with the cold war, 
America should turn its back on the rest of the world. Many around the 
world were afraid we would do just that. But I took this office on a 
pledge that had no partisan tinge, to keep our Nation secure by 
remaining engaged in the rest of the world. And this year, because of 
our work together, enacting NAFTA, keeping our military strong and 
prepared, supporting democracy abroad, we have reaffirmed America's 
leadership, America's engagement. And as a result, the American people 
are more secure than they were before.
    But while Americans are more secure from threats abroad, I think we 
all know that in many ways we are less secure from threats here at home. 
Every day the national peace is shattered by crime. In Petaluma, 
California, an innocent slumber party gives way to agonizing tragedy for 
the family of Polly Klaas. An ordinary train ride on Long Island ends in 
a hail of 9-millimeter rounds. A tourist in Florida is nearly burned 
alive by bigots simply because he is black. Right here in our Nation's 
Capital, a brave young man named Jason White, a policeman, the son and 
grandson of policemen, is ruthlessly gunned down. Violent crime and the 
fear it provokes are crippling our society, limiting personal freedom, 
and fraying the ties that bind us.
    The crime bill before Congress gives you a chance to do something 
about it, a chance to be tough and smart. What does that mean? Let me 
begin by saying I care a lot about this issue. Many years ago, when I 
started out in public life, I was the attorney general of my State. I 
served as a Governor for a dozen years. I know what it's like to sign 
laws increasing penalties, to build more prison cells, to carry out the 
death penalty. I understand this issue. And it is not a simple thing.
    First, we must recognize that most violent crimes are committed by a 
small percentage of criminals who too often break the laws even when 
they are on parole. Now those who commit crimes should be punished. And 
those who commit repeated violent crimes should be told, ``When you 
commit a third violent crime, you will be put away, and put away for 
good; three strikes and you are out.''
    Second, we must take serious steps to reduce violence and prevent 
crime, beginning with more police officers and more community policing. 
We know right now that police who work the streets, know the folks, have 
the respect of the neighborhood kids, focus on high crime areas, we know 
that they are more likely to prevent crime as well as catch criminals. 
Look at the experience of Houston, where the crime rate dropped 17 
percent in one year when that approach was taken.
    Here tonight is one of those community policemen, a brave, young 
detective, Kevin Jett, whose beat is eight square blocks in one of the 
toughest neighborhoods in New York. Every day he restores some sanity 
and safety and a sense of values and connections to the people whose 
lives he protects. I'd like to ask him to stand up and be recognized 
tonight. Thank you, sir. [Applause]
    You will be given a chance to give the children of this country, the 
law-abiding working people of this country--and don't forget, in the 
toughest neighborhoods in this country, in the highest crime 
neighborhoods in this country, the vast majority of people get up every 
day and obey the law, pay their taxes, do their best to raise their 
kids. They deserve people like Kevin Jett. And you're going to be given 
a chance to give the American people another 100,000 of them, well 
trained. And I urge you to do it.
    You have before you crime legislation which also establishes a 
police corps to encourage young people to get an education and pay it 
off by serving as police officers; which encourages retiring military 
personnel to move into police forces, an inordinate resource for our 
country; one which has a safe schools provision

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which will give our young people the chance to walk to school in safety 
and to be in school in safety instead of dodging bullets. These are 
important things.
    The third thing we have to do is to build on the Brady bill, the 
Brady law, to take further steps to keep guns out of the hands of 
criminals. I want to say something about this issue. Hunters must always 
be free to hunt. Law-abiding adults should always be free to own guns 
and protect their homes. I respect that part of our culture; I grew up 
in it. But I want to ask the sportsmen and others who lawfully own guns 
to join us in this campaign to reduce gun violence. I say to you, I know 
you didn't create this problem, but we need your help to solve it. There 
is no sporting purpose on Earth that should stop the United States 
Congress from banishing assault weapons that out-gun police and cut down 
    Fourth, we must remember that drugs are a factor in an enormous 
percentage of crimes. Recent studies indicate, sadly, that drug use is 
on the rise again among our young people. The crime bill contains--all 
the crime bills contain--more money for drug treatment for criminal 
addicts and boot camps for youthful offenders that include incentives to 
get off drugs and to stay off drugs. Our administration's budget, with 
all its cuts, contains a large increase in funding for drug treatment 
and drug education. You must pass them both. We need them desperately.
    My fellow Americans, the problem of violence is an American problem. 
It has no partisan or philosophical element. Therefore, I urge you to 
find ways as quickly as possible to set aside partisan differences and 
pass a strong, smart, tough crime bill. But further, I urge you to 
consider this: As you demand tougher penalties for those who choose 
violence, let us also remember how we came to this sad point. In our 
toughest neighborhoods, on our meanest streets, in our poorest rural 
areas, we have seen a stunning and simultaneous breakdown of community, 
family, and work, the heart and soul of civilized society. This has 
created a vast vacuum which has been filled by violence and drugs and 
gangs. So I ask you to remember that even as we say no to crime, we must 
give people, especially our young people, something to say yes to.
    Many of our initiatives, from job training to welfare reform to 
health care to national service, will help to rebuild distressed 
communities, to strengthen families, to provide work. But more needs to 
be done. That's what our community empowerment agenda is all about, 
challenging businesses to provide more investment through empowerment 
zones, ensuring banks will make loans in the same communities their 
deposits come from, passing legislation to unleash the power of capital 
through community development banks to create jobs, opportunity, and 
hope where they're needed most.
    I think you know that to really solve this problem, we'll all have 
to put our heads together, leave our ideological armor aside, and find 
some new ideas to do even more. And let's be honest, we all know 
something else too: Our problems go way beyond the reach of Government. 
They're rooted in the loss of values, in the disappearance of work, and 
the breakdown of our families and our communities.
    My fellow Americans, we can cut the deficit, create jobs, promote 
democracy around the world, pass welfare reform and health care, pass 
the toughest crime bill in history, but still leave too many of our 
people behind. The American people have got to want to change from 
within if we're going to bring back work and family and community. We 
cannot renew our country when within a decade more than half of the 
children will be born into families where there has been no marriage. We 
cannot renew this country when 13-year-old boys get semiautomatic 
weapons to shoot 9-year-olds for kicks. We can't renew our country when 
children are having children and the fathers walk away as if the kids 
don't amount to anything. We can't renew the country when our businesses 
eagerly look for new investments and new customers abroad but ignore 
those people right here at home who would give anything to have their 
jobs and would gladly buy their products if they had the money to do it. 
We can't renew our country unless more of us--I mean, all of us--are 
willing to join the churches and the other good citizens, people like 
all the--like ministers I've worked with over the years or the priests 
and the nuns I met at Our Lady of Help in east Los Angeles or my good 
friend Tony Campollo in Philadelphia, unless we're willing to work with 
people like that, people who are saving kids, adopting schools, making 
streets safer. All of us can do that. We can't renew our country until 
we realize that governments don't raise children, parents do.

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    Parents who know their children's teachers and turn off the 
television and help with the homework and teach their kids right from 
wrong, those kinds of parents can make all the difference. I know; I had 
one. I'm telling you, we have got to stop pointing our fingers at these 
kids who have no future and reach our hands out to them. Our country 
needs it, we need it, and they deserve it.
    So I say to you tonight, let's give our children a future. Let us 
take away their guns and give them books. Let us overcome their despair 
and replace it with hope. Let us, by our example, teach them to obey the 
law, respect our neighbors, and cherish our values. Let us weave these 
sturdy threads into a new American community that can once more stand 
strong against the forces of despair and evil because everybody has a 
chance to walk into a better tomorrow.
    Oh, there will be naysayers who fear that we won't be equal to the 
challenges of this time. But they misread our history, our heritage. 
Even today's headlines, all those things tell us we can and we will 
overcome any challenge.
    When the earth shook and fires raged in California, when I saw the 
Mississippi deluge the farmlands of the Midwest in a 500-year flood, 
when the century's bitterest cold swept from North Dakota to Newport 
News, it seemed as though the world itself was coming apart at the 
seams. But the American people, they just came together. They rose to 
the occasion, neighbor helping neighbor, strangers risking life and limb 
to save total strangers, showing the better angels of our nature.
    Let us not reserve the better angels only for natural disasters, 
leaving our deepest and most profound problems to petty political 
fighting. Let us instead be true to our spirit, facing facts, coming 
together, bringing hope, and moving forward.
    Tonight, my fellow Americans, we are summoned to answer a question 
as old as the Republic itself: What is the state of our Union? It is 
growing stronger, but it must be stronger still. With your help and 
God's help, it will be.
    Thank you, and God bless America.

Note: The President spoke at 9:15 p.m. in the House Chamber of the