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President Clinton Calls for Better, Safer, More Affordable Child Care

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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 23, 1998


The Rose Garden

10:20 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen,Hillary and I are delighted to have all of you here. We thank Mr.Tobias for his work and the power of his example. I thank SecretaryShalala and Secretary Herman for their extraordinary work, andSecretary Rubin, in his absence. And I note the presence here by SBADirector Aida Alvarez, and our OMB Director, Frank Raines, in theback. I thank the members of Congress who are here --Representatives Lois Capps, Rosa DeLauro, Sheila Jackson Lee, SandyLevin, Patsy Mink, Tim Romer, Ellen Tauscher, Lynn Woolsey, and StenyHoyer.

There are many other members of Congress who aresupporting this child care initiative --two who are not here, threethat I think I should mention are Senators Dodd, Jeffords, and Kohl,along with Senator Specter who have given real bipartisan leadershipto the child care initiative in the Senate.

Let me also say I'm delighted to see all the childrenhere today. I like Take Our Daughters To Work Day. AsRepresentative Capps pointed out, since her daughter works in theWhite House, she came to work with her daughter today instead of theother way around. (Laughter.) But, for the rest of you, I like thisday.

When my daughter started pre-school, and she was askedwhat her father did, she said that he works at McDonald's.(Laughter.) So I decided I better take her to work with me, eventhough I realized it would result in a diminution of my status in hereyes. (Laughter.) So then, by the time she went to kindergarten,she had actually been to work with me, and they asked her what I didfor a living and she said, "Well, he drinks coffee, makes speechesand talks on the telephone." (Laughter.) (Laughter.) So I'mdelighted that all the children are here.

The idea of merging work and family is embodied in TakeOur Daughters To Work Day. There's also another important ideaembodied in it, which is that we want our daughters to believe, alongwith our sons, that they can aspire to do whatever it is they want todo, whatever they're willing to do, whatever they're prepared to makethe effort to do. Now, if you want that to be a reality, we have tomake a commitment to give all of our children the best possiblechildhoods. That's really what all this is about.

Last year Hillary and I sponsored two conferences thatmany of our administration people helped on and many of youparticipated -- one on child care and the other one on earlychildhood and the brain. Now, what they showed is what all of youalready know, but what is still not widely accepted bydecision-makers in our society. They showed, first of all, that theearly years are profoundly important and that an even greaterpercentage of a child's learning capacity and intellectualinfrastructure is built up in those very early years. And theyshowed what we in the childcare conference, what we've all been here to say today, that peopleare worried about whether they can find child care, whether they canafford it, and whether it will be good child care.

We've been very fortunate in our country in the last fewyears, and I know we're all grateful to have the best economy in ageneration and the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years and the lowestcrime rates in a generation. But if we really want Americans tosucceed over the long run we have to allow every family theopportunity to succeed at home and at work. It is the mostfundamental decision we have to make. There is no more important jobin a society than raising children well. Nothing even compares withit. In the end, if you fail at that job, all the other jobs will, bydefinition, fail.

Therefore, there is virtually nothing worse you can doto a parent than to put a parent in the position of basically justbeing knotted up every day, worrying about whether he or she hasfulfilled the responsibilities to the child. How can you be at workworrying about your kids, and if you have to leave work to take careof your kids, except in emergency situations or for appropriateevents -- there's a sacrifice there.

One of the reasons the business community is interestedin this is that enlightened business leaders understand that,actually, if you permit people to do the right thing by theirchildren you wind up having a happier, more upbeat, more affirmative,more positive business environment, and ultimately the businessenterprise will be more successful because the workers are alsosuccessful at home. That's what this whole business is about, takingcare of their children and not asking their parents to choose betweenbeing good parents and good workers. It all comes down to that.

The private sector obviously can and should do more. Weshould have more companies that are willing to follow the example ofthese fine leaders who are here and who have been acknowledged. TheTreasury working group that Secretary Rubin has led has done a veryimportant job in participating in and presenting this report to me,and I am glad to receive it.

I'm also releasing a report today that Secretary Hermanhas provided that highlights other family-friendly businesses, givingthem sort of an honor roll status. I think it's well-deserved, and Ihope that the work the Labor Department will now do in serving as aclearinghouse for companies interested in child care and setting upmentoring programs between businesses on child care will get more andmore private sector folks involved. Secretary Shalala pointed outthat in the welfare reform bill -- the one we finally got -- wefought like crazy to get $4 billion in child care for states. But,believe it or not, there's still a lot of demand out there that's notbeing met, in state after state after state.

Hillary said before we came out of the Oval Office thismorning that everybody talks about how important child care is, butif you look at higher education -- and this may be hard for some ofyou to believe if you have staggering tuition bills, but still,nationwide, families directly pay only about 25 percent of the costsof their children's move through college.

No one questions that we have the best system of highereducation in the world. No one questions that it's not only beengood to let our children live out their dreams, but it's also beenvery, very good for the American economy. By contrast, with childcare, the average family, at an earlier age with a lower income, justgetting started out in the work force with young children, on thewhole, pays over 60 percent of a cost out of pocket.

So I would suggest to you that we basically have achoice to make here. I have put a proposal before Congress thatdeals with affordability, accessibility, the training of the workers,the quality of the child care. But the fundamental question is notso much over the specifics of our proposal, but whether the nationalgovernment has a responsibility to do more. And we have afundamental choice: Do you believe that the early years are asimportant as all the evidence says? Do you believe that we couldhardly do anything better for America's families than to relieve themof the burden of being terribly worried about their children whilethey're at work? In other words, do you believe that this should bean urgent priority for America?

That is the decision every member of Congress shouldmake. And this year, we shouldn't slide by it. Everybody shouldjust stand up and say, yes, or no -- because the budget is going tobe in balance, we have the money to make a major step forward.(Applause.)

Now, there's a highway bill making its way throughCongress, and I support a good highway bill. I presented a goodhighway bill that would have significant increase in ourinfrastructure. But I hope that as Congress continues to considerthis and determine how much money should be put in it, they willremember some other things. We've got to build a lot of highways --or bridges, if you will -- to the 21st century. We have to have aroad that will make Social Security strong in the 21st century. Wehave to have a road that will make our children's environment betterin the 21st century. We have to have a road that will guaranteeuniversal high-quality, high-standards education in the 21st century.

I think we have to have a road that will guarantee thatpeople will not have to choose between being good parents and goodchildren, and that we will act on the overwhelming weight of theevidence about the importance of the earliest years in the child'slife.

Now, there are choices to be made, and it is wrong topretend that there are no choices here. We now have the opportunitybecause of the good fortune that we enjoy as a people, because of thesolvency of the budget, to take a major step forward in child care;to build that part of our national infrastructure. You look aroundat all these children today, and at their parents beaming about them-- I don't really believe that any part of our infrastructure is moreimportant than they are.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Q Mr. President, do you propose tax cuts for motherswho want to stay home?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad you didn't stay home today,Sam. (Laughter.)

Q What do you think of the idea of tax cuts for astay-at-home mom?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we need to get into a negotiation.We need to get started talking seriously about what we're going todo.

Q Would you be open to it?

THE PRESIDENT: I'll be happy to talk to them, but we'vegot to -- are we going to make a serious effort here? We need tohave a discussion about it.

Q So you are willing to negotiate, then?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm willing to negotiate with anybodywho wants to help people raise their children better so that peoplecan succeed at home and at work. It's not an either-or deal. That'swhy we had the $500 tax credit last time, children's tax credit,because we wanted to help all parents. We're not against helping allparents. But the question is, most parents are in the work force andwe have to do something serious about it. We have to decide, are wegoing to do it, or not.

Q Children's advocates, Mr. President -- children'sadvocates --

Q What do you think of McDougal testifying today?

Q Did the French betray the effort in Bosnia to bringKaradzic --

Q Mr. President, did the French soldiers prevent Mr.Karadzic from being arrested?

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