[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[September 2, 1995]
[Pages 1283-1284]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's Radio Address
September 2, 1995

    Good morning. On this Labor Day weekend, I am paying tribute to some 
of the most important labor ever performed on behalf of the American 
people. Hillary and I are in Hawaii, where we have gathered with 
veterans of World War II to honor the bravery and sacrifice of an 
extraordinary generation of Americans.
    Fifty years ago today, freedom triumphed over tyranny because those 
brave men and women, along with their colleagues from the allied 
nations, won a victory for freedom in the great struggle of World War 
II. America and the entire world will forever be in their debt.
    So when the veterans of World War II came home, America was ready to 
pay its debt to our soldiers. Even before the war ended, President 
Roosevelt had already signed the GI bill into law. The GI bill opened 
the doors to college for veterans and helped them to get a start on life 
with a new home. And because our Nation provided that kind of 
opportunity for the World War II veterans, the opportunity to build good 
lives for themselves and their families, they in turn were able to play 
an enormous part in making our Nation the strongest and most prosperous 
on Earth.
    Today, our challenge is to build on the foundation they laid, to 
keep our Nation strong and to give all Americans the opportunity to make 
the most of their own lives as we move into the 21st century.
    A central part of that challenge is our effort to balance the 
Federal budget to relieve future generations of Americans of the 
crushing debt burden imposed almost entirely in the 12 years before I 
took office. During that 12-year period, our national debt quadrupled. 
In 1993, in our administration's economic program, we passed

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the bill that cut the deficit from $290 billion a year all the way down 
to $160 billion in just 3 years. In fact, our budget would be balanced 
today but for the debt run up in the 12 years before I became President.
    Well, now we all have to go the rest of the way to balance that 
budget. But how we do it will say a lot about the values we have as a 
people and how we understand what's in our interest as we move to the 
next century. I have a good plan to balance the budget. But it will also 
give every American the opportunity to build a good life for himself or 
herself and to build better futures for their families.
    Our plan will give our children the best possible education. It will 
keep our streets safer. It will take care of our elderly. It will 
maintain the purity and clarity of our environment. And it will maintain 
the strength of our Armed Forces.
    Our plan also will keep faith with the men and women who have put 
their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we now hold dear. 
For over 50 years, all Americans who joined our military have known that 
they are making a bargain with America and that in return for their 
service to our country our country will stand by them. The young men and 
women who serve today in our military give us some of the best years of 
their lives. And one of the things we tell them is that the longer they 
serve our country, the more our country will owe them when their service 
is done.
    Amazingly, there are those today who believe that in order to 
balance the budget it's all right to break our commitment to a group of 
more than 800,000 men and women who've already served for at least 15 
years. Now when these people joined the armed services, they were told 
that their retirement pay would be based on whatever salary they were 
earning the day they retired. But now in the name of balancing the 
budget, some propose that we scale back their retirement pay in a way 
that will mean cuts for retired military personnel of as much as $200 a 
    But I disagree. I believe that after asking so much of these men and 
women, our country should keep its commitment to them and find a better 
path to balance the budget. I have a plan to balance the budget that 
doesn't break our commitment to those who serve us in uniform. I think 
that kind of broken commitment is unconscionable. And as long as I'm 
President, we're not going to break our word to the members of our Armed 
Forces or our veterans.
    For the last 50 years, our Nation has kept commitments to veterans 
who fought and won World War II, those whom we honor here in Hawaii and 
all across America this weekend, and to the veterans who followed them. 
That's a big reason that we now have the finest military in the world, 
outstanding and brave men and women who understand the duty they owe to 
one another, their communities, to our country, and to the world. I 
think we have an obligation to them. You know, they give up a lot to 
serve us, a lot in time and money. But one of the things they get in 
return is a commitment on retirement, a reward for the work--the 
important work they do.
    So on this Labor Day weekend when we honor the work of all 
Americans, let us, all of us, recommit ourselves to the legacy of World 
War II, to the men and women in uniform today, and to our obligations to 
    Hillary and I wish all of you a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Thanks 
for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 7:25 p.m. on September 1 at Wheeler 
Army Airfield in Honolulu, HI, for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on September