|For Immediate Release||January 19, 1999|
United States Capitol
9:10 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, membersof Congress, honored guests, my fellow Americans: Tonight, I havethe honor of reporting to you on the State of the Union.
Let me begin by saluting the new Speaker of the House,and thanking him, especially tonight, for extending an invitation totwo special guests sitting in the gallery with Mrs. Hastert: LynGibson and Wei Ling Chestnut are the widows of the two brave CapitolHill police officers who gave their lives to defend freedom's house.(Applause.)
Mr. Speaker, at your swearing-in, you asked us all towork together in a spirit of civility and bipartisanship. Mr.Speaker, let's do exactly that. (Applause.)
Tonight, I stand before you to report that America hascreated the longest peacetime economic expansion in our history --( applause) -- with nearly 18 million new jobs, wages rising at morethan twice the rate of inflation, the highest home ownership inhistory, the smallest welfare rolls in 30 years, and the lowestpeacetime unemployment since 1957. (Applause.)
For the first time in three decades, the budget isbalanced. (Applause.) From a deficit of $290 billion in 1992, wehad a surplus of $70 billion last year. And now we are on course forbudget surpluses for the next 25 years. (Applause.)
Thanks to the pioneering leadership of all of you, wehave the lowest violent crime rate in a quarter century and thecleanest environment in a quarter century. America is a strong forcefor peace from Northern Ireland to Bosnia to the Middle East.
Thanks to the leadership of Vice President Gore, we havea government for the Information Age. Once again, a government thatis a progressive instrument of the common good, rooted in our oldestvalues of opportunity, responsibility and community; devoted tofiscal responsibility; determined to give our people the tools theyneed to make the most of their own lives in the 21st century -- a21st century government for 21st century America.
My fellow Americans, I stand before you tonight toreport that the state of our union is strong. (Applause.)
America is working again. The promise of our future islimitless. But we cannot realize that promise if we allow the hum ofour prosperity to lull us into complacency. How we fare as a nationfar into the 21st century depends upon what we do as a nation today.
So with our budget surplus growing, our economyexpanding, our confidence rising, now is the moment for thisgeneration to meet our historic responsibility to the 21st century.
Our fiscal discipline gives us an unsurpassedopportunity to address a remarkable new challenge -- the aging ofAmerica. With the number of elderly Americans set to double by 2030,the baby boom will become a senior boom. So first, and above all,we must save Social Security for the 21st century. (Applause.)
Early in this century, being old meant being poor. WhenPresident Roosevelt created Social Security, thousands wrote to thankhim for eliminating what one woman called the "stark terror ofpenniless, helpless old age." Even today, without Social Security,half our nation's elderly would be forced into poverty.
Today, Social Security is strong. But by 2013, payrolltaxes will no longer be sufficient to cover monthly payments. By2032, the trust fund will be exhausted and Social Security will beunable to pay the full benefits older Americans have been promised.
The best way to keep Social Security a rock-solidguarantee is not to make drastic cuts in benefits, not to raisepayroll tax rates, not to drain resources from Social Security in thename of saving it. Instead, I propose that we make an historicdecision to invest the surplus to save Social Security. (Applause.)
Specifically, I propose that we commit 60 percent of thebudget surplus for the next 15 years to Social Security, investing asmall portion in the private sector, just as any private or stategovernment pension would do. This will earn a higher return and keepSocial Security sound for 55 years.
But we must aim higher. We should put Social Securityon a sound footing for the next 75 years. We should reduce povertyamong elderly women, who are nearly twice as likely to be poor as ourother seniors. (Applause.) And we should eliminate the limits onwhat seniors on Social Security can earn. (Applause.)
Now, these changes will require difficult but fullyachievable choices over and above the dedication of the surplus.They must be made on a bipartisan basis. They should be made thisyear. So let me say to you tonight, I reach out my hand to all ofyou in both Houses, in both parties, and ask that we join together insaying to the American people: We will save Social Security now.(Applause.)
Now, last year we wisely reserved all of the surplusuntil we knew what it would take to save Social Security. Again, Isay, we shouldn't spend any of it -- not any of it -- until afterSocial Security is truly saved. First things first. (Applause.)
Second, once we have saved Social Security, we mustfulfill our obligation to save and improve Medicare. Already, wehave extended the life of the Medicare trust fund by 10 years -- butwe should extend it for at least another decade. Tonight, I proposethat we use one out of every $6 in the surplus for the next 15 yearsto guarantee the soundness of Medicare until the year 2020.(Applause.)
But, again, we should aim higher. We must be willing towork in a bipartisan way and look at new ideas, including theupcoming report of the bipartisan Medicare Commission. If wework together, we can secure Medicare for the next two decades andcover the greatest growing need of seniors -- affordable prescriptiondrugs. (Applause.)
Third, we must help all Americans, from their first dayon the job -- to save, to invest, to create wealth. From itsbeginning, Americans have supplemented Social Security with privatepensions and savings. Yet, today, millions of people retire withlittle to live on other than Social Security. Americans livinglonger than ever simply must save more than ever.
Therefore, in addition to saving Social Security andMedicare, I propose a new pension initiative for retirement securityin the 21st century. I propose that we use a little over 11 percentof the surplus to establish universal savings accounts -- USAaccounts -- to give all Americans the means to save. With these newaccounts Americans can invest as they choose and receive funds tomatch a portion of their savings, with extra help for those leastable to save. USA accounts will help all Americans to share in ournation's wealth and to enjoy a more secure retirement. I ask you tosupport them. (Applause.)
Fourth, we must invest in long-term care. (Applause.)I propose a tax credit of $1,000 for the aged, ailing or disabled,and the families who care for them. Long-term care will become abigger and bigger challenge with the aging of America, and we must domore to help our families deal with it. (Applause.)
I was born in 1946, the first year of the baby boom. Ican tell you that one of the greatest concerns of our generation isour absolute determination not to let our growing old place anintolerable burden on our children and their ability to raise ourgrandchildren. Our economic success and our fiscal discipline nowgive us an opportunity to lift that burden from their shoulders, andwe should take it. (Applause.)
Saving Social Security, Medicare, creating USA accounts-- this is the right way to use the surplus. If we do so -- if we doso -- we will still have resources to meet critical needs ineducation and defense. And I want to point out that this proposal isfiscally sound. Listen to this: If we set aside 60 percent of thesurplus for Social Security and 16 percent for Medicare, over thenext 15 years, that saving will achieve the lowest level ofpublicly-held debt since right before World War I, in 1917.(Applause.)
So with these four measures -- saving Social Security,strengthening Medicare, establishing the USA accounts, supportinglong-term care -- we can begin to meet our generation's historicresponsibility to establish true security for 21st century seniors.
Now, there are more children from more diversebackgrounds in our public schools than at any time in our history.Their education must provide the knowledge and nurture the creativitythat will allow our entire nation to thrive in the new economy.
Today we can say something we couldn't say six yearsago: With tax credits and more affordable student loans, with morework-study grants and more Pell grants, with education IRAs and thenew HOPE Scholarship tax cut that more than five million Americanswill receive this year, we have finally opened the doors of collegeto all Americans. (Applause.) With our support, nearly every state has set higheracademic standards for public schools, and a voluntary national testis being developed to measure the progress of our students. Withover $1 billion in discounts available this year, we are well on ourway to our goal of connecting every classroom and library to theInternet.
Last fall, you passed our proposal to start hiring100,000 new teachers to reduce class size in the early grades. Now Iask you to finish the job. (Applause.)
You know, our children are doing better. SAT scores areup; math scores have risen in nearly all grades. But there's aproblem. While our 4th graders outperform their peers in othercountries in math and science, our 8th graders are around average,and our 12th graders rank near the bottom. We must do better. Now,each year the national government invests more than $15 billion inour public schools. I believe we must change the way we invest thatmoney, to support what works and to stop supporting what does notwork. (Applause.)
First, later this year, I will send to Congress a planthat, for the first time, holds states and school districtsaccountable for progress and rewards them for results. My EducationAccountability Act will require every school district receivingfederal help to take the following five steps.
First, all schools must end social promotion.(Applause.) No child should graduate from high school with a diplomahe or she can't read. We do our children no favors when we allowthem to pass from grade to grade without mastering the material.
But we can't just hold students back because the systemfails them. So my balanced budget triples the funding for summerschool and after-school programs, to keep a million childrenlearning. (Applause.)
Now, if you doubt this will work, just look at Chicago,which ended social promotion and made summer school mandatory forthose who don't master the basics. Math and reading scores are upthree years running -- with some of the biggest gains in some of thepoorest neighborhoods. It will work, and we should do it.(Applause.)
Second, all states and school districts must turn aroundtheir worst-performing schools -- or shut them down. (Applause.)That's the policy established in North Carolina by Governor Jim Hunt.North Carolina made the biggest gains in test scores in the nationlast year. Our budget includes $200 million to help states turnaround their own failing schools.
Third, all states and school districts must be heldresponsible for the quality of their teachers. The great majority ofour teachers do a fine job. But in too many schools, teachers don'thave college majors -- or even minors -- in the subjects they teach.New teachers should be required to pass performance exams, and allteachers should know the subjects they're teaching. (Applause.)This year's balanced budget contains resources to help them reachhigher standards.
And to attract talented young teachers to the toughestassignments, I recommend a sixfold increase in our program forcollege scholarships for students who commit to teach in the innercities and isolated rural areas and Indian communities. Let us bringexcellence in every part of America. (Applause.)
Fourth, we must empower parents, with more informationand more choices. In too many communities, it's easier to getinformation on the quality of the local restaurants than on thequality of the local schools. Every school district should issuereport cards on every school. And parents should be given morechoices in selecting their public schools. (Applause.)
When I became President, there was just one independentpublic charter school in all America. With our support, on abipartisan basis, today there are 1,100. My budget assures thatearly in the next century, there will be 3,000. (Applause.)
Fifth, to assure that our classrooms are truly places oflearning, and to respond to what teachers have been asking us to dofor years, we should say that all states and school districts mustboth adopt and implement sensible discipline policies. (Applause.)
Now, let's do one more thing for our children. Today,too many of our schools are so old they're falling apart, or soover-crowded students are learning in trailers. Last fall, Congressmissed the opportunity to change that. This year, with 53 millionchildren in our schools, Congress must not miss that opportunityagain. I ask you to help our communities build or modernize 5,000schools. (Applause.)
If we do these things -- end social promotion; turnaround failing schools; build modern ones; support qualifiedteachers; promote innovation, competition and discipline -- then wewill begin to meet our generation's historic responsibility to create21st century schools. (Applause.)
Now, we also have to do more to support the millions ofparents who give their all every day at home and at work. The mostbasic tool of all is a decent income. So let's raise the minimumwage by a dollar an hour over the next two years. (Applause.) Andlet's make sure that women and men get equal pay for equal work bystrengthening enforcement of equal pay laws. (Applause.)
That was encouraging, you know. (Laughter.) There wasmore balance on the seats. I like that. Let's give them a hand.That's great. (Applause.)
Working parents also need quality child care.(Applause.) So, again this year, I ask Congress to support our planfor tax credits and subsidies for working families, for improvedsafety and quality, for expanded after-school programs. And our planalso includes a new tax credit for stay-at-home parents, too. Theyneed support, as well. (Applause.)
Parents should never have to worry about choosingbetween their children and their work. Now, the Family and MedicalLeave Act -- the very first bill I signed into law -- has now, since1993, helped millions and millions of Americans to care for a newbornbaby or an ailing relative without risking their jobs. I think it'stime, with all the evidence that it has been so little burdensome toemployers, to extend Family Leave to 10 million more Americansworking for smaller companies. And I hope you will support it.(Applause.)
Finally on the matter of work, parents should never haveto face discrimination in the workplace. So I want to ask Congressto prohibit companies from refusing to hire or promote workers simplybecause they have children. That is not right. (Applause.)
America's families deserve the world's best medicalcare. Thanks to bipartisan federal support for medical research, weare now on the verge of new treatments to prevent or delay diseasesfrom Parkinson's to Alzheimer's, to arthritis to cancer. But as wecontinue our advances in medical science, we can't let our medicalsystem lag behind. Managed care has literally transformed medicinein America -- driving down costs, but threatening to drive downquality as well.
I think we ought to say to every American: You shouldhave the right to know all your medical options -- not just thecheapest. If you need a specialist, you should have the right to seeone. You have a right to the nearest emergency care if you're in anaccident. These are things that we ought to say. And I think weought to say, you should have a right to keep your doctor during aperiod of treatment, whether it's a pregnancy or a chemotherapytreatment, or anything else. I believe this.
Now, I've ordered these rights to be extended to the 85millon Americans served by Medicare, Medicaid, and other federalhealth programs. But only Congress can pass a patients' bill ofrights for all Americans. (Applause.) Now, last year, Congressmissed that opportunity and we must not miss that opportunity again.For the sake of our families, I ask us to join together across partylines and pass a strong, enforceable patients' bill of rights.(Applause.)
As more of our medical records are storedelectronically, the threats to all our privacy increase. BecauseCongress has given me the authority to act if it does not do so byAugust, one way or another, we can all say to the American people, wewill protect the privacy of medical records and we will do it thisyear. (Applause.)
Now, two years ago, the Congress extended healthcoverage to up to five million children. Now, we should go beyondthat. We should make it easier for small businesses to offer healthinsurance. We should give people between the ages of 55 and 65 wholose their health insurance the chance to buy into Medicare. And weshould continue to ensure access to family planning.
No one should have to choose between keeping health careand taking a job. And, therefore, I especially ask you tonight tojoin hands to pass the landmark bipartisan legislation -- proposed bySenators Kennedy and Jeffords, Roth and Moynihan -- to allowpeople with disabilities to keep their health insurance when they goto work. (Applause.)
We need to enable our public hospitals, our community,our university health centers to provide basic, affordable care forall the millions of working families who don't have any insurance.They do a lot of that today, but much more can be done. And mybalanced budget makes a good down payment toward that goal. I hopeyou will think about them and support that provision.
Let me say we must step up our efforts to treat andprevent mental illness. No American should ever be afraid -- ever --to address this disease. This year, we will host a White HouseConference on Mental Health. With sensitivity, commitment andpassion, Tipper Gore is leading our efforts here, and I'd like tothank her for what she's done. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
As everyone knows, our children are targets of a massivemedia campaign to hook them on cigarettes. Now, I ask this Congressto resist the tobacco lobby, to reaffirm the FDA's authority toprotect our children from tobacco, and to hold tobacco companiesaccountable while protecting tobacco farmers.
Smoking has cost taxpayers hundreds of billions ofdollars under Medicare and other programs. You know, the states havebeen right about this -- taxpayers shouldn't pay for the cost of lungcancer, emphysema and other smoking-related illnesses -- the tobaccocompanies should. So tonight I announce that the Justice Departmentis preparing a litigation plan to take the tobacco companies to court-- and with the funds we recover, to strengthen Medicare.(Applause.)
Now, if we act in these areas -- minimum wage, familyleave, child care, health care, the safety of our children -- then wewill begin to meet our generation's historic responsibility tostrengthen our families for the 21st century.
Today, America is the most dynamic, competitive, job-creating economy in history. But we can do even better -- inbuilding a 21st century economy that embraces all Americans.
Today's income gap is largely a skills gap. Last year,the Congress passed a law enabling workers to get a skills grant tochoose the training they need. And I applaud all of you here whowere part of that. This year, I recommend a five-year commitment inthe new system so that we can provide, over the next five years,appropriate training opportunities for all Americans who lose theirjobs, and expand rapid response teams to help all towns which havebeen really hurt when businesses close. I hope you will supportthis. (Applause.)
Also, I ask your support for a dramatic increase infederal support for adult literacy, to mount a national campaignaimed at helping the millions and millions of working people whostill read at less than a 5th grade level. We need to do this.(Applause.)
Here's some good news: In the past six years, we havecut the welfare rolls nearly in half. (Applause.) Two years ago,from this podium, I asked five companies to lead a national effort tohire people off welfare. Tonight, our Welfare to Work Partnershipincludes 10,000 companies who have hired hundreds of thousands ofpeople. And our balanced budget will help another 200,000 peoplemove to the dignity and pride of work. I hope you will support it.(Applause.)
We must do more to bring the spark of private enterpriseto every corner of America -- to build a bridge from Wall Street toAppalachia to the Mississippi Delta, to our Native Americancommunities -- with more support for community development banks, forempowerment zones, for 100,000 more vouchers for affordable housing.And I ask Congress to support our bold new plan to help businessesraise up to $15 billion in private sector capital to bring jobs andopportunities to our inner cities and rural areas -- with taxcredits, loan guarantees, including the new American PrivateInvestment Company, modeled on the Overseas Private InvestmentCompany. (Applause.)
For years and years and years, we've had this OPIC, thisOverseas Private Investment Corporation, because we knew we haduntapped markets overseas. But our greatest untapped markets are notoverseas -- they are right here at home. And we should go afterthem. (Applause.)
We must work hard to help bring prosperity back to thefamily farm. (Applause.) As this Congress knows very well, droppingprices and the loss of foreign markets have devastated too manyfamily farms. Last year, the Congress provided substantialassistance to help stave off a disaster in American agriculture. AndI am ready to work with lawmakers of both parties to create a farmsafety net that will include crop insurance reform and farm incomeassistance. I ask you to join with me and do this. This should notbe a political issue. Everyone knows what an economic problem isgoing on out there in rural America today, and we need an appropriatemeans to address it. (Applause.)
We must strengthen our lead in technology. It wasgovernment investment that led to the creation of the Internet. Ipropose a 28-percent increase in long-term computing research.
We also must be ready for the 21st century from its veryfirst moment, by solving the so-called Y2K computer problem.(Applause.)
We had one member of Congress stand up and applaud.(Laughter.) And we may have about that ratio out there applauding athome, in front of their television sets. But remember, this is abig, big problem. And we've been working hard on it. Already, we'vemade sure that the Social Security checks will come on time.(Applause.) But I want all the folks at home listening to this toknow that we need every state and local government, every business,large and small, to work with us to make sure that this Y2K computerbug will be remembered as the last headache of the 20th century, notthe first crisis of the 21st. (Applause.)
For our own prosperity, we must support economic growthabroad. You know, until recently, a third of our economic growthcame from exports. But over the past year and a half, financialturmoil overseas has put that growth at risk. Today, much of theworld is in recession, with Asia hit especially hard. This is themost serious financial crisis in half a century. To meet it, theUnited States and other nations have reduced interest rates andstrengthened the International Monetary Fund. And while the turmoilis not over, we have worked very hard with other nations to containit.
At the same time, we have to continue to work on thelong-term project, building a global financial system for the 21stcentury that promotes prosperity and tames the cycle of boom and bustthat has engulfed so much of Asia. This June I will meet with otherworld leaders to advance this historic purpose. And I ask all of youto support our endeavors.
I also ask you to support creating a freer and fairertrading system for 21st century America. (Applause.)
I'd like to say something really serious to everyone inthis chamber in both parties. I think trade has divided us, anddivided Americans outside this chamber, for too long. Somehow wehave to find a common ground on which business and workers andenvironmentalists and farmers and government can stand together.I believe these are the things we ought to all agree on. So let metry.
First, we ought to tear down barriers, open markets, andexpand trade. But at the same time, we must ensure that ordinarycitizens in all countries actually benefit from trade -- (applause)-- a trade that promotes the dignity of work, and the rights ofworkers, and protects the environment. We must insist thatinternational trade organizations be more open to public scrutiny,instead of mysterious, secret things subject to wild criticism.
When you come right down to it, now that the worldeconomy is becoming more and more integrated, we have to do in theworld what we spent the better part of this century doing here athome. We have got to put a human face on the global economy.(Applause.)
We must enforce our trade laws when imports unlawfullyflood our nation. (Applause.) I have already informed thegovernment of Japan that if that nation's sudden surge of steelimports into our country is not reversed, America will respond.(Applause.)
We must help all manufacturers hit hard by the presentcrisis with loan guarantees and other incentives to increase Americanexports by nearly $2 billion. I'd like to believe we can achieve anew consensus on trade, based on these principles. And I ask theCongress again to join me in this common approach and to give thePresident the trade authority long used -- and now overdue andnecessary -- to advance our prosperity in the 21st century.(Applause.)
Tonight, I issue a call to the nations of the world tojoin the United States in a new round of global trade negotiations toexpand exports of services, manufacturers and farm products. TonightI say we will work with the International Labor Organization on a newinitiative to raise labor standards around the world. And this year,we will lead the international community to conclude a treaty to banabusive child labor everywhere in the world. (Applause.)
If we do these things -- invest in our people, ourcommunities, our technology, and lead in the global economy -- thenwe will begin to meet our historic responsibility to build a 21stcentury prosperity for America.
You know, no nation in history has had the opportunityand the responsibility we now have to shape a world that is morepeaceful, more secure, more free. All Americans can be proud thatour leadership helped to bring peace in Northern Ireland. AllAmericans can be proud that our leadership has put Bosnia on the pathto peace. And with our NATO allies, we are pressing the Serbiangovernment to stop its brutal repression in Kosovo -- (applause) --to bring those responsible to justice, and to give the people ofKosovo the self-government they deserve.
All Americans can be proud that our leadership renewedhope for lasting peace in the Middle East. Some of you were with melast December as we watched the Palestinian National Councilcompletely renounce its call for the destruction of Israel. Now Iask Congress to provide resources so that all parties can implementthe Wye Agreement -- to protect Israel's security, to stimulate thePalestinian economy, to support our friends in Jordan. We must not,we dare not, let them down. I hope you will help.(Applause.)
As we work for peace, we must also meet threats to ournation's security -- including increased dangers from outlaw nationsand terrorism. We will defend our security wherever we arethreatened, as we did this summer when we struck at Osama bin Laden'snetwork of terror. The bombing of our embassies in Kenya andTanzania reminds us again of the risks faced every day by those whorepresent America to the world. So let's give them the support theyneed, the safest possible workplaces, and the resources they musthave so America can continue to lead. (Applause.)
We must work to keep terrorists from disrupting computernetworks. We must work to prepare local communities for biologicaland chemical emergencies, to support research into vaccines andtreatments.
We must increase our efforts to restrain the spread ofnuclear weapons and missiles, from Korea to India and Pakistan. Wemust expand our work with Russia, Ukraine, and the other formerSoviet nations to safeguard nuclear materials and technology so theynever fall into the wrong hands. Our balanced budget will increasefunding for these critical efforts by almost two-thirds over the nextfive years.
With Russia, we must continue to reduce our nucleararsenals. The START II treaty and the framework we have alreadyagreed to for START III could cut them by 80 percent from their ColdWar height.
It's been two years since I signed the ComprehensiveTest Ban Treaty. If we don't do the right thing, other nations won'teither. I ask the Senate to take this vital step: Approve thetreaty now, to make it harder for other nations to develop nucleararms, and to make sure we can end nuclear testing forever.(Applause.)
For nearly a decade, Iraq has defied its obligations todestroy its weapons of terror and the missiles to deliver them.America will continue to contain Saddam -- and we will work for theday when Iraq has a government worthy of its people. (Applause.)
Now, last month, in our action over Iraq, our troopswere superb. Their mission was so flawlessly executed that we risktaking for granted the bravery and the skill it required. CaptainJeff Taliaferro, a 10-year veteran of the Air Force, flew a B-1Bbomber over Iraq as we attacked Saddam's war machine. He's here withus tonight. I'd like to ask you to honor him and all the 33,000 menand women of Operation Desert Fox.
Captain Taliaferro. (Applause.)
It is time to reverse the decline in defense spendingthat began in 1985. (Applause.) Since April, together we have addednearly $6 billion to maintain our military readiness. My balancedbudget calls for a sustained increase over the next six years forreadiness, for modernization, and for pay and benefits for our troopsand their families. (Applause.)
We are the heirs of a legacy of bravery represented inevery community in America by millions of our veterans. America'sdefenders today still stand ready at a moment's notice to go wherecomforts are few and dangers are many, to do what needs to be done asno one else can. They always come through for America. We must comethrough for them. (Applause.)
The new century demands new partnerships for peace andsecurity. The United Nations plays a crucial role, with alliessharing burdens America might otherwise bear alone. America needs astrong and effective U.N. I want to work with this new Congress topay our dues and our debts. (Applause.)
We must continue to support security and stability inEurope and Asia -- expanding NATO and defining its new missions;maintaining our alliance with Japan, with Korea, without our otherAsian allies; and engaging China.
In China, last year, I said to the leaders and thepeople what I'd like to say again tonight: Stability can no longerbe bought at the expense of liberty. (Applause.) But I'd also liketo say again to the American people: It's important not to isolateChina. The more we bring China into the world, the more the worldwill bring change and freedom to China. (Applause.)
Last spring, with some of you, I traveled to Africa,where I saw democracy and reform rising, but still held back byviolence and disease. We must fortify African democracy and peace bylaunching Radio Democracy for Africa, supporting the transition todemocracy now beginning to take place in Nigeria, and passing theAfrican Trade and Development Act. (Applause.)
We must continue to deepen our ties to the Americas andthe Caribbean; our common work to educate children, fight drugs,strengthen democracy and increase trade. In this hemisphere, everygovernment but one is freely chosen by its people. We are determinedthat Cuba, too, will know the blessings of liberty. (Applause.)
The American people have opened their hearts and theirarms to our Central American and Caribbean neighbors who have been sodevastated by the recent hurricanes. Working with Congress, I amcommitted to help them rebuild. When the First Lady and Tipper Gorevisited the region, they saw thousands of our troops and thousands ofAmerican volunteers. In the Dominican Republic, Hillary helped torededicate a hospital that had been rebuilt by Dominicans andAmericans, working side-by-side. With her was someone else who hasbeen very important to the relief efforts.
You know, sports records are made and, sooner or later,they're broken. But making other people's lives better, and showingour children the true meaning of brotherhood -- that lasts forever.So, for far more than baseball, Sammy Sosa, you're a hero in twocountries tonight. Thank you. (Applause.)
So I say to all of you, if we do these things -- if wepursue peace, fight terrorism, increase our strength, renew ouralliances -- we will begin to meet our generation's historicresponsibility to build a stronger 21st century America in a freer,more peaceful world.
As the world has changed, so have our own communities.We must make them safer, more livable and more united. This year, wewill reach our goal of 100,000 community police officers -- ahead ofschedule and under budget. (Applause.) The Brady Bill has stopped aquarter million felons, fugitives and stalkers from buying handguns.And, now, the murder rate is the lowest in 30 years and the crimerate has dropped for six straight years. (Applause.)
Tonight, I propose a 21st century crime bill to deploythe latest technologies and tactics to make our communities evensafer. Our balanced budget will help put up to 50,000 more police onthe street, in the areas hardest hit by crime -- and then to equipthem with new tools, from crime-mapping computers to digital mugshots.
We must break the deadly cycle of drugs and crime. Ourbudget expands support for drug testing and treatment, saying toprisoners: If you stay on drugs, you have to stay behind bars. Andto those on parole: If you want to keep your freedom, you must stayfree of drugs. (Applause.)
I ask Congress to restore the five-day waiting periodfor buying a handgun -- (applause) -- and extend the Brady Bill toprevent juveniles who commit violent crimes from buying a gun.(Applause.)
We must do more to keep our schools the safest places inour communities. Last year, every American was horrified andheartbroken by the tragic killings in Jonesboro, Paducah, Pearl,Edinboro, Springfield. We were deeply moved by the courageousparents now working to keep guns out of the hands of children and tomake other efforts so that other parents don't have to live throughtheir loss.
After she lost her daughter, Suzann Wilson of Jonesboro,Arkansas, came here to the White House with a powerful plea. Shesaid, "Please, please, for the sake of your children, lock up yourgun. Don't let what happened in Jonesboro happen in your town."It's a message she is passionately advocating every day.
Suzann is here with us tonight, with the First Lady.I'd like to thank her for her courage and her commitment. Thank you.(Applause.)
In memory of all the children who lost their lives toschool violence, I ask you to strengthen the Safe and Drug-FreeSchool Act, to pass legislation to require child trigger locks, to doeverything possible to keep our children safe. (Applause.)
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt defined our"great, central task" as "leaving this land even a better land forour descendants than it is for us." Today, we're restoring theFlorida Everglades , saving Yellowstone,preserving the red rock canyons of Utah, protecting California'sredwoods and our precious coasts. But our most fateful new challengeis the threat of global warming. 1998 was the warmest year everrecorded. Last year's heat waves, floods and storms are but a hintof what future generations may endure if we do not act now.
Tonight I propose a new clean air fund to helpcommunities reduce greenhouse and other pollution, and tax incentivesand investments to spur clean energy technology. And I want to workwith members of Congress in both parties to reward companies thattake early, voluntary action to reduce greenhouse gases. (Applause.)
All our communities face a preservation challenge, asthey grow and green space shrinks. Seven thousand acres of farmlandand open space are lost every day. In response, I propose two majorinitiatives: First, a $1-billion Livability Agenda to helpcommunities save open space, ease traffic congestion, and grow inways that enhance every citizen's quality of life. (Applause.) Andsecond, a $1-billion Lands Legacy Initiative to preserve places ofnatural beauty all across America -- from the most remote wildernessto the nearest city park. (Applause.)
These are truly landmark initiatives, which could nothave been developed without the visionary leadership of the VicePresident, and I want to thank him very much for his commitment here.(Applause.)
Now, to get the most out of your community, you have togive something back. That's why we created AmeriCorps -- ournational service program that gives today's generation a chance toserve their communities and earn money for college.
So far, in just four years, 100,000 young Americans havebuilt low-income homes with Habitat for Humanity, helped to tutorchildren with churches, worked with FEMA to ease the burden ofnatural disasters, and performed countless other acts of service thathave made America better. I ask Congress to give more youngAmericans the chance to follow their lead and serve America inAmeriCorps. (Applause.)
Now, we must work to renew our national community aswell for the 21st century. Last year the House passed the bipartisancampaign finance reform legislation sponsored by RepresentativesShays and Meehan and Senators McCain and Feingold. But a partisanminority in the Senate blocked reform. So I'd like to say to theHouse: Pass it again, quickly. (Applause.) And I'd like to say tothe Senate: I hope you will say yes to a stronger American democracyin the year 2000. (Applause.)
Since 1997, our Initiative on Race has sought to bridgethe divides between and among our people. In its report last fall,the Initiative's Advisory Board found that Americans really do wantto bring our people together across racial lines.
We know it's been a long journey. For some, it goesback to before the beginning of our Republic; for others, back sincethe Civil War; for others, throughout the 20th century. But for mostof us alive today, in a very real sense, this journey began 43 yearsago, when a woman named Rosa Parks sat down on a bus in Alabama, andwouldn't get up. She's sitting down with the First Lady tonight, andshe may get up or not, as she chooses. We thank her. (Applause.)Thank you, Rosa. (Applause.)
We know that our continuing racial problems areaggravated, as the Presidential Initiative said, by opportunity gaps.The initiative I've outlined tonight will help to close them. But weknow that the discrimination gap has not been fully closed either.Discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry orgender, disability or sexual orientation, is wrong, and it ought tobe illegal. Therefore, I ask Congress to make the EmploymentNon-Discrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law ofthe land. (Applause.)
Now, since every person in America counts, everyAmerican ought to be counted. We need a census that uses modernscientific methods to do that. (Applause.)
Our new immigrants must be part of our One America.After all, they're revitalizing our cities, they're energizing ourculture, they're building up our economy. We have a responsibilityto make them welcome here; and they have a responsibility to enterthe mainstream of American life. That means learning English andlearning about our democratic system of government. There are nowlong waiting lines of immigrants that are trying to do just that.Therefore, our budget significantly expands our efforts to help themmeet their responsibility. I hope you will support it. (Applause.)
Whether our ancestors came here on the Mayflower, onslave ships, whether they came to Ellis Island or LAX in Los Angeles,whether they came yesterday or walked this land a thousand years ago-- our great challenge for the 21st century is to find a way to beOne America. We can meet all the other challenges if we can goforward as One America.
You know, barely more than 300 days from now, we willcross that bridge into the new millennium. This is a moment, as theFirst Lady has said, "to honor the past and imagine the future."
I'd like to take just a minute to honor her. Forleading our Millennium Project, for all she's done for our children,for all she has done in her historic role to serve our nation and ourbest ideals at home and abroad, I honor her. (Applause.)
Last year, I called on Congress and every citizen tomark the millennium by saving America's treasures. Hillary hastraveled all across the country to inspire recognition and supportfor saving places like Thomas Edison's Invention Factory or HarrietTubman's home. Now we have to preserve our treasures in everycommunity. And tonight, before I close, I want to invite every town,every city, every community to become nationally recognized"millennium community," by launching projects that save our history,promote our arts and humanities, prepare our children for the 21stcentury.
Already, the response has been remarkable. And I wantto say a special word of thanks to our private sector partners and tomembers in Congress of both parties for their support. Just oneexample: Because of you, the Star-Spangled Banner will be preservedfor the ages. In ways large and small, as we look to the millenniumwe are keeping alive what George Washington called "the sacred fireof liberty."
Six years ago, I came to office in a time of doubt forAmerica, with our economy troubled, our deficit high, our peopledivided. Some even wondered whether our best days were behind us.But across this country, in a thousand neighborhoods, I have seen --even amidst the pain and uncertainty of recession -- the real heartand character of America. I knew then that we Americans could renewthis country.
Tonight, as I deliver the last State of the Unionaddress of the 20th century, no one anywhere in the world can doubtthe enduring resolve and boundless capacity of the American people towork toward that "more perfect union" of our founders' dream.
We're now at the end of a century when generation aftergeneration of Americans answered the call to greatness, overcomingDepression, lifting up the dispossessed, bringing down barriers toracial prejudice, building the largest middle class in history,winning two world wars and the "long twilight struggle" of the ColdWar. We must all be profoundly grateful for the magnificentachievement of our forbearers in this century.
Yet, perhaps, in the daily press of events, in the clashof controversy, we don't see our own time for what it truly is -- anew dawn for America.
A hundred years from tonight, another American Presidentwill stand in this place and report on the State of theUnion. He -- or she -- (applause) -- he or she will look back on a21st century shaped in so many ways by the decisions we make here andnow. So let it be said of us then that we were thinking not only ofour time, but of their time; that we reached as high as our ideals;that we put aside our divisions and found a new hour of healing andhopefulness; that we joined together to serve and strengthen the landwe love.
My fellow Americans, this is our moment. Let us liftour eyes as one nation, and from the mountaintop of this AmericanCentury, look ahead to the next one -- asking God's blessing on ourendeavors and on our beloved country.
Thank you and good evening.
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House
White House for Kids | White House History
White House Tours | Help | Text Only
1999 State Of The Union Transcript