the Union Address
January 25, 1994
Thank you very much.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the 103rdCongress,
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 liked 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 12years 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 ask 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 you, sir.
This Congress produced tax cuts to reduce the taxes of
nine out of 10small 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 House.
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
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 benefited
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
wealthiest1.2 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
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
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 100domestic 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
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
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 global
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 apprenticeship 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 anew 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 healthcare.
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 worker sand 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 simple compact. We'll
provide the support, the job training, the childcare 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 21days.
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 35percent 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
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 healthcare 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 knows it.
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 20years
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
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 what.
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 American 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
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.
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 space
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
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 Earth.
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 will send to Congress draws the line against further
defense cuts. It protects the readiness and quality of
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 position.
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 epic transformations.
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 right record.
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 along, 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 asa 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. Everyday 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-millimeterrounds. 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
asa 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
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 do it.
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
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 healthcare 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
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-oldboys 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
So I say to you tonight, let's give our children a future.
Let us takeaway 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.