[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[August 9, 1995]
[Pages 1233-1236]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the Black Enterprise Magazine 25th Anniversary Gala
August 9, 1995

    Thank you, Earl. I'm delighted to be with you, and I appreciate your 
introduction. It is I who should be thanking you tonight and many of 
those who are there with you for your incredible effort over so many 
years and especially for your valuable input and support on the 
affirmative action policy.
    I also want to say hello to my Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown. 
[Applause] I'm glad you applauded him. He certainly is one of the finest 
Secretaries of Commerce this country ever had. He has done more to 
promote jobs and businesses for all Americans than anybody has in a long 
time. I want to say hello to Dr. Earl Richardson, the president of 
Morgan State. To

[[Page 1234]]

Tom Labrecque of Chase Manhattan Bank, thank you for being there and for 
your work. Reverend Jackson, I'm sorry I missed your prayer. I need it 
more than anybody who's there. [Laughter] I'm sorry I missed it. Mayor 
Schmoke, Governor Wilder, I enjoyed being with you a few days ago. And 
to my longtime friend Maynard Jackson, and to all the Graves family and 
all my friends who are gathered there tonight to honor your 
achievements, Earl, I want to send my best wishes.
    I also know that I speak for all of you when we offer our best 
wishes to someone who had planned to be with you tonight--our prayers 
and best wishes are with David Dinkins. We wish him well, and we know 
he's going to be all right.
    Earl, I want to add my congratulations to you and to Black 
Enterprise for 25 years of leadership in African-American business. This 
evening celebrates initiative, achievement, and opportunity. Initiative 
has always been the American genius, and Earl, you have set a singular 
example of that kind of genius. And because of your example, countless 
African-Americans have been empowered to take advantage of opportunity, 
to achieve. A life of accomplishment has exponential impact, and you, 
Earl Graves, have proved that.
    A quarter century ago, you and Black Enterprise began to fill a 
large void for African-Americans who needed a source for information, 
encouragement, and guidance, to become entrepreneurs and to succeed in 
business. And over the years Black Enterprise has helped dreams to 
become reality. I know it will continue to do so for more African-
Americans for many, many more years to come.
    It's fitting that this anniversary is being celebrated with another 
important initiative by Earl Graves and that is to build up business 
education at one of our Nation's finest historically black universities, 
Morgan State. That's an investment that will pay great dividends for the 
next generation and beyond and I hope one that will encourage others to 
follow Earl's lead and to do their part to help expand opportunities in 
business and education for African-Americans. When we do that, all of 
America benefits.
    I declared the last week in September Minority Enterprise 
Development Week to call attention to an important avenue to economic 
empowerment in America. But the fact is, we should be celebrating and 
promoting business growth in minority communities every day of the year. 
This business growth is essential for our continued prosperity, and it's 
the right way to create wealth, to encourage self-sufficiency, to 
generate jobs, and to build our people up and to build our communities 
    Our administration is working hard to strengthen all our Nation's 
businesses. We've opened new domestic and international markets, due in 
no small part to the hard work of Ron Brown and all those at the 
Commerce Department who have helped to expand the opportunities for 
American businesses. We've reduced the cost of borrowing for business 
start-ups and for expansions. While the Small Business Administration 
has cut its budget by 40 percent, it has doubled its loan output and 
increased its loan output to minority businesses and women by almost 80 
    Now, all this is making an impact. Overall, new businesses are 
growing as never before. And since 1992, nearly 100,000 new African-
American businesses have been created in the United States. By 1997, 
according to the Census Bureau, there will be 717,000 African-American 
businesses in America, the result of the largest increase in any 5-year 
period. That's an accomplishment to be proud of, and I would tell you 
that if we get another 4 years to work on the economy, the number may be 
bigger than that.
    Last month, as Earl said, I reaffirmed America's need for 
affirmative action, including set-asides for minority business owners in 
Federal contract procurement. I did it because I believe our country 
still needs this tool to address the limits of opportunity which still 
exist in our society, based on gender and race. I did it because I 
believe we'll be stronger if every American has a chance to live up to 
his or her God-given abilities.
    We must have a mission, a national mission at the end of this 
century to restore the American dream of opportunity and the American 
value of responsibility. We must have a mission to do this together. 
We've got a big decision to make about whether we're going forward 
together or not. Whether we like it or not, we're all in the future 
together. We are a national family, whether we like it or not. And we're 
going forward, like a good family, together, or if we squabble and get 
divided and get side-tracked, we'll be held back, like a not very good 
family, together. We are a part of America's greater national community. 
All of you have to

[[Page 1235]]

be part of that mission. I am committed to doing everything I can to 
build a good partnership with you, to move our country forward.
    We've come a good ways in the 25 years since Black Enterprise was 
born, but there is still a lot to be done. Too many people still don't 
have the chance to reach their God-given potential, and affirmative 
action is just one part of a larger strategy to expand opportunities for 
all Americans, in education and business and all our workplaces. That 
larger strategy has to begin with Head Start for poor children. It has 
to include lower costs and better, more available college loans for the 
children of working families as well as poor families. It has to include 
adequate job training for people when they lose their jobs or when 
they're underemployed. It has to include creating business opportunities 
where none existed before.
    That's what our empowerment zones are for. That's what the community 
development financial institutions are for. That's what stronger 
enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act is for. We have to invest 
in our cities and the people who live there. We have to invest in our 
rural areas and the people who live there. We have to invest in our 
workers and in our working families.
    That's why I believe we need a real family values agenda, which 
includes raising the minimum wage, targeting tax relief to the raising 
of children and the educating of children, protecting Medicare for our 
seniors, and protecting the right of people to keep their own health 
insurance if they change jobs or someone in the family gets sick.
    We can balance the budget, and we should. Progressives, minorities, 
Democrats, those of us who care about public investment, we don't have a 
stake in a permanent Government deficit. That just gives more and more 
money every year to the people who hold the debt and less and less to 
the people who need the investment. But we have to balance this budget 
in a way that allows us to grow together, without gutting our 
responsibilities to our parents in health care, without gutting our 
responsibilities to our children in education, without undermining our 
responsibilities to maintain a social safety net and provide for a clean 
environment and a healthy and safe environment as well.
    We have to follow the right kind of strategy to balance the budget, 
grow the economy, and help all Americans, together. Only when we work 
together can we restore economic opportunity, solve our social problems, 
compete and win in the global economy of the 21st century, only when we 
do it together.
    We do not have a person to waste. That is the big decision that all 
of us have to face. Captains of industry, leaders in education, mentors 
to a new generation: that's what many of you are. You have a big role in 
this strategy for America's future. Every time you help a young person 
get an education, help someone get started in business, provide an 
example by being a successful person yourself who took on the challenge 
and responsibility of entrepreneurship and made it, every time you do 
one of those things, you're making a difference and helping to move us 
    I want you to think about what's at stake. Here in Washington, the 
old debate about what was liberal or conservative is really not what's 
going on. You know, I have cut the deficit more, reduced the size of 
Government more, eliminated more governmental regulations and 
governmental programs than my two Republican predecessors. I've also 
invested more in education, expanded trade, tried to help poor areas and 
minority businesses, tried to empower families with things like family 
and medical leave and affordable college loans and national service, 
things that have traditionally been called liberal. I'm trying to move 
people from welfare to work but only if they can support their children 
and help them to grow up and be successful.
    We've got to do things in a different way. But the debate we're 
having here is the most profound debate we've had in a hundred years. 
And every one of you has got to make up your mind to be a part of it 
because the old conservative things that I just mentioned, they're 
hardly on the radar screen here.
    We're debating here with a new generation of so-called conservatives 
who, I think, have some radical ideas. They believe that, except for 
defense, any tax cut, any tax cut, is better than any Government 
program. They believe that some of the things we'd like to do through 
Government are nice enough but not worth imposing any, any, requirement 
or sacrifice or contribution on Americans who aren't going to directly 
benefit. They believe in a future that really would unleash us all from 
each other, minimize our responsibilities to each other, and run the 
risk of giving us a country with a whole

[[Page 1236]]

lot of wealthy people but vastly more poor and a declining middle class.
    I believe in a high-opportunity, high-growth future where we grow 
the middle class and shrink the under class, where we support 
entrepreneurs but we also believe that we have an obligation to help 
everybody make the most of their own lives. And to do it, we need strong 
neighborhoods with safe streets and good health care systems and good 
schools and clean environments. And we need a commitment to help people 
through education and through efforts to deal with our very difficult 
and thorny social problems.
    In other words, I believe we really are a family. I think we have 
certain obligations to one another that we have a responsibility to 
fulfill. And I don't believe any of us are going to be the kind of 
people we want to be, and I don't think our children will have the kind 
of future we want them to have, unless we make up our mind that there 
are some things we have to do together.
    If you look at the 21st century, and you say, what's it going to be 
like--there will be a global economy, information will speed around the 
world quickly, goods will cross national borders, the world will get 
smaller--you have to say that the United States, because of the strength 
of our economic system and because we are the most diverse, big, rich 
country on Earth--racially, religiously, ethnically--that we're in 
better shape for the 21st century than any other great country, that our 
best days are still ahead of us. But we have to answer the debate now 
going on in Washington properly for that to be true.
    We haven't had a debate like this since the industrial revolution 
changed America and Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson had to answer 
questions like, ``How are we going to keep a private economy but have 
real competition in things like oil and steel?'' They had to ask 
questions like, ``How are we going to let people work but stop these 9- 
and 10-year-old kids from working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, in coal 
mines and factories?'' We reached the right kind of decisions then, and 
we preserved the free enterprise system and broadened freedom and 
opportunity throughout the 20th century steadily. We even survived the 
Great Depression and conquered the oppressors in World War II because of 
the power of our country.
    Well, now we're moving into a dramatically different kind of 
economy. The way we work and live is changing dramatically. And we are 
literally having the debates again in Washington that we had a hundred 
years ago. You have got to be a part of that. You know that believing 
that we work together and grow together is not inconsistent with 
believing in enterprise and individual effort and personal 
responsibility and hard work. You know that.
    That is the lesson America must emblazon in its heart and its mind 
if the 21st century is going to be our golden age. I think it will be 
because of people like Earl Graves, because of efforts like Black 
Enterprise, because of all the African-American entrepreneurs who have 
made a difference in our Nation, knowing that whenever they succeed, 
they're helping us all to come closer together, closer to the dream of 
equal opportunity for all Americans, without which we will never, never 
have the progress we all want and need for our children in the next 
    Thank you, Earl. Thank you all, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:10 p.m. by satellite from the Diplomatic 
Reception Room at the White House to the gala in New York City. In his 
remarks, he referred to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson of the Rainbow Coalition; 
Mayor Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore, MD; former Governor of Virginia L. 
Douglas Wilder; Maynard Jackson, former mayor of Atlanta, GA; and David 
Dinkins, former mayor of New York City.