[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[August 9, 1995]
[Pages 1219-1228]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the Progressive National Baptist Convention in Charlotte, 
North Carolina
August 9, 1995

    Thank you. Mr. President Smith, I'm glad you explained that whole 
thing because here I was about to speak--I'd let enough time go by 
between Gardner Taylor and me that you could maybe forget some of my--
[laughter]--and then you said, ``We're going to wait until after he 
speaks to sing `Oh Happy Day.' '' [Laughter] But I think I understand 
    To all the vice presidents and your convention secretary and 
Reverend Booth and many of my friends who are here, Reverend Otis Moss, 
Reverend Charles Adams, Reverend Billy Kyles, and Reverend Shepard. To 
my wonderful friend Reverend Gardner Taylor, thank you for what you 
said. I intend to tell the story of the hound dog and the hare. 
[Laughter] Where appropriate, I will give you credit. [Laughter] To 
Governor Jim Hunt--ladies and gentlemen, Jim Hunt may be the most 
popular Governor in America. He's certainly one of the two or three 
finest Governors in America and a great friend of mine. We're glad to 
have him here. In 1979--that was a long time ago--when I had no gray 
hair and he had much less--[laughter]--he nominated me to be the vice 
chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. No one

[[Page 1220]]

knew who I was. I was 33 years old. And if it hadn't been for that, I 
might not be here today. Now, that may get him in a lot of trouble down 
here for all I know, but I will always be grateful to Jim Hunt for the 
role he had in my life and the role he's had in the life of this State 
and Nation.
    I have looked forward to coming here. I feel at home. Most people 
down here don't speak with an accent; I like that. [Laughter] And since 
I'm at home, I want to talk about something I have been trying to deal 
with all across America lately, and that is, how are we going to find 
the common ground we need to walk the road we have to walk together? How 
can we rise above our differences and march into the future together?
    You've set a good example here. I understand this is the first-ever 
joint meeting between the Progressive Baptist Convention and the 
Alliance of Baptists. This will have a lot of subsidiary good benefits. 
For example, it's doing those white folks up there a world of good to 
sing in a choir like that. [Laughter and applause] That may be a 
racially insensitive, politically incorrect remark, but having spent 
countless hours of my life in Baptist church choirs, I do know what I am 
talking about. [Laughter] I can't believe I said that. [Laughter] ``A 
happy heart doeth good like medicine.'' [Laughter]
    I do believe as strongly as I can say that we have to fight for 
common ground instead of fight to tear each other apart. And I say that 
not because I have suffered my share of slings and arrows as President 
in the absence of common ground--it's just an honor to show up for work 
every day. St. Paul said that God put a thorn in his flesh so he would 
not be exalted in his own eyes. If that is the test, I feel downright 
humble today. [Laughter]
    Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together. Whether we 
like it or not, we are an American family, and we behave like a good 
family or a bad family or a little bit of both, but we are a family. We 
have to get together. That's why I made the speech I did on affirmative 
action. Let's don't get away from something that's helping us until we 
don't need it anymore. I thought it was important to tell the American 
people that everything is not equal in terms of opportunity in our 
country today, even though the laws have changed, and also important to 
remind people about what affirmative action is and isn't. It's not about 
quotas. It's not about unqualified people getting anything. It's not 
about reverse discrimination. All of that is illegal and will not be 
tolerated wherever we can find it.
    We ought to shift more efforts to help people just because they're 
poor, without regard to their race or gender. But we need to recognize 
that we have to have ways to make sure we're going forward together. The 
future really should be America's best time. Here we are living in this 
global society where information goes around the world in a split 
second. We flip on CNN; we know what they're doing in some country we 
couldn't find on a map 6 months ago. It's great.
    But if we're going to be a global village, what country is in a 
better position to do well than the one that is the most racially, 
ethnically, religiously diverse, with the most powerful private sector 
in the world, the United States. If we can find a way to get along 
together and to work together and solve our problems together, our best 
days are before us. That is what is at issue here.
    And we know that affirmative action won't amount to anything if we 
don't deal with our big problems. We don't want to be part of a lot of 
Americans fighting over a shrinking pie. We don't want to be one of 
these families with a whole lot of heirs and the estate's going down. We 
want to be a family where everybody has a brighter future. So that means 
we have to deal with the economic problems of the American family, the 
social problems of the American family. And it means we have to be 
candid in saying that we can't make up for the shortcomings of our 
individual families or churches or communities unless they do their 
    And that's what I want to talk to you about today. There's been a 
lot of talk for 15 or 20 years now about family values. What are the 
family values of the American family, and what do they compel us to do 
right now, today, this day, and tomorrow when we get up in the morning 
and God gives us another day of life? What do they say we ought to do? 
Are we going to use this discussion of family values this year and next 
to lift up or to tear down, to unite or to divide? Is it going to be a 
weapon of words to harden the hearts of some Americans against another, 
or is it going to be a way of asking ourselves what's this family all 
    Some folks like this family values issue because they get to preach 
at other people. They

[[Page 1221]]

get to preach against violence and premature sex and teen pregnancy, and 
they get to preach against the media promoting such things. They get to 
preach against drugs and crime. They get to tell people, ``Behave.'' 
Now, that's not all bad. But is it enough?
    Some folks like this issue because, frankly, they are working hard 
to keep their own families together, to keep body and soul together, to 
pay their bills, raise their kids, take care of their parents, and 
they'd like a little help from their Government or their community or 
from their church.
    But raising a family--what's it about? Isn't it fundamentally--think 
about your own family. Isn't raising a family fundamentally about the 
obligations we owe to other people in the family? Isn't it fundamentally 
about the responsibility we have to fulfill those obligations and then 
to behave in such a way that we can make the most of our own lives? And 
if we're going to talk about the family values of America, shouldn't we 
talk about it like that? Isn't that what the American family ought to be 
about, the obligations we owe to other members of the family, the 
responsibilities we have to fulfill those obligations, and the 
responsibility we have to conduct our lives so that we can live up to 
the fullest of our God-given capacities?
    Now, that means that we can stand some good preaching, but we've got 
to be good Samaritans, too. It also means that when we look at our 
neighbor and we see that sty in his or her eye, we've got to make sure 
the beam's out of ours.
    But these problems--the point I'm trying to make is that all these 
problems we face as an American family or in our individual family, they 
have a moral aspect which needs some preaching and behaving, and they 
have a communal aspect which may need a little help from Samaritans.
    You look at the teen pregnancy problem. People obviously have to 
make a decision not to do that. We can't make that decision for them. 
They have to make that decision and people have to be--[applause]--
that's a matter of personal ethics and discipline and values. And we're 
just kidding ourselves if we pretend that there's some picture-pretty 
social program that will solve this.
    On the other hand, when people do want to behave, they're entitled 
to a little help from their friends, from their Samaritans. If a young 
girl has a child and wants to get off welfare and wants to go to school 
or go to work, then there has to be some child care. So you need--if you 
want to fight the crime problem, you've got to punish those who do 
wrong, but you also have to take these kids who are in severe, severely 
difficult circumstances, at great risk of doing wrong, and give them 
something to say yes to, something to be hopeful about.
    You know, a couple of years ago when we passed the crime bill, which 
had the toughest punishments in history, we put more money into 
prevention programs than ever before. And the people who opposed us 
ridiculed us in the name of something called midnight basketball. As far 
as I know, nobody has ever been arrested playing midnight basketball for 
dealing dope on a basketball court with an adult supervisor there.
    So who are we trying to kid here? Let's take it the other way. Look 
at an economic problem. It can also become a moral problem. The fact is 
most families in the American family are working families. Most poor 
people in America are now living in working families. And most people 
are working longer hours today than they were 10 years ago for the same 
or lower wages. Now, that's a fact. Now, you say, that's an economic 
fact. Well, it can become a moral fact if people who are working harder 
for less have less time and energy, not to mention money, to invest in 
their children and their education, to keep their kids out of trouble, 
to do what they want to do.
    I never will forget a few years ago, every time I ran for office at 
home in Arkansas, I used to make it a point to go to the earliest 
factory gate in my State--Campbell Soup factory in northwest Arkansas. 
People started going to work there at 4:30, and I figured if I'd show up 
between 4:30 and a quarter to 5 and shake hands with everybody on that 
shift, somebody would say, ``Well, if that guy's fool enough to do this, 
we ought to give him a vote.'' [Laughter] And it worked. [Laughter] And 
so I did it. But I never will forget, one day I was there quarter to 5 
in the morning; pickup truck pulls up outside the factory; the door 
opens; a light comes on inside the pickup truck. There's this really 
attractive young couple there. The young wife is going to work; the 
husband is driving off. They have three little kids in that pickup 
truck, in the front seat. And I said, ``Now what are you going to do?'' 
He said, ``Well, my wife has to be at work, she has to check in, by

[[Page 1222]]

5 o'clock every morning. And I have to be at work by 7. So I have to 
find somebody who will take my children at 6:30, which most child care 
people won't. So I've got to now go back home, make breakfast for these 
kids, get them there, and then drop them off at the child care center. 
Then I've got to show up at 7.''
    Now, that's maybe an extreme example but not an atypical example of 
the way most families live today. Isn't that right? Most people are 
working today. So I would argue to you that that's an economic issue 
that has become a moral issue. How can our society succeed unless people 
can be good parents and good workers? And if we have to choose one or 
the other, who's going to fall between the cracks? The kids. We live in 
a world where we must not make people choose. We have to succeed at 
    Now, for 2\1/2\ years that's what I have been working at. That's why 
I want to bring this deficit down and balance the budget. That's why I 
tried to create jobs with investments and special incentives for people 
to put money into poor areas and expanding trade so we could sell more 
of our stuff around the world. That's why I tried to increase education 
from Head Start to kids, to more affordable college loans and 
scholarships and national service for kids to go to college. That's why 
we're putting money into the fight against crime and the war against 
drugs, for education and training and treatment and also to try to crack 
down on people who are importing these drugs into our country. That's 
why we're doing that. That's why we passed the family and medical leave 
law, the symbol of being a successful parent and a successful worker. 
Why should you lose your job if your kid gets sick? Why should you do 
that--and you've got to go home and take care of them? Why we want to 
immunize all the children in this country under the age of 2 and why we 
bailed out a very sick pension system in America and saved 8\1/2\ 
million people's retirements and protected 40 million other people's 
retirement up the road--because those are all family values to me.
    And we have, as a result, 7 million jobs, 2\1/2\ million new 
homeowners, 1\1/2\ million new businesses, the largest number of new 
millionaires in a 2-year period in history. Unemployment's down. 
Inflation's down. African-American unemployment's below 10 percent for 
the first time since the Vietnam war. And people are not working at 
fighting. In almost every major area of this country, the crime rate is 
down. And divorce is down. The country is beginning to come back 
    If that's true, why aren't we happy? Because many people are still, 
in fact, less secure. And many of our families are less secure, because 
underneath those statistics, the rising tide is not lifting all boats. 
And a huge number of people are being left out of this nice picture. And 
it's going to affect all the rest of us, just like any other family.
    You know, I'm really proud of my little brother, but he once had a 
terrible drug problem, and it affected all the rest of us. We didn't get 
off scot-free because we didn't find a way to solve this problem. It 
wasn't his problem; it was our problem. That's the way it is with 
America. It's our problem.
    When companies--their profits are up and they're still downsizing 
and laying people off, that's our problem. That's our problem. When we 
see people losing their health care even though they still got jobs--the 
only place--we're the only rich country in the world where that's 
happening--that's our problem. When people are faced with dealing with 
their parents or educating their children, that would be our problem, 
not just their problem. What's happening with crime and drugs is that 
the overall statistics are going down, but the rate of random, violent 
crime associated by very young teenagers is going way up. And people 
feel that, and it scares them. And it's our problem. The rate of random, 
careless, casual drug use is going up, even though a lot of the 
statistics are going down. Young, young teenagers are in big trouble in 
this country.
    Now, we've got to decide how to deal with it. If all we do is 
preach, we can play on our anxiety and our anger and we can divide one 
from another and we can fight over a shrinking economic pie. And it may 
be a wonderfully successful electoral strategy, but it won't solve 
anything. We go through another set of elections where nothing gets 
better. People vent their steam and express their fears and their anger, 
but nothing ever changes.
    So you see it today. People say, ``Well, the American family would 
be all right if it weren't for the immigrants or if it weren't for the 
people on welfare or if it weren't for the affirmative action program 
giving all the money to people

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who aren't qualified or if it weren't for the Government throwing all 
our money away.
    Now, what I want to say to you is the same thing I said about 
affirmative action. We have problems in immigration. We've got no 
business spending money on illegal immigrants. We should not--people who 
wait for years to get into this country lawfully should not be leaped 
over by people who just cross over because they can get in. That's not 
right. And our administration has put more effort into sealing our 
borders and sending illegal immigrants back and people that come into 
the criminal justice system who aren't here legally than anybody has in 
a long time.
    It is true that people shouldn't be on welfare if they can also be 
working. That's also true. And we have done more than any administration 
in history to move people from welfare to work. It's also true that, as 
I said before, we have to make some changes in the affirmative action 
program so we can keep it and make it work right. That's all true.
    And finally, it's true that there is waste in Government. But our 
administration has cut more out than anybody has in over 20 years. The 
point I want to make is, if you do all that, it still won't solve the 
problems unless you deal with these fundamental problems of the American 
family: What are the fundamental economic problems? What are the 
fundamental social problems? And how can we deal with them together? 
That's what our job is. We need to start acting like family members, do 
our part and ask what our obligations are.
    So let me say--the other day I tried to do this at the American 
Federation of Teachers convention. I'm going to try again. Here's what I 
think the family values of America in 1995 ought to be and what we can 
do about them in Government. And then you ask yourself, what can you do 
about them?
    Number one, if you were running a family right, you wouldn't saddle 
your kids with unnecessary debt. In other words, if you borrow money, 
you're borrowing it to buy a house, finance an education, build a new 
business, but you wouldn't borrow it to go out to eat on the weekend. 
That's what this country's been doing. We ought to balance the budget. 
It's the right thing to do.
    But if you're running a family right, you'd first and foremost try 
to take care of your children. Now, our children--[applause]--our 
children don't need to balance the budget on their backs. We don't have 
to cut Head Start or college loans and make it more expensive to educate 
the children to balance the budget. We can do them both.
    The third thing that you want your family to do is to take care of 
your parents. I mean, after all, they raised you, right? And in the 
American family, we decided a long time ago we would take care of our 
parents from middle class and lower middle class people and even through 
pretty well-to-do people, largely through Medicare and Medicaid. 
Medicare pays for hospital care, and then if you buy into the second 
part of it, it pays for doctor visits, a number of other things. And 
Medicaid pays for people who have to go into nursing homes. That's about 
two-thirds of the cost; that's how we pay for it.
    Now, we don't have to balance the budget by exploding the cost of 
Medicare to ordinary people. You know, 75 percent of the people on 
Medicare are living on incomes of under $25,000. We don't have to 
increase their premiums, their copays, their deductibles to make it so 
they don't have enough money to live on. We don't have to make their 
children pay even more than they're already paying in the payroll tax. 
All the children are paying for Medicare now; they're paying for it in 
the payroll tax. We don't have to make them pay more, which means that 
they will have--how are they going to educate their kids if they have to 
pay twice through Medicare?
    So I'm telling you, do we have to make some changes in Medicare? 
Yeah, we do. Why? Because we're living longer, and more of us are 
getting older. But do we have to absolutely bankrupt the elderly people 
in this country to balance the budget? No, we don't. And we shouldn't do 
it. It violates our family values.
    What's the fourth thing we've got to do? I already said it. In the 
world we're living in today, most people do not have an option, they 
have to work. We spent a lot of time and energy trying to get people 
from welfare to work. Most people are trying to find work. Most people 
on welfare want to go to work. Most people in jobs are trying to keep 
the one they've got or get a better one. Isn't that right? That's the 
normal thing in life. So the problem most people have is, how am I going 
to keep my job or get a better one and be a good parent? How

[[Page 1224]]

can I do the right thing by our children? So what should we do?
    We should keep the family and medical leave law, for one thing. It's 
a good law. We should make it possible for everybody who works 40 hours 
a week and has a child in the home not to be in poverty. If people leave 
welfare and they show up for work every day and they've got kids in the 
house, what kind of message does it send to them if they're in poverty? 
It's not the right message. So in 1993, we changed the tax law, and we 
said, we're going to give a tax credit, a working family tax credit. 
Today, for every family of four in America with an income of $28,000 a 
year or less, the tax bill is $1,000 lower than it was before I took 
office because we don't believe people who work 40 hours a week and have 
kids should be in poverty. We should increase that program. The last 
thing we should do is do what some people want to do and cut back on 
that program. We should reward people who are doing their best at 
working and parenting.
    We ought to change the health care system. We're the only country in 
the world where working families are losing health care every year. We 
ought to change the rules so that if you change jobs, you don't lose 
your health care. If you have somebody in your family get sick, you 
cannot be cut off. And people ought to get a little help to keep their 
parents out of nursing homes as well as help pay for them when they get 
in them. We can do that and still balance the budget.
    And the last thing we ought to do, I believe strongly, is raise the 
minimum wage. It's too low. If we don't raise the minimum wage next 
year, in terms of its ability to buy things, it will be at a 40-year 
low, a 40-year low. I don't know about you, but my idea of the 21st 
century is an exciting, high-tech deal where there are all these gadgets 
that I don't even know how to work, but my daughter and all my 
grandchildren, they'll be working them like crazy and doing well. My 
idea of the 21st century is not a hard-work, low-wage dead-end society. 
Let's raise the minimum wage. We can go forward together. That's what 
family members do. That's our obligation to people who are out there 
doing that kind of work the rest of us don't want to do. That's part of 
our family obligations.
    The next thing we ought to do is when we cut taxes we ought to make 
it support families. My tax cut program gives people a tax cut for 
raising kids and for educating their children and themselves, families, 
pro-family. And we ought to say we know some people are going to lose 
their jobs in all this downsizing. It's always happened, and now it 
seems to be happening a little more. But when people lose their jobs, if 
they're working people, the least we can do is guarantee them a right to 
immediately--not to wait until their unemployment runs out--immediately, 
immediately get more education. And I have proposed a ``GI bill'' for 
America's workers that would allow any unemployed person in the country 
that loses a job to get a voucher worth $2,500 or so a year and take it 
to the local community college for up to 2 years to get education and 
training. That's a family value. That's a family value.
    Just a couple of other things. I believe--you know, in our family, 
we were raised--I was raised in the South. You can tell by the way I 
talk, especially after I'm around you for a while and get in a good 
humor. [Laughter] We were raised to love the land, to love the water, to 
believe that we had to live in harmony with it, to cut the trees in a 
way that there'd still be trees a generation from now, to till the land 
in a way that there would still be topsoil for our grandchildren. That's 
what we were raised to do. And I believe part of our family values 
should be teaching our people to preserve our environment. And I don't 
understand this new obsession in Washington with ripping out all the 
protections for the environment and for the public health and safety, 
for clean food, clean water, clean air. I don't understand that. I don't 
understand that.
    And the last thing I want to say is, it seems to me that the 
American family has got to be focusing on social problems we have that 
affect our children especially, especially. What are our obligations 
there? And on these I need your help because there's only so much the 
Government can do, although there are things the Government can do.
    We were, most of us, raised to know what the seven deadly sins were. 
Remember that? Pride, lust, gluttony, sloth, avarice, anger, envy. Anger 
and gluttony, those are the two I have to work on all the time. 
[Laughter] We've all got our little list, don't we? But I would like to 
point out that there are four things that are threatening our children 
that could be deadly sins to them: violence; the problem of teen 
pregnancy, for the young fathers as well as the

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young mothers; smoking, something people don't often think about, I want 
to talk about that a little bit; and drugs.
    And I want to say we have to think about the children. Families are 
fundamentally the device through which we perpetuate ourselves. They're 
really about children. They're organized to raise children. And nobody 
in all of human history has ever come up with an appropriate, adequate 
substitute. Jesus said, ``Let the little children come to me and do not 
hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.''
    When they come, what do you do? Luke 11, ``If a child asks for 
bread, would you give him a stone? If he asks for a fish, would you give 
him a serpent? If he asks for an egg, would you give him a scorpion?'' 
That's what the kids of this country are being given, a whole lot of 
    Look at violence. Every 2 hours in this country a child dies of a 
gunshot wound. Last year in Washington we had a 13-year-old honor 
student just standing at the bus stop shot down because he just happened 
to be in the middle of two gangs that were fighting. Homicide is the 
leading cause of death among African-American males between the ages of 
15 and 24. The number of people arrested for murder is going down among 
those older than 25 but going up for juveniles and young adults. The 
number of juveniles--juveniles--arrested for murder increased 168 
percent between 1984 and 1993.
    In one of our newspapers the other day there was this incredible 
story about a 16-year-old boy who shot a 12-year-old boy dead because he 
thought he was showing him disrespect. All this boy's friends, the 12-
year-old boy's friends, said that's the way he treated everybody, he was 
a jokester. The 16-year-old felt insecure. They had one incident; 
nothing happened. They had another incident; he pulled out the gun and 
shot him when he was running away and then stood over his body and 
emptied the gun into his body.
    Now, this happened just a couple of days after there was this great 
national survey, a very fascinating survey of young gang members in 
which two-thirds of these young men honestly said, quite openly, they 
thought it was all right to shoot somebody who disrespected you. If 
that's all right, I'd be plumb out of bullets; the whole country would 
be. [Laughter] We're laughing, but this is deadly serious. How many of 
us--how many times were we raised with, ``When you get mad, count to 10 
before you open your mouth.'' Don't you say that? Don't you do that? 
That's how we were raised up. Who's telling these kids to count to 10?
    What's happening out there? How can two-thirds of the kids who 
belong to these gangs think it's okay to shoot somebody for some word 
they say? Whatever happened to,``Sticks and stones can break my bones, 
but words will never hurt me''? Whatever happened to people being told 
to define themselves from the inside out, not from the outside in? 
Whatever happened to all that?
    I'm doing what I can. Look, when we passed that crime bill last year 
a lot of Members of Congress literally gave up their seats in Congress 
and gave up their careers to vote for that crime bill, because it banned 
assault weapons. And they were taken out. I'm telling you, the NRA took 
them out in the last election. And they did it for your children. Most 
of these people came from rural districts where their voters didn't 
understand and they could be stampeded because they didn't know anybody 
with an assault weapon. And they figured if somebody bought one and 
wanted to take it to a shooting contest they ought to have a right to. 
And they were spooked, and a lot of them voted against these good 
Members of Congress. But they did it for our kids who are living in 
these cities where these kids are being gunned down. They said, ``If it 
costs me my career to get the Uzis out of the high school, I'll give it 
    Now, that was a great thing. That was an important thing. And that 
bill gave some money to community groups for crime prevention programs 
and for job programs and for things to give these kids something to say 
yes to. We're doing what we can, but you know and I know we can put 
100,000 more police on the street, we can ban assault weapons, we can 
have the Brady bill, we can have these funds for community programs--and 
I hope we can save them, by the way, in this Congress--but the parents 
still have to be there, or if they're not there, the churches, somebody 
has got to be there to teach these kids right from wrong. Somebody has 
got to say, ``I don't care what they call you, it is better to live to 
be 70 years old and have children and grandchildren and have a useful 
full life. What difference does it make what they call you?'' Somebody 
has to be there to do that. And we've all got to do that together.

[[Page 1226]]

    Yes, there are some other things we can do. The other day--we're in 
a big argument in Washington now--I think we're going to win this one 
because it's not partisan--about the influence that our culture has, you 
know, are kids exposed to too much violence in the movies and 
principally on television, because that's how most people watch it? And 
I think the answer is, yes, they are. Of course they are.
    But the answer to this is not simply to condemn but to ask the 
people who are making these movies to help us and to ask the people who 
are showing them to us to help us. And now, with all the wonders of 
technology, we know that everybody who has cable TV can get something 
called the V-chip which would allow every family to determine which 
channels or even programs within channels they don't want their little 
children to watch. Kids get numb to violence. If by the time you're 6 or 
7 years old, you've seen thousands and thousands and thousands of people 
shot down on the street, it numbs you. So we ought to pass this law and 
require the V-chip and give families the right to program for their 
children. It's a family right.
    But in the end, we have to do this together. And if we don't deal 
with this, all the rest of this stuff is just like whistling ``Dixie'' 
because you can't bring one of these kids back. In this life, you cannot 
see them again once they're dead. So we must--this is something we must 
commit to do together. And this ought not to be a partisan issue. It 
ought not to be a racial issue. It ought not to be a regional issue. We 
have to do something about the rapid growth in violence among our very 
young people.
    The second thing I want to talk about a minute is teen pregnancy. 
Every year a million young girls between the ages of 15 and 19 become 
pregnant. Some of them are married, but most of them aren't. Eighty 
percent of the children born to unwed teenagers who dropped out of 
school, 80 percent of them live in poverty. It is literally true that if 
teenagers who are unmarried didn't have babies and all babies were born 
into families where at least one person both had a job and a high-school 
education, you would cut the poverty rate by more than 50 percent in 
America. The new poor in America are young mothers and their little 
    In the last 2\1/2\ years, we're worked hard on this. And our welfare 
reform program sends a clear signal to young people. I believe if people 
are going to draw welfare when they are young and unmarried, we should 
say, this is not so you can go out and set up your own household and 
perpetuate this. Unless you have a bad situation at home, you ought to 
have to live at home and stay in school or stay at work to take the 
    And I think we should hold fathers more accountable. There's a lot 
of child abuse in teen pregnancy. At least half the babies born to 
teenage girls are fathered by men who are 20 or older. That's child 
abuse. That's not right. It's not right. And even young men--even young 
men--there was a young man in our hometown in Arkansas before I moved 
here who made a mistake and fathered a child. He was a young man in 
school. But you know, that kid got up every day before school and went 
to work and every day after school went back to work and gave all that 
money to the child. We need more people doing that. That's the kind of 
thing that we have got to have happen. We need to be, all of us, for 
very, very tough child support enforcement. We cannot tolerate people 
who won't take care of their own children. Eight-hundred thousand people 
could move off welfare if we just enforced the child support laws of the 
United States of America. And we need to be for that.
    But I will say again, I can't solve this problem with a Government 
fix. This is about how people behave and whether they get personal, 
personal, one-on-one kinds of reassurance. I am working to get all the 
leaders of all sectors of our society involved in this fight. But what I 
want to say is we know there are things that work. The Teen Health 
Connection here working with low-income teenagers right here in 
Charlotte has made a real difference. Dr. Henry Foster's ``I Have A 
Future'' program has made a real difference.
    And I want to say, by the way, I thank you for standing behind Henry 
Foster. He is a good man, and I'm glad you've got him coming here. And 
I'm going to do my best to keep him involved in this struggle because he 
has proved--I saw those young people. I saw those kids from the housing 
projects in Nashville, Tennessee. A lot of them didn't have a nickel to 
their names, and they got on a bus and they left their lives, they left 
what they were doing, and they rode to Washington to tell the United 
States Senate they ought not to let politics keep Henry Foster from 
becoming Surgeon General, because he

[[Page 1227]]

had changed their lives. He had ended the epidemic of teen pregnancy and 
violence and had given them a chance to start a better future. That's 
what we need more of.
    The same thing is true of drugs. Let me just give you this. In the 
latest survey of drug use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, 43 percent 
of high school seniors had used an illegal drug by the time they reached 
their senior year. Marijuana, LSD, inhalants like glue and aerosol--that 
stuff people did when I was barely out of high school--all these things 
are coming back. And the feeling that these drugs are dangerous is going 
down in these surveys. Same people, two-thirds of them who say we can go 
out and shoot somebody that disrespects us say, ``Oh, this stuff's not 
    Now, we are now doing more than a National Government's ever done to 
fight drugs, based on cutting off the source in foreign governments. You 
probably saw in the press this week another drug kingpin busted in 
Colombia. We work hard on that, and we are making real progress on that. 
But you also have to do things here at home. You've got to punish the 
real serious offenders here at home. But you have to have some sort of 
treatment, education, and prevention programs as well. Therefore, I am 
opposed to these efforts in the Congress to balance the budget by 
cutting 23 million students out of the safe schools and drug-free 
schools program.
    You know, I bet a lot of you had your children come home and tell 
you how much they liked their D.A.R.E. officer in the school talking 
about staying off drugs. A lot of these police officers that are going 
into these schools are the best role models a lot of these young kids 
have. And we need to support this sort of thing. We don't need to walk 
away from it. And you have to help. You have got to make sure that every 
single solitary school in this country has a good safe and drug-free 
schools program. You have got to do that. Whatever we do in Washington, 
you have got to do that.
    The last thing I want to talk about is smoking. And I want to tell 
you why I want to talk about it. I know that tobacco is very important 
to the economy of this fine State. And I've worked hard to help the 
economy of this and every other State. And there are a lot of wonderful 
people in this country who make a living as tobacco farmers, and their 
families have for a couple of hundred years. That's important to 
    But we cannot pretend that we're ignoring the evidence. One of the 
greatest threats to the health of our children is teenage smoking, and 
it's rising. Listen to this, every single day 3,000 young people become 
regular smokers and nearly 1,000 of them will die prematurely as a 
result. For more than a decade, even as adult smoking was dropping, the 
smoking rate among high school seniors did not go down. That was bad 
enough. But since 1991, the percentage of teenage smokers has risen 
steadily and rapidly. There's been a 30 percent increase in the 8th 
graders who smoke, a 22 percent increase in the number of 10th graders 
who smoke, and by the age of 16, the average teenage smoker is smoking 
every day and will not stop. If you wanted to do something to reduce the 
cost of health care, help over the long run to balance the budget, and 
increase the health care of America, having no teenagers smoke would be 
the cheapest, easiest, quickest thing you could ever do to change the 
whole dynamic of health care in America.
    Now, again I will tell you, it's just like the drugs and the gangs; 
the number of teenagers who believe smoking is dangerous is dropping 
dramatically. There's a lot more peer approval. This also is a recipe 
for disaster. There are some things we can do at the governmental level, 
and we'll be talking about that in the near future. But what I want to 
say to you is this is just another example of where, no matter what you 
do with the law, people have to change inside, and somebody has to help 
them change inside. And we have to do it in an organized, disciplined 
    James Baldwin once said, ``Children have never been very good at 
listening to their elders.'' As a parent, that's comforting to know. 
[Laughter] ``But,'' he said, ``they have never failed to imitate them.''
    So, I say to you what I said at the beginning. We are on the verge 
of the 21st century. It should be America's century. The best days of 
this country should be before us. If we recognize that we're a family 
and we're going forward, up, or down together, we will go up and forward 
    But we have to ask ourselves, what are our family values and what do 
we in the American family value and what are we going to do about it? 
Today, I've tried to tell you what I intend

[[Page 1228]]

to do about it. And I ask you to say, what are you going to do about it, 
and how are you going to continue to work?
    I want to say a special word of thanks to our host pastor, Reverend 
Diggs, because I know that he has worked in this community to try to 
make a difference on these issues. And so many of you have.
    You've got this alliance of these two groups here meeting today. We 
need this kind of alliance on these problems, the kind of problems that 
our children are facing at the grassroots level. They know no racial 
barrier; they know no income barrier even; they certainly know no 
regional barrier. We have got to get over this using family values to 
drive a stake between us as American people and let it lift us up. We 
have got to do that.
    And I ask you to leave here determined to do what you can to be good 
preachers and good Samaritans and good examples, to make the family of 
America a place where family values lifts us up, pulls us together, and 
takes us into the future. We can walk and not faint. We can run and not 
grow weary. And if we do not lose heart, we shall reap.
    God bless you all, and thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:48 p.m. at the Charlotte Convention 
Center. In his remarks, he referred to Rev. Bennett W. Smith, Sr., 
president, and Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, former president, Progressive 
National Baptist Convention, Inc.; and Gov. James A. Hunt, Jr., of North