[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[January 7, 1998]
[Pages 6-9]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Announcing Proposed Legislation on Child Care
January 7, 1998

    Thank you very much. Welcome to the White House. You know, I was 
listening to the Vice President and 
Tipper and Hillary speak, and I was looking at all these people out here, 
and I was thinking about all the great joys of being President. And one 
of the greatest joys of being President is that you get to stand up and 
make an announcement on which other people have done all the work. 
    I want to begin by thanking the Cabinet, especially Secretary 
Shalala who has done so much work on this. 
But I thank them all. I thank the Congress, not only the Women's Caucus 
of Republican and Democratic women in the Congress but the few errant 
men who are here--[laughter]--and those who are not here who care so 
passionately about this issue in the Senate and in the House.
    I thank the children and families who are here and the child 
advocates who are here. I was looking around this room--there are some 
people in this room that I have been listening to on this issue for way 
over 20 years now.

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They have waited a long time for this day. [Laughter]
    I thank the Gores. You know, they started their family conference 
every year in Nashville even before we began our partnership together, 
and it was a brilliant and unique idea, the idea of every year focusing 
on the American family and some aspect of challenge or opportunity and 
bringing people in from all over America to talk about it. There's 
really no precedent for it as far as I know in our public policy, and 
it's a remarkable contribution that they have made.
    And of course, I thank my wife, who has been talking to me about all 
these things for more than 25 years now and is sitting there thinking 
that I finally got around to doing what she has been telling me to do. 
[Laughter] I was thinking it would be nice to have something new to talk 
about for the next 25 years. [Laughter] That's one of the major reasons 
for this event today. And even if the rest of you can't appreciate it as 
much as I can, you'll just have to live with the truth. [Laughter]
    But mostly I thank these children, for they remind us of our 
fundamental obligations as Americans and as human beings.
    You know, throughout our history, our Founders told us that they 
organized our country in order to form a more perfect Union. And one of 
the most important ways we have done that now, for more than 220 years, 
is to always apply our most fundamental values to the circumstances and 
challenges of each new age. And the reason we have made it is that we 
have never forgotten that there is no more fundamental value than the 
American family, than its strength and its integrity. There is no more 
important job than raising a child. There is no more important 
responsibility than to create the conditions and give people the tools 
to succeed at raising their children. But I think we would all have to 
admit that as a nation we have not done what we should have done to 
enable all of our families to meet the challenge of the era in which we 
    For some time now, we have been, at least with one foot, in the 21st 
century. We know that the 21st century will be dominated by 
globalization and by information and technological revolutions. And we 
know that it has brought us many great benefits.
    We as Americans should be very grateful today for the prosperity we 
enjoy. Even though all of you and your fellow Americans have worked hard 
to earn it and we've made some tough decisions in Washington to help 
bring it about, we should still be grateful for it. But we know that 
this new economy, with all the unprecedented prosperity it has brought 
us, has also imposed some significant new challenges.
    We know, for example, that the average working family is spending 
more hours a week in the workplace than 25 or 30 years ago, with all the 
benefits of technology. And we know that more and more parents of young 
children are in the workplace, either because they're single-parent 
households or because both parents have to work to make ends meet or 
because both parents choose to work--and they ought to have that choice.
    But there is no more important responsibility on us to apply the 
values of America, the timeless values of America, to modern 
conditions--none is more important than making sure every American can 
balance the dual responsibilities of succeeding as parents and 
succeeding at work. There is no more significant challenge. Indeed, one 
of the biggest debates we had when we were working through the welfare 
reform issue was how we could require people to be responsible and go to 
work without creating conditions which would require them to abandon 
their first responsibility to be good parents. That is the universal 
obligation of every parent, and it should be the dominant concern of our 
    That's what this is about. I don't believe I have ever talked to a 
parent who was also in the workplace who has not been able to cite at 
least one example, and oftentimes many, many more, of a conflict 
between--that he or she felt between the obligations of parenthood and 
the obligations to the job. And that includes, of course, people who 
work in the White House--when the President makes them work too late at 
night. [Laughter] But you just--you know that. Everyone--I saw a lot of 
you nodding your heads. You just know that. It's part of the fabric of 
American life.
    We know that the Government cannot raise or love a child, but that 
is not what we're supposed to do. What the Government is supposed to do 
is to help create the conditions and give people the tools that will 
enable them to raise and love their children while successfully 
participating in the American workplace.

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    Today I am proud to propose the single largest national commitment 
to child care in the history of the United States. It is a comprehensive 
and fiscally responsible plan to make child care more affordable and 
accessible, to raise the quality of child care, to assure the safety of 
care for millions of American children.
    This is an issue that touches nearly every family, and I believe it 
must rise above politics and partisan interests. I welcome the 
bipartisan effort to improve child care that is already going on in the 
Congress. I thank the Members who are here and many who could not come 
today for their leadership and for demonstrating that this is an 
American issue that both Democrats and Republicans are embracing.
    This proposal will be an important part of the budget I send to 
Congress next month. It will be the first balanced budget in 30 years. 
It will build on the achievements of the year just passed, one that was 
very good for working families. As has already been mentioned, last 
summer's historic balanced budget agreement provided working families 
with a $500-per-child tax credit; it made the first 2 years of college--
community college--virtually free for almost every American family and 
made college more affordable for American families; expanded health 
coverage to 5 million uninsured people; advanced the cause of placing 
more children into solid, adoptive homes; and continued our efforts to 
collect more child support.
    Over the past 5 years, we have worked hard to abandon the false 
choices of the past, including the false choice of having to choose 
between responsibilities at work and responsibilities at home. Our new 
economic strategy is designed in no small measure to get over that 
divide. From the Family and Medical Leave Act, to the earned-income tax 
credit, to the minimum wage increase, we have tried to demonstrate that 
it is not only possible but imperative to the survival of the American 
dream to help people meet their responsibilities at home and at work. 
Strengthening child care has always been a part of this strategy. Since 
we came here, we've helped a million children and their families to 
afford the child care that they need, but we have to do a lot more.
    Now, this new proposal has three fundamental goals: first, to make 
child care more affordable and available to all Americans. With 
increased block grants to States, we will double the number of children 
receiving child care subsidies to more than 2 million. One of the 
reasons welfare reform has worked as well as it has is because of the 
increased investment in child care. Now we have to help the lower income 
families who have never been on welfare in the first place but still 
struggle to pay for child care. We also will help more than 3 million 
working families to meet their child care expenses by dramatically 
expanding the child care tax credit. These tax credits will mean that a 
family of four making $35,000 and saddled with high child care bills 
will no longer pay one penny in Federal income taxes.
    I'm also supporting new tax credits to encourage more businesses to 
provide child care for their employees. When I met the Members of 
Congress before coming in here, that's the first thing Congresswoman 
DeLauro said. She had just come from the 
opening of a corporate child care center. We need more businesses to do 
more, and we need to help the smaller businesses who can use this tax 
credit and cannot afford to do it on their own without a little help 
from the public.
    Second, we must make sure that every child has a safe and enriching 
place to go after school. As the Vice President said, there are simply 
too many children who, through no fault of their parents, are left to 
fend for themselves in the hours between 2 and 6 o'clock--too many 
children roaming the streets, idling in front of the television, or 
getting into trouble.
    I cannot emphasize the importance of this too much. The crime rate 
in this country has dropped dramatically in the last 5 years. All 
Americans should be proud of that. The juvenile crime rate has not 
dropped so much. And where it has dropped, almost without exception, it 
has dropped because people have found something positive for children to 
do in the hours between the time school ends and the time their parents 
come home at night. We do not need to keep building jail after jail 
after jail to house children who wouldn't be there in the first place if 
we took care of them while they're out free and able to build 
constructive, law-abiding, positive lives.
    I am proposing the expansion of before- and after-school programs to 
help some 500,000 children say no to drugs and alcohol and crime and yes 
to reading, soccer, computers, and a brighter future for themselves. I 
thank the Vice President especially for his 
hard work on this issue.

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    Third, we have to improve the safety and quality of child care and 
make sure that child care advances early childhood development. I am 
proposing an early learning fund to help to reduce child-to-staff ratios 
in child care centers, train child care workers, and educate parents. We 
have to also strengthen the enforcement of State codes and licensing 
requirements, weed out bad providers, and through tougher criminal 
background checks, make sure that the wrong people aren't doing the 
right mission that we all need done properly. Finally, we ought to offer 
scholarships to talented caregivers.
    Now, let me take a minute to thank our State leaders, from North 
Carolina to Washington State, from Rhode Island to Minnesota, for their 
efforts at improving child care and promoting early learning across 
America. I know Governor Almond of Rhode 
Island is here, and I want to especially thank him for Rhode Island's 
child opportunity zone program. It is a national model.
    We are living in what may well be the most exciting era of human 
history. But the globalization, the information and technology 
revolution, they continue to alter the way we live and work, the way we 
do business, and the way we relate to each other and the rest of the 
world. They make some jobs easier; they render others obsolete. But 
nothing must be permitted to undermine the first responsibilities of 
    No raise or promotion will ever top the joy of hugging a child after 
work. Nothing can be more bittersweet than sending a child you once 
cradled off in your arms off to college for the first time. [Laughter] 
Nothing weighs more heavily on a parent's mind than the well-being of a 
child in the care of others. No issue is more important to any family.
    You know, a lot of us have had our own experiences with child care. 
I've often wondered how my mother, when she was widowed, would have been 
able to go back to school if I hadn't been able to move in with my 
grandparents. I was lucky, and it turned out reasonably well for me. 
[Laughter] But how many children are out there with exactly the same 
potential, who never got the same break by pure accident of family 
circumstance? You don't know the answer to that, and neither do I. But 
we know what the answer should be. The answer should be, not a single 
    Thank you very much, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 3:27 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Lincoln Almond of Rhode