[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[March 9, 1995]
[Pages 325-327]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at Patrick Henry Elementary School and an Exchange With 
Reporters in Alexandria, Virginia
March 9, 1995

    The President. First of all, I want to thank all the people here at 
Patrick Henry for making us feel so welcome. I thank Principal Leila 
Engman for making me feel right at home here, and these five young 
students who have been terrific. They took me to lunch today and 
introduced me to some of their classmates. We played ``Where's Waldo?'' 
and had a great lunch. And I thank them for that.
    I want to thank Senator Robb and Congressman Moran for coming with 
me and, of course, our distinguished Secretary of Education, Dick Riley, 
and Ellen Haas, the Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food, Nutrition 
and Consumer Services. Mayor Ticer, we're glad to be here in your 
community; thank you. And I'm glad that Dr. Jim Moller is here, head of 
the American Heart Association and a strong supporter of the effort for 
healthy meals in our public schools throughout the country. I thank 
Maxine Wood, the superintendent of schools, and Bernadette Johnson-
Green, the vice chair of the school board, and the other representatives 
of this school system who are here.
    I'm glad to be here today to participate for the first time in quite 
a few years in a school

[[Page 326]]

lunch program. I ate at my school cafeteria for most of my years in 
grade school and junior high and high school, but it's been quite a few 
years since I've had a chance to do this, except with Chelsea on 
occasion over the years.
    Over 25 million young schoolchildren in this country eat school 
lunches daily. And for many of them it's their only nutritious meal in 
the day. This program has been around since the year I was born, 1946, 
when President Truman signed it into law as a matter of national 
security, to ensure that our children are properly fed.
    For 50 years, this program has had strong bipartisan support. In 
1969, President Nixon said, ``A child ill-fed is dulled in curiosity, 
lower in stamina, distracted from learning.'' I received a letter from a 
woman from California who said, and I quote, ``I'm glad there were free 
and reduced lunches for children; otherwise my kids would have 
starved.'' And she was working full-time as a nurse's aide while her 
children were in school.
    This week's newspapers, of course, are full of similar stories. 
Yesterday, I read about a cafeteria worker who said she sees kids every 
day who are so hungry they practically eat the food from other 
children's plates.
    School lunches have always been seen by both Democrats and 
Republicans as an essential part of student education. Last year, with 
the leadership of Ellen Haas, we took some further steps to make meals 
more nutritious, to increase their vitamin and mineral content and 
reduce their fat and sodium content, and the Congress ratified that in a 
piece of legislation passed last year. Unfortunately, this year, some 
Members of the new Congress have decided that cutting this program would 
be a good way of cutting Government spending and financing tax cuts for 
upper income Americans. This is penny-wise and pound-foolish. While 
saving some money now, these nutrition programs for schoolchildren and 
for women and for infants save several dollars in social costs for every 
dollar we spend on them. The American people want a Government that 
works better and costs less, not a Government that works worse and costs 
    These Republican proposals will cost us dearly in the health of our 
children, the quality of our schools, and the safety of our streets. I 
have done everything I could for the last 2 years to fight for the 
economic interests of middle class Americans, to help poor people to 
work their way into the middle class, and to support the values of 
responsibility, family, work, and community. This proposal undermines 
that. We have to give our children more support so they can make the 
most of their own lives.
    This school lunch proposal, of course, is not the only thing in the 
Republican rescission proposal that is penny-wise and pound-foolish, 
that sacrifices enormous future prosperity and health for America for 
present, short-term gains. The rescissions would deprive 15,000 people 
of the opportunity to serve in AmeriCorps; 100,000 educationally 
disadvantaged students would lose their special services. Drug 
prevention programs that will now go to 94 percent of our schools would 
be eliminated. Drug prevention funds that go for security measures, for 
police officers, and for education and prevention efforts would be 
eliminated. And of course, 1.2 million summer job opportunities for 
young people would be eliminated.
    This is hardly what I call ``putting people first.'' This will 
advance not the economic interests of the middle class. It will not 
restore the American dream. It will not help the poor to work their way 
into prosperity. It will simply achieve some short-term gains in order 
to finance either spending cuts or tax cuts to upper income Americans.
    I know we have to reduce the deficit. Last year, with the help of 
Senator Robb and Congressman Moran--in 1993, excuse me--we cut the 
deficit by $600 billion. I've given Congress $144 billion in further 
budget cuts. I will work with them to find more, but not in the area of 
education or health or nutrition for our children and our future.
    We ought to be here expanding opportunity, not restricting it. But 
let me say, again, to Patrick Henry, to the school, to the school 
leaders, and most of all to these fine students, you have given me and 
Senator Robb and Congressman Moran and Dr. Moller a wonderful 
experience, and you have also helped once again to tell the American 
people that the School Lunch Program should not be put on the chopping 
block. Let's go out there, let's defend it, let's keep it, let's invest 
more in education and find other ways to cut the deficit.
    Thank you very much.

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Budget Priorities

    Q. Mr. President, are there any rescissions that the Republicans 
have been proposing in the House that you would support?
    The President. We're going through them. There may well be. But they 
know which ones I don't support. And let me just say, we're about to 
move into the debate on the line-item veto, which gives us a permanent 
mechanism to get rescissions, if you will, every year. And if they will 
pass the line-item veto, I'll work with them. We'll cut spending, and 
we'll continue to reduce this deficit.
    But we don't need to reduce our investment in education, in child 
health, in medical research and technology, and in efforts to keep 
people off drugs and protect our children and our schools from the drug 
    I am more than--I have proved that I will cut spending and I will 
cut some more. But look at the Agriculture Department. They want to cut 
the School Lunch Program; we closed 1,200 Agriculture Department offices 
instead. That's the kind of decisions we need to make, and we'll make 
the right decisions if we'll work together. And I think I speak for all 
of us here in saying there is a way to restore our country's fiscal 
health and still support our children and our future. That's what we're 
committed to.
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:22 p.m. in the cafeteria. In his 
remarks, he referred to Mayor Patricia S. Ticer of Alexandria.