Here is the text of President Clinton's address on health care reform as delivered to a joint session of Congress:
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans.
Before I begin my work tonight I would like to ask that we all bow in a moment of silent prayer for the memory of those who were killed and those who have been injured in the tragic train accident in Alabama today.
My fellow Americans, tonight we've come together to write a new chapter in the American story. Our forebears enshrined the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every generation of Americans has worked to strengthen that legacy, to make our country a place of freedom and opportunity, a place where people who work hard can rise to their full potential, a place where the children could have a better future.
From the settling of the frontier to the landing on the moon, ours has been a continuous story with challenges defined, obstacles overcome, new horizons secured. That is what makes America what it is and Americans what we are.
Now we are in a time of profound change and opportunity--the end of the Cold War, the information age, and the global economy have brought us both opportunity and hope and strife and uncertainty. Our purpose in this dynamic age must be to change--to make change our friend and not our enemy.
To achieve that goal, we must face all our challenges with confidence, with faith and with discipline, whether we're reducing the deficit, creating tomorrow's jobs and training our people to fill them, converting from a high-tech defense to a high-tech domestic economy, expanding trade, reinventing government, making our streets safer, or rewarding work over idleness--all of these challenges require us to change.
If Americans are to have the courage to change in a difficult time, we must first be secure in our most basic needs. Tonight, I want to talk to you about the most critical thing we can do to build that security. This health care system of ours is badly broken, and it is time to fix it.
Despite the dedication of literally millions of talented health care professionals, our health care is too uncertain and too expensive, too bureaucratic and too wasteful. It has too much fraud and too much greed. At long last, after decades of false starts, we must make this our most urgent priority, giving every American health security--health care that can never be taken away, health care that is always there. That is what we must do tonight.
Guided By Six Stars
On this journey, as on all others of a true consequence, there will be rough spots in the road and obvious disagreements about how we can proceed. After all, this is a complicated issue. But every successful journey is guided by six stars, and if we can agree on some basic values of principles, we will reach this destination, and we will reach it together.
So tonight I want to talk to you about the principles that I believe must embody our efforts to reform the American health care system: security, simplicity, savings, choice, quality and responsibility.
When I launched our nation on this journey to reform the health care system, I knew we needed a talented navigator, someone with a rigorous mind, a steady compass, a caring heart. Luckily for me, and for our nation, I didn't have to look very far.
Over the last eight months, Hillary and those working with her have talked to literally thousands of Americans to understand the strengths and the frailties of this system of ours. They met with over 1,100 health care organizations. They talked with doctors and nurses, pharmacists and drug company representatives, hospital administrators, insurance company executives and small and large business. They spoke with self-employed people. They talked to people who had insurance and people who didn't. They talked with union members and older Americans and advocates for our children.
The First Lady also consulted, as all of you know, extensively with governmental leaders in both parties in the states of our nation, and especially here on Capitol Hill. Hillary and the task force received and read over 700,000 letters from ordinary citizens. What they wrote and the bravery with which they told their stories is really what calls us all here tonight.
Every one of us knows someone who's worked hard and played by the rules and still been hurt by this system that just doesn't work for too many people. But I'd like to tell you about just one.