Remarks of the President at Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Dinner (9/20/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release              September 20, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                                MCI Center
                                    Washington. D.C.

7:23 P.M. EDT

          THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Please be seated.  Well, in case you
haven't figured it out, I'm the warm-up act for Los Lobos.  (Laughter.)
And Nydia Rojas and Elvis Cresco (phonetic) and Tito Fuente, Jr.

          Let me thank you, Lucille, and all the members of the
Congressional Hispanic Caucus for all you have done with me and for me
these last eight years.  I thank the Institute board members for supporting
these fine public servants.  I thank the members of my administration who
have done so much to make sure your concerns were heard, including Maria
Eschaveste, Mickey Ibarra, Aida Alvarez, Bill Richardson, Louis Caldera.
(Applause.)  And I understand we have the honorary Hispanic Caucus in the
Cabinet here tonight, Secretary Herman, Secretary Slater, and Secretary
Maneta.  I thank them for coming as well.  (Applause.)

          Because our administration has looked like America we've been
able to -- I hope -- serve America better.  For example, under Secretary
Caldera, the Army is cosponsoring a series of public service announcements
targeted at young people between the ages of 12 and 14, many of them
Hispanic, focusing on the benefits of staying in high school and getting a
diploma.  I thank him for that, and I thank you for that.

          Last week in Philadelphia, I had an incredible experience --
really Sunday, the first day of this week.  I went there to dedicate and
lay the first construction beam on what will be America's Constitution
Center, where people will be able to go to Philadelphia, learn about how we
got started as a nation, learn about how the Constitution was put together
and what is in it, and how it applies through countless decisions of the
United States Supreme Court to all Americans down to the present day.  I
also had the opportunity to help to swear in as new citizens 73 immigrants
from 23 different nations.  (Applause.)

          And I told them something that the American people and the
members of Congress should never forget -- eight of the 39 men who signed
the Constitution were immigrants, including Alexander Hamilton, the first
Secretary of the Treasury, born in the West Indies; and James Wilson of
Pennsylvania, who spoke with a heavy Scottish brogue.

          From the very beginning our country has benefitted from
immigrants.  When I went to Germany four or five years ago, I presented to
the German Chancellor a copy of the Declaration of Independence which was
printed the day after it was signed -- July 5, 1776, in Pennsylvania, in
German, because so many of the people who lived in Pennsylvania at that
time had German as their first language and spoke limited, if any, English.

          It is very important that we not forget that we have always been,
we always will be, and God willing, we will always be strengthened by the
fact that we are a nation of immigrants.  (Applause.)

          This has been a great week for me and the Latino community.
Yesterday Lucille and the whole Congressional Hispanic Caucus came to see
me, and we went over the remaining issues of this year.  They, once again,
gave me my marching orders.  And last night, Jimmy Smits had me to the
National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, and some of you perhaps were
there.  I had a wonderful time.  (Applause.)  And tonight I am with you, in
all probability, and hopefully, the last American President who does not
speak Spanish.  (Applause.)

          And I say that because I am very proud to have been President of
the United States during the time when the Latino community of America
truly came of age as a political, a cultural and an economic force.  I
thank you for that.  (Applause.)

          The main thing I came here to do tonight is to say that, a simple
thank you.  I thank the members of the Caucus for working with Al Gore and
me for these last seven and a half years.  Think of what we have done
together that would not have been possible without you, and without all the
people throughout America who support you.

          Together we passed a new economic plan in 1993, which got rid of
the worst deficits in our history, is paying down the debt, and is given us
the longest economic expansion in history.  (Applause.)  It has also given
us the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate ever recorded, the lowest Hispanic
poverty rate in a generation, a median income for Hispanics rising even
faster than for the population as a whole, a million new Hispanic home
owners in the last five years.  (Applause.)

          Together we passed the Family and Medical Leave law, which has
given 25 million of our fellow citizens a chance to take some time off from
work when there's a newborn baby or a sick family member, without losing
their job.  Together we passed an historic crime bill that put more police
on our streets, take more guns off our streets, gives kids more things to
do to stay out of trouble and get involved in positive conduct.  It was
opposed by most of the members of the other party, but today, after seven
years of straight decline, crime is at a 27-year low.  (Applause.)

          Together we doubled the earned income tax credit, which cut taxes
for 15 million of our hardest-working families, including more than a
million Hispanic families.  Together we raised the minimum wage, which
benefitted nearly 2 million Hispanics.  And it's high time we raised it
again, and I hope you will support that.  (Applause.)

          Together we doubled funding for education and training, and put
in place the Hispanic Education Action Plan for programs to improve Latino
students outcome.  And though there are still troubling gaps, Hispanic
students now are scoring higher on math tests, greater percentages are
completing high school, graduating from college, and getting advance
degrees.  In fact, the college-going rate among Hispanic Americans has
increased by 50 percent over the last six years, and the number of children
-- the number of Latino children in our high schools taking advance
placement tests -- which means they mean to go to college; otherwise why go
through all that hassle -- (laughter) -- listen to this -- the number of
Hispanic children taking advance placement courses has increased by 500
percent in the last five years. (Applause.)

          Together we created 100 empowerment zones and enterprise
communities, community development banks, doubled small business loans to
minorities, tripled them to women.  And under the leadership of the Vice
President, these empowerment zones have helped to bring thousands of jobs
to people in places who have been left behind for too long.

          We provided health insurance coverage under the Children's Health
Insurance Program to 2 million children, and we're determined to add 3
million more.  We revolutionized welfare; the welfare rolls have been cut
in half.  We fought steadily to restore the benefits that were wrongfully
cut from legal immigrants, and we're going to keep fighting to restore the
Medicaid and CHIP coverage for children and pregnant women who are legally
in the United States.  (Applause.)

          And with the strong leadership of the Hispanic Caucus, we will
continue to push the majority in Congress for a vote on the Latino and
Immigrant Fairness Act.  (Applause.)

          Now, none of this would have happened without you.  And I want
you to know that all I feel is immense gratitude that the people of my
country gave me a chance to serve, to implement the ideas that I brought to
the American people in 1992 and 1996, to build a bridge to the new century
and the new millennium that we could go across together.  But when the Vice
President tells you, you ain't seen nothing yet, I want you to know I
believe he is right.  (Applause.)

          Why?  Because we have spent so much time in the last seven and a
half years trying to turn the ship of state around, and it takes a while to
do that -- it's like having an ocean liner in the middle of the ocean, and
you're trying to avoid an iceberg -- will it be Titanic or a happy story.
You know you can't do it like this.  It takes time.  Now we have turned
around, we're going in the right direction, we're moving forward together.

          And what I want to ask you to do is to think about what now?  You
know, we could actually end poverty for all the children of America.  We
could actually bring economic opportunity, real jobs, to all the
communities that have been left behind, from the Native American
reservations to the rural communities of the Delta and the Appalachia to
the inner cities that still aren't prospering.  We could get this country
out of debt over the next 12 years, for the first time since Andrew Jackson
was President in 1835.  (Applause.)  And I might add, if we did that,
instead of squandering the surplus on a tax cut that's too big, it would
keep interest rates a point lower for a decade, which would save people
like many of you in this audience and the people who you represent, in 10
years, $390 billion in home mortgage costs alone.  (Applause.)

          Now, so I know this is not a political evening.  (Laughter.)  But
it should be an evening for citizenship.  So if you want to fulfill these
dreams, if you want to meet the challenge of the aging of America when we
baby boomers retire and there will only be two people working for every one
person on Social Security, if you want Medicare and Social Security not to
go broke and you think our seniors deserve prescription drugs, the election
matters.  (Applause.)

          If you want a patients' bill of rights, the election matters.
(Applause.)  If you want to stick with a strategy to lower crime that lifts
children up and keeps guns out of the hands of criminals and kids, the
election matters.  (Applause.)

          I'll tell you something else.  If you want to put an end to delay
and discrimination against highly qualified minority candidates for the
federal courts, the election matters.  (Applause.)

          Now, I am proud, as Lucille said, that our administration has
appointed more Hispanics to the federal bench than any in history.  But it
has been an unbelievable fight.  It took four years just to get a vote that
put the very able judge, Richard Paez on the 9th Circuit -- four years.
(Applause.)  Now we're fighting for another great candidate, El Paso
lawyer, Enrique Moreno.  (Applause.)

          Now, listen to this.  You would think that the Texas Republicans
would be delighted to support someone like Enrique Moreno.  He graduated
summa cum laude from his university, near the top of his class in law
school.  A panel of state judges in Texas said he was one of the three best
lawyers in West Texas.  He got the highest rating from the American Bar
Association.  So what did the two senators from Texas say?  He wasn't
qualified to be on the Court of Appeals.  And I might add, for reasons that
escape me, none of the other elected Republicans in Texas have said a word
about it.

          Now, I can't ask you to vote for anybody tonight.  I don't want
to endanger your tax exempt status.  (Laughter.)  But if you want an end to
this kind of delay and denial, it would really help if you had Al Gore and
Joe Lieberman and senators like Hillary in the United States Senate.
(Applause.)  If you want to see investments made in the enforcement of our
gun laws, our civil rights laws, and holding tobacco companies accountable,
and shrinking the citizenship backlog at INS, it would help if you had Al
Gore and Joe Lieberman and Jose Serrano as chairman of the House Committee
on Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Appropriations.  (Applause.)

          If you believe that there should be new market investment
incentives to spread prosperity to people in places that have been left
behind, it would help if you had Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, and Nydia
Velasquez as chairman of the House Small Business Committee.  (Applause.)
If you want the interest of the American people to be the agenda of
America's government, it would help if you had Al Gore and Joe Lieberman,
and if you had in a leadership position Bob Menendez, the vice chair of the
House Democratic Caucus.  (Applause.)
                                 - 7 -

                                 - 6 -

          There's an old Mexican proverb that says, "El que no siembra, no
levanta" -- (applause) -- he who does not sow does not harvest.  In my
lifetime, which, unfortunately, is longer than most of yours in this
audience -- and most days I'm all right about it -- our country has never
had a chance like this.  When I became President, on January 20, 1993, I
dreamed that I could leave office with my country in the position to make
the most of this magnificent millennium; to stay on the far frontiers of
science and technology, and do it in a way that helps all people, not just
a few; to lift us all together; to build a future of our dreams for our
children; to go forward as one America.  But anybody in this audience who
is over 30 knows that sometimes it's harder to make a good decision when
times are good than when they're tough.

          I laugh, you know -- the American people took a big chance on me
in 1992.  I can only imagine how many people walked into the polling place
on election day in 1992 and said, I wonder if I should really vote for that
guy.  I mean, President Bush says he's just a governor from a small
southern state.  I don't even know where it is.  (Laughter.)  He's probably
too young for the job.  Oh, what the heck, it's not much of a chance, the
country is in the ditch.  (Laughter.)  I mean, that's basically what
happened.  It wasn't that big a chance.  (Laughter.)

          Now, that's not true anymore.  It's not true anymore.  And we all
have a responsibility to our fellow Americans to think deeply about this
election; to dream of what we want America to look like in 10 years or 20
years, and then to go out and choose the course that will take us there.
That is what we have to do. (Applause.)

          And this is the last thing I want to tell you.  I'm very proud of
all these economic advances.  I'm glad of the contributions we made to a
strong economy that enabled more of you than ever before to afford a ticket
to come here tonight.  I'm glad about that.  But if I could only have one
wish as President for you as I leave, even more than continued prosperity,
I would wish for us to have the wisdom and the tenderness to go forward as
one America, across all the lines that divide us.

          We are a good people.  We are a smart people.  We'll do fine in
the face of all adversity.  But we still have a lot to let go of.  We've
got to learn to trust each other, even if we come from different cultures
and different backgrounds.  We've got to learn to feel deep, abiding,
bursting pride at our roots and our faith, and still respect those who are
different, and understand that our common humanity is the most important
fact of life there is. (Applause.)

          If we do that, if we do that, believe me, you ain't seen nothing
yet.  And so I say I had a wonderful time.  Even the bad days were good,
thanks in no small measure to many of you who always were the wind at my
back.  (Applause.)  But believe me, it's there for you now.  And when you
hear all this fabulous music tonight, and the Vice President comes out here
and says in his emotional and heartfelt Spanish what he's got to say --
(laughter) -- you just keep thinking one thing, I don't want you to forget,
in a quiet place, this country operates not just by the leaders, but more
important, by the people.

          Harry Truman said when he left the White House he would resume
the most important title any American could have, that of citizen.
(Applause.)  And you are what makes this country great.  You are what makes
this country go.  If you liked the last eight years, if you believe you
ain't seen nothing yet, you must ask yourselves, what do I have to do to
make sure the right choice is made, and what do I have to do to build one
America.  If we all do that, the best is yet to be.

          Thank you and God bless you all.  (Applause.)

                            END      8:43 P.M. EDT

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