[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 10, 1998]
[Pages 349-350]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 349]]

Remarks at a Democratic Business Council Luncheon in Westport, 
March 10, 1998

    Thank you very much. Bob and Yvette and all the others, all of you who are here, I can't 
thank you enough for coming and for your support. Mayor 
Farrell, I'm glad to be in Westport. 
Mayor Ganim, I enjoyed our visit in 
Bridgeport. Governor Romer and Len 
Barrack and Fran Katz, 
thank you for all the work you do for the Democratic Party. And Barbara 
Kennelly, thank you for having the 
courage to run for Governor. I want you to win. I'll do what I can to 
help you, and certainly you deserve it.
    I'd also like to say to all of you, I remember that night in 1991 
when I came to Westport the first time. My name recognition was less 
than 50 percent among the people in the room to meet me that night. 
[Laughter] You know how those things start--I mean, more than half the 
people showed up because somebody they knew asked them to, and they 
couldn't think of a convenient excuse to get out of it. [Laughter] So I 
do remember.
    When I announced for President I was running fifth in New Hampshire. 
My mother was the only person I knew who thought I was going to win. 
[Laughter] So it has been a long road since I first came here as a 
candidate to Westport. I can't imagine why only George Washington and 
Franklin Roosevelt have been here, however. The others must not have 
known what they were missing.
    I feel a great deal of debt to the people of Connecticut. 
Connecticut voted for Al Gore and me twice, and by a much bigger margin 
in '96 even than in '92. The people of Connecticut have supported the 
efforts of the last 5 years, and I believe now support the agenda for 
the 21st century that I outlined in the State of the Union speech.
    I know you've all heard a lot of political speeches, but we're here 
at a Democratic Party event, so I will give you a very brief one. If you 
had to go home today when you left here and someone asked you, ``Why did 
you go to that lunch,'' you don't have the excuse that you might have 
had in December of '91. You knew exactly what you were doing when you 
showed up. Why did you come here? Why do you belong to our party? Why do 
you support it?
    I have spent a lot of time thinking about my mission as President. I 
think about it every day. What do I want? I want our country to go into 
the 21st century with the American dream alive for every person who will 
work for it, with our leadership in the world for peace and freedom and 
prosperity unquestioned, and with our country coming together as one 
great community across all the lines that divide us. That's what I want. 
That's what I've wanted every day since I first took the oath of office, 
and that is what I have worked for.
    What is being a member of my political party got to do with that? 
Even though I have often enjoyed, both as Governor and as President, 
working with Republicans, sometimes more, apparently, than they wanted 
to enjoy working with me--[laughter]--and I believe that our country's 
greatest causes go beyond party and that we ought to be able to find 
common ground. It is a good thing, too, that we have generally had over 
the last 220 years two different political groups. They gave us 
stability and honest, helpful debate and the ability to come together in 
principled compromise.
    So why are you here, and why are you a Democrat? And does it really 
have anything to do with Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson? And if 
George Washington were alive today, what would he be? The Federalists 
are long gone; the Whigs are long gone. You know, we had virtually a 
one-party system--Thomas Jefferson was such a good politician that after 
he became President, in order for John Quincy Adams to get elected 
President, after following Madison and Monroe, Quincy Adams virtually 
had to become a member of Jefferson's party even though Jefferson had 
beat his daddy for reelection--just to get elected.
    Does any of that have anything to do with where we are today? I 
spent a lot of time in 1997 reading the history of America from, let's 
say, Andrew Jackson to Abraham Lincoln--I'm reading a great biography of 
Daniel Webster right now; I recommend it to you--and then reading the 
history of America from after Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt, 
because most people don't know much about it. And

[[Page 350]]

what I basically concluded is this: At every important time, from the 
founding of the country through the Civil War through the growth of the 
industrial revolution through the Depression and World War II and the 
cold war, at every time there have always been three great questions--
always--that defined America.
    Start with the Declaration of Independence: We pledge our lives, our 
fortunes, our sacred honor to the proposition that all people are 
created equal and entitled to liberty, entitled to the pursuit of 
happiness--not the guarantee but the pursuit--and to form a more perfect 
Union. That's the whole story of America, every time: What can we do to 
widen the circle of opportunity, deepen the meaning of freedom, 
strengthen the bonds of our Union?
    I'm ashamed to tell you that more or less from the time of Martin 
Van Buren until way after Abraham Lincoln became President, our party 
did not carry those elements most strongly; the Republicans did. But 
from the time Theodore Roosevelt handed the progressive mantle in this 
country over to Woodrow Wilson, or--throughout the 20th century, and 
then going back to our roots in the beginning, I think you can honestly 
say that the Democratic Party may not have always been right on every 
issue, but we were always on the right side of history. We were for 
widening the circle of opportunity, deepening the meaning of our 
freedom, strengthening the bonds of our Union.
    That's what we need to be thinking about today. Why? Well, look 
ahead to the 21st century. We have a strong economy; some people want to 
give away the surplus now. I say, no, let's fix Social Security because 
when the baby boomers retire, we don't want to bankrupt the country or 
bankrupt our kids to take care of us. That's what we represent.
    We have a very successful economy, but there's still neighborhoods 
and people who haven't participated in it. That's why we have to be the 
party of economic empowerment in devastated areas and higher standards 
in education for all. We have an increasingly diverse society. That's 
why we have to be the party for genuine racial harmony and strength out 
of our diversity. We have new challenges abroad, and we have to be the 
party working for peace and security from the Middle East to Northern 
Ireland, against weapons of mass destruction. That's what we represent. 
But when you go back to the beginning, you'll see that's what we've 
always represented.
    Go home today and see if you can write down in two sentences why you 
came here. And if you can, then you can come again, and you'll want to.
    This country is going through a lot of great changes, but where we 
need to come out will require the leadership of people who honestly 
believe we have a permanent mission to widen the circle of opportunity, 
deepen the meaning of freedom, and strengthen the bonds of our human 
    Thank you. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:55 p.m. in the dining room at the Inn at 
National Hall. In his remarks, he referred to luncheon hosts Bob and 
Yvette Rose; Westport First Selectman Diane Goss Farrell; Gov. Roy Romer 
of Colorado, general chair, Leonard Barrack, national finance chair, and 
Fran Katz, national finance director, Democratic National Committee; and 
Representative Barbara B. Kennelly, candidate for Governor of