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'Keep Building Those Bridges'

August 15, 2000

The text of President Clinton's remarks to the Democratic National Convention:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Isn't it great to be in California together? Forty years ago the great city of Los Angeles launched John Kennedy and the New Frontier. Now, Los Angeles is launching the first president of the new century: Al Gore.

I am come here tonight, above all, to say a heartfelt thank-you. Thank you for giving me the chance to serve. Thank you for being so good to Hillary and Chelsea. I'm so proud of both of them. And didn't she give a good talk? I thought it was great. Thank you for supporting the New Democratic agenda that has taken our country to new heights of prosperity, progress and peace. As always, the lion's share of credit goes to the American people--who do the work, raise the kids, dream the dreams.

Now, at this moment of unprecedented good fortune, our people face a fundamental choice--are we going to keep this progress and prosperity going?

There's only one answer: Yes, we are.

But we can't take our future for granted. So let's just remember how we got here.

Eight years ago, when our party met in New York, it was a far different time for America. Our economy was in trouble, our society was divided, our political system was paralyzed. Ten million of our fellow citizens were out of work. Interest rates were high. The deficit was $290 billion and rising. After 12 years of Republican rule, the federal debt had quadrupled, imposing a crushing burden on our economy and our children.

Welfare rolls, crime, teen pregnancy, income inequality--all had been skyrocketing. And our government was part of the problem, not part of the solution.

I saw all this in a very personal way in 1992, when I traveled America in 1992: a child telling me her father broke down at the dinner table after losing his job. I remember an older couple who had to choose between filling their shopping carts and filling their prescriptions. I remember a hard-working immigrant in a hotel kitchen who said his son wasn't really free because it wasn't safe for him to play in his neighborhood park.

I ran for president to change the future for those people. And I ask you to embrace new ideas rooted in enduring values: opportunity for all, responsibility from all and a community of all Americans.

You gave me that chance to turn those ideas and values into action after I made one of the very best decisions of my life: asking Al Gore to be my partner.

Now, first, we proposed a new economic strategy: Get rid of the deficit to reduce interest rates. Invest more in our people. And sell more American products abroad.

We sent our plan to Congress. It passed by a single vote in both houses. In a deadlocked Senate, Al Gore cast the tie [breaking] vote. Not a single Republican supported it. Here's what their leaders said: It would increase the deficit, kill jobs and give us a one-way ticket to recession. Time has not been kind to those predictions.

Now, remember our Republican friends said then they would not be held responsible for the results of our economic policies. I hope the American people will take them at their word.

Now, today, after 7 1/2 years we are in the midst of the longest economic expansion in our history. More than 22 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment in 30 years, the lowest female unemployment in 40 years, the lowest Hispanic and African American unemployment rate, the highest home ownership rate in our history. Along the way, in 1995, we turned back the largest cuts in history in Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment. And just two years later proved that we could find the way to balance the budget and protect our values. Today, we have gone from the largest deficits in history to the largest surpluses in history--and if, but only if, we stay on course, we can make America debt-free for the first time since Andy Jackson was president in 1835.

Poverty Rates Down, Family Incomes Up

For the first time in decades, wages are rising at all income levels. We have the lowest child poverty rate in 20 years, the lowest poverty rate for single mothers ever recorded. The average family's income has gone up more than $5,000 and, for African American families, even more. The number of families who own stock in our country has grown by 40%.

Harry Truman's old saying has never been more true: If you want to live like a Republican, you better vote for the Democrats.

Our progress is about far more than economics. America is also more hopeful, more secure and more free.

We are more hopeful because we're turning our schools around, with higher standards, more accountability and more investment. We have doubled funding for Head Start and provided after-school mentoring to more than 1 million more young people. We're putting 100,000 well-trained teachers in the early grades to reduce class size. Ninety-five percent of our schools are connected to the Internet.

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