Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1999

Contents:
Author: William J. Clinton  | Date: April 16, 1999

Remarks at a Majority 2000 Dinner in Weston, Massachusetts,
April 16, 1999

Well, first of all, I would like to thank Senator Kennedy and Senator Daschle for their introductions. [Laughter] I don’t want Senator Kennedy to be upset at Senator Daschle. I told Senator Daschle I did not want Kennedy to introduce me. [Laughter] And he drew the wrong conclusion—I just didn’t want Patrick up here making those gestures introducing me. [Laughter]

I tell you, Patrick, I have never heard you so funny; you’ve got a second career. [Laughter]

Like everyone else, I want to thank Alan and Susan and all of the others who helped to raise the funds tonight. I’d also like to thank the people who provided our meal and those who served it. And I want to thank our wonderful, wonderful musicians, Gary Burton and his pianist. They were terrific. Thank you very much. You guys were great. Thank you.

As Senator Kennedy said, I am profoundly indebted to the people of Massachusetts. Massachusetts has been wonderful to me and to Hillary, to Al and to Tipper Gore, to give our administration the support that we need and to send such remarkable people to the Congress. A majority of all of the Congress people from Massachusetts, all Democrats, are here tonight. And I thank Congressman Moakley, Congressman Delahunt and Congressman Meehan, Congressman Markey and Congressman Tierney, along with Congressman Kennedy.

We’re also glad to be joined tonight by Congressman Earl Blumenauer who is from Oregon. He’s a long way from home, and we’re glad he’s here. Thank you very much. And our wonderful Democratic whip, Dave Bonior, who took me to his district in Michigan today to meet with the Albanian-Americans and to hear their stories, along with Congressman Gephardt.

I, too, want to say how profoundly grateful I am for what Senator Kerry said, how much it means and for what he does for you, and for Senator Kennedy. And as others have said, we could not have better leaders in the United States Congress than Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt.

I could give you 1,000 examples. But suffice it to say that I do not believe that we would be here tonight in the position we’re in with the country in the position it is in had it not been for their leadership and their support for me, and their always willingness to come in and have these fascinating discussions and, even when they think I’m wrong, to tell me they think I’m wrong. And we try to work it out, work together, and go forward together. And it’s been a remarkable partnership.

I also would say, to echo something Dick Gephardt said—and I want all of you to know—you know, most of you have been to enough of these political fundraisers that you’re used to politicians getting up and blowing smoke over one another, you know, and saying that they think this one is the greatest person since the redwoods began to grow in California and all of that—[laughter]—the other one was born in a log cabin he built himself—all of those. [Laughter] You’re used to hearing all that sort of stuff. I know that. And you think that we all leave, we go back to telling bad stories on one another, and cutting each other down.

I’m telling you, the team of leaders we have now and the people that represent you in Massachusetts, there is a profound mutual respect borne of shared goals and shared dreams for the American people. I told all my folks when I became President—I said, "I didn’t work in Washington before, and I’m going to make my fair share of mistakes. But one of the great advantages that I have is that I lived in a little State where I was expected to show up for work every day and where I didn’t have to spend half my time worrying about what was in the newspaper that day and who was up and who was down and who was leaking and who was not."

And my theory is, if we stay together and work together and we’re loyal to each other and we air our differences honestly, and we show up for work every day, eventually something good will happen for the American people.

Now, I think the evidence is that that happened. But what you need to know is that’s the sort of leadership we have in our party. Dick and David and Tom and the rest of our crowd, they’re like what you expect from the Massachusetts delegation. They show up for work every day. They do not get paralyzed by this story or that story, or spending all their time trying to manipulate who’s up and who’s down in Washington today. They have an agenda, rooted in their concerns for you and our children’s future, and they show up.

And it’s just like any other job. I know we’d like for you to believe that you’ve got to be just one step short of Albert Einstein to do all these jobs we do. But a lot of it is deciding what the right thing to do is, clearly laying it out, and going at it day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out.

So I want to thank you for investing in the future of the Democratic majority in the Congress, because they have proved for 6 long years that they have good ideas, good values, and great work habits, and they will deliver for the United States of America, thanks to your help. And I thank you very much.

I also want to say, Alan, thank you very much for collecting the money for the relief effort in Kosovo. Let me just briefly say the camps in Albania are teeming tiny Macedonia, with its own ethnic difficulties to deal with, trying to preserve its democracy. It’s deeply strained. We need all the help we can get. And frankly, the relief agencies are very, very good; they are very efficient; they don’t waste the money, and cash is better than in-kind contributions, because the needs shift daily. And anything you can do to help that, I hope you will.

Now, I’m not going to put you through another speech of any length, but I want to take 5 minutes and ask you to think about why you should want these people in the majority in 2000. And when it happens, I’m going to miss it. [Laughter] But I just want to tell you for 5 minutes, I want you to think about this.

Yes, our economy is going well, and I’m grateful for it. And welfare rolls are about half what they were, and I’m grateful for it. And the crime rate is at a 30-year low, and I’m grateful for it. America is working again. And we’ve been a force for peace from Northern Ireland to the Middle East and to Bosnia, and I’m grateful for it. We’ve asked the world to join with us in fighting the more modern threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and global warming. And we’ve got a direction that we’re on that’s good, and I’m grateful for it.

But I want to ask you to just take a couple of minutes and think about why you should want these people in the majority. Because in the year 2000, when the voters are asked to vote, there will be those who come forward and say, "Well, things are rocking along, and I’ll tell you what you want to hear and I’ll give you what you want to get, and let’s just go back to business as usual."

The worst thing we could do is to forget what got us here over the last 6 years. What got us here was taking on the hard problems and working like crazy, day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, and challenging the American people and challenging the elite leaders of all the major sectors of our society to think about unmet problems and unseized opportunities. And as I look ahead to the 21st century, I am grateful America is working again. I’m grateful that the economy is benefiting ordinary people more than ever before. We have the lowest unemployment rate we’ve ever recorded among minorities in this country, since we started keeping separate statistics almost 30 years ago. I’m grateful for that.

But we have some big unmet challenges, and I won’t go through our whole agenda, but we’ve got an agenda to deal with every one. The aging of America is a huge challenge. And if we don’t deal with Social Security and Medicare and long-term care, and do it in a responsible way, then when all of us baby boomers retire, we will put an unconscionable burden on our children and their ability to raise our grandchildren. We have a strategy that will deal with it.

We have more and more families who work and raise children at the same time, both single-parent and two-parent households. We have not done enough in the United States to help people balance work and family. We are better than any other major country at creating jobs. We have many strengths that other countries would give anything to have. But we have not done as well as we should and as well as we can without in any way hurting economic growth, and helping our families to balance their childrearing responsibilities and their work responsibilities. We have to do more in health care, more in child care, more in providing leave time from work without losing jobs. We must do it. There is no more important work than raising our children, and we can do better.

The third thing we have to do is to make sure—we’re Democrats; this is our job—we have to make sure everybody gets a chance to be a part of the new economy. As low as unemployment is, there are still places where it’s high. There are places where there has been no new investment.

We have a strategy to keep the economy growing and to spread the benefits of it. For one thing, if our plan prevails over the Republican plan, we’re going to pay the debt of this country down to its lowest point since before World War I, over the next 15 years. That means low interest rates, high investment, and more jobs everywhere. And we’re going to give the same incentives for people to invest in poor parts of America we give them today to invest in poor countries in the rest of the world. I think that is nothing but right.

Don’t take it away from the rest of the world; just give the poor parts of America a chance to get their piece of the American dream, as well. And I think that is terribly important, and Democrats ought to be for that.

We have to keep working to prove we can clean up the environment and grow the economy, and we have an agenda to do that. The most important thing I want to say to you tonight is that we have a job to do at home that mirrors the job we are trying to do in Kosovo today.

Isn’t it ironic that, on the verge of a new century and a new millennium, where most of us—most of the people in this room have this great dream of a 21st century world that is more peaceful, more prosperous, and more free than any time in all of human history; where people work together across national lines to lift each other up and solve problems together, whether they’re the spread of disease or climate change or the threat of terrorism or narcotrafficking or weapons of mass destruction. We’re working together to make good things happen and to press bad things down.

And this whole vision with this explosion of modern technology and science is threatened by the prospect that we will marry modern technology with the most ancient hatreds known to human society, rooted in the fear of people who are different from us.

Now, we are in Kosovo—I think Dick referred to this—to the E-mails we were reading coming out of Albania. We’re in Kosovo, first of all, because innocent people are being driven from their homes, having their villages burned down, having their family records destroyed, with their children being raped, and people being murdered, because we think we can help to stop it, and because we have learned the hard way in the 20th century if something like that’s going on and you think you can help to stop it and you don’t, and that part of the world is just going to get worse. So it’s a humanitarian thing.

But it’s also a part of what we want the 21st century to be like. Doesn’t it seem bizarre to you that on the one hand, we talk about the Internet being the fastest growing human communication system in all of human history; we talk about having our kids study halfway around the world; we relish in the ethnic and racial and religious diversity of Boston. Detroit—we used to think of Detroit as being diverse because—and I can say this because I’m from the South—because Southern blacks and Southern whites couldn’t make a living in the South after the Second World War, so they went to Detroit to get a job in the auto plant. That was our definition of diversity.

Wayne County now has people from 150 different national ethnic groups. Not Chicago, not New York, not Los Angeles—Detroit. And we’re sitting here worried about people who still want to kill each other over 600-year-old grievances. They want to fight over smaller and smaller and smaller pieces of land instead of thinking bigger and bigger and bigger about how, if they all got together, what a future they could make for their children.

And so I tell you that we’re there for humanitarian reasons. We’re there for strategic reasons. And we’re there because we do not want our children to live in a 21st century world where very smart people filled with very narrow hatreds can access technology, weaponry, missile technology, and torment the world because they’re growing smaller in spirit, when they should be growing larger in vision—especially in the heart of Europe, which is so critical to our security.

And we have to keep working against it here, which is why the Democrats are for stronger hate crimes legislation and for the "Employment and Non-Discrimination Act," and why we have supported national service. Alan Khazei is here; he founded City Year. I’m the biggest flak he’s got. I go all over the world talking about City Year. I knew when I ran for President in 1991 and 1992 that one of the things that we needed to do was to build a stronger sense of community in America, across racial and cultural and religious and economic lines. And I had this vision that we could get young people involved in service and help them go to college.

And I went to City Year in Boston, and I knew what it was I wanted America to do. I’m very proud of the fact that in its first 4 years the national service program, AmeriCorps, has had as many volunteers as the Peace Corps did in its first 20 years. And you owe that to them.

Now, I want to close with this thought. One of my favorite lines that President Kennedy ever spoke was the speech he made about Germany and the cold war in Berlin. Most people remember, "Ich bin ein Berliner" and all that. But he said this—I want you to think about this in terms of Kosovo—in the middle of the cold war, John Kennedy said, "Freedom has many difficulties, and our democracy is far from perfect, but we never had to put up a wall to keep our people in."

Now the Berlin Wall is down. The barriers of communism have fallen. But all over the world today, there are places where people are building walls in their hearts because they feel that they only count if they can look down on somebody who is different from them. And those walls are every bit as powerful as the Berlin Wall was, and in a profound way, harder to tear down.

America must both do good and be good on this issue of community and our common humanity. It is our great challenge and perhaps the most compelling reason that the Democratic Party should be America’s majority party in the 21st century.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 10:15 p.m. at a private residence. In his remarks, he referred to dinner hosts Alan D. Solomont, former national finance chair, Democratic National Committee, and his wife, Susan. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks. This item was not received in time for publication in the appropriate issue.

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Chicago: William J. Clinton, "Remarks at a Majority 2000 Dinner in Weston, Massachusetts, April 16, 1999," Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1999 in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, April 23, 1999 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), 35:2680 672–675. Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KR2GEY6N7V4ZLUL.

MLA: Clinton, William J. "Remarks at a Majority 2000 Dinner in Weston, Massachusetts, April 16, 1999." Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1999, in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, April 23, 1999 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), 35:2680, pp. 672–675. Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KR2GEY6N7V4ZLUL.

Harvard: Clinton, WJ, 'Remarks at a Majority 2000 Dinner in Weston, Massachusetts, April 16, 1999' in Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1999. cited in , United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, April 23, 1999 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), 35:2680, pp.672–675. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KR2GEY6N7V4ZLUL.