THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
____ For Immediate Release January 9, 2001
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE PEOPLE OF CHICAGO
The Grand Ballroom
Palmer House Hilton Hotel
7:50 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. You know, I thought we should come over
here to sort of finish the circle of my political history in Illinois, and
I didn't know if anybody would show up. (Laughter.) Apparently, the
lobby's full, too. Let me say to all of you how grateful I am to the
people of Chicago and Illinois. I thank the Mayor for his great leadership
and for giving me a chance to be a good President for Chicago. If I didn't
have a great Mayor, I couldn't have been. (Applause.)
I asked Rich, when Bill was up here talking, I said, you get your
brother to introduce you very often? He said, no, but I love it every time
he does it. (Laughter.) I want to thank Bill Daley for his exemplary
service as Secretary of Commerce. He was brilliant. I think he did a
brilliant job in leading Vice President Gore to victory myself.
Let me just remind you, when he went over there as the chairman of
that campaign, we were way behind. And then we had a great convention and
we got a head a little bit. Then they got ahead again. Daley kept them on
track. We started out, they were whizzing -- we were way behind when Daley
took over. They thought the election was over, the Republicans did. By
the time it was over, our candidate had won the popular vote, and the only
way they could win the election was to stop the voting in Florida. He did
a great job. (Applause.)
I want to thank my great friend, Alexis Herman. I did not know until
she started talking that her grandfather once worked here. But I
appreciate it, and since she said that, in a minute, I'm going to tell a
family story. I want to thank Bobby Rush and your great Senator, Dick
Durbin. What a great job he's done. (Applause.) Our Treasurer, Mr. Hynes
-- and his daddy, Mr. Hynes. Thank you for being here, Tom. (Applause.)
Good to see you. And Secretary Riley, our Secretary of Education, and the
best Secretary of Education we ever had, thank you. (Applause.) And if I
have forgotten anybody, I apologize.
I also bring you greetings from the newest United States Senator from
New York, Hillary. (Applause.) I told Dick, ever since Hillary won that
election in New York, you should just consider that Illinois has two
Democratic senators again. She told me to tell everybody hello.
You know, this place has a special place in my heart, and I just want
to briefly review the history for you. When I ran for President in 1992, I
knew I had to do pretty well in New Hampshire. And when I started out, I
was running fifth. But it was a small state of tough-minded, but
fair-minded people, and I thought if I could just get up there and stir
around, I could do all right. They were good to me, and I love them, and
they voted for me twice. So I got out of it alive, anyway.
Then I got through all the rest of that stuff. Then we had Super
Tuesday and I won them, but I was supposed to because it was in the South.
But I knew that to be nominated, I had to do well on St. Patrick's Day in
Illinois and Michigan. And I knew some things about Illinois other people
didn't know. First, I had a wife from Chicago; that didn't hurt.
(Laughter.) Second, I knew Southern Illinois was south of Richmond, and I
spent a lot of time down there, which other guys didn't know, but when I
was a governor. And the third thing I knew was that half the people from
Chicago had kinfolks in Arkansas, which nobody knew but me. (Laughter.)
So I figured if I sort of sidled around here, I could do pretty good.
So I showed up here in 1991, and in this very room we had a meeting of all
the state Democratic chairs, and I tried to make a fairly presentable
impression. And I had been thinking about what we ought to do as a country
for a long time, and I put my ideas out. And then we went over to the Navy
Pier and I announced that David Wilhelm of Chicago would be my national
campaign manager. He did a great job and you should be very proud of him.
And then -- so we rocked along and everything went according to plan,
and it was time to stand and deliver in Illinois. And on the election
night and the primary -- it was St. Patrick's Day, 1992 -- now, I remember
marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago. It was an interesting
experience. (Laughter.) Most people were waving all five fingers. Think
about it. (Laughter.) And on election night, a majority of the people in
Illinois gave me their votes in the primary over my opponents. And I knew
then it was just a matter of time. And the people in Michigan were very
good to me. We won there by 10 points, but by more in Illinois. And ever
since then, I have known that I could count on Illinois, that when the
chips were down, Chicago and the state of Illinois would be there for the
Clinton-Gore ticket. (Applause.) And I am profoundly grateful.
We had the party that election night downstairs in the lobby, where
the overflow crowd is, and I'm going to go down there and see them in a
minute. And every day for eight years, in my little private office, right
off the Oval Office, every single day for eight years, I have looked at the
picture of Hillary and me standing with the confetti, the green confetti,
coming down in the lobby of this grand old hotel, on St. Patrick's Day.
So I wanted to come here to say good-bye, and to say thank you. But
let me tell you what else I want you to know. I have a -- look, I've got a
senator to support, that's what I've got -- and I'm not really saying
good-bye, I'm just saying good-bye as President.
But, let me tell you, I also have another picture of this hotel, which
I don't think I've ever told anybody in Illinois -- I have another picture
that I have seen every night for the last four years -- for the last eight
years, excuse me. It is a picture of my mother, in early 1946, and my
father, who were living here, when my mother went home to Arkansas to have
me, and my father was killed in a car wreck driving home. And right before
that happened, they were here in this hotel with another young couple
having what my mother told me was one of the happiest nights of her life.
And she gave me that picture when I was a young man.
And I put it up on my desk in the White House in the residence. And I
look at this hotel in that picture twice, every day for eight years -- once
in St. Patrick's Day, 1992; and once when my mother and father were here
before I was born. This is an important place for me, and you're important
people to me. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart. (Applause.)
Now, here's the second thing I want to say. Now, I want to say two
things, seriously. Number one, this is a different, a stronger, a more
united, and a better country than it was eight years ago. The ideas we had
worked. (Applause.) They worked. And let me just take you on a little
walk down Memory Lane here.
Eight years ago we had high unemployment, the deficit was $290
billion, the debt of the country had been quadrupled in the previous 12
years. Now we have the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, the lowest
female unemployment rate in 40 years, the lowest minority unemployment rate
ever recorded; 22.5 million new jobs; the deficit has been turned into the
biggest surpluses in history; and when this year is over, my last budget,
will have paid down $500 billion on the national debt. We can be out of
debt in 10 years for the first time since 1835. (Applause.)
Now, in addition to that, Bobby Rush said I wanted to be president for
the little people; I did. I didn't know the difference in little and big
people. I was so naive when my predecessor referred to me in rather
derisive terms as the governor of a small Southern state -- I was so naive
I thought he was paying me a compliment. (Laughter.) And I still do.
(Laughter and applause.)
People ask me what was my presidency about, it was about those 22.5
million people that have jobs now that didn't. About the 25 million people
that took advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Law. About the 13
million people that took advantage of the HOPE Scholarship tax credit and
the other tax credits to go on and have family members in college. About
the 90 percent of kids under 2 who are immunized against serious childhood
diseases for the first time, about the 3.3 million children who have been
covered with health insurance for the first time under the Children's
Health Insurance Program. We got the uninsured population going down for
the first time in 12 years. (Applause.) That's what it's about. About
the 1.3 million kids in after-school programs with federal funds for the
first time. And I could go on and on.
It's about people -- 600,000 felons, fugitives and stalkers couldn't
get handguns because of the Brady Bill. How many people are alive because
of that, because of the 100,000 police on the street? That's what this was
about. It was about trying to bring America together; to create more
opportunity for every responsible citizen; to make our diversity a blessing
instead of a source of division; to be a force for peace and freedom and
democracy and decency around the world. And I am proud of where America is
I'm also proud that we did have an urban policy, an urban policy that
gave 15 million families a family tax cut because the people weren't making
enough money working full time to get their kids out of poverty, and now
they can, because of the earned income tax credit. (Applause.) An urban
policy in which the Vice President ran an empowerment zone program that
brought billions of dollars of new investment into cities all across
America. An urban policy which cut the welfare rolls in half, which
diversified public housing, and Chicago is leading the way in that, which
gave people a sense that we could go forward together again.
Now, this was about people, putting them first, preparing them for a
new century and a whole new era in human affairs. Look how much more
diverse Chicago is now then it was 10 years ago, racially, religiously.
Look how we're learning to live together across all the lines that have
previously divided us. That's what I want for America, one America, going
forward together, helping each other, making the most of what we can do.
You know, politics and public life is a lot like athletics. It's a
team sport. I don't care how good the quarterback is, or the center. If
you don't have a good team, you're no where. You were my team, and we won
for America. (Applause.)
So whether you're old or young, white, black or brown or whatever,
straight or gay, able or disabled -- we're all disabled some way or another
-- I thank you, because you were my team, and we won for America.
(Applause.) And I want you to know -- the second thing I want to say is
this. America is always about becoming; it's always about new beginnings;
it's always about tomorrow. The reason we're still around here after over
220 years is that we've always had a focus on the future. We always
thought we could do better. We always thought we had a moral obligation to
do better. We always thought we could widen the circle of opportunity, and
deepen the meaning of freedom, and strengthen the bonds of our community,
and be better neighbors around the world. We always thought that.
I still believe that. And you cannot let any disappointment you may
feel in this last election take away any pride you feel in what Al Gore and
I and our team were able to accomplish with you these last eight years.
And you cannot let -- (applause) -- you cannot let anything deter you
from your determination to be the best citizen you can be, to make Chicago
and Illinois and America as great as they can be.
I'm telling you, there are still a lot of big challenges out there,
but I'm leaving this country in good shape and the best is still to be.
You just rear back, stay together, and keep fighting for tomorrow.
God bless you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 7:05 CST