THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
|August 7, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT SIGNING CEREMONY FOR THE WORK FORCE INVESTMENT ACT OF 1998
11:04 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, and good morning.Thank you very much. Mr. Antosy, to Benny Hernandez -- examples ofwhat we come here to celebrate and enhance today. Thank you,Secretary Herman, for your leadership on this bill which was soessential to its passage. Chairman Goodling, Senator DeWine,Congressman Clay, Congressman McKeon, Congressman Kildee, many othermembers of the House of Representatives who are here. To SenatorJeffords and others who are not here who, along with Senator DeWine,worked on the passage in the Senate.
I'd also like to thank the representatives of theNational Association of Counties and other local groups who are here.And I will say more about all of you in a moment.
I hope you will understand why I feel the need tocomment on the fact that early this morning bombs exploded outsidetwo of our American embassies in Africa. An explosion in Nairobi,Kenya killed and wounded scores of people. We have reports thatseveral Americans are among the dead. Another explosion in Dar EsSalaam, Tanzania also caused many casualties. At this time there areno reports that any Americans were killed in that attack, althoughour embassy appears to have been the target.
Both explosions caused large-scale damage to ourembassies and to surrounding buildings, as you may have already seenfrom the pictures coming in. Though the attacks appear to have beencoordinated, no one has yet claimed responsibility for them.
As I speak, we have dispatched Defense Department andState Department-led emergency response teams to the region. Theteams include medical personnel, disaster relief experts, criminalinvestigators, counterterrorism specialists. We have takenappropriate security measures at our embassies and militaryfacilities throughout the region and around the world.
These acts of terrorist violence are abhorrent; they areinhuman. We will use all the means at our disposal to bring thoseresponsible to justice, no matter what or how long it takes. Let mesay to the thousands and thousands of hard-working men and women fromthe State Department and from our other government agencies whoservice abroad in these embassies, the work you do every day is vitalto our security and prosperity. Your well-being is, therefore, vitalto us and we will do everything we can to assure that you can servein safety.
To the families and loved ones of the American andAfrican victims of these cowardly attacks, you are in our thoughtsand prayers. Out of respect for those who lost their lives, I haveordered that the American flag be flown at half staff at allgovernment buildings here at home and around the world. We aredetermined to get answers and justice.
Thank you very much.
Now, we are here to do something very important forAmerica's long-term future today. I mentioned the Congressmen andSenators who played a leading role who are here. I'd like to alsoacknowledge those who are out there whose names I have, and if I makea mistake, stand up and be recognized. (Laughter.) If I say you'rehere and you're not, just let it go. (Laughter.)
In addition to Senator DeWine and Chairman Goodling andMr. Clay and Mr. McKeon, Mr. Kildee, we have here CongressmanBarrett, Congressman Chakah Fattah, Representative Sheila JacksonLee, Representative Dennis Kucinich, Representative Carrie Meek,Representative Dan Miller, Representative Patsy Mink, RepresentativeLouis Stokes, Representative Steve LaTourette, Representative GeorgeBrown, Representative Paul Kanjorski , Congressmen BruceVento, Congressman Donald Payne; and Congressman Tim Roemer with ahis own version of America's future in his lap. (Laughter.)
I'd also like to thank, again, Alexis Herman and ErskineBowles and all the people on my staff for their role in this. Butone person above all who has been with me since 1991 and who sharedmy dream of consolidating this blizzard of government programs intoone grant that we could give a person who was unemployed orunder-employed so that they could decide, as Mr. Antosy did, what todo with the help we were giving them on the theory that they wouldknow their own best interest and be able to pursue it -- and that isGene Sperling, who has worked on this for years and years, This is-- his heart is in this bill. And I want to thank him as well as allthe staff people in Congress. (Applause.)
As Secretary Herman said, this bill fulfills principlesfor reform of our work force training program that I outlined in myfirst campaign for President over six years ago, and that the VicePresident set out in our National Performance Review. It is a modelof what we should be doing, and also the way we did it is a model ofhow our government ought to work. It was a truly bipartisan,American effort.
This morning, we received some more good news about oureconomy. Even though the latest economic reports shows the effectsof the now-settled GM strike, we still see that over the past yearwages have risen at more than twice the rate of inflation -- thefastest real wage growth for ordinary Americans in 20 years. Thispast month our unemployment rate held firm, in spite of the GMstrike, at 4.5 percent. For nearly a quarter century, not once hadour nation's unemployment rate gone below 5 percent; it's now beenbelow 5 percent for 13 months in a row. We have low unemployment,low inflation, strong growth and higher wages.
But to maintain this momentum we must continue to changeand move forward. Over the long run, in the face of daily newchallenges in the global marketplace, we simply must press forwardwith the economic strategy outlined five and a half years ago:fiscal discipline, expanded trade, investment in our people andcommunities. To maintain fiscal discipline we mustsave every penny of our surplus until we save the Social Securitysystem. To maintain exports we must immediately support theinternational efforts to stabilize our customers in Asia to reformand lift their economies.
In recent weeks we have clearly seen that the crisis inAsia is having an impact on our economy. You can talk to anyAmerican grain farmer who will tell you that. For our economy toremain strong, therefore, we must pay our dues to the InternationalMonetary Fund. To invest in our people we have to give all ourpeople access to world-class education and training, beginning withour children before their school years and ending with people whohave access to education throughout a lifetime.
The story Mr. Antosy told is a moving and hearteningstory. There are a lot of people in his position. In a dynamicglobal economy more and more people, even if they stay with the sameemployer, will have to change the nature of their work several timesover the course of a lifetime. It is, therefore, very important thatevery person who is willing to work hard to make the most of his orher own life should be able to become the success stories wecelebrate with Benny Hernandez and James Antosy.
Therefore, we have to do more than we have been doing,even though we have been making progress. The vast majority ofcorporate managers say the number one prerequisite for continuedprosperity is finding a way to fill all our high-skill jobs.
I'm telling you today, there are -- even with theunemployment rate as low as it is, there are hundreds of thousands ofjobs which are going begging that are high-wage, high-skill jobs,undermining the ability of our free enterprise economy to maximizeits benefits to all our people, to reach into all the urbanneighborhoods and the rural communities and the places that it hasnot yet reached. Therefore, giving all Americans the tools they needto learn for a lifetime is critical to our ability to continue togrow.
We are making progress in building an America whereevery 8-year-old can read, every 12-year-old can log on to theInternet, every 18-year-old can go on to college. And today wecelebrate a big step forward in making sure that every adult can keepon learning for a lifetime; where no disadvantaged child, nodisplaced worker, no welfare parent, no one willing to learn and workis left behind.
This is the crowning jewel of a lifetime learning agenda-- the Work Force Investment Act to give all our workersopportunities for growth and advancement. It, as Mr. Goodling saidand Mr. Clay said in specifying what was in the bill, has many thingsthat will help millions of workers enhance our nation's competitiveage.
Let me just mention some of the things that are mostimportant to me. It empowers workers, not government programs, byoffering training grants directly to them, so they can choose forthemselves what kind of training they want and where they want to getit. There was a time, decades ago, when Congress actually needed topass specified training programs with specific purposes andmechanisms to implement them. But that time has long since passed.Almost every American is within driving distance of a communitycollege or some other mechanism of advanced training. And almostevery American has more than enough sense to decide what is in his orher best interest, given a little good helpful advice on theavailable alternatives.
The law streamlines and consolidates a tangle oftraining programs, therefore, into a single, common sense system.And it also expands our successful model of one-stop career centersso people don't have to trot around to one -- different agency afteranother when they find themselves in the position that Mr. Antosyfound himself in. It enhances accountability for tough performancestandards for states and communities and training providers, even asit gives more flexibility to the states to develop innovative ways toserve our working people better.
It helps to create opportunities for disadvantagedyouth. And I think that is terribly important. Everybody isconcerned about the juvenile crime rate; we need to be concerned,therefore, about the number of juveniles that are out here on thestreet, out of school, not doing what could be done to give them amore constructive future.
And, finally, it does two more things that I think arequite important. It has a real emphasis on helping people withdisabilities prepare for employment and it gives adults who need itliteracy support to move ahead. You cannot train for a lot of theseprograms if you cannot read at an adequate level. And I think thatis terribly important.
What all this amounts to is that we get to celebrateLabor Day a month early this year. At long last, we're giving ourworkers the tools they need to move quickly to 21st century jobs,higher incomes, and brighter futures. I thank all those on thisstage, all those in this audience, and those who could not be herewho have worked and waited for this day.
Let me also say that just a couple of minutes ago I hadthe chance to sign another bill that helps all Americans share in ourprosperity -- the Credit Union Membership Access Act. Credit unionsserve a vital and unique purpose; they make sure financial servicesand credit are available to people of modest means. The law I signedstrengthens them, helps them to withstand hard economic times,clarifies who can join and ensures that those who are in creditunions now won't ever get locked out. It will help extend greatercredit to those who need it most. It is also good for the economy.
Both these bills are bipartisan bills. They passed withoverwhelming bipartisan majorities. They show what can happen whenwe can put our differences aside and put progress ahead ofpartisanship and people ahead of politics. That's a good thingbecause our plate is still full. In the few days remaining in thislegislative session, we must still work together to save SocialSecurity first, secure funding for the International Monetary Fund tostabilize our own economic growth, to pass a strong patients' bill ofrights, a very crowded education agenda built on excellence andopportunity, and an important element of our environmental agenda topreserve our environment and grow the economy.
We can do all these things. And, as we see today onthis very happy occasion, when we do it, we strengthen our countryand the future of the children over there with Congressman Roemer andall the others like them throughout America.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)