[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[October 5, 1998]
[Pages 1740-1742]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Unity '98 Reception
October 5, 1998

    Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, we have all been sitting up here on 
this stage listening to each other with a lot of echoes, wondering if 
you could hear us out here. Can you hear us all speaking? [Applause] We 
decided either you could hear us better than we could hear each other, 
or you were the most polite audience in human history. [Laughter]
    Let me begin by thanking you personally for being here tonight, for 
your support for our party and our campaign in the Congress this year. I 
want to thank Steve Grossman for a magnificent job as head of our party 
and for the work he has done with Senator Torricelli and Representative 
Pelosi, who have been wonderful working together in unity to try to pool 
our resources and maximize our impact. I want to thank Dick Gephardt and 
Tom Daschle for truly extraordinary leadership.
    You know, since the Republicans won the House of Representatives and 
the Senate in 1994, we have defeated their contract on America; we 
passed a balanced budget that had the biggest increase in health care 
for children and the biggest increase in college access since the GI 
bill. And every other progressive thing that has been done since I've 
been President, none of it would have been possible without the 
Democrats in Congress, and I am very grateful to them, but especially 
these last 4 long years when time after time after time, if they hadn't 
been with me, there would have been no one to say no to moving this 
country into an extreme position, no to moving this country away from 
the progressive path on which we put it, and yes to the initiatives 
we've taken. So we owe them a great debt of gratitude, and for that I am 
very grateful.
    Let's talk about why you're here tonight, besides to hear Brian, who 
was fabulous. Was he great, or what? [Applause]
    In a month we're going to have an election, a midterm election, an 
election in which our opponents believe they will do quite well because 
they're going to outspend us phenomenally, an election in which they 
believe they have an enormous advantage because a lot of Democratic 
voters normally don't vote when there's no Presidential election. They 
say, ``Oh, well, our voters have to worry about child care and jobs and 
voting on the same day. That's a lot of trouble,'' or ``Our voters are 
young. They just don't get into it in mid-term election.'' And all the 
things you've heard.
    I want to tell you why you're here tonight. You're here to reverse 
100 years of history, and you're here to make the next 100 years of 
America's history. You're here to make a decision. Most of you in this 
audience tonight are young, and I am not. So I can tell you one thing: 
It doesn't take long to live a life. It doesn't take long to move from 
your age tonight until you're the age of those of us on this platform. 
And the decisions you make in one point of your life for your country 
can shape everything that happens when you have your children and you 
raise them to be the age that you are now.
    We have fought and fought and fought for 6 years to change the 
direction of America, to give you an economy that works for all the 
people, not just a few; to bring the crime rate down and to help more 
kids stay out of trouble in the first place; to move people from welfare 
to work in a way that was humane so they could still succeed in their 
most important jobs, raising children; to grow the economy and still 
preserve the environment; to be a force for world peace and humanity; 
and to be a force for bringing us together here at home across all the 
lines that divide us. Those are the issues at stake in this election.
    If you look at the differences between the two parties, one that 
will affect you more than me is whether we are going to save this 
surplus until we save Social Security for the 21st century, instead of 
putting a big tax increase on you to take care of your parents. You know

[[Page 1741]]

where they stand. They voted for a popular election-year tax cut to give 
people--a modest cut--to say, ``Here's your little gift before the 
    And we stood up and said, ``That may be appealing. Look at our tax 
cuts for child care, for education, for the environment. They're paid 
for in our balanced budget bill, and we're not going beyond them until 
we save Social Security because we don't want to burden our children and 
our grandchildren.'' It is the right thing to do.
    We have asked for 8 long months--the other day the people here on 
this platform and I asked just for one day--just one day--to vote on 
matters that are critical to the education of our children. We are for 
100,000 more teachers and smaller classes and 5,000 new or repaired 
schools and hooking up every classroom to the Internet and after-school 
and summer school programs for our kids. And they won't give us a vote 
on it. It's a clear choice, but it will affect the America you live in.
    We have pleaded for 8 months for a vote on the Patients' Bill of 
Rights because almost all of you are going to be in managed care plans, 
and so are your parents and your children. And I think they can do a lot 
of good to hold down costs. But I think if--God forbid--you get hit by a 
car going out of this party tonight, you ought to go to the nearest 
emergency room, not one clear across town because it happens to be 
covered by your managed care plan. And if you have a serious medical 
condition and your doctor says you need to see a specialist, I think you 
ought to be able to see one. And if your employer changes health care 
providers while you're pregnant or getting chemotherapy or getting other 
serious treatment, I think you ought to be able to finish your treatment 
and not be told to get another doctor. That's a big issue. But you won't 
get that Patients' Bill of Rights unless we get the Congress, and you 
have it within your power to give the American people that gift for the 
21st century.
    I just left, before I came to be with you tonight, a meeting of 25 
nations, finance ministers, and central bankers, the counterparts of 
Chairman Greenspan and Secretary Rubin, sitting around a big room with 
the heads of all the international financial institutions, talking about 
what we can do to stem this global financial crisis, because it's 
morally the right thing to do for people around the world who are 
struggling to lift themselves and their children up, and because it is 
practically essential if we want to keep America's economic prosperity 
going. And over and over and over again people said, ``We appreciate the 
lead you're taking, Mr. President, but the Congress of the United States 
won't even fund America's participation in the International Monetary 
Fund.'' If you want to send a message, if you want America's economy to 
keep growing, you liked the last 6 years, you know then that we have to 
help the world to avoid this crisis and do our part. It's a big issue. 
It's a huge issue.
    The young people in this audience should care about the 
environment--more than their parents and grandparents. You should care 
whether you're going to be able to raise your children with clean air, 
clean water, safe food, no toxic waste, and no global warming problem. 
You should care about that, and you should have an opinion about whether 
it is possible to grow the economy and improve the environment. With all 
my heart, I believe it is.
    In this budget, it is littered up like a Christmas tree with what 
the Washington language dubs ``riders, riders, riders.'' What they're 
doing is riding the environment down, and they try to put them all over 
all these bills in the hope that the President won't be able to even 
find them all, much less veto some of the bills.
    You're going to be given a chance to say, ``Our generation believes 
in protecting the environment and growing the economy, and we do not 
approve of the majority's approach to chipping away at our protections 
one by one.'' If you care about the environment and the economy, you 
have to vote for the Democrats in this race for Congress.
    So I say to you, we have to prove to the people of the Washington 
establishment here, who say that midterm elections are always low-vote 
elections, that people like you know it's a big deal. You know your 
future in riding on it. You believe in what we've done in the last 6 
years. You want everybody to have a chance to participate in our 
prosperity. You want this education program. You want us to lead in the 
global economy. You want the environment protected. You want the 
Patients' Bill of Rights, and you want to save Social Security before we 
squander a surplus that we worked 6 long years for. That's what you 
    And you understand what the choice is on the other side. And you 
want this election to

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be about you and your future. And you don't believe, contrary to all the 
conventional wisdom, that all the minorities are going to stay home, all 
the young women are going to stay home, all the young people are going 
to stay home, all the people that have the hassle of child care and work 
and still finding a way to go vote are going to stay home, because 
you're going to tell them what the stakes are. That's what we're going 
to use your money to do. I want you to leave here committed to using 
your voice to do the same thing, and you will give America and your 
children a gift for the new millennium on election day.
    Thank you, and God bless you. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:54 p.m. in the Great Hall at the National 
Building Museum. In his remarks, he referred to Steve Grossman, national 
chair, Democratic National Committee; and musician Brian McKnight.