Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1998

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Author: William J. Clinton  | Date: September 14, 1998

Remarks at a Unity ’98 Dinner in New York City,
September 14, 1998

Thank you very much. Let me begin by saying, for Hillary and for me, just your presence here, your enthusiasm, and your personal support mean more than you can possibly know. I’d like to thank Senator Torricelli and Representative Pelosi for doing a magnificent job. I thank Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Congressman Rangel for being here.

I thank—all three of the candidates for the United States Senate in New York tomorrow on our ticket have come here tonight. I don’t know if they’re all still here, but I know Congressman Schumer and Mark Green and Geraldine Ferraro were all here. And however that race comes out tomorrow, we have a lot of work to do, and won’t it be fun. I know that we can depend on all of you to help make this night a part of a springboardto doing well in the Senate and the congressional elections beginning here in New York.

Since I’m in New York and you’ve been so wonderful to me since 1992, I’d like to tell you that there is no more effective member of our Cabinet than Andrew Cuomo, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. I’m very, very grateful to him for his support.

I’d also like to say again how very grateful I am to Tipper for all the work she’s done for families, for children, for those who need mental health care, and the advances we’ve made that would not have occurred if it hadn’t been for her.

I would like to say what I said at lunch today: All of you just need to remember that every single hard decision I had to make in the last 6 years that turned out right, that everybody said was wrong—whether it was bringing the deficit down, standing for the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban, doing the things that really hurt our people in Congress but helped America, taking the steps necessary to bring peace in Bosnia, and helping to end the Mexican financial crisis so the world could go on and grow and we could benefit—every single hard decision that was unpopular, Al Gore was there every step of the way, and you should never forget that.

Whether it’s in technology policy or the environment or dealing with Russia or South Africa or giving us the smallest Federal Government in 35 years with the best output—I could go through issue after issue after issue, and I think it’s very important that you understand—you may argue about many things about this administration, but one thing is absolutely unarguable: He has had more influence over more decisions and done more good by far than any Vice President in the history of the United States of America.

I’d also like to thank Hillary for a lot of things, but I just had one thing in particular on my mind. We just got back from Russia and Ireland, and when I was in Ireland, I went to the new Parliament at Stormont where all the parties are represented. We’ve got a chance to keep the peace process going in Ireland. And it’s a big deal in New York; there are a lot of Irish people in New York, so I can talk about this with some confidence. They’ve had these 30 years of trouble, but they’ve been really fighting, the Catholics and Protestants, for 800 years. And my heart just swelled with pride when I was going through there. And every woman member came up to me and said, "Your wife was the first person that took us seriously, that believed we could make peace; and basically said, when the men were still out there fighting with each other and acting like children, we knew we could make peace in Ireland. And we thank her for what she’s done." And I thank her for representing the best of America all over the world and giving people hope that the world can be full of peace and opportunity.

We’ve got to go to "The Lion King." I want you to think about three things. Number one, we’re trying to beat history here. Since the Civil War, in every midterm election when the President was in his second term, the party of the President has lost seats in the Congress—since the Civil War. Now, I believe we’re going to beat history here, for one simple reason: We have a vision of the future, and our ideas are supported by more Americans than our adversaries’ are.

You are here to make sure that we can get our message out, and you have succeeded magnificently. We’ve exceeded our goal tonight by more than 25 percent, and I’m very grateful to you for that. But I want you to leave here with a clear understanding that what we have to do is to go out to the American people and say, look, most elections in times like this are sort of stand-pat elections, where the electorate is rather complacent; the turnout is rather low. That always benefits the Republicans because people who are older and wealthier and more likely to be Republicans vote.

But basically, they’re stand-pat elections because we’ve got the lowest unemployment rate in 28 years and the smallest percentage of people on welfare in 29 years and the highest homeownership in history, and things are doing pretty well. October 1st we’ll have the first balanced budget in 29 years.

Now, that’s good, but that is not the message of the election. If the message is we have done a good job, people will relax andstay home. That is not the message. The message is we’re grateful for the chance to serve. We’re grateful that America is better off.

But this country has huge challenges. I just spoke this morning, as Hillary said, to the Council on Foreign Relations about all of this global, economic, and financial turmoil, and what things America must do right now to try to turn it around and limit it, and what long-term steps we have to take.

So I think you need to go out and say to your friends and neighbors, "Look, we’re glad things are doing well. We’re on the edge of a new century and a new time, and things are changing; we have big challenges. And because we’re doing well, we have the obligation to our children to think big, to think about the people of this country who aren’t doing so well, and to think how we can bring this whole country together as one community in the 21st century."

That means we have to do our part to straighten the global economy out, because we can never be an island of prosperity in a sea of misery. It means we have to do the big things like saving Social Security before we do the popular things like spending this surplus—it’s only now beginning to materialize—for a tax cut.

We’ve been waiting 29 years to see the red ink turn black, and before we’ve seen it even a day, some people want to spend it. I know it’s election year, but I’m telling you, what I want is for the baby boomers like me, when we retire, I don’t want us to bankrupt our children so they can’t raise our grandchildren. I say, save Social Security first before you do anything else with the surplus. It’s a big issue.

As Senator Torricelli said, we’ve still got to extend health opportunities to people, but there’s 160 million people in managed care plans. I think they ought to have a right to an emergency room, to a specialist, to the protection of privacy of their records. That’s what the health care bill of rights is all about—the Patients’ Bill of Rights. We’re for it; they’re not. That’s a big issue. The American people need to know that. It will shape the way millions of families live.

The environment’s a big issue. We believe you can grow the economy and improve the environment; they disagree. That’s a huge issue; it will shape the way millions of people live. We’re for campaign finance reform, and they aren’t. It’s a big issue.

So I ask you, go out there and talk about the big issues, talk about the people issues. And remember, in the end, the reason we’re Democrats is because we believe, on the edge of a new century, that what we’re doing will help to expand opportunity and deepen freedom and bring us closer together and promote peace and harmony in the world. That’s what we believe.

Go talk big. Go tell people not to be complacent. Tell them not to worry about the adversity. Adversity makes people come out and show up—witness your presence here tonight.

What we’ve got to worry about is that people know what this election is about. Go out and tell them and make sure your investment tonight has a big, big payoff on election night in November.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 7:10 p.m. in the Dinner Room at the Supper Club.

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Chicago: William J. Clinton, "Remarks at a Unity ’98 Dinner in New York City, September 14, 1998," Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1998 in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, September 18, 1998 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998), 34:2540 1794–1795. Original Sources, accessed October 5, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=51WJHWVTHSV84YQ.

MLA: Clinton, William J. "Remarks at a Unity ’98 Dinner in New York City, September 14, 1998." Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1998, in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, September 18, 1998 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998), 34:2540, pp. 1794–1795. Original Sources. 5 Oct. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=51WJHWVTHSV84YQ.

Harvard: Clinton, WJ, 'Remarks at a Unity ’98 Dinner in New York City, September 14, 1998' in Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1998. cited in , United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, September 18, 1998 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998), 34:2540, pp.1794–1795. Original Sources, retrieved 5 October 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=51WJHWVTHSV84YQ.