State of the Union Address
25 January 1994
Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the 103rd
Congress, my fellow Americans:
I'm not at all sure what speech is in the TelePrompter tonight --
but I hope we can talk about the state of the Union.
I ask you to begin by recalling the memory of the giant who presided
over this Chamber with such force and grace. Tip O'Neill like to call himself
"a man of the House." And he surely was that. But, even more, he was a
man of the people, a bricklayer's son who helped to build the great American
middle class. Tip O'Neill never forgot who he was, where he came from,
or who sent him here. Tonight he's smiling down on us for the first time
from the Lord's Gallery. But in his honor, may we, too, always remember
who we are, where we come from, and who sent us here.
If we do that we will return over and over again to the principle that
if we simply give ordinary people equal opportunity, quality education,
and a fair shot at the American Dream, they will do extraordinary things.
We gather tonight in a world of changes so profound and rapid that all
nations are tested. Our American heritage has always been to master such
change, to use it to expand opportunity at home and our leadership abroad.
But for too long, and in too many ways, that heritage was abandoned, and
our country drifted.
For 30 years, family life in America has been breaking down. For 20
years, the wages of working people have been stagnant or declining. For
the 12 years of trickle-down economics, we built a false prosperity on
a hollow base as our national debt quadrupled. From 1989 to 1992, we experienced
the slowest growth in a half century. For too many families, even when
both parents were working, the American Dream has been slipping away.
In 1992, the American people demanded that we change. A year ago I asked
all of you to join me in accepting responsibility for the future of our
country. Well, we did. We replaced drift and deadlock with renewal and
reform. And I want to thank every one of you here who heard the American
people, who broke gridlock, who gave them the most successful teamwork
between a President and a Congress in 30 years.
This Congress produced a budget that cut the deficit by half a trillion
dollars, cut spending and raised income taxes on only the wealthiest Americans.
This Congress produced tax relief for millions of low income workers to
reward work over welfare. It produced NAFTA. It produced the Brady bill,
now the Brady law. And thank you, Jim Brady, for being here, and God bless
This Congress produced tax cuts to reduce the taxes of nine out of 10
small businesses who use the money to invest more and create jobs.
It produced more research and treatment for AIDS, more childhood immunizations,
more support for women's health research, more affordable college loans
for the middle class; a new national service program for those who want
to give something back to their country and their communities for higher
education; a dramatic increase in high-tech investments to move us from
a defense to a domestic high-tech economy. This Congress produced a new
law, the Motor Voter bill, to help millions of people register to vote.
It produced Family and Medical Leave.
All passed. All signed into law with not one single veto. These
accomplishments were all commitments I made when I sought this office.
And, in fairness, they all had to be passed by you in this Congress. But
I am persuaded that the real credit belongs to the people who sent us here,
who pay our salaries, who hold our feet to the fire.
But what we do here is really beginning to change lives. Let me just
give you one example. I will never forget what the Family and Medical Leave
law meant to just one father I met early one Sunday morning in the White
It was unusual to see a family there touring early Sunday morning, but
he had his wife and his three children there, one of them in a wheelchair.
I came up, and after we had our picture taken and had a little visit, I
was walking off and that man grabbed me by the arm and he said, "Mr. President,
let me tell you something. My little girl here is desperately ill. She's
probably not going to make it. But because of the Family Leave law, I was
able to take time off to spend with her -- the most important time I ever
spent in my life -- without losing my job and hurting the rest of my family.
It means more to me than I will ever be able to say. Don't you people up
here ever think what you do doesn't make a difference. It does."
Though we are making a difference, our work has just begun. Many Americans
still haven't felt the impact of what we've done. The recovery still hasn't
touched every community or created enough jobs. Incomes are still stagnant;
there's still too much violence and not enough hope in too many places.
Abroad, the young democracies we are strongly supporting still face very
difficult times and look to us for leadership. And so tonight, let us resolve
to continue the journey of renewal; to create more and better jobs; to
guarantee health security for all; to reward work over welfare; to promote
democracy abroad; and to begin to reclaim our streets from violent crime
and drugs and gangs; to renew our own American community.
Last year we began to put our house in order by tackling the budget
deficit that was driving us toward bankruptcy. We cut $255 billion in spending,
including entitlements, and over 340 separate budget items. We froze domestic
spending and used honest budget numbers.
Led by the Vice President, we launched a campaign to reinvent government.
We cut staff, cut perks, even trimmed the fleet of federal limousines.
After years of leaders whose rhetoric attacked bureaucracy but whose actions
expanded it, we will actually reduce it by 252,000 people over the next
five years. By the time we have finished, the federal bureaucracy will
be at its lowest point in 30 years.
Because the deficit was so large and because they benefitted from tax
cuts in the 1980s, we did ask the wealthiest Americans to pay more to reduce
the deficit. So on April 15th, the American people will discover the truth
about what we did last year
on taxes. Only the top 1 -- yes, listen -- the top 1.2 percent
of Americans, as I said all along, will pay higher income tax rates. Let
me repeat -- Only the wealthiest 1.2 percent of Americans will face higher
income tax rates and no one else will. And that is the truth.
Of course, there were, as there always are in politics, naysayers who
said this plan wouldn't work. But they were wrong. When I became President
the experts predicted that next year's deficit would be $300 billion. But
because we acted, those same people now say the deficit is going to be
under $180 billion -- 40 percent lower then was previously predicted.
Our economic program has helped to produce the lowest core inflation
rate and the lowest interest rates in 20 years. And because those interest
rates are down, business investment and equipment is growing at seven times
the rate of the previous four years; auto sales are way up; home sales
are at a record high. Millions of Americans have refinanced their homes,
and our economy has produced 1.6 million private sector jobs in 1993 --
more than were created in the previous four years combined.
The people who supported this economic plan should be proud of its early
results. Proud. But everyone in this chamber should know and acknowledge
that there is more to do.
Next month I will send you one of the toughest budgets ever presented
to Congress. It will cut spending in more than 300 programs, eliminate
100 domestic programs, and reform the ways in which governments buy goods
and services. This year we must again make the hard choices to live within
the hard spending ceilings we have set. We must do it. We have proved
we can bring the deficit down without choking off recovery, without punishing
seniors of the middle class, and without putting our national security
at risk. If you will stick with this plan, we will post three consecutive
years of declining deficits for the first time since Harry Truman lived
in the White House. And once again, the buck stops here.
Our economic plan also bolsters our strength and our credibility around
the world. Once we reduce the deficit and put the steel back into our competitive
edge, the world echoed with the sound of falling trade barriers. In one
year, with NAFTA, with GATT, with our efforts in Asia and the National
Export Strategy, we did more to open world markets to American products
than at any time in the last two generations.
That means more jobs and rising living standards for the American people;
low deficits; low inflation; low interest rates; low trade barriers and
high investments. These are the building blocks of our recovery. But if
we want to take full advantage of the opportunities before us in the global
economy, you all know we must do more.
As we reduce defense spending, I ask Congress to invest more in the
technologies of tomorrow. Defense conversion will keep us strong militarily
and create jobs for our people here at home.
As we protect our environment, we must invest in the environmental technologies
of the future which will create jobs. This year we will fight for a revitalized
Clean Water Act and a Safe Drinking Water Act and a reformed Superfund
program. And the Vice President is right -- we must also work with the
private sector to connect every classroom, every clinic, every library,
every hospital in America into a national information super highway by
the year 2000.
Think of it -- instant access to information will increase productivity,
will help to educate our children. It will provide better medical care.
It will create jobs. And I call on the Congress to pass legislation to
establish that information super highway this year.
As we expand opportunity and create jobs, no one can be left out. We
must continue to enforce fair lending and fair housing and all civil rights
laws, because America will never be complete in its renewal until everyone
shares in its bounty.
But we all know, too, we can do all these things -- put our economic
house in order, expand world trade, target the jobs of the future, guarantee
equal opportunity -- but if we're honest, we'll all admit that this strategy
still cannot work unless we also give our people the education, training
and skills they need to seize the opportunities of tomorrow.
We must set tough, world-class academic and occupational standards for
all our children and give our teachers and students the tools they need
to meet them. Our Goals 2000 proposal will empower individual school districts
to experiment with ideas like chartering their schools to be run by private
corporations, or having more public school choice -- to do whatever they
wish to do as long as we measure every school by one high standard: Are
our children learning what they need to know to compete and win in the
Goals 2000 links world-class standards to grass-roots reforms. And I
hope Congress will pass it without delay.
Our School to Work Initiative will for the first time link school to
the world of work, providing at least one year of pprenticeship beyond
high school. After all, most of the people we're counting on to build our
economic future won't graduate from college. It's time to stop ignoring
them and start empowering them.
We must literally transform our out-dated unemployment system into a
new reemployment system. The old unemployment system just sort of kept
you going while you waited for your old job to come back. We've got to
have a new system to move people into new and better jobs because most
of those old jobs just don't come back. And we know that the only way to
have real job security in the future, to get a good job with a growing
income, is to have real skills and the ability to learn new ones. So we've
got to streamline today's patchwork of training programs and make them
a source of new skills for our people who lose their jobs.
Reemployment, not unemployment, must become the centerpiece of our economic
renewal. I urge you to pass it in this session of Congress.
And just as we must transform our unemployment system, so must we also
revolutionize our welfare system. It doesn't work. It defies our values
as a nation. If we value work, we can't justify a system that makes welfare
more attractive than work if people are worried about losing their health
care. If we value responsibility, we can't ignore the $34 billion
in child support absent parents ought to be paying to millions of parents
who are taking care of their children. If we value strong families, we
can't perpetuate a system that actually penalizes those who stay together.
Can you believe that a child who has a child gets more money from the
government for leaving home than for staying home with a parent or a grandparent?
That's not just bad policy, it's wrong. And we ought to change it.
I worked on this problem for years before I became President, with other
governors and with members of Congress of both parties and with the previous
administration of another party. I worked on it with people who were on
welfare -- lots of them. And I want to say something to everybody here
who cares about this issue. The people who most want to change this system
are the people who are dependent on it. They want to get off welfare. They
want to go back to work. They want to do right by their kids.
I once had a hearing when I was a governor and I brought in people on
welfare from all over America who had found their way to work. The woman
from my state who testified was asked this question: What's the best thing
about being off welfare and in a job? And, without blinking an eye, she
looked at 40 governors and she said, "When my boy goes to school and they
say what does your mother do for a living, he can give an answer." These
people want a better system and we ought to give it to them.
Last year we began this. We gave the states more power to innovate because
we know that a lot of great ideas come from outside Washington, and many
states are already using it. Then this Congress took a dramatic step. Instead
of taxing people with modest incomes into poverty, we helped them to work
their way out of poverty by dramatically increasing the earned income tax
credit. It will lift 15 million working families out of poverty, rewarding
work over welfare, making it possible for people to be successful workers
and successful parents. Now that's real welfare reform.
But there is more to be done. This spring I will send you a comprehensive
welfare reform bill that builds on the Family Support
Act of 1988 and restores the basic values of responsibility.
We'll say to teenagers, if you have a child out of wedlock, we will no
longer give you a check to set up a separate household. We want families
to stay together. Say to absent parents who aren't paying their child support,
if you're not providing for your children, we'll garnish your wages, suspend
your license, track you across state lines, and if necessary, make some
of you work off what you owe.
People who bring children into this world cannot and must not walk away
from them. But to all those who depend on welfare, we should offer ultimately
a simple compact. We'll provide the support, the job training, the child
care you need for up to two years. But after that, anyone who can work
must -- in the private sector, wherever possible; in community services,
if necessary. That's the only way we'll ever make welfare what it ought
to be -- a second chance, not a way of life.
I know it will be difficult to tackle welfare reform in 1994 at the
same time we tackle health care. But let me point out, I think it is inevitable
and imperative. It is estimated that one million people are on welfare
today because it's the only way they can get health care coverage for their
children. Those who choose to leave welfare for jobs without health benefits
-- and many entry jobs don't have health benefits -- find themselves in
the incredible position of paying taxes that help to pay for health care
coverage for those who made the other choice to stay on welfare. No wonder
people leave work and go back to welfare to get health care coverage. We
have got to solve the health care problem to have real welfare reform.
So this year, we will make history by reforming the health care system.
And I would say to you, all of you, my fellow public servants, this is
another issue where the people are way ahead of the politicians. That may
not be popular with either party, but it happens to be the truth.
You know, the First Lady has received now almost a million letters from
people all across America and from all walks of life. I'd like to share
just one of them with you.
Richard Anderson of Reno, Nevada, lost his job and, with it, his health
insurance. Two weeks later, his wife, Judy, suffered a cerebral aneurysm.
He rushed her to the hospital, where she stayed in intensive care for 21
The Andersons' bills were over $120,000. Although Judy recovered and
Richard went back to work, at $8 an hour, the bills were too much for them
and they were literally forced into bankruptcy.
"Mrs. Clinton," he wrote to Hillary, "no one in the United States of
America should have to lose everything they've worked for all their lives
because they were unfortunate enough to become ill."
It was to help the Richard and Judy Andersons of America that the First
Lady and so many others have worked so hard and so long on this health
care reform issue. We owe them our thanks and our action.
I know there are people here who say there's no health care crisis.
Tell it to Richard and Judy Anderson. Tell it to the 58 million Americans
who have no coverage at all for some time each year. Tell it to the 81
million Americans with those preexisting conditions -- those folks are
paying more or they can't get insurance at all, or they can't ever change
their jobs because they or someone in their family has one of those preexisting
conditions. Tell it to the small businesses burdened by the skyrocketing
cost of insurance. Most small businesses cover their employees, and they
pay on average 35 percent more in premiums than big businesses or government.
Or tell it to the 76 percent of insured Americans, three out of four whose
policies have lifetime limits. And that means they can find themselves
without any coverage at all just when they need it the most.
So if any of you believe there's no crisis, you tell it to those people
-- because I can't.
There are some people who literally do not understand the impact of
this problem on people's lives. And all you have to do is go out and listen
to them. Just go talk to them anywhere in any congressional district in
this country. They're Republicans and Democrats and independents -- it
doesn't have a lick to do with party. They think we don't get it. And it's
time we show them that we do get it.
From the day we began, our health care initiative has been designed
to strengthen what is good about our health care system: the world's best
health care professionals, cutting edge research and wonderful research
institutions, Medicare for older Americans. None of this -- none of it
should be put at risk.
But we're paying more and more money for less and less care. Every year
fewer and fewer Americans even get to choose their doctors. Every year
doctors and nurses spend more time on paperwork and less time with patients
because of the absolute bureaucratic nightmare the present system has become.
This system is riddled with inefficiency, with abuse, with fraud, and everybody
In today's health care system, insurance companies call the shots. They
pick whom they cover and how they cover them. They can cut off your benefits
when you need your coverage the most. They are in charge.
What does it mean? It means every night millions of well-insured Americans
go to bed just an illness, an accident or a pink slip away from having
no coverage or financial ruin. It means every morning millions of Americans
go to work without any health insurance at all -- something the workers
in no other advanced country in the world do. It means that every year,
more and more hard-working people are told to pick a new doctor because
their boss has had to pick a new plan. And countless others turn down better
jobs because they know if they take the better job, they will lose their
If we just let the health care system continue to drift, our country
will have people with less care, fewer choices and higher bills.
Now, our approach protects the quality of care and people's choices.
It builds on what works today in the private sector -- to expand employer-based
coverage, to guarantee private insurance for every American. And I might
say, employer-based private insurance for every American was proposed 20
years ago by President Richard Nixon to the United States Congress. It
was a good idea then, and it's a better idea today.
Why do we want guaranteed private insurance? Because right now nine
out of 10 people who have insurance get it through their employers.
And that should continue. And if your employer is providing good benefits
at reasonable prices, that should continue, too. That ought to make the
Congress and the President feel better.
Our goal is health insurance everybody can depend on --comprehensive
benefits that cover preventive care and prescription drugs; health premiums
that don't just explode when yo get sick or you get older; the power no
matter how small your business is to choose dependable insurance at the
same competitive rates governments and big business get today; one simple
form for people who are sick; and, most of all, the freedom to choose a
plan and the right to choose your own doctor.
Our approach protects older Americans. Every plan before the Congress
proposes to slow the growth of Medicare. The difference is this: We believe
those savings should be used to improve health care for senior citizens.
Medicare must be protected, and it should cover prescription drugs, and
we should take the first steps in covering long-term care.
To those who would cut Medicare without protecting seniors, I say the
solution to today's squeeze on middle-class working people's health care
is not to put the squeeze on middle-class retired people's health care.
We can do better than that.
When it's all said and done, it's pretty simple to me. Insurance ought
to mean what it used to mean -- you pay a fair price for
security, and when you get sick, health care's always there, no matter
Along with the guarantee of health security, we all have to admit, too,
there must be more responsibility on the part of all of us in how we use
this system. People have to take their kids to get immunized. We should
all take advantage of preventive care. We must all work together to stop
the violence that explodes our emergency rooms. We have to practice better
health habits, and we can't abuse the system. And those who don't have
insurance under our approach will get coverage, but they'll have to pay
something for it, too. The minority of businesses that provide no
insurance at all, and in so doing, shift the cost of the care of their
employees to others, should contribute something. People who smoke should
pay more for a pack of cigarettes. Everybody can contribute something if
we want to solve the health care crisis. There can't be any more something
for nothing. It will not be easy but it can be done.
Now, in the coming months I hope very much to work both Democrats and
Republicans to reform a health care system by using the market to bring
down costs and to achieve lasting health security. But if you look at history
we see that for 60 years this country has tried to reform health care.
President Roosevelt tried. President Truman tried. President Nixon tried.
President Carter tried. Every time the special interests were powerful
enough to defeat them. But not this time.
I know that facing up to these interests will require courage. It will
raise critical questions about the way we finance our campaigns and how
lobbyists yield their influence. The work of change, frankly, will never
get any easier until we limit the influence of well-financed interest who
profit from this current system. So I also must now to call on you to finish
the job both Houses began last year by passing tough and meaningful campaign
finance reform and lobby reform legislation this year.
You know, my fellow Americans, this is really a test for all of us.
The Amerian people provide those of us in government service with terrific
health care benefits at reasonable costs. We have health care that's always
there. I think we need to give every hard-working, tax-paying American
the same health care security they have already given to us.
I want to make this very clear. I am open, as I have said repeatedly,
to the best ideas of concerned members of both parties. I have no special
brief for any specific approach, even in our own bill, except this: If
you send me legislation that does not guarantee every American private
health insurance that can never be taken away, you will force me to take
this pen, veto the legislation, and we'll come right back here and start
all over again.
But I don't think that's going to happen. I think we're ready to act
now. I believe that you're ready to act now. And if you're ready to guarantee
every American the same health care that you have, health care that can
never be taken away, now -- not next year or the year after -- now is the
time to stand with the people who sent us here. Now.
As we take these steps together to renew our strength at home, we cannot
turn away from our obligation to renew our leadership abroad. This is a
promising moment. Because of the agreements we have reached this year,
last year, Russia's strategic nuclear missiles soon will no longer be pointed
at the United States, nor will we point ours at them. Instead of building
weapons in space, Russian scientists will help us to build the international
Of course, there are still dangers in the world --rampant arms proliferation,
bitter regional conflicts, ethnic and nationalist tensions in many new
democracies, severe environmental degradation the world over, and fanatics
who seek to cripple the world's cities with terror. As the world's greatest
power, we must, therefore, maintain our defenses and our responsibilities.
This year, we secured indictments against terrorists and sanctions against
those who harbor them. We worked to promote environmentally sustainable
economic growth. We achieved agreements with Ukraine, with Belarus, with
Kazahkstan to eliminate completely their nuclear arsenal. We are working
to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. We will seek early
ratification of a treaty to ban chemical weapons worldwide. And earlier
today, we joined with over 30 nations to begin negotiations on a comprehensive
ban to stop all nuclear testing.
But nothing, nothing is more important to our security than our nation's
armed forces. We honor their contributions, including those who are carrying
out the longest humanitarian air lift in history in Bosnia; -- those who
will complete their mission in Somalia this year and their brave comrades
who gave their lives there.
Our forces are the finest military our nation has ever had. And I have
pledged that as long as I am President, they will remain the best equipped,
the best trained and the best prepared fighting force on the face of the
Last year I proposed a defense plan that maintains our post-Cold War
security at a lower cost. This year many people urged me to cut our defense
spending further to pay for other government programs. I said, no. The
budget I send to Congress draws the line against further defense cuts.
It protects the readiness and quality of our forces.
Ultimately, the best strategy is to do that. We must not cut defense
further. I hope the Congress without regard to party will support that
Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a
durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies
don't attack each other, they make better trading partners and partners
in diplomacy. That is why we have supported, you and I, the democratic
reformers in Russia and in the other states of the former Soviet bloc.
I applaud the bipartisan support this Congress provided last year for our
initiatives to help Russia, Ukraine, and the other states through their
Our support of reform must combine patience for the enormity of the
task and vigilance for our fundamental interest and values. We will continue
to urge Russia and the other states to press ahead with economic reforms.
And we will seek to cooperate with Russia to solve regional problems, while
insisting that if Russian troops operate in neighboring states, they do
so only when those states agree to their presence and in strict accord
with international standards.
But we must also remember as these nations chart their own futures --
and they must chart their own futures -- how much more secure and more
prosperous our own people will be if democratic and market reform succeed
all across the former communist bloc. Our policy has been to support that
move and that has been the policy of the Congress. We should continue it.
That is why I went to Europe earlier this month -- to work with our
Europeans partners, to help to integrate all the former communist countries
into a Europe that has a possibility of becoming unified for the first
time in its entire history -- its entire history -- based on the simple
commitments of all nations in Europe to democracy, to free markets and
to respect for existing borders.
With our allies we have created a Partnership For Peace that invites
states from the former Soviet bloc and other non-NATO members to work with
NATO in military cooperation. When I met with Central Europe's leaders
including Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, men who put their lives on the
line for freedom, I told them that the security of their region is important
to our country's security.
This year we must also do more to support democratic renewal and human
rights and sustainable development all around the world. We will ask Congress
to ratify the new GATT accord. We will continue standing by South Africa
as it works its way through its bold and hopeful and difficult transition
to democracy. We will convene a summit of the Western Hemisphere's leaders
from Canada to the tip of South America. And we will continue to press
for the restoration of true democracy in Haiti.
And as we build a more constructive relationship with China, we must
continue to insist on clear signs of improvement in that nation's human
We will also work for new progress toward the Middle East peace. Last
year the world watched Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat at the White House
when they had their historic handshake of reconciliation. But there is
a long, hard road ahead. And on that road I am determined that I and our
administration will do all we can to achieve a comprehensive and lasting
peace for all the peoples of the region.
Now, there are some in our country who argue that with the Cold War,
America should turn its back on the rest of the world. Many around the
world were afraid we would do just that. But I took this office on a pledge
that had no partisan tinge to keep our nation secure by remaining engaged
in the rest of the world. And this year, because of our work together --
enacting NAFTA, keeping our military strong and prepared, supporting democracy
abroad -- we have reaffirmed America's leadership, America's engagement.
And as a result, the American people are more secure than they were before.
But while Americans are more secure from threats abroad, I think we
all know that in many ways we are less secure from threats here at home.
Every day the national peace is shattered by crime. In Petaluma, California,
an innocent slumber party gives way to agonizing tragedy for the family
of Polly Klaas. An ordinary train ride on Long Island ends in a hail of
9-millimeter rounds. A tourist in Florida is nearly burned alive by bigots
simply because he is black. Right here in our Nation's Capital, a brave
young man named Jason White, a policeman, the son and grandson of policemen,
is ruthlessly gunned down. Violent crime and the fear it provokes are crippling
our society, limiting personal freedom and fraying the ties that bind us.
The crime bill before Congress gives you a chance to do something about
it -- a chance to be tough and smart. What does that mean? Let me begin
by saying, I care a lot about this issue. Many years ago, when I started
out in public life, I was the attorney general of my state. I served as
a governor for a dozen years; I know what it's like to sign laws increasing
penalties, to build more prison cells, to carry out the death penalty.
I understand this issue. And it is not a simple thing.
First, we must recognize that most violent crimes are committed by a
small percentage of criminals who too often break the laws even when they
are on parole. Now those who commit crimes should be punished. And those
who commit repeated, violent crimes should be told, when you commit a third
violent crime, you will be put away, and put away for good. Three strikes,
and you are out.
Second, we must take serious steps to reduce violence and prevent crime,
beginning with more police officers and more community policing. We know
right now that police who work the streets, know the folks, have the respect
of the neighborhood kids, focus on high crime areas -- we know that
they are more likely to prevent crime as well as catch criminals. Look
at the experience of Houston, where the crime rate dropped 17 percent in
one year when that approach was taken.
Here tonight is one of those community policeman -- a brave, young detective,
Kevin Jett, whose beat is eight square blocks in one of the toughest neighborhoods
in New York. Every day he restores some sanity and safety and a sense of
values and connections to the people whose lives he protects. I'd like
to ask him to stand up and be recognized tonight.
Thank you, sir.
You will be given a chance to give the children of this country, the
law-abiding working people of this country -- and don't forget, in the
toughest neighborhoods in this country, in the highest crime neighborhoods
in this country, the vast majority of people get up every day and obey
the law, pay their taxes, do their best to raise their kids. They deserve
people like Kevin Jett. And you're going to be given a chance to give the
American people another 100,000 of them well trained. And I urge you to
You have before you crime legislation which also establishes a police
corps to encourage young people to get an education and pay it off by serving
as police officers; which encourages retiring military personnel to move
into police forces, an inordinate resource for our country -- one which
has a safe schools provision which will give our young people the chance
to walk to school in safety and to be in school in safety instead of dodging
bullets. These are important things.
The third thing we have to do is to build on the Brady Bill -- the Brady
Law. To take further steps to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
I want to say something about this issue. Hunters must always be free
to hunt. Law-abiding adults should always be free to own guns to protect
their homes. I respect that part of our culture, I grew up in it. But I
want to ask the sportsmen and others who lawfully own guns to join us in
this campaign to reduce gun violence. I say to you, I know you didn't create
this problem, but we need your help to solve it. There is no sporting purpose
on Earth that should stop the United States Congress from banishing assault
weapons that out-gun police and cut down children.
Fourth, we must remember that drugs are a factor in an enormous percentage
of crimes. Recent studies indicate, sadly, that drug use is on the rise
again among our young people. The crime bill contains -- all the crime
bills contain -- more money for drug treatment for criminal addicts, and
boot camps for youthful offenders that include incentives to get off drugs
and to stay off drugs.
Our administration's budget with all its cuts can paint a large increase
in funding for drug treatment and drug education. You must pass them both.
We need them desperately.
My fellow Americans, the problem of violence is an American problem.
It has no partisan or philosophical element. Therefore, I urge you to find
ways as quickly as possible to set aside partisan differences and pass
a strong, smart, tough crime bill. But further, I urge you to consider
this: As you demand tougher penalties for those who choose violence, let
us also remember how we came to this sad point.
In our toughest neighborhoods, on our meanest streets, in our poorest
rural areas, we have seen a stunning and simultaneous breakdown of community,
family and work -- the heart and soul of civilized society. This has created
a vast vacuum which has been filled by violence and drugs and gangs. So
I ask you to remember that even as we say no to crime, we must give people
-- especially our young people -- something to say yes to.
Many of our initiatives -- from job training to welfare reform to health
care to national service -- will help to rebuild distressed communities,
to strengthen families, to provide work. But more needs to be done. That's
what our community empowerment agenda is all about -- challenging businesses
to provide more investment through empowerment zones; ensuring banks will
make loans in the same communities their deposits come from; passing legislation
to unleash the power of capital through community development banks to
create jobs -- opportunity and hope where they're needed most.
I think you know that to really solve this problem, we'll all have to
put our heads together, leave our ideological armor aside and find some
new ideas to do even more. And let's be honest; we all know something else
too: Our problems go way beyond the reach of government. They're rooted
in the lose of values, in the disappearance of work and the breakdown of
our families and our communities.
My fellow Americans, we can cut the deficit, create jobs, promote democracy
around the world, pass welfare reform and health care, pass the toughest
crime bill in history, but still leave too many of our people behind.
The American people have got to want to change from within if we're
going to bring back work and family and community. We cannot renew our
country when within a decade more than half of the children will be born
into families where there has been no marriage. We cannot renew this country
when 13-year-old boys get semi-automatic weapons to shoot 9-year-olds for
kicks. We can't renew our country when children are having children and
the fathers walk away as if the kids don't amount to anything. We can't
renew the country when our businesses eagerly look for new investments
and new customers abroad, but ignore those people right here at home who
would give anything to have their jobs and would gladly buy their products
if they had the money to do it.
We can't renew our country unless more of us -- I mean all of us --
are willing to join the churches and the other good citizens -- people
like of the black ministers I've worked with over the years, or the priests
and the nuns I met at Our Lady of Help in East Los Angeles, or my good
friend, Tony Campollo in Philadelphia -- unless we're willing to work with
people like that, people who are saving kids, adopting schools, making
streets safer -- all of us can do that. We can't renew our country until
we realize that governments don't raise children, parents do.
Parents who know their children's teachers and turn off the television
and help with the homework and teach their kids right from wrong -- those
kinds of parents can make all the difference. I know, I had one.
I'm telling you, we have got to stop pointing our fingers at these kids
who have no future, and reach our hands out to them. Our
country needs it, we need it, and they deserve it.
So I say to you tonight, let's give our children a future. Let us take
away their guns and give them books. Let us overcome their
despair and replace it with hope. Let us, by our example, teach them
to obey the law, respect our neighbors, and cherish our values. Let us
weave these sturdy threads into a new American community that can once
more stand strong against the forces of despair and evil because everybody
has a chance to walk into a better tomorrow.
Oh, there will be naysayers who fear that we won't be equal to the challenges
of this time. But they misread our history, our heritage. Even today's
headlines -- all those things tell us we can and we will overcome any challenge.
When the earth shook and fires raged in California, when I saw the Mississippi
deluge the farmlands of the Midwest in a 500-year flood, when the century's
bitterest cold swept from North Dakota to Newport News, it seemed as though
the world itself was coming apart at the seams. But the American people
-- they just came together. They rose to the occasion, neighbor helping
neighbor, strangers risking life and limb to save total strangers -- showing
the better angels of our nature.
Let us not reserve the better angels only for natural disasters, leaving
our deepest and most profound problems to petty political
fighting. Let us instead be true to our spirit -- facing facts,
coming together, bringing hope and moving forward.
Tonight, my fellow Americans, we are summoned to answer a question as
old as the republic itself: What is the state of our union? It is growing
stronger, but it must be stronger still. With your help, and God's help,
it will be.
Thank you and God bless America.