[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[September 5, 1995]
[Pages 1305-1308]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the Community at Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Selma
September 5, 1995

    Thank you very much. It is wonderful to be here today. I want to 
thank Cal Dooley for his kind remarks and for his remarkable leadership 
in the Congress. He does a terrific job for all of you. I thank Delaine 
Eastin for her commitment to education and for being here with me today. 
I want to thank your school principal, Lucile King, who on next-to-no 
notice allowed me to come in here and share some time with some of your 
students. I thank Eleanor Brown who did a fine job speaking here. I 
said, ``Eleanor''--before she came up, I said, ``Eleanor, are you having 
a good time, or are you nervous?'' She said, ``I'm a little nervous.''

[[Page 1306]]

So I said, ``Well, just pretend you're talking to a few people.'' And 
she did a fine job, didn't she? Let's give her another hand. [Applause] 
I thought she did a great job. I also want thank the Selma High Marine 
Corps ROTC, who posted the colors, the high school choir, and the Black 
Bear Brigade Band, who played very well when I came up here today, I 
    I'd also like to thank the mayor and the members of the City Council 
and the school board who met me. One of the school board members gave me 
this Save the Children tie to wear in the speech. And the mayor told me, 
as the sign said, that this is the raisin capital of the world. And I 
said, ``Well, the only thing I can say is, I don't know about raising 
them, but I have probably consumed more raisins than any President who 
ever held this office. And I've enjoyed every one of them.
    Ladies and gentlemen, and to all the young people who are here, I 
want to talk about education today. This is back-to-school day. But 
before I do, I have to say just a few words about the situation in 
Bosnia. You may know that this morning our pilots and crews and their 
NATO allies resumed the bombing of Bosnian Serb military positions. I 
support that; it's appropriate; its necessary, because the Bosnian Serbs 
failed to comply with the conditions set over the weekend to withdraw 
their heavy weapons from Sarajevo. We have to follow through on our 
commitment to protect Sarajevo and those other safe areas. We cannot 
allow more innocent civilians and children to die there. This war has to 
end by negotiation, not on the battlefield.
    I'm glad to be here in the number one agricultural region in our 
Nation. The Central Valley's orange groves and pistachio trees and the 
acres of vineyards and cotton and corn and the people who grow the 
raisins are critical not only to your State's economy but to our 
Nation's economy.
    I wanted to come here to this community today because I think that 
all of you symbolize, in what you're doing here, what we have to do as a 
country. We've got to take responsibility for ourselves and our 
children. We've got to work together, and we've got to work for the 
    All of you know that education for individual Americans has always 
been the key to the American dream. I have a simple message today: At 
the end of the cold war, at the beginning of this period of global 
economy, of the information age, the technology age, education is more 
important today to individual Americans, to families, to communities, 
and to our future than it has ever been in the entire history of the 
United States, and we have to act on that fundamental truth as a people.
    Thirty months ago, I set out to change the economic direction of our 
country, to bring the economy of America back and to help the economy of 
California recover. Thirty months later, we have over 7 million more 
jobs, 2\1/2\ million more homeowners, over 1\1/2\ million more small 
businesses. The jobs you lost in the difficult 4 years before I took 
office have been replaced, and you're beginning to come back in 
    But there is one fundamental problem left in America economically, 
and that is for the last 15 years more than half of the hourly wage 
earners in America are working a longer work week for the same or lower 
wages. And there is a simple, clear reason for that. In the global 
economy, no matter how hard people work, if you don't have the skills 
that will command high incomes, it is difficult to earn those incomes. 
We have simply got to make a commitment as a nation to revolutionizing 
the availability and quality of education, starting with the youngest 
preschoolers and going through adults who need it to get better jobs or 
when they're unemployed. And we have to do it together. It is the 
fundamental fact of our time.
    When Congress comes back from its recession--excuse me, recession--
whatever that--recess--[laughter]--school--it's a school day--the 
recess. When Congress comes back from their recess tomorrow, we will 
have 90 days of decisions about the budget, 90 days to choose what 
direction we're going to take. There's some good news for these children 
in the audience about decisions that have already been made. For the 
first time in over a dozen years, we now have a bipartisan commitment to 
balance the Federal budget and remove the burden of debt from our 
children and our grandchildren. That is a very good thing to do.
    The question is, how are we going to balance the budget? I have 
given Congress a plan which recognizes both these fundamental truths: 
that we have to balance the budget and that we have to provide for 
education and invest in our young people's future. They are working on a 
plan that balances the budget, but by their own estimate only produces 
weak economic growth, in part because it cuts education. In California

[[Page 1307]]

you have had enough of cutting education. We need to invest more in 
education, and we can do that.
    I hope as strongly as I can say that you're going to see the most 
productive 90 days we've seen in a long time in Congress. We can balance 
the budget. We can end welfare as we know it. And we can invest in 
education and protect the medical care of our elderly and protect our 
ability to have a safe and clean food supply and environment. We can do 
all this in a balanced way if we'll work for common ground with common 
sense. That's what we have to do.
    There are some who say that there should be no compromise this 
autumn, but I say that good people of good will want us to find common 
ground, want us to find honorable compromise, want us to balance the 
budget and keep faith with the children of America and their educational 
    You know, I believe that the overwhelming majority of Americans of 
both parties are committed to an agenda of balancing the budget and 
investing in education. When I became President and we increased our 
investment in Head Start and added 50,000 more poor children to the Head 
Start rolls, it had bipartisan support. When we passed the Goals 2000 
program to give schools the chance to reform themselves and to get more 
computers and other technology in the classroom and to have smaller 
class sizes and higher standards, it had overwhelming bipartisan 
support. When we began to help the States of this country to set up 
programs for young people who graduate from high school but don't go to 
4-year colleges and still need further education to get good jobs and 
good wages, a school-to-work program, it had bipartisan support. When we 
established the safe and drug-free schools program to support the 
message to our young people that if you want to learn, you have a right 
to learn in safety and you have to learn without drugs, it had 
bipartisan support. When we expanded the availability of college loans 
and scholarships for lower income students and college loans for all 
students, we lowered the cost and improved the repayment terms, it had 
bipartisan support. There are young people here with AmeriCorps who are 
working in the communities of the valley and earning money to go to 
college. That program was created with bipartisan support.
    Education is not supposed to be a partisan political football, and 
it should not be when the Congress returns tomorrow. We ought to all 
stay on the side of education.
    I will be urging the Congress to adopt two new education ideas which 
will help the working families in this valley to provide for their 
future. Number one, there's going to be a tax cut; the question is, 
who's going to get it and what's it going to be for? I believe we ought 
to give a tax cut for working families to have the cost of their 
education tax deductible after high school: college education, training 
for technicians, unemployed people. That's the kind of tax cut I think 
we ought to have.
    The other thing I hope they will do is to recognize that adults need 
education, too. I have urged the Congress to create a fund which would 
give to every person who loses a job in the United States the right to 
get a $2,600 voucher for a year for 2 years to take to the nearest 
community college, junior college, or other educational institution to 
get retrained if they lose their jobs and they need a brighter future.
    One other thing I'd like to say: I want to thank the young people 
who were in that class with me today practicing citizenship, asking me 
tough questions, some of which I had never been asked before by anyone. 
I want to thank them for being an example of what I want for all of our 
young people.
    One of the things that I feel very strongly about is that our 
schools have to teach good citizenship and good basic character and 
values: fairness and honesty, respect for self and others, 
responsibility. Those things are too often absent in our schools today.
    And I'm proud to announce that through our Department of Education 
we have been supporting the spread of character education, basic 
principles of citizenship and personal character all across America. And 
today we are releasing four grants to four States, including the State 
of California, to make sure that we do everything we can to help our 
principals, our teachers, and our parents inculcate the values and 
character of good citizenship into our young people throughout this 
    So I ask you, my fellow Americans, without regard to your political 
party or your philosophy, to stand firm on this central principle. Tell 
the Congress and the President you want the budget balanced but you want 
us to invest in education

[[Page 1308]]

and the future. We don't want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. We 
don't want to weaken our economy by balancing the budget. We want to 
strengthen our children's future by getting the burden of debt off of 
them. There is a plan that balances the budget and increases investment 
in education, and that's what we should do.
    We don't need--we don't need--to take 45,000 children out of the 
Head Start program. We don't need to deny every State in the country the 
right to benefit from smaller classes and more technology and 
educational excellence in the Goals 2000 program. We sure don't need to 
stop helping the schools who need it with the safe and drug-free schools 
program. We don't need to stop helping people who want to go on to good 
jobs with higher skills but aren't going to higher education and 4-year 
schools. We need the school-to-work program. And we sure don't need to 
make college loans and college scholarships less available.
    Look what's happened in California. We need more college 
scholarships. We need more college loans. We need more affordable 
education and higher education.
    I have promised the Congress that I would never disagree with them 
without offering an alternative. I have given a balanced budget plan 
which increases investment in education. And on Thursday, I will talk 
more about how we can save even more money in this budget to put into 
reducing the deficit, balancing the budget, and investing in education.
    But before you leave here today, I want to ask every adult American 
in this audience--you look at these children. You know they're our 
future. You know we're living in a global economy. You know that what 
you earn depends on what you can learn. You know it's more important to 
our whole country than every before. What do you want this country to 
look like in the 21st century? If you want a high-wage, high-growth, 
high-opportunity society, if you want every American, no matter how 
humble their background, to have a chance to live the American dream, if 
you don't like the fact that too many of our people are trapped in a 
hard-work, low-wage future, then we can change it only if we decide to 
both balance the budget and invest in the education of our people. That 
is our commitment. I ask all of you to make it.
    God bless you, and thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:10 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to 
student body president Eleanor Brown and Mayor Ralph P. Garcia of Selma,