[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[September 14, 1998]
[Pages 1583-1585]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Unity '98 Dinner in New York City
September 14, 1998

    Thank you very much. Let me begin by saying, for Hillary and for me, 
just your presence here, your enthusiasm, and your personal support mean 
more than you can possibly know. I'd like to thank Senator Torricelli 
and Representative Pelosi for doing a magnificent job. I thank 
Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Congressman Rangel for being here.
    I thank--all three of the candidates for the United States Senate in 
New York tomorrow on our ticket have come here tonight. I don't know if 
they're all still here, but I know Congressman Schumer and Mark Green 
and Geraldine Ferraro were all here. And however that race comes out 
tomorrow, we have a lot of work to do, and won't it be fun. I know that 
we can depend on all of you to help make this night a part of a 
springboard to doing well in the Senate and the congressional elections 
beginning here in New York.
    Since I'm in New York and you've been so wonderful to me since 1992, 
I'd like to tell you that there is no more effective member of our 
Cabinet than Andrew Cuomo, the Secretary of Housing and Urban 
Development. I'm very, very grateful to him for his support.
    I'd also like to say again how very grateful I am to Tipper for all 
the work she's done for families, for children, for those who need 
mental health care, and the advances we've made that would not have 
occurred if it hadn't been for her.
    I would like to say what I said at lunch today: All of you just need 
to remember that every single hard decision I had to make in the last 6 
years that turned out right, that everybody said was wrong--whether it 
was bringing the deficit down, standing for the Brady bill and the 
assault weapons ban, doing the things that really hurt our people in 
Congress but helped America, taking the steps necessary to bring peace 
in Bosnia, and helping to end the Mexican financial crisis so the world 
could go on and grow and we could benefit--every single hard decision 
that was unpopular, Al Gore was there every step of the way, and you 
should never forget that.
    Whether it's in technology policy or the environment or dealing with 
Russia or South Africa or giving us the smallest Federal Government in 
35 years with the best output--I could go through issue after issue 
after issue, and I think it's very important that you understand--you 
may argue about many things about this administration, but one thing is 
absolutely unarguable: He has had more influence over more decisions and 
done more good by far than any Vice President in the history of the 
United States of America.
    I'd also like to thank Hillary for a lot of things, but I just had 
one thing in particular on my mind. We just got back from Russia and 
Ireland, and when I was in Ireland, I went to the new Parliament at 
Stormont where all the parties are represented. We've got a chance to 
keep the peace process going in Ireland. And it's a big deal in New 
York; there are a lot of Irish people in New York, so I can talk about 
this with some confidence. They've had these

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30 years of trouble, but they've been really fighting, the Catholics and 
Protestants, for 800 years. And my heart just swelled with pride when I 
was going through there. And every woman member came up to me and said, 
``Your wife was the first person that took us seriously, that believed 
we could make peace, and basically said--when the men were still out 
there fighting with each other and acting like children--we knew we 
could make peace in Ireland. And we thank her for what she's done.'' And 
I thank her for representing the best of America all over the world and 
giving people hope that the world can be full of peace and opportunity.
    We've got to go to ``The Lion King.'' I want you to think about 
three things. Number one, we're trying to beat history here. Since the 
Civil War, in every midterm election when the President was in his 
second term, the party of the President has lost seats in the Congress--
since the Civil War. Now, I believe we're going to beat history here, 
for one simple reason: We have a vision of the future, and our ideas are 
supported by more Americans than our adversaries' are.
    You are here to make sure that we can get our message out, and you 
have succeeded magnificently. We've exceeded our goal tonight by more 
than 25 percent, and I'm very grateful to you for that. But I want you 
to leave here with a clear understanding that what we have to do is to 
go out to the American people and say, look, most elections in times 
like this are sort of stand-pat elections, where the electorate is 
rather complacent, the turnout is rather low. That always benefits the 
Republicans, because people who are older and wealthier and more likely 
to be Republicans vote.
    But basically, they're stand-pat elections because we've got the 
lowest unemployment rate in 28 years and the smallest percentage of 
people on welfare in 29 years and the highest homeownership in history, 
and things are doing pretty well. October 1st we'll have the first 
balanced budget in 29 years. Now, that's good, but that is not the 
message of the election. If the message is we have done a good job, 
people will relax and stay home. That is not the message.
    The message is, we're grateful for the chance to serve; we're 
grateful that America is better off; but this country has huge 
challenges. I just spoke this morning, as Hillary said, to the Council 
on Foreign Relations about all of this global, economic, and financial 
turmoil, and what things America must do right now to try to turn it 
around and limit it, and what long-term steps we have to take.
    So I think you need to go out and say to your friends and neighbors, 
``Look, we're glad things are doing well. We're on the edge of a new 
century and a new time, and things are changing; we have big challenges. 
And because we're doing well, we have the obligation to our children to 
think big, to think about the people of this country who aren't doing so 
well, and to think how we can bring this whole country together as one 
community in the 21st century.''
    That means we have to do our part to straighten the global economy 
out, because we can never be an island of prosperity in a sea of misery.
    It means we have to do the big things like saving Social Security 
before we do the popular things like spending this surplus--it's only 
now beginning to materialize--for a tax cut. We've been waiting 29 years 
to see the red ink turn black, and before we've seen it even a day, some 
people want to spend it. I know it's election year, but I'm telling you, 
what I want is for the baby boomers like me, when we retire--I don't 
want us to bankrupt our children so they can't raise our grandchildren. 
I say, save Social Security first before you do anything else with the 
surplus. It's a big issue.
    As Senator Torricelli said, we've still got to extend health 
opportunities to people, but there's 160 million people in managed care 
plans. I think they ought to have a right to an emergency room, to a 
specialist, to the protection of privacy of their records. That's what 
the health care bill of rights is all about--the Patients' Bill of 
Rights. We're for it; they're not. That's a big issue. The American 
people need to know that. It will shape the way millions of families 
    The environment's a big issue. We believe you can grow the economy 
and improve the environment; they disagree. That's a huge issue; it will 
shape the way millions of people live.
    We're for campaign finance reform, and they aren't. It's a big 
    So I ask you, go out there and talk about the big issues, talk about 
the people issues. And remember, in the end, the reason we're Democrats 
is because we believe, on the edge of a new century, that what we're 
doing will help to expand opportunity and deepen freedom and

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bring us closer together and promote peace and harmony in the world. 
That's what we believe.
    Go talk big. Go tell people not to be complacent. Tell them not to 
worry about the adversity. Adversity makes people come out and show up--
witness your presence here tonight.
    What we've got to worry about is that people know what this election 
is about. Go out and tell them and make sure your investment tonight has 
a big, big payoff on election night in November.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 7:10 p.m. in the Dinner Room at the Supper