[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 28, 1998]
[Pages 636-638]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Dinner in
New York City
April 28, 1998

    Thank you very much. Thank you, Shelby and 
Katherine, for opening your beautiful home. 
I thank all the Senators who are here. I thank especially Senator 
Kerrey and Senator Torricelli. When Bob Torricelli goes around the country or Bob 
Kerrey goes around the country, I know they enjoy it, but it still gets 
hard. [Laughter] It still gets hard. All these Senators are here; 
they're going to go get on a plane and go home tonight so they can be 
there and vote tomorrow. And I thank them for doing this on behalf of 
others, among whom surely are the three candidates we have for the 
Senate in New York tonight. And I thank them all for running and for 
their fidelity to our party and for what they have already done for our 
country. And I thank Judith Hope for her 
    I also would be remiss if I didn't thank the people of New York for 
being so good to me and Al Gore. Twenty-five percent of the total 
plurality I received in popular votes in the entire country in 1996 came 
from New York, and I'm very grateful. I was just leaning against the 
wall back there wondering how much better I might have done if I hadn't 
interrupted traffic for 4 years before the election. [Laughter] Truly 
the people here are the epitome of tolerance. One of you tonight 
informed me that you had to walk 10 blocks just to get here because of 
my attendance. [Laughter] For that, I apologize.
    Let me say very briefly, I try to do a number of these events to 
help our candidates for the Senate, our candidates for the House. I 
believe that the success that our country has enjoyed

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in the last few years is something that all Americans can claim a part 
of. Certainly, the private sector deserves an enormous amount of credit; 
just ordinary working people deserve an enormous amount of credit. But 
clearly, the direction of this country, and with it the direction of our 
party, has moved into the future, has changed, has gone to a different 
level. And the results have been very, very satisfactory.
    We are going to have a surplus of some size this year, the first 
time our budget has been in balance in three decades. We have been able 
to dramatically increase our investments in education and in health care 
for our children, in the environment, in science and technology, to try 
to prepare for long-term growth.
    What I would like to say to you tonight is--I think I'd like to make 
just two points about why this coming election is so important. Because 
if you're just following events in the papers today or on the evening 
news, you see that there's--particularly from the other side--there's a 
little more partisan rhetoric creeping back into their speeches. They 
seem to be sort of lapsing into that. It's easier; you can be in a semi-
coma and give that speech, because they know how to do it so well.
    But I think that we shouldn't forget as Democrats why we're here, 
why the country is in the best shape it's been in a generation, and what 
we're supposed to do with this time. You know, good times can be very 
deceptive because even if the times are very good, all of us know 
they're very dynamic. Things are changing very rapidly. You can take any 
set of circumstances and pick up a magazine, and one expert will say the 
glass is half-full, and the other will say the glass is half-empty; a 
third will say the glass is unbreakable, and the fourth will say it's 
about to be shattered.
    So in a dynamic time, it seems to me, we need to think about two 
things. Number one, when people have a lot of confidence because things 
are going well, but leaders know that things are changing and the ground 
is still moving, that is the time when big issues should be faced and 
long-term problems should be solved. Now, we've got the sort of basic 
mechanisms of our society working better now with the budget in balance 
and the other things that are going on.
    This country has some big, long-term problems. I'll just mention 
three or four: One, reform of Social Security to deal with the baby 
boomers; two, reform of Medicare to deal with the costs that will come 
before the baby boom generation--we've cut the long-term deficit in 
Medicare by more than half in the last 2 years, but we've still got some 
problems; three, climate change; four, the biggest public health problem 
in America is still the fact that 3,000 children a day start to smoke 
cigarettes and 1,000 of them a day are going to die sooner because of 
it; five, we still don't have an adequate network of child care in our 
country that is truly affordable for working people. Now, those are just 
five issues. I can think of a lot more. Overshadowing all of them is 
that we still haven't provided a truly world-class education for every 
child in this country.
    I mention those things to say when times are good you should bear 
down in dealing with those problems, not relax and walk away from them. 
And no political party should let itself sort of just kind of 
disintegrate into petty bickering and small-minded politics. This is a 
time to lift America up, energize us on big issues, and move us forward. 
That's the first point I want to make. That's why these elections are 
    The second point I want to make is this country, for all the change 
and all the modern things and all the science and technology and 
everything else, is still always about, in my opinion, three big ideas. 
And at every time of change we have to lay off the dead hand of history 
and adopt new means to reaffirm and broaden these three big ideas.
    One is, we're about freedom and liberty. We're about deepening the 
meaning of freedom. That's why I supported the ``Employment Non-
Discrimination Act.'' That's why I've tried to involve more different 
kinds of people than any administration ever has, in our administration. 
That's why I have tried to push this race initiative and get Americans 
to think about what it's going to be like when we are no longer a 
biracial or even a triracial society but we have the most diverse 
democracy in the world, when more and more places look like the New York 
City schools do.
    Because these are the challenges we've always faced. This is the 
challenge of our generation, the freedom challenge. How are we going to 
get the most out of everybody's life? Only if everyone is treated with 
dignity and equality.

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    The second thing this country has always been about is widening the 
circle of opportunity, giving everyone not a guarantee but a chance. I 
don't think any serious person would say that everybody in this country 
has really got the same chance today. But there are more people with 
more chances than they had 5 years ago, and I'm proud of that. And I'm 
determined to see that we continue to expand those chances.
    That's why we've supported things at home and abroad like 
microcredit programs, for example, to give little people a chance to 
borrow money to get into business, to prove that they can make something 
of their lives. It may sound like a small thing, but to someone who has 
it, who didn't have it before, it's all the difference in the world. And 
the Democratic Party is about widening the circle of opportunity.
    And the third thing that I want to say, and it's very important, 
that is so easy to lose sight of when the stock market is at 9,000 or 
even when it drops 160 points, is we're also about strengthening the 
bonds of our Union and improving our relationships with people beyond 
our borders. That also has been a constant throughout our 200-year-plus 
history. And that's very important.
    If you look at what's eating the world alive today--I go to Africa, 
and I celebrate all the wonderful things that are happening and then go 
to Rwanda and talk to 6 people who survived 100 days in which 800,000 
people were slaughtered because of their tribal differences. We're all 
sitting on pins and needles, especially in New York, waiting for the 
Irish to vote in May to see whether they can vote for the next 30 years, 
instead of being imprisoned by the last 30 years or indeed by the last 
600 years. We're all hanging around now waiting on pins and needles as 
we celebrate Israel's 50th birthday, because the Secretary of 
State is going to London to meet with 
the leader of Israel and the leader of 
the PLO hoping to get the peace process going 
    All over the world, in this so-called modern world where kids are 
pecking away on the Internet on every continent, we are still bedeviled 
by the most fundamental and primitive of prejudices of all kinds. We, 
the American people, should be drawing closer together. We, the 
Democratic Party, should be the instrument of that union.
    So I say to you, there are two reasons that you ought to be here. 
One is, more Democratic Senators, and reelecting the ones we have, means 
we'll do a better job on the big issues for tomorrow. We've proved it 
with the deficit. We've proved it with crime. We've proved it with 
welfare. We've proved it with the environment. We've proved it with a 
whole host of issues. But we've still got huge challenges out there to 
    And two--and even more important--we will carry forward the eternal 
mission of America in modern times. And that matters more than anything 
else. In the end, that's what will really matter to your kids. Are we 
forming a more perfect Union? Is there more opportunity for everybody? 
Does freedom mean more today than it did 30 years ago? If we can do our 
job and you help us, the answer to all three of those questions will be 
a resounding yes.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:20 p.m. at a private residence. In his 
remarks, he referred to dinner hosts Shelby and Katherine Bryan; Judith 
Hope, chair, New York State Democratic Party; Prime Minister Binyamin 
Netanyahu of Israel; and Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian