[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[December 3, 1997]
[Pages 1706-1708]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic Party Reception in Chicago, Illinois
December 3, 1997

    Thank you. Thank you for being here, and thank you for being in such 
good spirits. I want to begin by saying a very special word of 
appreciation to Gary LaPaille for 8 years of leadership of the Illinois 
Democratic Party, during which time, among other things, the State of 
Illinois voted by large margins, twice, for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. We 
are very grateful for Gary and for all of you.
    I want to thank Senator Dick Durbin for many things, but especially 
I want to thank him for his leadership in the fight to protect our 
children from their illegal and often deadly exposure to tobacco. We are 
going to win that fight next year, thanks to Dick Durbin. And we thank 
him for that.
    And I want to thank Senator Carol Moseley-Braun for many things, but 
I want you to remember when we approach this election how much 
difference a vote can make. There were no votes to spare in 1993 when 
the economic future of our country hung in the balance. Don't forget 
what it was like when I was elected in 1992 and why I was elected: 20 
years of stagnant wages, a long recession, despair that we had any kind 
of plan for dealing with the global economy. And when I presented my 
economic plan, I said, ``Look, the first thing we've got to do is get 
the deficit down. But we can't cut education or health care or 
investment in the environment. And by the way, we ought to give a tax 
cut to the lowest income working people with families.'' And we did. And 
when I presented my plan, the members of the other party said it would 
be an end to the world; we'd have a terrible recession; everything was 
horrible. We passed it by one vote. If Carol Moseley-Braun hadn't been 
representing Illinois in the Senate, I doubt very seriously that we 
would be able to say, today, after 5 years, we've

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got the lowest unemployment rate in 24 years, 13.5 million new jobs, and 
the strongest American economy in a generation. You have a lot of 
reasons to reelect Carol Moseley-Braun to the United States Senate.
    And then in 1994, I asked repeatedly, for 3 years, the police 
officers of this country and the prosecutors and the community leaders 
who work with young people, what kind of crime bill do we need to bring 
the crime rate down in America again? And keep in mind, when I ran for 
office in '92, if you had told the American people that we'd have 5 
years of declining crime, people would have said, ``Yeah, and I'd like 
to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.'' No one would have believed it. But we 
know there were places in America where the crime rate was already going 
down. And so I presented to the Congress a crime bill to put 100,000 
police on the street, the Brady bill to keep guns out of the hands of 
people with crime or mental health problems that should disqualify them, 
an assault weapons ban to keep guns that intended to kill people out of 
the hands of young people and gangs on the streets, and preventive funds 
to keep our kids out of trouble. And the other side said, oh, this was 
the end of the world; why, the crime would go up, and we were going to 
take guns away from law-abiding citizens. It was the awfullest squalling 
you ever heard. And we barely broke the filibuster in the Senate. And if 
Carol Moseley-Braun hadn't been representing Illinois in the Senate, we 
might not have 5 years of declining crime in the United States of 
America. That's a good reason to reelect her.
    And tomorrow, what about tomorrow? All elections are about the 
future. Arguably, if she did a good job, that's what you paid her to do. 
What about tomorrow? We have other challenges. Yes, our Democratic Party 
has led this country in getting the best economy in a generation, the 
lowest crime rate in 24 years, the biggest drop in welfare in history, 
while protecting the children of people on welfare with health care and 
nutrition and child care and support for people to go into the 
workplace. Yes, I'm proud of that. What about tomorrow? Tomorrow we have 
to give a commitment to educational excellence to every child in this 
country, and we have to have more cities doing what Chicago has done to 
overhaul their school system and stand for high standards.
    I presented a plan last year in the State of the Union Address to do 
what Carol Moseley-Braun first asked me to do, to try to provide some 
national help to the crumbling school buildings of this country. I was 
in Philadelphia the other day; the average school is 65 years old. I was 
in Akron today at one of our race townhall meetings; three different 
people said, please give us some help to make our schools places that 
our kids can be proud of, where learning can occur. We're going to get 
that done if Carol Moseley-Braun from Illinois is reelected, so the 
message is sent to the American Congress that the American people want 
education to be our top national domestic priority. So I want you to 
help her.
    And finally let me say, I owe a special debt of gratitude to the 
people of Illinois. When I started running for President, people said to 
me when I picked Al Gore in the summer of '92--one of my better 
decisions, I might add--when I picked Al Gore, I remember before--the 
first time we talked, I was the fifth best-known candidate in New 
Hampshire. Nobody knew who I was. And he and I met at the Tennessee 
Governor's mansion once. And this was before--much before I had offered 
him--nobody thought I was going to be the nominee, so I couldn't ask him 
to run with me. And he said, ``You know, I ran for President 4 years 
ago, and I had a problem. I did real well in the South, and I had no 
place to go. How are you going to be nominated?'' And I said, ``I have a 
one-word answer: Illinois.'' And he said, ``Why?'' And I said, ``Because 
Hillary is from Chicago and half the other people who live there were 
born in Arkansas, and I am going to win Illinois.''
    And you heard Gary talking about it--December of '91, or October of 
'91, I appeared before the Democratic chairs who were here. David 
Wilhelm from Chicago became my campaign manager, went to become chairman 
of our party. Many people from Illinois have come in and out of our 
administration. A lot of them are here today--Minyon Moore from Chicago, 
here with me today, who set up our race townhall meeting in Akron; and 
of course, Secretary Daley, our Secretary of Commerce, who is doing a 
terrific job; and Rahm Emanuel and my old friends Kevin O'Keefe and Avis 
LaVelle and others who were in the administration who are here.

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    Illinois has been very special to me. What Chicago did for Hillary 
on her 50th birthday almost made her forget her age. [Laughter] It was 
an act of uncommon kindness and generosity. And I want you to know that 
we're looking to you; we're looking to you.
    Illinois is better than it was 5 years ago. And all the fights we 
had and all the compromise we made that were principled reflected the 
values, the ideas, and the future of the Democratic Party. When we 
passed this balanced budget last year, which party do you think it was 
that was arguing the hardest to target our tax cuts to education and 
kids, rather than to those of us who were doing well already? When we 
passed that balanced budget last year, we guaranteed a $1,500-a-year--a 
year--tax credit for the first 2 years of college, tax deductions for 
the last 2 years of college, for graduate school, and for working people 
that have to go back and get further training. We opened the doors of 
college to all Americans, the biggest increase since the GI bill 50 
years ago. Who do you think was doing that? It was the Democrats that 
were fighting for that, and I'm proud of that. When we agreed over the 
next few years to add 5 million more children in working families to the 
ranks of those with health insurance, who was really fighting for that? 
Our Democratic Party was fighting for that.
    So I say to you, you've got most of the Democratic candidates for 
Governor here. I know there's a lot of them, but you've got to be 
patient with them. I had that job for 12 years; that's a good job. 
[Laughter] I don't blame them for running. It's a good job. And it's 
more important than ever before, for the Governors shape how we cover 
children and health insurance; the Governors shape how we implement 
welfare reform; the Governors shape how we pursue the economic and 
educational initiatives that I'm trying to lead the country toward. It's 
a big deal. So I want you to be for whomever you choose, but when it's 
over, unite behind the one who wins and give Illinois a Democratic 
Governor in this next election year.
    Lastly, let me say, I know that I will not be on the ballot again, 
but I will be working for our party and our candidates and, more 
importantly, for our ideas and our values, till the last minute of the 
last day of my Presidency and beyond. We have done a lot in the last 5 
years, but we have 3 years more to go, and I believe we can get more 
done in the next 3 years than we have in the last 5 if we will stay 
together, walk hand in hand, remember who sent us there, and keep 
working to make America what it ought to be, a land of opportunity for 
every single citizen.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 7:35 p.m. in Festival Hall at Navy Pier at 
a combined Illinois State Democratic Party and Democratic Congressional 
Campaign Committee reception. In his remarks, he referred to Kevin 
O'Keefe, former Deputy Assistant to the President; and Avis LaVelle, 
former Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services (Public