[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[January 10, 1995]
[Pages 29-31]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to Students at Galesburg High School in Galesburg
January 10, 1995

    The President. Thank you. Wow! Thank you. Thank you very much. I 
don't know where everybody else in Galesburg is today, but I'm glad 
you're here. I'm glad to see you all. [Applause] Thank you. Thank you. 
Thank you so much.
    I would like to begin by paying my compliments to the band. Didn't 
they do a good job? I thought they were terrific. [Applause]
    I also want to thank--I understand that you all heard the speech I 
gave. Is that right? No, yes? No? Somebody is saying yes; somebody is 
saying no. Anyway, I was over at the community college, as you know, and 
I met there with about 20 people who had either been students there or 
are now students there or who taught there or who hired people who 
graduated from there. And I went there to talk about education with the 
Secretary of Labor, who is not here with me, and the Secretary of 
Education, Dick Riley, the former Governor of South Carolina, who is 
here with me, and your fine Congressman, Lane Evans. I'm glad to see 
him. Give him a hand. [Applause]
    I would like to say, first of all, on behalf of myself and all of 
those who came with me from Washington today, we have had a wonderful 
welcome in this terrific community. And we're very grateful to all of 
you for that.
    I must say, when I landed at the airport and they told me that I 
couldn't take the helicopter to Galesburg, I'd have to drive, I was 
actually kind of happy because I got to drive across the farmland. And I 
looked at all the land, and it kind of made me feel--no, I liked it. It 
made me feel right at home. That's where I grew up.
    I would like--I want to say a couple of things about what I came 
here to talk about today, since some of you heard what I said and some 
of you didn't. I'll be brief, but I want to talk about it because I 
think it's important.
    When I ran for President in 1992 and I came here to Illinois and I 
went up and down the State----
    Audience member. To Peoria.
    The President. Yes, to Peoria and other places--I always knew it was 
a very big State, but when I visited Southern Illinois University in the 
southern part of the State, I looked at a map, and I realized I was 
south of Richmond, Virginia. And I said, this is a very big State and a 
very beautiful one and, of course, my wife's home. So I like it a lot.
    I believed then and I believe now that we are going through a time 
of great change which, if we do the right thing, will lead us to 
America's greatest days. I think the young people here in this school 
can live in the most peaceful, most exciting, most prosperous, most 
exhilarating times this country has ever known if we do the right thing.
    And if you look at what's going on in America today, it just 
reinforces in my mind the things I have always wanted to do. I worked as 
a Governor for 12 years, and I knew what my mission was in this global 
economy: I had to improve the schools, improve education for people of 
all ages, and get more jobs into my State.
    If you look at where we are as a country now, I ran for President 
committed to doing three things. I wanted a new economic policy so that 
the Government would be working with ordinary working people and with 
business so that we would be able to compete and win in a global 
economy, we'd be able to get good jobs and keep them.
    I wanted to change the way the Federal Government works. I wanted 
the Government to be smaller but more effective. I wanted it to be able 
to solve people's problems but to be flexible and creative and not waste 
money. And I thought we could do that, and I've come back

[[Page 30]]

to that. I think we've done a good job of making those changes.
    And the third thing I wanted to do was to institute what was my 
version of the Contract With America. I called it the New Covenant. I 
believe that we need a new sense in this country that the Government's 
job is to do what it can to provide more opportunity, but we need more 
responsibility from our citizens as well. If we're going to rebuild the 
American community, we have to have more rights and responsibility. And 
you can't have one without the other. If people go around being 
responsible and no opportunities ever come their way, they get tired and 
quit. But if you just give people things and they never act like 
responsible citizens, the whole country comes apart at the seams. What 
we need is more of both: more opportunity and more responsibility. And 
if we have it, we can rebuild America.
    Now, after 2 years, I can make this progress report to you. We had 
to first work on the economy. We had to bring the deficit down. We had 
to open some markets around the world to our goods and services because 
we were seeing people selling things in America who worked for wages we 
couldn't live on. We saw people losing jobs here and losing incomes. We 
had to open those markets around the world. Well, after 2 years, we've 
reduced the deficit by $700 billion. That's $11,000 a family in less 
debt for you and your future, $11,000 a family. And we've had more 
opening of markets to American products and services than in any period 
in our history. So we're moving. What have we got to show for it: 5.6 
million new jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in Illinois in 20 years. 
We are moving in the right direction.
    Now, we've changed the way the Government works. There are 100,000 
fewer people working for the Federal Government today than there were 
working for the Federal Government on the day I became President. We are 
going to reduce the Government now by over 300,000. It will be the 
smallest it's been since John Kennedy was President, but it's doing 
things. It's doing things. When you had the terrible floods here, the 
Federal Emergency Management Agency, which had been condemned for years 
as an ineffective agency, showed up here and was ready to serve the 
people in the middle of the worst emergency you've had in a long time. 
It delivered. It worked. That's the kind of Government we need, smaller 
but effective and strong and there.
    Third, and maybe most important, we tried to expand opportunities 
for communities and individuals in a way that would enable people to 
take responsibility for their own lives. That's what our crime bill is 
all about. The crime bill that Lane voted for will reduce the size of 
the Federal Government by 270,000 over 5 years and take every penny of 
that money and give it back to you and your local community to hire more 
police, to have drug treatment and drug education programs, to do things 
that will lower the crime rate. And everywhere I go in America, law 
enforcement officers or mayors come up to me and say, ``We're going to 
lower the crime rate because of that crime bill. Thank you very much.'' 
That's the kind of thing we ought to be doing.
    And I hope, let me say, I hope when the new Congress gets around to 
debating welfare reform, that's what I hope they'll do with welfare 
reform. The problem with welfare is not that it is so costly; it's only 
about 3 percent of our national budget. The problem is that it 
encourages dependence instead of independence, encourages welfare 
instead of work. What we want is not a program that punishes poor people 
but that requires poor people to take those steps that will enable them 
to move from welfare to work, to be responsible parents and responsible 
workers, not punishment but reward.
    So we did that for 2 years, but there's still a real problem in 
America. Why are a lot of people not very happy? Because most Americans 
still have not felt any personal benefit from this economic recovery. 
This is a new thing in our history, and all the young people here should 
listen to this. We created all these new jobs in America with these 
productive American industries. Why aren't people happy? Because their 
wages aren't going up, right? And because a lot of people still feel 
uncertain about their jobs, and because another million Americans lost 
their health insurance last year who are in working families, and 
because millions of Americans are worried about their pensions. All 
these changes are going on, and people don't feel secure even when we 
create more jobs.
    Now, how do you raise wages? There are only three ways to raise 
wages: You have to get more high-wage jobs in the economy. You can take 
less out of the pocketbooks of middle class wage earners and let them 
keep more of

[[Page 31]]

the money they do earn. Or you can increase the education and skill 
level of people.
    Now, let me say, we're getting more high-wage jobs into the economy. 
And I want to support a middle class tax cut like the one I have 
outlined in the middle class bill of rights that will give people more 
take-home pay. But the most important thing of all is to do it in a way 
that will support the mission of education and training, not only for 
our schoolchildren but for the adults I met at that community college 
today, because we know now that for the first time in history, we're 
going to have economic recovery and job creation that don't benefit 
ordinary people unless we can raise the education levels of all the 
people in the United States in the work force, the adults. That means 
we've got to get more people to the colleges, more people back to the 
community colleges. We've got to help people work and train and raise 
their kids at the same time. That's what I talked about today.
    Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, I hope you will support 
these ideas because they're American ideas. Let's give a tax deduction 
for the educational expenses that people have after high school, whether 
they're in a college or a community college. Let's let working people 
invest in an IRA, an individual retirement account, but be able to 
withdraw money from that tax-free for education, for health care, for 
caring for their folks. Let's give tax relief to working people for 
their children in their homes so they can help be successful parents and 
successful workers. And finally, I propose to take all these Government 
programs that are paid to train people and consolidate the money. And if 
you qualify because you're unemployed or because you're a low-income 
person, if you want to go to school, I propose, in effect, letting you 
send a check to the local community college and not having to go through 
all these Government programs and redtape. Just go to school, get the 
education, go forward. Just do it.
    Now, folks, these are good ideas. They're American ideas. I don't 
care who gets credit for it, but I want us to do them. There is no party 
label that will change the reality that the most important thing we can 
do for Americans is to give everybody a good education, give people the 
skills to compete and win in this global economy, and give not only our 
schoolchildren but their parents and their grandparents, if they need 
it, the ability to go back to these community colleges and get the 
skills to have a better life and a stronger life and do a better job for 
themselves and the rest of this country. That is the most important 
thing we can do to lift the income of the American people.
    So, that's what I said over there, but I took about 5 minutes longer 
to say it. I care about you and your future. My job is to make sure that 
when all these young people get out of this high school, the American 
dream is alive and well; this is still the strongest country in the 
world; we are still a force for peace and freedom and opportunity. But 
in order to do it, you, every single one of you has got to make a 
commitment that we are going to develop the capacity of our people. 
That's how we're going to win. That's how we're going to get wages up. 
That's how we're going to bring security back. That's how we're going to 
bring this country together again. That's how we're going to do it. And 
we can with your help.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 2:23 p.m. in the gymnasium.