[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[December 19, 1997]
[Pages 1798-1802]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Presenting the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards
December 19, 1997

    Thank you very much, Mrs. Baldrige, Robert and Nancy Baldridge, 
Harry Hertz, the examiners and judges and all those associated with the 
Baldrige Award Foundation, especially to the winners. We congratulate 
you all. We're delighted that the Chair of the District of Columbia 
Control Board, Andrew Brimmer, and Councilwoman Charlene Drew Jarvis are 
    And I want to thank Secretary Daley in spite of the fact that he was 
making fun of my penchant for animal stories of all kinds. [Laughter] I 
mean, I don't come from Chicago--[laughter]--I come from the country. 
But my wife comes from Chicago.
    I want to thank Earnie Deavenport, too. Several years ago the 
Eastman Company loaned me an executive when I was Governor of Arkansas, 
and we established the first statewide total quality management program 
in the country. It was what gave me the idea to start what eventually 
became the reinventing Government project headed by the Vice President, 
which among other things has now given us the smallest Federal 
Government since John Kennedy was here. And I'll give $5 to anyone in 
the audience who can honestly say you have missed it. [Laughter] I say 
that because the Federal employees have done a very good job of 
increasing their output and the quality of their service while 
downsizing their numbers so that we can take advantage of technology, 
get the deficit down, get the economy going again. So we have learned 
from you.
    And I've talked with Earnie many times about the importance of 
trying to apply these lessons to other areas of human endeavor. You 
mentioned the two most important, I think, are health care and 
education. I also think there are applications--if you look at the 
success in many law enforcement departments around the country, there 
are law enforcement applications here because the thing that a belief in 
continuous progress through not only doing the right things but doing 
the right things right gives you is the conviction that you can repeat 
whatever you're doing right in one place somewhere else. And that is by 
far the biggest problem Government faces.
    So I really am delighted to see you here. But I think, for me, 
because I have seen this work over and over and over again in the 
private as well as the public sector, that is what cries out for 
application to our public institutions, whether it's in education or 
health care or in law enforcement.
    If the city of Boston could go virtually 2\1/2\ years without a 
single child being killed by a handgun, until--unfortunately, they had 
an incident last week, but they went 2\1/2\ years. No city in the United 
States that big has been able to do that. They did. It must therefore 
follow that if other people did the same thing in the same way and then 
you started the kind of contest you have here in the market system so 
everybody tried to keep continuously improving their process, that we 
would become a safer country.
    In health care, we have all these--you know, managed care, on 
balance, has been a good thing for America, because we've managed some 
inefficiency out of the system. But now people are genuinely worried 
about who's making the

[[Page 1799]]

decisions about their health care and whether quality will continue to 
be the most important value in the health care system. I think all of us 
want it to be; even those of you who may have responsibility in your 
organization for holding down health care costs, the last thing in the 
world you want is for your employees not to have access to the health 
care that they need.
    And goodness knows, in education--I've said this so many times, the 
poor people in the press who have to cover me get tired of hearing it, 
but the most frustrating thing about American education today is that 
every problem in education has been solved by somebody somewhere, and 
nobody's figured out how to have everybody else follow suit so that you 
launch the kind of competitive process that you come here to celebrate 
    So, for all these reasons, I love coming here. And I always feel 
that by the time I get up to speak, there's no point in my saying 
anything. [Laughter] I told Mrs. Baldrige I kind of hated to walk out 
here. You all were so enthusiastic, you should have been outside 
listening to all this energy being emanated from this room. It's 
wonderful to be in a place where people don't think it's too corny or 
too embarrassing to be exuberant about what they do. Can you imagine 
what would happen in this country if everybody wanted to wave a flag for 
the place they work every day? [Laughter] Can you imagine that? I'm sure 
somewhere in this room there is some cynic saying, ``This is too hokey. 
I can't believe they're doing this.'' [Laughter]
    Where do you spend more time than at work? Why shouldn't you want to 
wave a flag? Why shouldn't we want to cheer about where we work? We want 
to cheer about our families, cheer about the places we work, cheer about 
the clubs we associate with. This country would work a lot better if 
everybody felt like they could cheer about the place they work. That's 
why I always try to make these awards, and why I think it was a stroke 
of genius to establish them, although I bet even when they were 
established, the founders could never have imagined what the far-
reaching impact would be, that most States would follow suit, that 
countries would follow suit.
    There is this idea now embodied in our four winners today, in 3M 
Dental Products, in Merrill Lynch Credit, in Solectron, and XBS, that 
you can always get better and that you can organize not only to do the 
right things but to do the right things right in a way that elevates the 
people who work for the enterprise, serves the general public better, 
and obviously supports the bottom line.
    It's nice to think that. Otherwise, you would get bored if you 
didn't go broke. [Laughter] So it's sort of better, bored, or broke. 
[Laughter] If you get a multiple-choice question like that, it's not too 
easy to make an A. [Laughter] And yet we don't. None of us do all the 
time. But we come here to celebrate what we can do at our best.
    I'd also like to thank the Department of Commerce, Secretary Daley, 
the National Institute of Standards and Technology for the support that 
they give to this endeavor. It has been a great partnership. But most of 
all, I just want to say, just think about where this idea was 10 years 
ago and where it is today. Think about how many of the groundbreaking 
reforms that have been recognized in Baldrige Award winners in the past 
that are now just standard industry practice.
    Think about what it would be like if everybody would so shamelessly 
try to learn what their competitors are doing and do it at least that 
well and then figure out how to do it better, if in every area of human 
endeavor you did that. I think that this is something that is really 
worth focusing on. What do we celebrate? The stake the employees have in 
the company, the flexibility, the innovation, the creativity, the spirit 
of enterprise. It has brought America back.
    When I became President, and even when I was running for President, 
I saw that the 1980's, while they had been very tough on American 
business, had also produced a remarkable understanding that was widely 
shared throughout the country about what had to be done to be 
internationally competitive. And I always saw a big part of my duty here 
as just to have Government policies that would reinforce what is right 
and get out of the way of what is right, so that we could create the 
conditions and give people the tools so that everybody could do what 
you're doing. And we've tried to do that.
    I appreciate what Secretary Daley said about the turtle on the 
fencepost; that's one of the things I always say in the Cabinet meeting. 
It took us 3 months, and we didn't have to translate all my aphorisms to 
people who never had the privilege of living in rural areas. [Laughter]

[[Page 1800]]

    We've tried to do three simple things to help you. One, get the 
deficit down and balance the budget so that we could keep interest rates 
down, improve interest rates not only for businesses but for individuals 
and on home mortgages, and two consequences of that are that we have an 
all-time high rate of homeownership--it's above two-thirds for the first 
time in the history of America--and we have record levels of business 
investment, which is becoming very important now because we're able to 
sustain a little higher rate of internal growth as you see a little 
turmoil around the world. I want to say a little more about that in a 
minute. But it's very important.
    When the Congress adopted the balanced budget amendment--I mean 
act--in 1997, back in August, and I signed it, the deficit had already 
dropped by 92 percent below its high in 1992. It went from $292 billion 
a year down to $23 billion a year. And I want to make a point about 
that, because I'm sure you found this in your company. When you get this 
award, you can come here and celebrate, and you don't even have to think 
about how hard and often controversial some of the changes you had to 
make were to get to this point. Right? Well, when we decided we were 
going to bring the deficit down, it was like pulling fingernails out 
around this place. And the bill in 1993 passed by one vote in both 
Houses. Now all of us think we're geniuses. If it had gone wrong, half 
the people that live in town could have said, ``I told you they were 
fools.'' [Laughter] But it worked. And now we're going to balance this 
budget, and we're going to have a healthier economy. And that's very 
important because it frees you to do what you do best.
    The second thing we've tried to do is to change the conditions in 
which you operate by opening more of the global economy to American 
companies. We've had over 200 trade agreements in the last 5 years, by 
far the largest number ever. And the Uruguay round, finished back in 
1993, amounts to the largest tax cut on American goods in history. And 
now we're the number one exporter in the world again. I think it is very 
important that we continue to press ahead in that.
    I believe very strongly that it was a mistake when we were unable to 
get enough votes in the House of Representatives to renew the 
President's fast-track trade authority to negotiate comprehensive bills. 
Why? Not because nobody ever loses in trade in America. There are some--
in competition, there are by definition some losers and some winners. 
But most of the job loss in America comes from technological change and 
old-fashioned business failure. Some of it does come from change in the 
trading rules.
    What is the answer to that? Well, there are only two answers: You 
can either say, ``Well, we're just not going to change any more rules 
and try to pretend that we won't be subject to these global forces,'' or 
you could say, ``We're going to change the rules, create more jobs, 
raise more incomes, and do a heck of a lot better job than we've been 
doing in the past with the people who are dislocated through no fault of 
their own.'' The second is the right answer, not the first.
    We have 4 percent of the world's people and 20 percent of the 
world's income. And the developing economies are growing at roughly 3 
times the rate of the advanced economies like the United States, Japan, 
and Europe. Now again, you don't have to be a mathematical genius to 
figure out if you have 4 percent of the people and you've got 20 percent 
of the income and you would like to stay roughly as well off as you are 
and maybe, if you're very clever, get a little better off, you have to 
sell something to the other 96 percent of the people in the world, 
especially if their growth rates are faster than yours.
    Now, that does not mean that we should forget about the people who 
are dislocated from trade or from technology or even from old-fashioned 
business failures--people who have to start again.
    That brings me to the third thing that I want to say, which is that 
in addition to balancing the budget and having sensible economic 
policies, having an aggressive trade policy, we must have a policy that 
invests in our people and recognizes that in every company here 
rewarded, you were rewarded in part because you recognized that by far 
the most important resources you had were the people who were working 
for the company. Right? There is no question about that.
    With all respect, nobody was up here waving a flag for the Xerox 
machine back home--[laughter]--you know, or the whatever. Whatever the 
widget is, nobody was doing that. It's a great thing, whatever those 
machines are. You're waving the flags for yourselves and your

[[Page 1801]]

colleagues that are here because you know that basically creativity and 
continuous improvement requires people who can think and then who are 
free to act along the lines that they think and work out things 
    The very intellectual processes that you are trying to make 
permanent and embed in the daily work of your companies require a level 
of thinking and reasoning skills that mean that we have to be committed 
in America to universal excellence in education.
    Now, not everybody needs a college degree in physics. But everybody 
needs more than a high school diploma today, and everybody needs the 
ability to keep on learning for a lifetime. That's why we have tried to 
say--implement the national education goals and to oversimplify it by 
saying every 8-year-old should be able to read, every 12-year-old should 
be able to log on to the Internet, every 18-year-old should be able to 
go to college, every adult should be able to keep on learning for a 
lifetime. And we're trying to set up a system where that will be true 
for every American, because it will help more companies to do what you 
have done. And I think that's very important.
    In this last balanced budget, I think 30 years from now when people 
look back on it, they'll say, ``Aside from the fact that we balanced the 
budget for the first time in a generation, the most important thing 
about that bill was it opened the doors of college to every American who 
would work for a college education, with a tax credit called the HOPE 
scholarship that virtually makes the first 2 years of college virtually 
tax-free to every American and other tax incentives and more Pell 
grants.'' That's very important that we are setting the stage for 
promoting a comprehensive reform of America's schools, kindergarten 
through 12th grade, based on national standards and accountability for 
them and real production so that all schools will be organized for 
performance for all the children.
    And I want to compliment Secretary Daley's brother on the remarkable 
work that has been done in Chicago to try to totally change the culture 
of education there to make it more like a continuous quality operation, 
systematically in the way that all of you have achieved. So we're trying 
to do that. And as I said, we also have to do that for people who lose 
their jobs or who are drastically underemployed.
    What else do we have to do? We want to set up--we've doubled funds 
for dislocated workers in the last 5 years to invest in their training. 
The systems don't work very well or at least not nearly as well as they 
can. I'd like to see us consolidate all these Government programs and 
give the workers a skills grant. Most people who are out of work have 
got enough sense to figure out what they could learn to get a better job 
or to get a new job. And I'd like to see anybody that qualifies just get 
a skills grant that they can take to the nearest educational institution 
of their own choosing and get the education they need to become a 
productive member of society and have a great chance to get a good job 
in an organization like the ones we honor today.
    I'd like to see us, when a community is hard hit by a big plant 
closing, go in there like we did when the military bases closed. What's 
the difference? People are out of work, and you have great capacity. 
They deserve a chance to have everybody work together to get them 
started again.
    So we need to do more on that. But that's the right answer, not to 
run away from the global economy, not to say we're not going to trade. 
The right answer is to do more, more quickly for the people that are 
    I guess what I'm saying is, we're still trying to get it right here. 
We're still trying to make our operation one that is continuously 
improving. But at least we know what the objective is. The objective is 
to give every American the chance to live up to their God-given capacity 
and live out their dreams. The objective is to give people the power 
they need to not only have successful careers but to build strong 
families and strong communities. The objective is to help people balance 
the demands of work and family, a problem that I hear in every place I 
go. The objective is to help our country balance our obligation to grow 
the economy and preserve the environment, something we have proved, 
repeatedly, we can do over the last 30 years. The objective is to reach 
out to the rest of the world and get the benefits of the global economy 
while meeting its challenges instead of pretending they don't exist. We 
are, whether we like it or not, all interconnected, one with another, in 
this country and, increasingly, beyond our borders.
    I've spent an enormous amount of time in the last month--enormous--
trying to help come

[[Page 1802]]

to grips with the financial difficulties you're reading about every day 
in the Asian markets. Why? Because a huge percentage of our exports go 
to Asia. They are our neighbors now for all practical purposes. And it 
is in our interest that those countries be able to be stable, growing, 
increasingly healthy countries from which we not only buy but to which 
we sell, countries that together we can build a stable future. Instead 
of have a part of the world in the 20th century that called Americans 
there to fight and die in three wars, better to be a part of the world 
that participates in--[inaudible]--three new stages of the global 
economic revolution in the 21st century. We still have a lot of 
challenges out there.
    Technology is not an unmixed blessing. It bothers me some of the 
things little kids can see on the Internet at night. It bothers me that 
people who know how to do it can figure out how to build bombs and have 
access to dangerous weapons just by having the technological 
availability of it. There are a lot of things that bother us about it. 
There are troubling questions of our competitive laws and how they 
should apply to new technologies that have to be worked out. That's why 
we all have to be committed to the idea that we can continuously 
improve. Or in the language that was quoted from David Kearns, that our 
endeavor is a journey without an end. That's frustrating to some people; 
they always want to get there. But, you know, the older I get, the more 
I like the journey. [Laughter]
    So I thank you. I thank you for making America a better place. I 
thank you for your enthusiasm and for being a model for other American 
workplaces. And I ask you when you go home to share with your friends 
and neighbors, who may not work with you, the idea that this country is 
like where you work. America is still around after 220 years because we 
have a Constitution which said, if you want the country to always get 
better, you have to make it possible for people to always get better. 
And you have to give them the freedom to fail and mess up. I mean, 
that's what the Bill of Rights is all about. That's what the 
Constitution is all about, limiting the powers of Government and 
mandating, in effect, partnerships. That's what the flexibility of the 
Constitution is all about, so we could change over time to adapt to new 
circumstances without giving up our values. That's the kind of country 
you live in.
    And if it's going to be everything it ought to be in the 21st 
century, it has to do, as a nation, what you're trying to do every day 
at work. And you have to ask yourself, do you think America is on a 
journey without an end; do you think we can always get better? I think 
the answer, because of your example and that of millions of others, is 
an unequivocal yes.
    Thank you very much, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:54 a.m. at the Sheraton Washington 
Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to former Secretary of Commerce 
Malcolm Baldrige's sister, Letitia Baldrige, brother, Robert Baldridge, 
and sister-in-law, Nancy; Harry Hertz, national quality program 
director, National Institute of Standards and Technology; Earnest 
Deavenport, president, Malcolm Baldrige Award Foundation; Mayor Richard 
M. Daley of Chicago, IL; and David T. Kearns, retired chairman and chief 
executive officer, Xerox Corp.