THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release October 27, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY LEADERS
The East Room
5:58 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Secretary Herman, and thank
you for the wonderful, wonderful job you have done as Secretary of Labor.
I want to thank the others who are here from the White House today --
Minyon Moore, Mary Beth Cahill, Ben Johnson, Alvin Brown, the Vice Chair of
our Community Empowerment Board, that the Vice President has done such a
great job leading in the last eight years; Lorraine Miller, the executive
director of the Community Empowerment Board; Jena Rosco, the Director of
African American Outreach; John Johnson, of the NAACP; Norman Hill, of the
A. Philip Randolph Institute; Wade Henderson; Yvonne Scruggs Leftwich; and,
of course, my great friend, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, from
Texas. Thank you for being here. (Applause.)
Thank you all for joining me today. I wanted to talk with you a
little bit about the upcoming election and the profound importance that I
believe it has for all of you and for all of those about whom you care.
You know, first, let me say I feel so much gratitude as I
approach the end of my service as President. If anybody had told me when
we started that we would end with 22 million new jobs and the highest home
ownership in history, and the highest rate of business formation in history
and the lowest minority unemployment in history, the lowest recorded
African American poverty rate in history, the lowest child poverty rate in
20 years, lowest welfare rolls in 32 years -- cut in half -- the lowest
crime rate in 26 years, a reduction in the number of people without health
insurance for the first time in a dozen years, record rates of
college-going -- all these things that have happened, I would have been
very grateful. And I am grateful.
But today what I want to say to you is that the country is in
good shape, we're moving in the right direction. But we are now in a
position that we were not in eight years ago, where we have to ask
ourselves not what do we do to get out of the ditch, but what do we do to
build the future of our dreams for our children.
And we're in a position to choose, which is what voting ought to
be about. I've done my best to try to urge the American people and all the
political actors to make this a very positive election, but a vigorous
debate. And they're having their debate and I don't have to contribute to
that, but everybody knows how I feel. But I want to talk about what all
First of all, as Alexis said, we've been driven here for eight
years by some pretty simple ideas. One is that there ought to be
opportunity for every responsible citizen. And that meant that we had to
create the conditions and give people the tools to make the most of their
own lives. The other is that we ought to build one America across all the
lines that divide us, which meant that we had to take exceptional efforts
to make sure that there was participation and empowerment. And finally, I
have sought to create in our country the capacity to lead the world for
peace and freedom in the post-Cold War era, recognizing that the world is
growing ever more interdependent and that every part of the world is
important to us.
So we've worked hard at all this. Alexis talked about the
economy and the participation of African Americans in the administration.
Since I've been here we've had of my total appointees 12 percent of the
Cabinet, 14 percent of the total appointees and 17 percent of the federal
judicial nominees. (Applause.)
But we've worked hard to affect America at the grass-roots level.
That's what the empowerment zone program is about that the Vice President
has done such a good job of running these last eight years. That's what
the New Markets Initiative we're desperately trying to pass through the
Congress in the closing days, to give people the same incentives to invest
in under-developed areas in America we give people to invest in
under-developed areas in Latin America and Africa and Asia and other parts
of the world.
And I feel very good about that. But I'm grateful that we've got
childhood immunizations over 90 percent for the first time in the history
of our nation. (Applause.) I'm also grateful for the progress in
education. We had a theory that we're only spending about 7 percent of the
total education budget. It's a state constitutional responsibility, a
local administrative responsibility, but a national priority.
And when I came to the presidency, I had already been seriously
involved in education for about 14 years. And I wanted to put our money --
first I wanted to get the money up, because we were down below 6 percent
and heading south -- and so we wanted to turn that around. And even as we
got rid of the deficit and turned a $290-billion deficit into a
$230-billion surplus, we doubled our investment in education and training.
A lot of that money has been in Secretary Herman's shop.
But when we looked at the schools, what we wanted to do was to
focus on what the research and the educators say were to get high
standards, genuine accountability and then support for the schools and the
teachers and the kids and the parents to succeed, to meet the standards.
And we've worked very hard. We've expanded preschool. We've invested more
in teacher training. We're putting -- I believe that we have gotten an
agreement for the third year of our 100,000 teacher initiative to have
smaller classes in the early grades.
The Vice President worked hard to get something called the e-rate
in the telecommunications bill so that all of our schools could afford to
log on to the Internet. Since we started this project in 1994, the number
of schools hooked to the Internet have gone from 14 percent to 95 percent;
the number of classrooms from 3 percent to 65 percent. So we're moving in
the right direction.
The number of states with really good state-based standards and
core curriculums gone from 11 states or 14 states to 49 states. And we
began a few years ago to say to the states to get federal money, look,
you've got to identify these failing schools -- identify them and do
something to turn them around. And we wanted to have a tougher
accountability standard, but so far, we haven't persuaded the Congress to
do that. But all over the country, schools are turning around.
I was in a school in Harlem the other day that two years ago, 80
percent of the kids doing reading and math below grade level to just two
years later, 74 percent of the kids doing reading math at or above grade
level. I've seen it in predominantly African American schools,
predominantly Hispanic schools. I've seen it in mixed race schools.
I was in a predominantly white rural school in western Kentucky a
few months ago, where three years ago they had 12 percent of the kids
reading at or above grade level; it's 57 percent now. They had 5 percent
of the kids doing math at or above grade level; it's 70 percent now. They
had zero kids doing science at or above grade level; it's 63 percent now.
So this is happening all over America.
And I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful that we passed the
biggest expansion in college aid from Pell grants to the HOPE scholarships
to work-study programs to the AmeriCorps program since the G.I. Bill. And
we've got college-going at an all-time high. A couple of years ago, for
the first time in history, the African American high school graduation rate
equaled the white graduation rate for the first time in our history.
And over the last six years, the taking of advanced placement courses by
our high school students has increased over 50 percent, but it's up 300
percent for Latino kids and 500 percent for African American kids. This is
a good thing. (Applause.)
So I say all this to say the country is going in the right
direction. But the bedrock, the think that made so much of the rest of it
possible -- and I didn't talk much about the crime rate, it's gone down
every year; more police, more prevention. The after-school programs have a
lot to do with that. We were serving no kids with federal money in
after-school programs when I became President. Today we're serving
800,000, and if our budget prevails in the closing days of this Congress,
we'll go to 1.6 million children served in after-school programs. Very
But let me come back to basics. When I became President the
economy was in trouble and we were paralyzed by high interest rates, and a
crushing annual deficit which had quadrupled the debt in four years. So as
we look ahead, I think we have to say our work is not done. And I would
just like to mention four things that I think are important, profoundly
important to the American people, without regard to race.
Number one, we've got to keep this prosperity going. And my view
is that means we ought to say, that means, first, we've got to keep paying
down the debt until we get out of debt, and that will keep interest rates
down. We'll figure out what it costs to do that. Then what's left we can
spend. And we'll spend some of it with a tax cut, but a good deal of it to
invest in education and health care, the environment, international
security and in our future.
That's basically the program that our party and our nominees have
laid out. Pay the debt down; keep interest rates down; take what's left,
have a tax cut we can afford, focus it on the needs of middle class people
for college education, for child care, for long-term care for elderly and
disabled people, for retirement savings and for lower income working people
with a bunch of kids that need more help than we're giving them.
But then invest, continue to invest in these other areas. Now,
one virtue of that is that if the money doesn't come in, you don't have to
spend it. But if you give it all away on a tax cut on the front end, it's
not there, whether it comes in or not.
But I just want to say, I believe that the progressive party in
America ought to be for getting America out of debt for the first time
since 1835 when Andrew Jackson was President. Why? Because it gets the
interest rates down. We believe it will keep interest rates about a
percent lower than if you take the alternative course, which is $1.3
trillion tax cut, which gives you a $300 billion extra interest bill,
because you cut interest payments if you cut the debt, and a $1 trillion
Social Security privatization program, and a $500 billion spending package.
If you have $2 trillion in projected surpluses, and that's really bigger
than it's going to be, but let's just assume that, and you spend 1.3 on a
tax cut, and $300 billion on interest, and $500 billion on spending -- with
me so far? That's 2.1. And a trillion dollars on privatizing Social
Security, this is -- forget about all the zeros. 3.1 is bigger than 2.
You're in deficit. (Applause.)
You know, life has been good to a lot of you in this room, and
you've worked hard, and some of you in this room would be better off the
day after with that program. People like lawyer Latham there, you know?
(Laughter.) But look, we've tried it that way, and all I can tell you is,
if you keep interest rates lower, that's better for everybody, including
the well off. And it keeps this economy going and it makes everything else
possible. One percent lower interest rates, which is what you get if you
stay out of deficit and keep paying that debt down. One percent a year,
over 10 years, is worth the following: $390 billion in lower home mortgage
payments, $30 billion in lower car payments, $15 billion in lower college
Never mind -- now, that's a $435-billion tax cut in the form of
lower mortgages. Never mind the lower interest rates on credit cards and
the lower business loan rate, which means easier to start a small business,
more business expansion, more jobs, higher income, and a better stock
So, number one is, what's the best way to keep the prosperity
going. Question number two: How do you build on the progress of the last
eight years with a cleaner environment, with a lower crime rate, with the
welfare rolls cut in half, with the schools improving, the college-going
rate going up, the number of people without health insurance going down.
How do you do that.
Well, I believe you have to have some funds to invest in helping
working people whose children we're now insuring get health insurance, too;
helping people who leave the work force when they're 55 and don't have
health insurance anymore buy into Medicare and adding this prescription
drug benefit for seniors; in funding the college tuition program Vice
President Gore has recommended -- tuition deduction for college. I think
these are very important. Continuing to invest until all our kids who need
preschool and after-school have it.
Continue to invest because you're going to have 2 million
teachers retire over the next 10 years, and we've got to replace them. And
if we keep unemployment low and the economy high, we'll have to pay them
more -- do signing bonuses, do a lot of work on that. So how do you build
on the progress? I think you don't just stay still, but the question is,
are you going to change in the same direction you're moving in, or take a
So, question number one: How do you keep the prosperity going.
Question number two: How do you build on the progress. Question number
three: How do you keep building one America.
We've come a long way, but we still have real challenges. We
have to figure out a way to work through this racial profiling issue to
stop it without in any way giving anybody the impression that we want any
criminal to get away with anything. That's not what this is about. We all
want strong law enforcement; we want a safe society. We like the fact that
the crime rate is going down. But we don't like people being targeted just
because of who they are, rather than whether there is a reasonable
suspicion that they've committed a crime.
How do you deal with the fact that we still have a lot of hate
crimes in America? Based not just on race, but on sexual orientation.
Even a few every year based on disability. Do we need a hate crimes bill?
I think we do.
How do you deal with the fact that even though I have named 62
African American federal judges -- three times as many as the previous two
administrations combined -- we still don't have a black judge on the 4th
Circuit, where there are more black Americans than any other federal
circuit in America. (Applause.)
How do we keep closing the digital divide? It's still out there,
within our country and beyond our borders. And I could just go on and on
and on. We have big challenges in our continuing effort to build one
America. How are we going to do more to guarantee equal pay for women? I
don't know if you saw the news story today, but now married couples with
children where both the man and the woman are in the work force are now a
majority of married couples -- now a majority; 59 percent of the women in
America with a child one year or younger are in the work force -- now, 59
And, yet, there is still a yawning pay gap, which is not only bad
for women, it's bad for the men that are married to them. (Laughter and
applause.) I mean, this is not a good deal here. You know, I came late to
this issue because my wife made more money than me until I got elected
President. (Laughter.) And now I'm going to let her try public service, I
hope, and I'll see if I can make more money. (Applause.)
I want you to laugh and have a good time, but this is serious.
How are we going to build one America? So, one, how do you keep the
prosperity going? Two, how do you build on the progress we're making in
every aspect of our social life? Three, how do we keep building one
America? Four, how do we create a world that is safer for our children,
more just, more decent and more prosperous?
For me, passing the trade bill for Africa and the Caribbean is an
important part of that. (Applause.) For me, immigration fairness is
important to that. For me, this debt relief initiative, which I am
profoundly grateful -- I must say, I've tried to emphasize to people, the
parties do not fight over everything in Washington. This election ought to
be about where our honest differences are. But one of the most moving
things to me in this congressional session has been, we actually reached a
bipartisan agreement to have America pay its fair share of relieving the
debt of the poorest countries in the world that agree to give honest
government and put the savings into education, health care and development.
This is a huge deal.
But we've got to keep building that kind of world. I'm proud of
the role we played for peace in Northern Ireland. I'm proud of our renewed
efforts in Africa. I'm proud of what we did in the Balkans and Kosovo and
Bosnia to stop ethnic cleansing. We did the right thing. I'm glad we're
still struggling to try to build peace in the Middle East through this very
difficult period that's taken a lot of our minds and hearts, those of us
who have been working on this the last eight years.
But that's another thing I want to say. The African American
community should, in my judgment, support America's increasing ties to the
rest of the world in a positive way. (Applause.) Because we are an
immigrant nation. Every one of us came here from somewhere else, except
the Native Americans, and even their ancestors at one time probably crossed
the Bering Strait when it was all land. We all got here from somewhere
And so, I ask you to come here today because this is an unusual
election season for us. In my lifetime, we have never had an opportunity
to go to the polls with so much peace, so much prosperity, with the absence
of domestic crisis or looming foreign threat. So we actually are required,
all of us, to kind of look inside ourselves and say, what are our dreams
here, what is really at stake here; does it matter whether I and all my
friends vote here.
And I wanted you to come here just to say -- I'm not running for
anything -- (laughter) -- but I don't believe there's been an election
where it was any more important to vote, because the American people, in a
fundamental sense in this season, are free to chart their own future. And
all the best stuff is still out there. You know, we're going to have young
women bringing babies home from the hospital within a couple years with a
life expectancy of 90 years because of the Human Genome Project. You'll
get your little card, tell you what your kid's gene map is like, what your
child's problems are going to be and the following 10 things you can do to
dramatically increase your child's life expectancy.
We're going to have older people -- already if you live to be 65,
your life expectancy is 82 years. We're going to have older people able to
cure Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, roll back some kinds of cancer even we can't
deal with now. It's going to be astonishing. But we're also going to have
all our medical and financial records on somebody's computer somewhere, and
we've got to figure out how we set up a system so we get to say yes before
somebody looks at them.
These are big issues. And the thing that I would like to say
about the Vice President is that after eight years, I know he makes good
decisions. I know he has good values and I know he understands the future.
He thinks about this stuff all the time. And that's very, very important.
Senator Lieberman I've known for 30 years, and I feel the same way about
him. But this is an election in which the American people, they don't have
to really believe anything hateful about anybody that is running. Maybe
some people find that boring. I think it's wonderful. (Laughter.)
You can actually say, look, we got all of these good people
running for office who love their families and they love their country and
they will do their very best to do the right thing. It's what they
believe. So you've just got to decide what you believe. But you cannot
afford to let the opportunity of maybe more than a generation, maybe 50
years -- it may be 50 years before we have another election like this. On
the other hand, we could have another one just like this in four years, if
we do the right thing now. If we do the right thing now. (Applause.)
I think of the first presidential campaign I took a part in 1968.
It was an agony; 1972, when I met Eddie Bernice Johnson, it was an agony;
1976, we were full of hope, but there were also a lot of problems in the
country; 1988 the country was in the dumps again; 1984, it was morning in
America, but as my Senator, Dale Bumpers, used to say, if you let me write
$200 billion worth of hot checks every year, I could show you a good time,
too. (Laughter.) And so eventually the chickens came home to roost there.
We've got a good thing going here. But shame on us if we don't
thank God for our good fortune and tell everybody how important it is to
make a decision. And believe me, not showing up is a decision, and it's
the wrong decision.
So I just wanted you to come here today so I could tell you that
I think it's important that you and anybody you can talk to go out into the
community and say, look, it might be 50 years before we get a deal like
this again, and here is what I think is at issue: how do you keep the
prosperity going, how do you build on the progress, how do you build one
America, keep on doing that, and how do we prepare for the future and do
these big things. It's really, really important.
Lastly, depending on the makeup of the Congress, it's important
that somebody be here that stops some of the more extreme things that would
have happened if I hadn't had the great good fortune, thanks to so many of
you, to be standing here in the way of some things, as well as trying to
get some things going. (Applause.)
So I just want to -- I have learned -- one of the reporters asked
me earlier today if I really thought it was bad that I had had to work and
hadn't been out on the campaign trail, and I said, no, I'm not running and
I shouldn't have been out before now. And I'm actually probably the only
person in the room that's been on the other end of this deal, because I
remember when President Reagan came to Arkansas in 1984, and he was more
popular than you can imagine down there, and we both did just fine in the
elections. So -- (laughter) -- if you get my drift.
I don't seek to tell anybody how to vote, but I do seek to say,
based on my experience -- because everybody knows who I'm for -- but based
on my experience, which, unfortunately, is getting longer every year, I
don't know when we'll ever have another time like this. I've done
everything I could to turn this country around, to pull this country
together, to move our country forward.
We've got this huge opportunity here that we can literally paint
a picture of the future and make it happen, if we keep the prosperity going
instead of putting it at risk by going into deficit; if we build on the
progress of the last eight years instead of reverse those policies which
brought it; if we keep working to build one America; and then if we take
home the big challenges of the future.
I just think if you go out and tell people that, tell young
people that, they will understand what is at issue, and they will show up.
And in a free society, that's all any of us can ask. Show up. Know what
the differences are. Have clarity on that, make your decision, and the
rest of us will happily embrace it. I think it will be quite a good
decision if you get everybody there.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 6:16 P.M. EDT