[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1996, Book I)]
[January 26, 1996]
[Pages 105-109]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the National Association of Hispanic Publications
January 26, 1996

    The President. Thank you very much. I feel a lot better than I did 
when I got here. [Laughter] Thank you so much. Thank you, Andres Tobar. 
Thank you, Louis Rossi. Thank you, Federico Pena.
    Secretary Pena gave me a beautiful introduction, and it illustrates 
Clinton's first law of politics: Whenever possible, be introduced by 
someone you have appointed to high office. [Laughter] I thank him for 
the outstanding job he has done at the Transportation Department and for 
being our friend and leader.
    I want to congratulate you on your 10th annual convention, on the 
opening of your office here in Washington under Executive Director 
Marlene Romero. There are so many Hispanic-Americans I want to thank, 
but I want to say a special word of thanks to Raul Yzaguirre for his 
leadership and his guidance and his advice. I know that you have leaders 
of several Hispanic organizations here with you tonight, Commander Jake 
Alarid and the members of the G.I. Forum. I think the Chairman of the 
EEOC is here, Gil Casellas; he's done a terrific job.
    I wanted to tell you that--I know Secretary Cisneros spoke 
yesterday, and he was to be here tonight, but his son is having a Cub 
Scout meeting, and Henry is the den leader. So we are trying to practice 
family values in our administration, and he's doing what he should be 
    Let me also tell you before I get into the remarks that I was going 
to make tonight--you know, when I gave the State of the Union Address I 
said, and I believe, the major choice before America is not whether 
we're going to have big or smaller Government but whether we're going to 
work together to solve the problems and meet the challenges and seize 
the opportunities that we have as a people. The choice is whether we're 
going forward together or whether we think Americans can really do their 
best out there on their own. And I believe we need to work together, and 
I asked the Congress to work with me.
    I want you to know that just a few minutes ago the Congress passed a 
continuing resolution so that there's no question now of the Government 
shutting down, and we'll be able to go on. And now I hope very much we 
can go back to work and pass all the remaining budgets for this year and 
pass that 7-year balanced budget in a way that is fair to all Americans.
    I also want you to know that the United States Senate has just voted 
overwhelmingly to ratify the START II treaty with Russia. And let me 
tell you what that means. That means that when the Russians follow 
suit--and I talked to President Yeltsin today and I told him that I 
thought the Senate would ratify it tonight. He said he would do his best 
to see that the Russian parliamentary body, the Duma, would do the same. 
When START II is ratified, between START I and START II we will have 
reduced nuclear weapons two-thirds below their cold-war high. Two-thirds 
of the nuclear weapons threatening the world will be gone. So I want to 
thank the United States Senate and the United States Congress for 
working together with us on this. And as I said, I very much hope that 
this is a sign of even more of that kind of work to come.
    I wanted to say just one other thing, too, about the appointments 
issue. When I came here to Washington, I found that in strange corners I 
was criticized for trying to develop an administration that looked like 
America, that I had this idea that you could have diversity and 
excellence and we didn't have to sacrifice one for the other. You heard 
Secretary Pena say that we have appointed a record number of Hispanics--
and I might add, and African-Americans and women--to the Federal bench. 
And just this week, I nominated a distinguished judge, Richard Paez from 
California, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth

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Circuit--a very important court, and he'll do very well.
    And what I wanted to say, that what I'm very proud of is that this 
batch of judges together have the highest ratings from the American Bar 
Association in terms of their qualifications of any President's 
appointments since the ABA has been rating them in over 20 years now. So 
you don't have to sacrifice excellence to get diversity, to give 
everybody a chance to serve. And that is very important.
    I would like to talk just a few moments tonight--I know you're all 
here and you're having a good time and I want to get down here and shake 
hands, and I only have about one speech a week in me like the State of 
the Union--[laughter]--but I would like to talk about the things that I 
discussed in the State of the Union in terms of what they mean for 
Hispanics in America.
    I do believe that as we move from the industrial age and the cold 
war into the information technology age and the global village that we 
are going into an age of possibility where, for Americans who can take 
advantage of it, there will be more possibilities for people to live out 
their dreams than in any time in the history of our country.
    I also know that we face some stiff challenges. An awful lot of 
Americans, including an awful lot of Hispanic-Americans, because of all 
these changes, are having to work harder and harder and harder just to 
keep up and are worried about the security of their families: Will they 
be able to provide health care; will they have a pension when they 
retire; will they be able to educate their children; will they be able 
to get education if they need it in their middle years? These are 
serious challenges.
    I am encouraged that the family values that the Hispanic community 
has always embodied are reasserting themselves. It's a good thing that 
the crime rate and the welfare rolls and the poverty rolls and the teen 
pregnancy rate are all down and that overall drug use in America is 
down. That's all good, but it is troubling that random violence among 
adolescents under 18 and random drug use and even cigarette use is now 
up among young people under 18.
    So that's a challenge. We have to find a way to reach these children 
and get them back into the mainstream of American life and give them the 
dreams that so many of us grew up with. And that's really what I was 
trying to talk about in the State of the Union.
    You can see all the progress that's been made by Hispanic-Americans 
in the corporate sector, in the classrooms. We see more Hispanic TV news 
anchors, reporters, publishers, authors, doctors, lawyers, lawmakers. 
But every child deserves to have a dream and to have a chance to live 
out that dream. And I think this community has a special role to play in 
seeing that America meets the challenges of today and tomorrow, because 
you know all about hard work and personal responsibility and family 
values but you also know that we will do better if we work together than 
if we just leave everybody out there to fend for themselves. And that is 
the central message of this time.
    I said at the State of the Union, and I repeat, I think this country 
faces seven great challenges: the challenge to strengthen our families; 
the challenge to renew our education for the next century; the challenge 
to provide economic security for every family that's out there working 
for it; the challenge to break the back of crime and violence so that 
crime becomes the exception, not the rule in America again; the 
challenge to protect our environment; the challenge to guard our world 
leadership for peace and freedom; and the challenge to make our 
Government work for all the people again.
    Think what this means, all these challenges, to the Hispanic 
community. Strong families are the foundation of your culture. But every 
child is vulnerable to the lure of television that no child should 
watch, to the temptation of cigarettes that shorten our lives--1,000 
kids a day will have their lives shortened because they're starting to 
smoke at an age when it is illegal--to the draw of the gangs and the 
drugs and all these things. We all have to set better examples. But we 
deserve help, too. We deserve help.
    That's why I fought so hard on the telecommunications bill, for 
example, to have a requirement that all cable television stations have a 
V-chip in them so that parents can decide whether their young children 
shouldn't watch certain programs. That's not censorship, that's parental 
    That's why I fought so hard for a welfare reform bill that would be 
both pro-work and pro-family. I have no problem with requiring people 
who can work to work; they should work. The welfare system was never 
meant to be a system which essentially said to people you can

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move out of your house and have children out of wedlock and the 
Government will support you. But if we're going to require people to 
work, we have to remember that the responsibilities of parenthood are 
still the most important responsibilities in our society. So people must 
be able to succeed as parents as well as workers. That is my test for 
welfare reform.
    Education has been the key to advancement of virtually everybody 
standing in this room tonight, and our education system in many ways is 
getting better and better. But it's not quite hooked up to the future as 
it should be. The Vice President and I are determined to see that every 
classroom and every library in every school in America is hooked up to 
the information superhighway by the year 2000. And it will help open the 
doors of the future for Hispanic children as never before. You're going 
to have children in isolated rural areas in south Texas within 4 or 5 
years able to do research out of a library in Australia or China or 
India and learn things they never could have learned before. Because we 
have to bring the miracles of technology to the poor as well as the 
rich, to the rural as well as the urban, to all Americans. That is a 
vision worth achieving in our schools.
    I would also point out to you that even though the college-going 
rate is going up, among poor Americans the college-going rate has 
flattened out--in some cases it's declining--because of the cost of a 
college education. No young American should ever not go to college 
because of the cost. That is my goal. Never. Never.
    And we are working to increase the scholarships, to have everyone 
able to get a college loan--is a college loan that you would only pay 
back as a percentage of your income so that no matter how much you 
borrow, you can never be bankrupt after you got out of school. You would 
have to pay it back, but there would be a limit as a percentage of your 
income. Now, I am proud of the fact that we have given more loans, but 
we have cut the college default rate in half. If you make it possible 
for people to repay and then you require them to do so, you can educate 
more people and cut the college default rate. That's what we ought to be 
doing in this country.
    And let me also say, I know that it's popular today to bash 
bilingual education and to get into all this language business. 
Everybody knows that English is the language of the United States, but 
we do well by encouraging people to take other languages. My daughter 
just finished her Spanish exam, and I'm glad she's taking Spanish. And I 
wish more people would. And when children come to this country, whatever 
their native language, we want them to begin to learn immediately. We 
want them to develop a facility in English. We want them to keep their 
native tongue, and we want them to learn while they're doing it. That is 
all we have ever said. That is all anyone has ever asked. We don't need 
to make this issue a divisive issue for the American people.
    If you think of the question of economic security, this affects the 
Hispanic community more than anyone else. The minimum wage is going to 
be at a 40-year low within a year if we don't--in terms of what it will 
purchase--if we don't raise it. It is unconscionable. For 2 years, I 
have been trying to get a raise in the minimum wage. It is time to do 
it. If we say people ought to work, how can we let people work and live 
in abject poverty? It is wrong, it is not necessary, and we should not 
do it.
    Let me say, we're also trying to make sure that people get the wages 
they're entitled to. Between 1993 and 1995, the Wage and Hour Division 
of the Labor Department, headed by Maria Echaveste, restored more than 
$77 million in illegally withheld wages to workers in the garment 
industry, restaurants, hotels, motels, and agriculture, many of them 
Hispanic. I believe America needs a raise, and we ought to start with a 
minimum wage. And we ought to do that because it is the right thing to 
do. I believe it very strongly.
    I also believe very, very strongly that we can give people greater 
security when they know that their jobs have the capacity to get a 
pension system that they can take then from job to job, when at least 
they ought to be able to have access to health insurance that they can't 
lose when they change jobs or if someone in the family gets sick. That's 
why you have insurance, because someone might get sick. But you have 
people all over America who are losing their health insurance because 
somebody got sick; that's why you have it in the first place. Surely, at 
least, even though we could not agree on comprehensive health care 
reform last year, surely, surely we can agree to at least protect people 
who are in hard-working families when they change jobs or when one of 
their children get sick from losing health insurance.

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    Let me just say one other thing about security. I think if we're 
going to have security we have to have very firm, firm laws that protect 
the workplace in America. Federico said I opposed Proposition 187; I 
did. I thought it was a bad policy. I didn't want to see children thrown 
out of schools, sick people thrown out of hospitals. But I do not 
believe that people who are not here legally should be in the workplace, 
and a lot of them are being exploited today, exploited in unconscionable 
ways because we do not enforce laws that are on the books for legal 
immigration. I am for legal immigration. I am not for punishing 
children. But I think we have to take a strong stand against people who 
are not in the workplace legally, because they are being abused, and the 
whole American wage and hour system and the integrity of work is being 
abused by the people who do that. And we ought to stand against it. And 
those of you who believe in immigration, who believe we are a nation of 
immigrants, I ask you to help me do that, so that we can preserve the 
support of the United States for a good, strong, legal immigration 
system that continues to bring us together across our diverse cultures.
    I want to say just one thing about the crime problem. I was in 
Louisville, Kentucky, the day after the State of the Union. And I went 
into a poor neighborhood where we had put a community-policing program 
into effect, the city did with some help from the Federal Government. 
And I saw poor people who never before had any feeling of rapport with 
the police department actually working on a daily basis with the police, 
not to catch criminals so much as to prevent crime.
    We now know that the way to drive the crime rate down is for 
neighbors to work with neighbors, to work with police departments. They 
even set up a citizens police academy in Louisville, where people in the 
poorest neighborhoods could go down and learn how the police department 
is organized, how much money was being spent on what, how many police 
officers there were, how long it took them to get to the neighborhood, 
how they could be deployed. And it was a beautiful thing to see. All 
these people who lived in very difficult circumstances felt empowered as 
citizens because they were literally helping to run the law enforcement 
program of their community. The policeman was not some outsider who was 
a source of fear, he was a friend and a partner. And they were driving 
the crime rate down.
    But as long as children can be shot dead on the street from drive-by 
shootings, as long as children can be enlisted into gangs, and because 
they're young, taught by cruel older people to use weapons on the theory 
that they wouldn't be punished or hurt as badly, this country is never 
going to be what it ought to be. We must go back to the days when crime 
is the exception, not the rule. That ought to be our goal and our 
standard, and we should work until we get there.
    I thank the Hispanic community for the support we received for 
NAFTA, for the support we received for the Summit of the Americas, for 
the support I received in probably the most controversial--perhaps one 
of the two or three most controversial decisions of my administration, 
to try and reach out and give some support to the reformers in Mexico to 
keep the economy from collapse so that we could continue to be good 
partners and good friends.
    Secretary Pena is about to go to Chile to try to implement some of 
the agreements we made at the Summit of the Americas. These are 
important things. I ask you--this is something I want to ask you to do. 
I think Hispanic-Americans just instinctively know that we cannot go 
into the future as an isolated country; that a part of our community has 
to be not only American families and communities, people in the private 
sector and the charities and the churches and the synagogues and the 
Government working together, we also have to have relations with other 
countries. I think you know that. And I ask you to remind our fellow 
Americans when they say, ``Well, why would they spend any money on any 
of that foreign stuff,'' that foreign aid is only one percent of our 
budget, only one percent, that our engagement with other countries is a 
very small percent of all of our tax dollars.
    But I will just give you a few examples. One of the reasons that 
seven members of the Cali cartel were arrested is because the United 
States and Colombia were partners, because they trusted us, we trusted 
them, we worked together. Those people had to put their lives on the 
line--we don't have to do that--to get that done. If we had no NAFTA, if 
we had no Summit of the Americas, if there were no larger vision about 
how to relate to the United States, why

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should anybody cooperate with us in other areas?
    If I bring a terrorist, suspected terrorist back from South Asia, 
and a poor country in South Asia goes out and arrests somebody out of a 
neighborhood and sends that terrorist back here to stand trial in 
America, why should they do that unless they feel that we share the same 
values and the same interests and the same future? If I ask the Russians 
to work with me and to absolutely end the threat of nuclear 
annihilation, which is where we're going, why would they do that unless 
they feel we have a shared future? I think Hispanics know that kind of 
    This is a big deal for America. We have to be reaching out to the 
rest of the world because people still trust us. Why in the world were 
we asked to go to Bosnia, after we, through NATO, had actually bombed 
there to enforce the previous agreements? Because people know if we give 
our word, we'll keep it. Because they know we don't want any territory, 
we don't want to control any people. All we want is for people to live 
by certain rules of decency and to treat their people with decency and 
to be freedom loving.
    And finally, let me say we're trying to give you the Government up 
here you deserve, one that costs less and works better. And I said in 
the State of the Union and I'll say again, the era of big Government is 
over. Your Government today is the smallest it's been since Lyndon 
Johnson was President. By the end of next year--this year, '96--it will 
be the smallest it's been since John Kennedy was President. We are 
downsizing the Government.
    But having a small Government is not the same thing as having a weak 
Government. It can be smaller; it can be less bureaucratic. We can be 
giving more power to State and local governments, more power to people 
in the private sector, more power to groups that can solve social 
problems better at the grassroots level. But we don't need to walk away 
from America's challenges.
    We still have an obligation, I believe, through the Medicaid 
program, to help poor children and families with children with 
disabilities and elderly people who need to be in nursing homes. I 
believe that's our obligation. We still have an obligation to help 
people make the most of their own lives through education. We have to do 
more on that. We're going to have--you know, the average person in a 4-
year school today is 26 years old. That's the average age. In the 
community colleges of this country, it's older. The average person who's 
18 years old today will have to go back and get a better education even 
if they go on to college and get a degree. This will become the work of 
a lifetime. We have to stay together.
    If this is going to be the age of possibility for every American, 
for every Hispanic child to live out his or her dreams, we have got to 
say, all right, the era of big Government is over, but we are not about 
to go back to the time when everybody was fending for themselves and 
everybody was on their own.
    Families work because people work together. People move to cities 
and towns because they could do more together than they could if they 
were living apart. And the same is true of our country. I think you know 
that. Impart your wisdom, your feeling, your conviction to the rest of 
America so that we can go forward together.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.
    Audience member. Say hi to Hillary! [Applause]
    The President. Thank you. Thank you.
    Sonja Hillgren. Wait one minute. And now I understand that he 
noticed his picture was not up there, and now your picture will go up 
because you are now a member.
    The President. I just have one question. Does this mean I get to ask 
questions, instead of answer them? Because if it does, I've got a 
wonderful backlog built up. [Laughter]
    Thank you very much. And let me say I want to come down and shake 
hands, and then I know you've got a busy evening and I thank you for 
letting me leave early. But I've got a little family values to tend to. 
This has been a long day in my family, and I'm going to take care of my 
wonderful wife and my daughter. So I'll see you. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 7:35 p.m. at the National Press Club. In 
his remarks, he referred to Andres Tobar, convention chair, and Louis 
Rossi, president, National Association of Hispanic Publications; Raul 
Yzaguirre, president, National Council of La Raza; and Jake Alarid, 
national commander, American G.I. Forum of the United States. Sonja 
Hillgren was president of the National Press Club.