[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[February 3, 1998]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]
Remarks in Albuquerque, New Mexico
February 3, 1998
Thank you. I want to begin by thanking the University of New Mexico
Band. They have been wonderful tonight. And I might say, I saw the end
of your basketball game the other night; it was pretty impressive, too.
Mr. Mayor, Senator Bingaman, Secretary Pena; Evangeline
Trujillo, thank you for your
wonderful remarks and your even more important example. Didn't she do a
terrific job tonight? [Applause]
I'm also delighted that we are joined tonight by Congressman
Redmond, Attorney General Udall, Treasurer Montoya, Secretary
of State Gonzales, State Auditor Robert
Vigil; former Governors King, Anaya, and Apodaca--all friends of mine--thank you for being here; Sam
Vigil, Commissioner of the President's Advisory
Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Education; and at
least two of our tribal leaders, Governors Pasqual and Tortalita. Thank you
all for being here tonight.
Let me say there is one person who would love to be here who can't
be, and I promised him that I would say hello to you, New Mexico's own
and America's very great Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill
I'd also like to recognize two New Mexicans who work at the Sandia
National Laboratories in Albuquerque, who have not been properly
recognized. Chris Cherry and Rod
Owenby, in 1996, assisted FBI and ATF agents
during the search of Theodore Kaczynski's residence in Montana. They, at considerable risk to
themselves, helped lead to the capture and the conviction of Mr.
Kaczynski and put an end to his deadly attacks. They live among you.
They have never gotten credit for what they did, and I think we ought to
express our thanks to them tonight.
Thank you for coming out. I want to especially thank the children
for being here tonight. Thank you for coming, and all of you who brought
them. I'm glad to be back in New Mexico and on this very spot to talk
about how we are going to strengthen our Nation for a new century by
balancing the budget while investing in our people and preparing for our
I'll never forget back in 1992, on election day, at 3 a.m. in the
morning, what Hillary and I saw at the hangar at the Albuquerque
International Airport. That hangar was filled with people who were tired
and cold but warm with hope. At 3 o'clock in the morning, Bruce
King brought me a Mexican breakfast, which I
loved. And I was saying to the people there in the early morning hours,
before the polls had opened and when the outcome of the election was
still uncertain, that America faced a profound choice between hope and
fear, between whether we would or would not have the courage to change.
In 1992 the people of the United States and the people of New Mexico
gave Bill Clinton and Al Gore a chance to chart a new course for
America's future. I thank you, and I believe it is working.
We have worked hard to move past the sterile debate between those
who say that Government is the enemy and those who claimed it could
solve all our problems, to build a new kind of Government; to take what
some have called a third way; to give you a Government that is smaller,
that is more flexible, that is less bureaucratic, that promotes new
ideas and, most of all, tries to give all of you and all your fellow
Americans the tools you need to make the most of your own lives in a
very new world.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are committed to building a 21st century
America with an economy based on opportunity, a society full of
responsibility, an America that lives together across racial and
religious lines as one American community.
I think that we all know this approach is working. Compared to 5
years ago, our deficit is down by more than 90 percent. We have 14
million new jobs, the lowest unemployment in 24 years, the lowest
inflation in 30 years, the highest homeownership in history. And
yesterday I submitted to Congress the first balanced budget in 30 years.
Not so very long ago our deficit was so large it had 11 zeros. Now
it is going to be simply zero. And you should all be proud of that.
Balancing the budget can mark the beginning of a new era of opportunity
for America, a new era of achievement, a new era of wholeness
to our public national life in the 21st century. What are we going to do
with this opportunity? That's what I want to say to you again tonight.
First, we must know we can balance the budget and save Social
Security in the 21st century. And that is important. Now, all of you
here know that when the baby boomers--and I know about this because I'm
the oldest of the baby boomers--that when we retire there will be a lot
more people retired, compared to people working, than there ever have
been before in American history. And we know that will put new burdens
on the Social Security system. But if we begin now to prepare for that,
with all we know and all we can find out, and if we don't make this a
political thing, if we make it an American crusade across party lines
and age lines and income lines, we know that we can save Social Security
for the 21st century in such a way that my generation does not expect to
bankrupt our children to take care of us and impair our children's
ability to take care of our grandchildren. We can do that.
And all I have asked of the Congress is that when we balance the
budget--it is then projected that we will begin to run surpluses for the
first time in a coon's age, since anybody can remember. Nobody can
remember when that happened. It is projected now that we could have
surpluses as high as $200 billion over the next 5 years. And what I say
to you is, the easy thing is for us to take the money back in tax cuts
or spending programs. But I want you to commit to me that you will
support the Congress in saying, don't do anything with the money until
you fix Social Security first.
We can balance the budget and give Americans the finest education in
the world. Perhaps the proudest achievement of the balanced budget
agreement last year was that it opened the doors of college to all
Americans: over 200,000 new Pell grants in the last 3 years; 300,000 new
work-study positions; education IRA's you can save for a college
education for yourselves or your children and withdraw from them tax
free; a $1,500 tax cut; a HOPE scholarship tax credit for the first 2
years of college; and a lifetime learning tax cut for the 3d and 4th
years, for graduate school, for adults who have to go back for job
training. If you want to go to college, you can go now. Don't let
anybody tell you you can't.
But now we have to make sure that the years of education before
college are as good as the college education is in America. Everybody
knows America has the finest system of higher education in the entire
world. I will never be satisfied until we know we have the finest system
of elementary and secondary education in the entire world.
We can balance the budget and put 100,000 more teachers in the first
3 grades to lower average class size to 18, so all our kids have a
chance to learn. We can balance the budget and build or repair 5,000
more schools, because if there are more kids and more teachers, you have
to have more classrooms. We can balance the budget and help the poorest,
most underprivileged communities in rural and urban areas to achieve
high standards of excellence, to end social promotion but to get a
second chance to really learn what all our children are fully capable of
We can balance the budget and make an unprecedented commitment to
improving the quality of Hispanic education and reducing the
unacceptably high dropout rate among Hispanic-American students. This
commitment--hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several
years--will build on the progress of the President's Advisory Commission
on Excellence in Hispanic Education to lower the dropout rate and help
young Hispanic-Americans to succeed in school. I want to thank Sam
Vigil, who is here with us today, and Senator
Bingaman, who has worked so hard on this
issue. We cannot have an America where there is a huge racial disparity
in the dropout rate. All of our kids need to finish high school, and all
of our kids can finish high school.
We can balance the budget and deal with the challenge that Mayor
Baca talked about earlier. I am very happy and proud of the work that
our administration has done in partnership with local law enforcement
and citizen groups to have a big 5-year decline in the crime rate. But
if you have been following it closely, you know that the juvenile crime
rate has not gone down as much as the adult crime rate has. There's
still too many of our kids getting in trouble, and most of that trouble
happens between the time school closes, about 3, and the time all the
parents get home, about 8, from work. We must give our children
something positive to do in those hours, and we can balance the budget
and do that and keep our kids out of trouble.
We can balance the budget and help millions of Americans to provide
child care to their children that is of good quality, that is
affordable, and that helps people to balance the demands of school and
work. We can balance the budget and extend health care coverage to more
hard-working Americans. I'll bet you anything there are people in this
audience tonight, between the ages of 55 and 65, where your spouse has
gone on Medicare but you're not old enough for it yet; or you lost a job
and you haven't gotten another one, so you don't have health care; or
you took early retirement from a company that promised you health
insurance coverage and then didn't deliver. I say we should let those
people have the opportunity to buy into the Medicare program early. It
won't cost Medicare a dime, and it will be worth all the money in the
world to them.
We can balance the budget and continue to clean our environment.
Compared to 5 years ago, the air is cleaner; the water is cleaner; the
food is safer in America; there are fewer toxic waste dumps. But we have
more to do. We have got to deal with the crisis of climate change, do
something about global warming, and bring our people the benefits of a
growing economy and a cleaner environment. In New Mexico, you know we
can do that. Help us lead the way in America.
And we can balance the budget and invest in the science and
technology that can revolutionize our way of life; whether it is in
cleaning the environment, finding cures for diseases, solving practical
problems in America, we can do it. I announced today at Los Alamos that
our balanced budget will put over $500 million into developing the
fastest supercomputers in human history, 1,000 times faster than the
fastest one when I took office 5 years ago. We are going to develop a
computer that will do more calculations in a second than you can with
your hand-held computer in 30 million years. That is on the verge of
But the last thing I want to say to you is, we can balance the
budget, and we can do all that, but we have to remember we're living in
a smaller and smaller world where we're more interconnected, whether we
like it or not, with people all around the world, not just economically
but also in terms of the spread of disease or our vulnerability to
terrorism or drug traffickers or our vulnerability to common, shared
environmental problems. And yet we can do so much more when we work
In a world like this, there is no nation better suited to do well in
the 21st century than our United States. Why? Because here the price of
citizenship is believing in America. It is not a function of your race;
it is not a function of your religion; it is not a function of where you
were born; it is not a function of how much money you have; all you have
to do is to be willing to work hard, obey the law, and say you believe
in the things that have made our country great.
And I'm telling you, folks, you just look around this crowd today
and you think about what it means to be in a global society. I tell you,
we can build one America. We can balance the budget. We can invest in
our future. And if we do, all these little children today, they will be
living in the greatest days the United States has ever known. Help us do
Thank you, and God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke at 5:25 p.m. at the Civic Plaza. In his
remarks, he referred to Mayor Jim Baca of Albuquerque; Evangeline
Sandoval Trujillo, director, Mathematics, Engineering, Science
Association, who introduced the President; New Mexico State Treasurer
Michael Montoya; New Mexico Secretary of State Stephanie Gonzales;
former New Mexico Governors Bruce King, Toney Anaya, and Jerry Apodaca;
Acama Pueblo Governor Reginald Pasqual; Santo Domingo Pueblo Governor
Tony Tortalita; and convicted Unabomber Theodore J. Kaczynski.