remarks of the President at NY Senate 2000 dinner 10/4
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                  October 4, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                      AT NEW YORK SENATE 2000 DINNER

                             Private Residence
                             Washington, D.C.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  You are doing nothing to disabuse people
of their stereotypes about Irish politicians.  (Laughter.)  Nothing.  I
want to thank Ted and Vicky for letting us come to this beautiful place.
And thank you all for being here for Hillary.

     The things that Ted says are so brazen, it's almost hard to get up and
talk after him.  (Laughter.)  I mean, you've got to go some to have more of
that whatever that is than I do.  (Laughter.)  He makes Terry McAuliffe
look repressed.  (Laughter.)  I'm having a good time, actually, going out
and campaigning for other people.  Now, six years ago, I went to
Massachusetts to campaign for Senator Kennedy.  It was more fun then,
because it was quite bracing -- he actually had a race then, and
Massachusetts was the only place I was still popular.  (Laughter.)  So we
needed each other, it was wonderful.  (Laughter.)  It was great.

     I'd like to begin by once again thanking Senator Kennedy for eight
years of support, advice, friendship, prodding, and stunning production;
for being one of those people that didn't go in a whole and feel sorry for
himself when we went from being in the majority to the minority in the
Senate, but just got up the next day and tried to figure out a new strategy
to get done what we needed to get done, and to stop those things from being
done that we oppose.  There is nobody like him in the Congress -- nobody.

     When I was a young man, one day in the summer of 1966, I received a
call from a man named Lee Williams, who was then the administrative
assistant to Senator Bill Fulbright.  And he said, how would you like a job
working on the staff of the Foreign Relations Committee?  I was an
undergraduate at Georgetown.  And I, frankly -- as it turned out, it was
just a few months before I discovered that my father had cancer and we were
going to be in terrible financial straights, and if I hadn't gotten this
job, I couldn't finish college, it turned out.

     So he offered me a job.  He said, are you interested in a job?  I
said, sure I am.  I had slept about two hours the night before.  You know,
I was 19 years old.  I thought I was going to live forever.  And he said,
well, you can have a part-time job for $3,500 a year, or you can have a
full-time job for $5,000 a year.  I said, I'd like two part-time jobs.
(Laughter.)  Which I thought wasn't bad for two hours sleep.  So he
laughed, and he said -- this was a Friday morning -- he said, you're just
the guy I'm looking for, be here Monday.

     So I packed my bags and I went to Washington.  And I was not quite 20
years old, and I was just full of awe for everything.  And there were some
truly great figures in the United States Senate then --people who argued
about civil rights, and argued about foreign policy including the war in
Vietnam, and argued about what we ought to do to help the poor, and how we
were going to deal with the great issues of the day.  And it made a searing
impression on me.

     Those two years I worked in the Senate, in my last two years at
Georgetown, I watched the Foreign Relations Committee hold those great
hearings on Vietnam, on whether there was a domino theory, what China's
future was going to be.  And I watched obviously a President that I admired
very much, President Johnson, try to push through legislation I believed in
and kept getting in deeper and deeper trouble over Vietnam.  I learned a
lot about America and American politics.

     And I saw the young and handsome Senator Edward Kennedy inspiring all
these young people, along with his brother Robert, to public service in
those years.  It's a long time since then.  And I want you to know, I asked
him a question at dinner, and everybody around the table heard it.  I said,
are you as idealistic today about our country and our system as you were
when you entered the Senate, shortly after your brother was elected
President?  He said, more.  That's why he's one of the eight or ten
greatest senators in the history of our country.  (Applause.)

     And, by the way, I said, me, too.  I feel I will leave office more
idealistic than I was the moment I took my hand off the Bible from taking
the oath of office on January 20, 1993.  I will.  I feel that way about our
country.  Just look at the last eight years.  We've got a lot of evidence
that our challenges as a people yield to intelligent, sustained effort, in
the same way that all other challenges of life do.

     So that brings me to how come you're here, and why he threw this party
for us.  When Hillary -- I'll never forget this -- the last thing in the
world I expected to be doing about a year and a half ago was this at this
time.  (Laughter.)  I mean, I thought, we were talking about what a great
last year we were going to have, we were going to take all these trips
together, we were going to do all this stuff, and how great it would be.
And then Senator Moynihan announced that he wasn't going to run.  I can't
remember exactly when that was.  And then a few days later, Charlie Rangel,
and I don't know, several other House members, called Hillary and said, you
really ought to think about doing this.  They knew that we were going to
move to New York when we left, I think, and so they said that.

     She said, Bill, this is crazy.  I said, I don't know, you want to do
it?  She said, I don't know.  So she went up and started looking around,
and talking to people, and she came back and she said, I think I'd like to
do this.  Do you think I should?  I said, I'll give you the same advice I
give young people, fresh out of college that ask me this.  If you can stand
to loose -- can you stand to loose?  If the answer to that's yes, then you
go to question two.  Do you have a reason for wanting the job that's bigger
than the fact that you'd like the title, something that relates to the
people you want to represent and not just to the fact that it would be nice
to be a senator.  If the answer to that's yes, then the third question is,
are you prepared to pay the price it takes to win?

     I said, you've got to understand.  This means that all those trips we
were going to take, we're not going to take.  All those relaxing weekends
we were going to have at Camp David, just sitting around with our friends
and watching movies, we ain't going to have them.  And I went through a lot
of other things.  I said, now, if the answer is you're not paralyzed by the
thought of defeat, you have a reason for wanting the job that's bigger than
the fact that you'd like to have it that relates to the people you want to
represent, and you're prepared to do what it takes to win, then I think you
should do it.  So -- I think she wanted me to say yes or no.  (Laughter.)
So about a day or so later, she said okay, I want to do it.  So here we go.

     I'd just like to say a couple things.  First of all, on a purely
personal note -- for 30 years, all she's done is helped other people,
mostly me.  But she also served on the board of the Legal Services
Corporation, under President Carter, and she started the legal services
clinic at the law school, when she and I were teaching at the law school,
almost 30 years ago.  Her first job was with what was then called the
Washington Research Project, now known as the Children's Defense Fund, when
we got out of law school.  Then she went on the board of that.  Then she
helped me get elected attorney general and governor.   And then when I got
elected governor, she founded something called the Arkansas Advocates for
Families and Children, and built the state's first neo-natal level three
nursery, so we could keep these tiny little infants alive.  And now in our
little state, that Children's Hospital is the seventh largest Children's
Hospital in America.

     And for 30 years, I just watched her do stuff for other people.
Mostly me, but also for other people.  And this is the first time she ever
asked anybody to help her.  So I'm trying to do my part.  And I'll never
get even, I'll never get caught up.  (Applause.)  But I really appreciate
it, because what I want you to know is -- you heard that debate last night,
so we'll start with that.  I thought the Vice President did a really good
job, and I was really proud of him.  I hope that over the course of these
three debates -- I think we made a good start last night -- that the
American people will see two leaders representing two parties, that show
genuine respect for one another, but have clear differences.  And I hope
that these debates will clarify those differences, so people will know what
the choices are.

     And I think we made a big start last night.  And I think Mr. Lehrer
deserves a lot of credit, because he had a little flexibility there, and
they spent at least three and a half minutes on every topic, instead of 90
seconds on this, and we'll go to 90 seconds on that, 90 seconds on the
other thing.  So we're doing that.  But I was happy when she decided to do
this, because I think it's important that we have people in the Senate who
understand these big issues and understand the big choices, and who are
capable of clarifying them, number one.

     Number two, one thing I've learned watching Ted is that he's effective
because he's both dogged and flexible, because he has both passion and
organizing ability.  He stays with stuff.  And I personally have never
worked with anybody that had the same combination of intellectual ability
and passionate commitment and organizing ability and doggedness that
Hillary does.  And I think she's really well-suited for this kind of job.
And I know how much she cares about this stuff.

     I say this all the time, but I'm not running for anything.  I don't
have to say this.  I really do believe when Al Gore says, you ain't seen
nothing yet, that may be a campaign slogan, but I happen to believe it's
true.  I feel like we've just sort of set the banquet table in the last
eight years, but we haven't served the meal yet.  (Applause.)  It takes
time to turn a country around.  I mean, this country was in a -- I know
people took a big chance on me eight years ago, but it wasn't that big a
chance, because the country was in a ditch, and we had to change.

     I've often wondered, late at night, how many people strolled into the
voting place and said, God, I just don't know if I can vote for this guy.
He's just governor of this small southern state, and he looks like he's 30
years old, and they said terrible, terrible things about him, but, oh,
heck, what the heck, I'll give it to him.

     So now it's different, and things are going well.  And the last bad
social indicator we had began to bend when we learned a couple days ago
that last year, for the first time in a dozen years, we had 1.7 million
fewer people without health insurance, thanks to the Children's Health
Insurance Program, that we fought so hard for in 1997.  But we've still got
a long way to go.

     So we got things moving in the right direction, and the real question
is, what are we going to do with this?  Are we going to sort of splurge it
away, saunter through it, wait for it to come to an end, or build an
edifice?  You know, build the future of our dreams for our kids.  That's
what this is all about.

     The reason I wanted Hillary to run, once she answered yes to the three
questions, is that we need every good hand we can, every stout heart we
can, every good mind we can, and everybody with a steel will we can,
determined not to squander, but instead to make the most of this moment.
And we need every voice we can, bringing clarity to the choice -- so the
American people, whatever they decide, it's always got to be all right with
those of us that are in the arena.  I mean, they usually get it right;
otherwise, we wouldn't be around here after 224 years.  America would be on
the trash heap of history.  So you've got to believe in the system.  Every
time people get enough information and enough time, with the right
argument, they nearly always get it right.  Otherwise we wouldn't still be
here, still rocking along, still building a more perfect union.

     So we need people with talent.  And I can just tell you, I know I'm
biased, but I've known hundreds of people who do this stuff, and I've never
known any citizen activist who had remotely the combination of qualities
that would make the great senator that she does.  That's what I really
believe.  I always -- I remember when we were going together.  I said, this
is terrible.  I'm going home to Arkansas, and I'm going to try to run for
office, and I feel terrible that you're going to do this, because you ought
to be doing it, too.  The only thing that anybody can say anymore, after
all I've been through, that makes me mad, is when somebody suggests that
the only reason she can do this is that she's my wife and First Lady.  If
she hadn't been my wife and First Lady, she could have done it 25 years
ago.  (Applause.)  Now, that's the truth.

     So, thanks.  We're in a hard fight.  We're a little ahead, I think
she's going to win.  I think the Vice President and Senator Lieberman are
going to win.  But I think the big problem is making people understand,
number one, this is a gift, this moment -- countries just get a moment like
this once every 50 years or so --and number two, understanding what the
nature of the choice and the consequences are.  I am absolutely convinced
if people get the feeling this is a really important election, and then
have a pretty clear idea of what the choices are, and what the consequences
are, we're going to do great.

     Clarity is our friend; cloudiness is our foe.  And you helped us
tonight by making sure that she'll be able to hold up her end of the deal
in New York.  I just want to urge you to keep doing whatever you can, and
not just financially, I mean really just talking to people.  People have
got to understand, this is a big deal.  I mean, I feel that we spent so
much time just trying to get all the things going in the right direction,
and get the country coming together, and giving people a sense of
possibility again, and I think people have that.  They have this -- why do
you think the issues are so important?

     One reason Al Gore got such great ratings out of the speech at the
convention, and it lasted more than Governor Bush's did, is it was more
specific.  I once said to him, I said, the presidency -- the election for
President is the world's greatest job interview.  And sometimes people
forget that.  You're asking people to hire you.  And unlike a lot of other
jobs, you get to both interview for the job, and tell people at the same
time what you think the job is.  And it changes over time.

     So that's what we're doing.  You've done a good thing here, helping
Hillary tonight.  She won't let you down.  And we need every great soul we
can get in the Senate.  You're doing a good thing by helping our side in
this election.  You've just got to make sure that we have -- that people
really understand and care about it.

     I've lived long enough now to see tragedy change things.  I've seen
Senator Kennedy go through tragedy after tragedy and keep serving, but the
times that he had to serve in changed.  He's going to have the best time to
be a senator, since the first term he was in the Senate, if we win the
White House, if we pick up some Senate seats, we pick up some House seats.
It will be the best time you've had since you started.

     And you have to wait a long time when things go bad to make them just
right again.  And so I say to you, not in a maudlin way, that this is a
gift.  We have been given a gift.  If I had any role in it, I'm grateful.
I did the best I could, and I've got a few more cards to play before I'm
done.  But you've got to make sure you do this election right --because it
may be 50 years before we get another chance.  We've got to do it right.

     Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

                          END        10:40 P.M. EDT

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E