[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 up. 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 percent. 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 forward. 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 century. 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.