[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 24, 1998]
[Pages 613-615]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Luncheon
April 24, 1998

    Thank you very much. Thank you, Governor, and 
thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I'm delighted to see you, and I've 
enjoyed our visit already today. I thank you for being here. 
Len and I were just joking over on the side 
when Roy was talking about how we would have to explain to the media 
when we characterize this as the Democratic Party's ``Ragtime'' weekend. 
[Laughter] And Len said, ``Well, I always say it's our 150th anniversary 
celebration weekend.'' But actually, for those of you who are familiar 
with ``Ragtime,'' it's not a bad thing to be a kind of metaphor for the 
struggles of our party, the aspirations of our party, and the hope that 
we have for the future of America. And so I thank all the folks who are 
associated with the wonderful production for helping us to celebrate 
this weekend.
    Let me also say to you, Governor, I thank you 
for what you said about the Irish peace process and about the trips to 
Africa and to Latin America. Just before I came over here I had a visit 
and got an update from the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, about where we are on that and what's going on. In a 
way, those two trips and the efforts of the United States to help to 
broker the peace, or at least to create the conditions in which peace 
could occur in

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Northern Ireland, are also metaphors for what I think our national 
mission should be now.
    For about 5\1/2\ years, we have been working to change the direction 
of the country so that when we enter the 21st century there really will 
be opportunity for everyone who is responsible enough to work for it and 
so that there really will be a country that is one American community 
across all the lines that divide us and so that we will continue to lead 
the world--which, as Roy said, is a smaller and smaller place--toward 
peace and freedom and prosperity and a spirit of interdependence that 
makes us stronger because we work with our friends, our neighbors, and 
people who share our values.
    And I'm very pleased with the results that we've had in the last 
5\1/2\ years. Last night I had the great honor of hosting, at the White 
House, the Members of the Congress, in 1993, who passed our economic 
plan--all members of our party--by one vote in each House, including the 
Vice President's vote in the Senate. As he 
said, whenever he votes, we win. [Laughter] And it was a remarkable 
thing because, as you know, some of those people gave up their seats in 
Congress because they voted for that, because of the horrendous attacks 
to which they were subject and all the sort of distortions of their 
position. But it's pretty hard to quarrel with the results. Before we 
ever passed the Balanced Budget Act, which I strongly supported, the 
deficit had been reduced by 93 percent. And so I just want all of you to 
be proud of that.
    I, just before I came over here, bid a formal goodbye to Mack 
McLarty, my old friend, my first 
Chief of Staff, my Envoy to the Americas. And I pointed out that in just 
the first year and a few months when he was our Chief of Staff, we 
passed the economic plan, the family and medical leave bill, a sweeping 
expansion of the global trade network, and began this work in education 
to which Governor Romer referred.
    So I want you to feel a part of this, and I want you to feel good 
about it. But I also want you to be resolute that our party's mission is 
to get things done, not to score political points in Washington. We want 
to change the lives of people in America, not to rack up a few points on 
the rhetorical scoreboard that changes every day here anyway.
    And we have a big agenda. We're trying to pass a budget this year 
that is within the budget that preserves the balanced budget and saves 
any surplus until we decide how we're going to reform Social Security 
for the 21st century. We are trying to pass a principled tobacco 
settlement which protects what has been called, in some of these 
documents coming out, ``replacement smokers''--to me, they're children--
and to do it in a way--we don't want to bankrupt the tobacco companies, 
unlike the criticism that's been leveled in the paid ads you've seen. We 
do not want to put them out of business. We just want them out of the 
business of selling tobacco to children. And that is a critical 
distinction there, which I believe we have to hammer through until we 
    I have a very aggressive education agenda, which has been embraced 
by the Democrats in the Congress and some Republicans, to modernize our 
schools, to have smaller classes in the early grades, to continue until 
we connect all of our classrooms to the Internet, and to raise academic 
standards and to have voluntary national tests to measure whether our 
children are meeting those standards. And we are in a pitched battle.
    Yesterday there was a vote in the Senate on a bill that would have 
ended our initiatives for charter schools, for a lot of our other 
education reforms, and would have cut off funding for voluntary tests. 
It's interesting. Do you suppose the same people would vote for a bill 
that said, let's continue to have football in America, but let's stop 
keeping score; or, let's play this game, but let every community score 
however they want; soccer is a global sport, but we're going to have 
everybody keep score in different ways? I would submit to you that 
education is far more important than football or soccer, that there is 
an international arena within which our children will live, by which 
they will be judged, and objective standards which do matter in their 
lives. So I predict we're going to have a big debate about education in 
the closing months of this congressional session. I welcome it, but I 
need your support.
    We're trying to do things to help families: the Medicare buy-in for 
people over 55 who have lost their jobs and their health insurance. The 
Congress Budget Office--not me--the Congress Budget Office says we can 
allow that to be done without putting any burden on the Medicare system. 
It will not impact our efforts to reform Medicare at all.

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    The HMO bill of rights, the child care initiatives that we talked 
about so much yesterday--we have all this evidence now that what happens 
in a child's first 3 years of life is so important to the child's 
development. More than half the parents of children in the first 3 years 
of life are in the work force, and people are panicked all over the 
country about not being able to afford quality child care. We have a 
proposal on the floor which can fund that sort of quality child care for 
millions more children within the balanced budget amendment. We need to 
pass it.
    We're finally going to get a vote on campaign finance reform in the 
House, thanks to that brave band, that small band of Republicans that 
joined with the House Democratic Caucus and forced a majority position 
on the Congress. I thank them for that.
    And we are also going to have a chance to pass, for the 21st 
century, the most impressive commitment to scientific and biomedical 
research in modern history, as a part of our gift to the 21st century.
    That's a pretty big agenda. And I just want you to know that you're 
a part of all this; your support makes this possible. But I would like 
to ask you to urge all of our fellow Democrats to urge the Congress to 
act. There are so many of these things we can do, and we'll still have 
plenty to argue about in November on the election. But we're Democrats; 
we believe the purpose of the Government is not to give us sinecures of 
power but to do things that help people advance their own lives. And 
that's what we're here trying to do, and we need to bear down and do it. 
That's why the country is in good shape today, because we have put aside 
short-term considerations to lift up the long-term interests of the 
country. No one can quarrel with the results. We just need to do more of 
it. And I'm going to do my best to make your support a catapult for 
getting those results.
    Thank you again, and God bless you all. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:35 p.m. in the ballroom at the Sheraton 
Carlton Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Roy Romer of 
Colorado, general chair, and Leonard Barrack, national finance chair, 
Democratic National Committee.