[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[October 2, 1998]
[Pages 1726-1730]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Reception in Philadelphia, 
October 2, 1998

    Thank you. Thank you very much for the warm welcome. [Laughter] I've 
had a wonderful time in Philadelphia today, and I am deeply indebted to 
you for being here tonight, for supporting our party, our candidates, 
and what we stand for.
    I, too, want to thank Congressman Chaka Fattah for the High Hopes 
program. He and the mayor met me today at the airport with a number of 
young children from Philadelphia who are in your school system, in your 
middle school system. And then later, we sat down and drank a soft drink 
together, and I visited with them. And Chaka asked how many of them 
wanted to go to college, and they all wanted to go. And now they and 
literally tens of thousands of children like them all across our country 
are going to be able to go because of the initiative that he brought to 
me, that I embraced, and that we have worked so hard to pass: the High 
Hopes scholarship program. And we thank him. America is in your debt, 
Congressman. Thank you.
    And I believe we have one of our candidates for Congress here, too, 
tonight, Roy Afflerbach. Let's give him a hand. He's somewhere--where 
are you, Roy? There you go. [Applause] Thank you. Thank you for running.
    I want to thank Steve Grossman for doing a superb job as the 
chairman of the Democratic Party. And we will not tell his mayor that he 
bragged on Rendell shamelessly tonight. [Laughter] I also want to thank 
Len Barrack of Philadelphia for being our finance chair. He's doing a 
wonderful, wonderful, wonderful job.
    And finally, let me say that the mayor was uncommonly generous 
tonight, but his administration is basically the embodiment of my 
philosophy of government. When we came before the American people, Al 
Gore and I, in 1992, we said we had a different idea, that we wanted

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everyone in America who was a responsible citizen to have opportunity. 
We wanted to come together as one community across all of our 
differences of race, religion, politics, income. We wanted to prove that 
you could be pro-business and pro-labor. We wanted to prove that you 
could be in favor of economic growth and still improve the environment. 
We wanted to end all these sort of false choices that had been imposed 
on us by the hot rhetoric of Washington for too many years. And we had a 
different theory of government, that we thought that the main role of 
government was to create the conditions and to give people the tools to 
make the most of their own lives.
    And all the initiatives that the mayor mentioned, that he so 
generously gave me credit for, most all of them were available to a lot 
of other places, too. But Philadelphia made the most of its 
opportunities because, in no small measure, of the gifts, the 
dedication, and the downright aggression of its mayor. And I cannot tell 
you how much I admire him for that.
    You know, I'm sure all of you have had an experience like this in 
your life in some context or another--by the time somebody calls you 15 
times and asks you for something, you say yes just to stop them, you 
know. [Laughter] When Ed Rendell gets all over you like a wet blanket 
about something--[laughter]--you know you might as well just cry 
``uncle'' and go on to something else. I say that because the 
achievements of this city have been truly phenomenal.
    And I have always loved coming here. You know, the people of 
Philadelphia have been quite wonderful to me and Hillary and to Al and 
Tipper, voting for us in record numbers and by record margins in both 
elections and I'm very, very grateful.
    Let me just take a few minutes to be a little serious with you 
tonight. I was so moved today by all the things that were said to me on 
the street--didn't even mind the protesters. That's the American way. 
But you like it even more when they're not in the majority--[laughter]--
and that seemed to be the case today. But I want you to know that, on 
behalf of the First Lady and on my part, I'm very grateful for those 
personal expressions.
    But I do not believe that adversity is the enemy of the Democratic 
Party in this election. Indeed, adversity can be our friend, because 
it's not only good for personal reformation; it's good for people to 
sort of dig down deep inside and ask yourself what's really important 
and what's really fair. What do you really care about? What will you act 
for? What will you move for?
    The real enemy the Democrats have in this election is complacency, 
because we are doing pretty well as a country. We've got the lowest 
unemployment rate in 28 years and the lowest percentage of people on 
welfare in 29 years and the first balanced budget and surplus in 29 
years, and it's the biggest in history. We've got the best wage growth 
in way over 20 years. We've got, as Steve Grossman said, the biggest 
drop in Hispanic poverty in 30 years and the lowest unemployment rates 
and poverty rates among African-Americans since statistics have been 
kept, the highest homeownership in history. All that is very good. I'm 
grateful for that.
    But the real question is, what will we do with this moment? Our 
friends in the other party know that in spite of your presence and 
generosity here tonight, they always have tons more money than we do. 
I'll tell you a little more about that in a minute. [Laughter] But they 
also know that oftentimes at these midterm elections, the people who 
always vote in presidential elections, a lot of them don't vote in 
midterm elections. And they tend to be our voters. Why? Well, they're 
young parents on modest incomes; they have to worry about how to juggle 
child care and work, and voting on a work day is another hassle. A lot 
of them live in cities and don't own cars and have transportation 
problems. And how are they going to get to work and to the polling 
place? And that extra effort is hard to make.
    I tell you, my friends, our enemy is complacency. It is not 
adversity. Adversity is forcing us to focus on what is important and 
what we believe in and what we're prepared to fight for. And while I 
think it's a wonderful thing that all these good things are happening in 
our country, you know there are still some people in Philadelphia who 
have not felt the benefits of the things that have been done, and you 
know there's more to do.
    I want you to know that a long way away from here, in the high 
plains of America, people that work hard to feed you on the farm don't 
know there's been a recovery because they have to export a lot of their 
products, and they've been flooded out or burned out or had diseases. 
They've had all kinds of problems. And now the Asian markets, where they 
sell their food,

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are closed to them because the folks don't have any money over there. We 
could lose 10,000 family farmers in America this year, at a time of 
greatest prosperity for the country as a whole in a generation.
    So we have challenges at home. And I've always believed that when 
times are good, the worst thing you can do is kick back and relax. You 
have to see that as an obligation to look at the real challenges facing 
the country and take them on. That's what we've tried to do.
    So we, the Democrats, have gone before the American people and we 
said, ``Look, we have a program for this election, and we think it's 
worth your voting for. We know that the other side has tried to offer 
you--for most of you--a modest tax cut. Right here, before the election, 
they want to spend the surplus. And we've given you a harder message.'' 
We've said, ``Look, we've waited for this for 29 years. We worked for it 
for 6 years. Shouldn't we let the red ink turn to black, and let's let 
it dry for a day or two before we squander it?''
    At a time when there's so much financial turmoil throughout the 
world, shouldn't we set a good example to stabilize the global economy? 
And even more important, knowing as we all do--every person in this room 
knows that while Social Security is absolutely stable for the people who 
are now on it and the people who are about to go on it, when all the 
baby boomers get in, it is not sustainable under the present 
circumstances because there will only be two people working for every 
one person drawing Social Security.
    Everybody in this room between the ages of 52 and 34 is a baby 
boomer. And everybody I know at least my age--and I'm the oldest of the 
baby boomers--we're all profoundly worried that if we don't do something 
about this now, when with modest changes now we can have huge impacts 
down the road, that the time will come when we'll retire and our country 
will be confronted with two terrible choices: Either we'll have to put a 
whopping tax increase on our kids to maintain the system as it is, 
undermining their ability to raise our grandchildren, which none of us 
want to do; or we'll have to take a whopping cut in Social Security 
benefits, which today keeps one-half of the senior citizens in America 
out of poverty.
    So I say, tempting though it is before an election to shovel up a 
little tax cut, let's show a little restraint and a little knowledge of 
the last 29 years and say, ``No, no, we're going to save Social Security 
first before we spend it.'' I believe that's an issue worth voting on. 
And believe me, the elections will send a message to the Congress about 
which path you wish to take.
    There is a second issue I think is important. I talked about it all 
day today, and I never thought I'd come to Philadelphia or go anyplace 
in America in a political election and say, ``The big issue is, are we 
going to fund the IMF?'' Most Americans don't know what the IMF is. 
Sounds like those people that make bowling equipment. [Laughter] The 
International Monetary Fund is a fund to which we and others contribute 
that helps countries that are poorer and developing, who have good 
policies, to try to grow their economy; or when they get in trouble, it 
tries to help them work out of trouble without just being absolutely 
    For 8 months I've been trying to get America to make its fair share 
of contribution. Why? Because we can't lead the world--and you know the 
troubles that Asia has; you know the troubles in Russia; you see the 
impact, how it echoes in Latin America, our fastest growing market for 
American products. You see people say, when the stock market changes 
here, that that has something to do with this financial trouble 
overseas. We have an obligation not only to others throughout the world 
but to our own economy. Thirty percent of this growth we've enjoyed has 
come from selling things to people overseas who had enough money to buy 
them. And when they get in trouble, eventually we will suffer from that. 
And already, I've told you, our farmers are.
    And so I say to you, if you want to keep the American economic 
recovery going, if you like the way it's gone the last 6 years, and 
you'd like to have a few more years of it, then America has to lead the 
world away from the brink of the worst financial crisis in decades. And 
that means we have to pay our fair share to the fund that will do it. 
And I think that's something worth voting for.
    The third issue worth voting for is education. For 8 months I have 
had before the Congress an education program. We have succeeded in 
getting bipartisan agreement in the balanced budget for tax credits for 
all students to go to college, for the deductibility of interest on 
student loans, for more Pell grants. Our Democrats put that before the 
Republicans, and we

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were able to get bipartisan agreement--and now for Congressman Fattah's 
High Hopes program. That's great.
    But you all know that we don't yet have a world-class elementary and 
secondary education system that will guarantee to every child, without 
regard to race or neighborhood or income, a chance to be able to take 
advantage of those college opportunities. And until we do, America will 
never be everything it ought to be.
    And so I came before the Congress and I said, ``Okay, we've listened 
to the educators. I, personally, and Hillary and I have been going into 
the schools for 20 years now listing and watching and learning, and 
here's our program. It's pretty straightforward.'' Number one, in the 
balanced budget--paid for--put up enough money for school districts 
across America to hire 100,000 teachers to take average class size down 
to 18 in the early grades. It will make a difference.
    Number two, provide--provide a tax incentive that will help to build 
or repair 5,000 school buildings. I went to Jupiter, Florida, and saw a 
dozen housetrailers outside a school because the population is growing 
so fast. The mayor took me to a school building in Philadelphia that was 
over 65 years old. It was one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever 
seen, but it wasn't in good shape because there's not enough money to 
repair all those buildings. And all over America in the cities, I see 
people say, ``Oh, our children are the most important things in the 
world to us.'' What does it say to them if they walk up the steps every 
day to a school where the windows are broken or a whole floor is closed 
down? Very often, people can't even look out the window in some of these 
places, because they can't afford to heat and cool them, so they just 
board them up. Five thousand school buildings--that's the second thing 
it does.
    The third thing it does is to give funds to cities for after-school 
and summer school programs to help kids who are in trouble. I don't 
believe kids should be promoted endlessly if they don't learn what 
they're supposed to learn. But I don't think the children should be 
branded failures because the system fails them. So give them those 
after-school programs and the summer school programs and the mentors 
they need to learn what they need to learn. That's a part of our program 
as well.
    The fourth thing it does is provide funds to hook every classroom in 
the country up to the Internet by the year 2000. Now, I think those are 
things that are worth voting for--I think they're worth voting for.
    And finally, there's the Patients' Bill of Rights, the health care 
HMO bill of rights. Here's what it says: If you walk out of this room 
tonight and--God forbid--you get hit by a car, and you're covered by an 
HMO plan, a managed care plan, you ought to be able to go to the nearest 
emergency room, not one clear across town because that's the one that 
happens to be covered by your plan. It says if your doctors tells you 
that he or she can't help you and you need to see a specialist, you 
ought to be able to see one. It says if your employer changes HMO 
providers while you're going through a certain medical treatment, you 
ought to be able to finish with it.
    Now, let me just tell you what that means. How would you feel if you 
were 7 months pregnant and somebody came to you and said, ``I'm sorry, 
your employer changed providers; you've got to give up your 
obstetrician, and here's Dr. Jones''? How would you feel if someone in 
your family was undergoing chemotherapy--I've been through this, a lot 
of you have, and you know it's a pretty traumatic thing for families. I 
remember when my mother went through it, we sat around and tried to make 
jokes about whether she'd lose her hair and what kind of wig she'd buy. 
You get real nervous about whether your loved one is going to get so 
sick they can't eat. Now, this is serious; this happens. How would you 
feel if you were two-thirds of the way through a chemotherapy protocol 
and somebody said, ``I'm sorry, you've got to change your doctor''? This 
is big stuff. And I think it's worth voting for--I think it's worth 
voting for.
    The Congress--the House passed a bill that didn't guarantee any of 
those things and what little it did guarantee left out 100 million 
Americans. Then it went to the Senate, and our crowd had a right to 
bring our bill up in the Senate, and they couldn't keep it away. So you 
know what the leader of the Senate did? He shut the Senate down for 4 
hours--I mean, turned out the lights; everybody got under the desks. 
Why? Because they didn't want to be recorded as voting against this, but 
they didn't want to make angry the insurance companies who oppose it. 
This is the symbol of the difference between the two parties today, make 
no mistake about it. And I think it's a big deal.

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    Now, what have they done with their year in the majority? Except for 
this higher education bill, I can't think of much. They killed the 
minimum wage. They killed campaign finance reform. They killed tobacco 
legislation reform that would have protected our children from the 
dangers of tobacco. They killed the Patients' Bill of Rights. They have 
continued their assault on the environment. They have gone backwards on 
paying for the International Monetary Fund; they've taken no action on 
it. And they've taken no action on the education bill, and they went 
backwards on saving Social Security first when the House passed their 
tax plan. It's over in the Senate now. There is this huge difference.
    And what I want you to do--I thank you for coming here tonight. I 
thank you for these contributions. We need the money, and we'll spend it 
well. But you have to go out and tell people, there is this cynical idea 
that you won't vote and that good times makes you less likely to vote. 
And I know it's more trouble for a lot of people you know to vote. But 
if you believe that America ought to be about not what goes on in 
Washington, DC, but what goes on in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia, 
in Boston, and in rural North Dakota and in rural Nebraska--if that's 
what you believe--if you believe in saving Social Security first, if you 
believe in the Patients' Bill of Rights, if you believe in education as 
our top investment priority, if you believe in keeping our economic 
recovery going, then you should support our party--not just tonight but 
on election day.
    And I want every one of you to go out every day between now and then 
and stir it up among your friends, and make sure that we surprise the 
cynics on election day.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 7:25 p.m. in Room 201 at Philadelphia City 
Hall. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Edward Rendell of 
Philadelphia; and Roy C. Afflerbach, candidate for Pennsylvania's 15th 
Congressional District.