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Talking It Over
January 3, 2001
This week, I will accept one of the greatest honors of my life when I take the oath of office of the United States Senate on behalf of the people of New York. Among other things, this means that until Jan. 20, when the new president is sworn in, I will be wearing two very distinct hats -- senator's and First Lady's -- and looking both forward and backward.
As the President and I organize our belongings and pack boxes, we find ourselves repeating this refrain: "Do you remember when ... ?" As much as we cherish the precious memories of places we've visited and people we've met along the way, we likewise take pleasure as we contemplate the milestones America has achieved during the last eight years, starting with the President's promise in 1992 to "Put People First." I am grateful that I had the opportunity to play a part in fulfilling that promise.
During these last eight years, I've been privileged to travel around the country, listening to Americans share their hopes and dreams for a better nation and a better life for their children. I was blessed to work with a dedicated staff to effect policy changes that made real differences in the lives of hardworking Americans and their children.
No achievements meant more than the comprehensive child immunization program started in 1993 that increased immunization rates among toddlers to 90 percent, and the creation of the Children's Health Insurance Program. CHIP gave working parents who could not afford health insurance the chance to enroll their children in state-funded insurance programs for the very first time. Although CHIP has provided treatment for millions of youngsters for whom critical medical care was once out of reach, there is still work to be done -- work that I hope to continue in the Senate until every child is covered.
In my many visits to children's hospitals around the country, I have witnessed firsthand the vital role they play in our nation's health care delivery system, including the education of future pediatricians. Although these remarkable institutions train the vast majority of our children's doctors, they, unlike other teaching hospitals, traditionally have received very few federal dollars for graduate medical education. I was delighted, therefore, when my husband included an unprecedented $40 million in his year 2000 budget for graduate medical education at children's hospitals -- a number that was increased to $235 million this year.
Throughout my career as a lawyer, I have worked to improve our judicial system's treatment of children in foster care. In the White House, the President and I worked together to secure legislative changes providing additional support to foster children and promoting adoption. As a result of these changes, the number of adoptions is up nearly 65 percent -- the first significant increase since the national foster care program was created 20 years ago, and on target to meet the President's goal of 56,000 adoptions annually by the year 2002.
When I served on the William T. Grant Foundation Commission on Work, Family and Citizenship in 1998, more than 50 percent of our nation's young people did not go to college. The Commission's seminal report "The Forgotten Half," advocated more student aid, as well as improved family leave policies, school-to-work programs, youth service opportunities, an expanded Job Corps, and the development of mentoring programs.
The President addressed all these concerns, from national service to after-school care. The very first bill he signed after taking office was the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides family members time off from work for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a close relative with a serious illness. I am also pleased we succeeded in more than doubling the federal funding for child care, opening up thousands of Head Start spots for needy children, and offering enriching after-school programs, and a better understanding on the part of the nation's business community that making quality child care available and affordable makes good economic sense.
Of course, there have been important achievements on many other fronts since my husband took office -- achievements that range from making mammograms more accessible, to ensuring that every American can change jobs without losing health insurance, winning improved health care for Gulf War veterans, creating community service opportunities such as AmeriCorps, and working to save many of our nation's cherished historic treasures. In next week's column, I'll take a look at some of the other memories I have of an extraordinary time in our country's -- and my -- life.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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