[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 10, 1998]
[Pages 351-354]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic Business Council Dinner in Cincinnati, Ohio
March 10, 1998

     The President. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, you can all tell 
I'm a little hoarse tonight, and I don't know if I can shout over the 
machine back there, but I'll do my best.

[At this point, dinner host Stanley M. Chesley asked that a heater be turned off.]

    The President. Well, if you all start to turn blue--[laughter]--I 
promise to end the talk. I don't know if you can turn it off or not. But 
let me say first to Stan, thank you for 
having me here; thank you for having all of us here in your beautiful 
home, in this modest little tent. [Laughter] You know, it reminds me of 
the ones I used to camp out in when I was a Scout--[laughter]--pitch a 
little tent; get in your sleeping bag.
    Thank you, Dick Lawrence, and all 
the other cohosts. Thank you, Governor Romer, for 
your passion and your commitment and your wonderful remarks. I think Len 
Barrack is here, too, our new national 
finance chair of the Democratic Party--thank you. I want to thank Mary 
Boyle and Lee Fisher and 
Roxanne Qualls for running for public office. 
It's not so easy to do these days. They tell me I'm sort of impervious 
now. [Laughter] I'd also like to acknowledge a candidate for the 
Congress just across the State border in Kentucky, Ken Lucus, who is here. Ken, stand up. [Applause] Thank you for 
running. These are two of the people that, when they win, will give us a 
net gain of four seats, because we expect to change from Republican to 
Democrat in their seats. And we thank them. I want to thank David 
Leland for leading the Ohio Democratic 
    And again, let me say to all of you, your presence here, your 
support, means a lot to me. The people of Ohio have been very good to Al 
Gore and Bill Clinton. We won here in 1992, and when I won the primary, 
it put me over the top. At the Democratic Convention in New York, the 
votes of Ohio put me over the top. On election night in November in '92, 
when they announced Ohio, they said Governor Clinton had enough 
electoral votes to be President. Then in 1996, our victory margin here 
was more than 4 times what it had been in 1992. So for all of you who 
are from Ohio, I thank you so very much.
    For those of you who come from other States, I thank you for the 
effort you made to come here. We've got a lot of people here from 
Louisiana, my neighboring State. They gave me a huge victory this last 
time, and I'm very grateful to them for that, and elected another 
Democratic Senator.

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    I want to give a little bit of a different talk tonight to kind of 
play off something Governor Romer said. I presume that most of you heard 
my State of the Union Address, so just imagine that I just said it to 
you again--that's what I want to do--all the details. What I want you to 
think about is the big picture for our country and then where you fit in 
and why you're here.
    When I became President it was apparent to me that we were going 
through a period of not only dramatic change in how we work and live and 
relate to each other and the rest of the world but that it was change 
that was so different it was almost impossible to comprehend the full 
dimensions of it, and that Washington was essentially paralyzed by an 
antiquated view of Government that only worked for people that were 
playing power games in Washington. And in all candor, those who were 
telling us about it I think kind of liked the way it worked, because it 
was easy to explain: Democrats never met a program they didn't like, and 
Republicans thought Government was the source of all evil. And so they 
    Now, for those of us who live out here in the real world, like Mayor 
Qualls, for example, I didn't know many Republicans who felt that way, 
and I didn't know any Democrats who felt that way, and I didn't know any 
real people who thought you could run a country that way. And if we 
tried to run any organization, from our families to our businesses to 
our local governments, by spending all of our time maneuvering for power 
and personal destruction of our opponent and wondering about how we 
would look in the paper tomorrow morning instead of what we would do for 
our children and grandchildren, our families, our communities, and our 
businesses would all break down. And so I basically asked the people to 
give me a chance to serve in '92 to try to build a country for the 21st 
century, to try to imagine what we wanted America to look like, take 
account of all these changes, and then figure out what the role of the 
Government ought to be and what kind of Government it would take to 
achieve that mission. That is simply all we've tried to do. And I tried 
to get good people together, and I suggested we show up for work every 
day and good things would happen. And that's what has happened.
    Now you don't hear people engaging in this old ``Government is the 
salvation; Government is the enemy'' argument. We know that the role of 
Government is to give people the tools they need to make the most of 
their own lives, to create the conditions in which they can succeed, to 
provide for the security of our people, and to do what we can to be a 
catalyst for ideas in the future.
    Your Government now is the smallest it's been since John Kennedy, 
but it is a far more progressive Government than it was 6 years ago. And 
I'm proud of what's been done. I'm glad that we are going to have the 
first balanced budget in 30 years, that we have the lowest unemployment 
rate in 24 years, and the lowest inflation rate in 30 years, and the 
highest homeownership in history, the lowest welfare rolls in 27 years, 
and the lowest crime rate in 24 years, and 15 million more Americans 
have jobs. I am very proud of all that. But what I want to say to you is 
the American people did that in no small measure because we did things 
in Washington that made sense and sort of acted as a catalyst to make it 
    What we need to do now is to take these good times and to imagine 
the future we want for our children and then go build it and recognize 
that we're living in a time where knowledge is doubling every 5 years--
literally, every 5 years. Medical discoveries at NIH that used to take 9 
years, now because of the human genome project can be done in a matter 
of 9 days. Just in the health field alone, when we finish mapping the 
human gene and complete the kinds of things that are going on now with 
nerve transfers, it is conceivable that we will be able to solve health 
care problems that were once thought completely fatal. It is 
conceivable, if the rest of us will do our part, that we'll be able to 
get genetic maps that will enable us, if we have the discipline, to 
prevent all kinds of diseases and problems and the conditions we used to 
worry about. It is conceivable that people who have had their spinal 
cords severed will walk again. It has already happened in laboratory 
animals with their spinal cord severed, that had movement in their lower 
    If you look at the environment, where I'm very worried about the 
problems of global warming, we now know that we have the technology to 
reduce pollution and grow the economy to a greater degree than ever 
before. Our ability to do that depends, in my view, on two things. We've 
got to be committed to modernizing relentlessly the Government to do 
what works; and second, and far more important,

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we've got to be committed to being faithful to the things that got us 
started as a country in the first place.
    You want to make peace in the Middle East, in Northern Ireland, 
fight the weapons of mass destruction, stand up against chemical and 
biological weapons, create an environment of global prosperity? You want 
to figure out how to make one America out of an ever more diverse 
country? A school district across the river from me in Virginia has 
people, kids from 180 different countries, speaking 100 different 
languages in one school district. You want to figure out how to give us 
the best system of education in the world? Everybody knows we've got the 
best system of college in the world; now we've opened the doors to 
everybody. Nobody thinks we've got the best system of elementary and 
secondary education in the world. You name an American problem; I argue 
you not only have to be modern in your thinking and willing to change, 
you've got to be faithful to how we got started. Roy talked about it in 
referencing Selma.
    Why did you come here tonight? Because we've got a good economy and 
I have high numbers, or because you believe in the principles that got 
us here? I hope the answer is the latter. I hope the answer is the 
    We've got a huge agenda. I mean, we're trying to finally pass 
comprehensive legislation to resolve the tobacco issue. We're trying to 
pass a Patients' Bill of Rights. We're trying to pass a bill that will 
lower class sizes in the first 3 grades of elementary school to 18 and 
help 5,000 schools be built or renovated. We've got a thousand things to 
    Let me just talk to you about three big things. How did this country 
get started? All these people came over here because they hated 
arbitrary power--unlimited, arbitrary power. And they said, ``We believe 
freedom works better.'' Freedom to do two things: freedom to pursue 
happiness and freedom to get together to form a more perfect Union--
freedom, opportunity, union. If you look at the whole history of 
America, look at Abraham Lincoln, what was he about? Freedom, union, and 
oh, by the way, he signed the Morrill Land Grant Act, which is the 
greatest thing that ever happened to higher education, built all the 
State universities in America.
    Theodore Roosevelt--from Abraham Lincoln through Theodore Roosevelt, 
I hate to admit it, the Republican Party represented, more than we did, 
opportunity, freedom, and union. But from Woodrow Wilson through every 
single Democratic President down to the present day, the Democratic 
Party may not have been right on every issue, but we have been on the 
right side of history. It has been our party that has consistently stood 
for widening the circle of opportunity, deepening the meaning of 
America's freedom, and bringing this country together and the world 
together around a union of civilized people, based on civilized 
    That's why I'm here. That's why I hope you're here. That is what is 
going to take us into the 21st century, and that is why these people 
should be elected to the offices they seek in Ohio and Kentucky. That's 
why I hope you're here tonight.
    You ought to try this every now and then--you made a significant 
investment to come here tonight, and I'm going to hush now before you 
get pneumonia and sound worse than I do. [Laughter] But every now and 
then, you ought to do what I do every day; every day since I have been 
your President I have asked myself, what do I want my country to look 
like when we start the new millennium? What do I want my country to be 
like when my daughter has children her age? And for the last several 
months, as I have read more and more of the history of our country in 
periods where Americans don't know much about it, and before the Civil 
War and after the Civil War, for example, I have asked myself, why, 
really, am I a Democrat? Why do I belong to this party? Why am I proud 
to be here? It's more than my granddaddy remembering that Franklin 
Roosevelt cared about him. It's because of what we stand for. And what 
we stand for is what got us started, what has carried us through, and 
what will make the next century another American Century.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 9:24 p.m. at a private residence. In his 
remarks, he referred to attorney and dinner cohost Richard D. Lawrence; 
Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado, general chair, and Leonard Barrack, national 
finance chair, Democratic National Committee; Mary Boyle, Ohio candidate 
for U.S. Senate; Lee Fisher, Ohio gubernatorial candidate; Mayor Roxanne 
Qualls of Cincinnati, candidate for Ohio's First Congressional District; 
Ken Lucus, candidate for Kentucky's

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Fourth Congressional District; and David J. Leland, chairman, Ohio 
Democratic Party.