[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[August 7, 1998]
[Pages 1410-1413]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Signing the Workforce Investment Act of 1998
August 7, 1998

    Thank you very much, and good morning. Thank you very much, Mr. 
Antosy, to Benny Hernandez, examples of what we come here to celebrate 
and enhance today. Thank you, Secretary Herman, for your leadership on 
this bill which was so essential to its passage. Chairman Goodling, 
Senator DeWine, Congressman Clay, Congressman McKeon, Congressman 
Kildee, many other Members of the House Representatives who are here. To 
Senator Jeffords and others who are not here, who, along with Senator 
DeWine, worked on the passage in the Senate.
    I'd also like to thank the representatives of the National 
Association of Counties and other local groups who are here. And I will 
say more about all of you in a moment.
    I hope you will understand why I feel the need to comment on the 
fact that early this morning bombs exploded outside two of our American 
Embassies in Africa. An explosion in Nairobi, Kenya, killed and wounded 
scores of people. We have reports that several Americans are among the 
dead. Another explosion in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, also caused many 
casualties. At this time, there are no reports that any Americans were 
killed in that attack, although our Embassy appears to have been the 
    Both explosions caused large-scale damage to our Embassies and to 
surrounding buildings, as you may have already seen from the pictures 
coming in. Though the attacks appear to have been coordinated, no one 
has yet claimed responsibility for them.

[[Page 1411]]

    As I speak, we have dispatched Defense Department and State 
Department-led emergency response teams to the region. The teams include 
medical personnel, disaster relief experts, criminal investigators, 
counter- terrorism specialists. We have taken appropriate security 
measures at our Embassies and military facilities throughout the region 
and around the world.
    These acts of terrorist violence are abhorrent; they are inhuman. We 
will use all the means at our disposal to bring those responsible to 
justice, no matter what or how long it takes. Let me say to the 
thousands and thousands of hard-working men and women from the State 
Department and from our other Government agencies who serve us abroad in 
these Embassies, the work you do every day is vital to our security and 
prosperity. Your well-being is, therefore, vital to us, and we will do 
everything we can to assure that you can serve in safety.
    To the families and loved ones of the American and African victims 
of these cowardly attacks, you are in our thoughts and prayers. Out of 
respect for those who lost their lives, I have ordered that the American 
flag be flown at halfstaff at all Government buildings here at home and 
around the world. We are determined to get answers and justice.
    Now, we are here to do something very important for America's long-
term future today. I mentioned the Congressmen and Senators who played a 
leading role who are here. I'd like to also acknowledge those who are 
out there whose names I have, and if I make a mistake, stand up and be 
recognized. [Laughter] If I say you're here, and you're not, just let it 
go. [Laughter]
    In addition to Senator DeWine and Chairman Goodling and Mr. Clay and 
Mr. McKeon, Mr. Kildee, we have here Congressman Barrett, Congressman 
Chaka Fattah, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Representative Dennis 
Kucinich, Representative Carrie Meek, Representative Dan Miller, 
Representative Patsy Mink, Representative Louis Stokes, Representative 
Steve LaTourette, Representative George Brown, Representative Paul 
Kanjorski, Congressman Bruce Vento, Congressman Donald Payne, and 
Congressman Tim Roemer with his own version of America's future in his 
lap. [Laughter]
    I'd also like to thank, again, Alexis Herman and Erskine Bowles and 
all the people on my staff for their role in this. But one person above 
all who has been with me since 1991 and who shared my dream of 
consolidating this blizzard of Government programs into one grant that 
we could give a person who was unemployed or underemployed so that they 
could decide, as Mr. Antosy did, what to do with the help we were giving 
them on the theory that they would know their own best interest and be 
able to pursue it, and that is Gene Sperling, who has worked on this for 
years and years. This is--his heart is in this bill. And I want to thank 
him as well as all the staff people in Congress.
    As Secretary Herman said, this bill fulfills principles for reform 
of our work force training program that I outlined in my first campaign 
for President over 6 years ago and that the Vice President set out in 
our National Performance Review. It is a model of what we should be 
doing, and also the way we did it is a model of how our Government ought 
to work. It was a truly bipartisan, American effort.
    This morning we received some more good news about our economy. Even 
though the latest economic report shows the effects of the now settled 
GM strike, we still see that, over the past year, wages have risen at 
more than twice the rate of inflation, the fastest real wage growth for 
ordinary Americans in 20 years. This past month our unemployment rate 
held firm, in spite of the GM strike, at 4\1/2\ percent. For nearly a 
quarter century, not once had our Nation's unemployment rate gone below 
5 percent. It's now been below 5 percent for 13 months in a row. We have 
low unemployment, low inflation, strong growth, and higher wages.
    But to maintain this momentum, we must continue to change and move 
forward. Over the long run, in the face of daily new challenges in the 
global marketplace, we simply must press forward with the economic 
strategy outlined 5\1/2\ years ago: fiscal discipline, expanded trade, 
investment in our people and communities. To maintain fiscal discipline, 
we must save every penny of our surplus until we save the Social 
Security system. To maintain exports, we must immediately support the 
international efforts to stabilize our customers in Asia to reform and 
lift their economies. In recent weeks we have clearly seen that the 
crisis in Asia is having an impact on our economy. You can talk to any 
American grain farmer who will tell you that. For our economy to remain 
strong, therefore, we must pay our dues to the International Monetary 
Fund. To invest in our people we

[[Page 1412]]

have to give all our people access to world-class education and 
training, beginning with our children before their school years and 
ending with people who have access to education throughout a lifetime.
    The story Mr. Antosy told is a moving and heartening story. There 
are a lot of people in his position. In a dynamic global economy, more 
and more people, even if they stay with the same employer, will have to 
change the nature of their work several times over the course of a 
lifetime. It is, therefore, very important that every person who is 
willing to work hard to make the most of his or her own life should be 
able to become the success stories we celebrate with Benny Hernandez and 
James Antosy.
    Therefore, we have to do more than we have been doing, even though 
we have been making progress. The vast majority of corporate managers 
say the number one prerequisite for continued prosperity is finding a 
way to fill all our high-skill jobs.
    I'm telling you today, there are--even with the unemployment rate as 
low as it is, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs which are going 
begging that are high-wage, high-skill jobs, undermining the ability of 
our free enterprise economy to maximize its benefits to all our people 
to reach into all the urban neighborhoods and the rural communities and 
the places that it has not yet reached. Therefore, giving all Americans 
the tools they need to learn for a lifetime is critical to our ability 
to continue to grow.
    We are making progress in building an America where every 8-year-old 
can read, every 12-year-old can log on to the Internet, every 18-year-
old can go on to college. And today we celebrate a big step forward in 
making sure that every adult can keep on learning for a lifetime, where 
no disadvantaged child, no displaced worker, no welfare parent, no one 
willing to learn and work is left behind.
    This is the crowning jewel of a lifetime learning agenda: the Work 
Force Investment Act to give all our workers opportunities for growth 
and advancement. It, as Mr. Goodling said and Mr. Clay said in 
specifying what was in the bill, has many things that will help millions 
of workers enhance our Nation's competitive age.
    Let me just mention some of the things that are most important to 
me. It empowers workers, not Government programs, by offering training 
grants directly to them, so they can choose for themselves what kind of 
training they want and where they want to get it. There was a time, 
decades ago, when Congress actually needed to pass specified training 
programs with specific purposes and mechanisms to implement them. But 
that time has long since passed. Almost every American is within driving 
distance of a community college or some other mechanism of advanced 
training. And almost every American has more than enough sense to decide 
what is in his or her best interest, given a little good helpful advice 
on the available alternatives.
    The law streamlines and consolidates a tangle of training programs, 
therefore, into a single, commonsense system. And it also expands our 
successful model of one-stop career centers so people don't have to trot 
around to one different agency after another when they find themselves 
in the position that Mr. Antosy found himself in. It enhances 
accountability for tough performance standards for States and 
communities and training providers, even as it gives more flexibility to 
the States to develop innovative ways to serve our working people 
    It helps to create opportunities for disadvantaged youth. And I 
think that is terribly important. Everybody is concerned about the 
juvenile crime rate. We need to be concerned, therefore, about the 
number of juveniles that are out here on the street, out of school, not 
doing what could be done to give them a more constructive future.
    And finally, it does two more things that I think are quite 
important. It has a real emphasis on helping people with disabilities 
prepare for employment, and it gives adults who need it literacy support 
to move ahead. You cannot train for a lot of these programs if you 
cannot read at an adequate level. And I think that is terribly 
    What all this amounts to is that we get to celebrate Labor Day a 
month early this year. At long last, we're giving our workers the tools 
they need to move quickly to 21st century jobs, higher incomes, and 
brighter futures. I thank all those on this stage, all those in this 
audience, and those who could not be here who have worked and waited for 
this day.
    Let me also say that just a couple of minutes ago I had the chance 
to sign another bill that helps all Americans share in our prosperity, 
the Credit Union Membership Access Act. Credit unions serve a vital and 
unique purpose; they

[[Page 1413]]

make sure financial services and credit are available to people of 
modest means. The law I signed strengthens them, helps them to withstand 
hard economic times, clarifies who can join, and ensures that those who 
are in credit unions now won't ever get locked out. It will help extend 
greater credit to those who need it most. It is also good for our 
    Both these bills are bipartisan bills. They passed with overwhelming 
bipartisan majorities. They show what can happen when we can put our 
differences aside and put progress ahead of partisanship and people 
ahead of politics. That's a good thing because our plate is still full. 
In the few days remaining in this legislative session, we must still 
work together to save Social Security first; secure funding for the 
International Monetary Fund to stabilize our own economic growth; to 
pass a strong Patients' Bill of Rights, a very crowded education agenda 
built on excellence and opportunity, and an important element of our 
environmental agenda to preserve our environment and grow the economy.
    We can do all these things. And as we see today on this very happy 
occasion, when we do it, we strengthen our country and the future of the 
children over there with Congressman Roemer and all the others like them 
throughout America.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:04 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to job training beneficiary James 
Antosy, who introduced the President; and college student Benny 
Hernandez, a former gangmember. H.R. 1385, approved August 7, was 
assigned Public Law No. 105-220. H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership 
Access Act, also approved August 7, was assigned Public Law No. 105-219. 
The proclamation of August 7 on the victims of the bombing incidents in 
Africa is listed in Appendix D at the end of this volume.