Clinton: I Still Believe In A Place Called Hope
Governor Richards, Chairman Brown, Mayor Dinkins, our great
host, and my fellow Americans.
I am so proud of Al Gore. He said he came here tonight because
he always wanted to do the warmup for Elvis. Well, I ran for
President this year for one reason and one reason only: I
wanted to come back to this convention center and finish that
speech I started four years ago.
Well, last night Mario Cuomo taught us how a real nominating
speech should be given. He also made it clear why we have
to steer our ship of state on a new course.
Tonight I want to talk with you about my hope for the future,
my faith in the American people, and my vision of the kind
of country we can build, together.
I salute the good men who were my companions on the campaign
trail: Tom Harkin, Bob Kerrey, Doug Wilder, Jerry Brown and
Paul Tsongas. One sentence in the platform we built says it
all: "The most important family policy, urban policy, labor
policy, minority policy and foreign policy America can have
is an expanding, entrepreneurial economy of high-wage, high-skill
And so, in the name of all the people who do the work, pay
the taxes, raise the kids and play by the rules, in the name
of the hard-working Americans who make up our forgotten middle
class, I accept your nomination for President of the United
I am a product of that middle class. And when I am President
you will be forgotten no more.
We meet at a special moment in history, you and I. The Cold
War is over; Soviet Communism has collapsed; and our values
-- freedom, democracy, individual rights and free enterprise--they
have triumphed all around the world. And yet just as we have
won the Cold War abroad, we are losing the battles for economic
opportunity and social justice here at home. Now that we have
changed the world, it's time to change America.
I have news for the forces of greed and the defenders of
the status quo: your time has come--and gone. It's time for
a change in America.
Tonight ten million of our fellow Americans are out of work.
Tens of millions more work harder for lower pay. The incumbent
President says unemployment always goes up a little before
a recovery begins. But unemployment only has to go up by one
more person before a real recovery can begin. And, Mr. President,
you are that man.
This election is about putting power back in your hands and
putting government back on your side. It's about putting people
You know, I've said that all across the country, and someone
always comes back at me, as a young man did just this week
at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
He said, "That sounds good, Bill. But you're a politician.
Why should I trust you?"
Tonight, as plainly as I can, I want to tell you who I am,
what I believe, and where I want to lead America.
I never met my father. He was killed in a car wreck on a
rainy road three months before I was born, driving home from
Chicago to Arkansas to see my mother.
After that, my mother had to support us. So we lived with
my grandparents while she went back to Louisiana to study
I can still see her clearly tonight through the eyes of a
three- year-old: kneeling at the railroad station and weeping
as she put me back on the train to Arkansas with my grandmother.
She endured her pain because she knew her sacrifice was the
only way she could support me and give me a better life.
My mother taught me. She taught me about family and hard
work and sacrifice. She held steady through tragedy after
tragedy. And she held our family, my brother and I, together
through tough times. As a child, I watched her go off to work
each day at a time when it wasn't always easy to be a working
As an adult, I've watched her fight off breast cancer. And
again she has taught me a lesson in courage. And always, always
she taught me to fight.
That's why I'll fight to create high-paying jobs so that
parents can afford to raise their children today. That's why
I'm so committed to making sure every American gets the health
care that saved my mother's life, and that women's health
care gets the same attention as men's. That's why I'll fight
to make sure women in this country receive respect and dignity
-- whether they work in the home, out of the home, or both.
You want to know where I get my fighting spirit? It all started
with my mother.
Thank you, Mother. I love you.
When I think about opportunity for all Americans, I think
about my grandfather.
He ran a country store in our little town of Hope. There
were no food stamps back then, so when his customers -- whether
they were white or black, who worked hard and did the best
they could, came in with no money--well, he gave them food
anyway --just made a note of it. So did I. Before I was big
enough to see over the counter, I learned from him to look
up to people other folks looked down on.
My grandfather just had a grade-school education. But in
that country store he taught me more about equality in the
eyes of the Lord than all my professors at Georgetown; more
about the intrinsic worth of every individual than all the
philosophers at Oxford; and he taught me more about the need
for equal justice than all the jurists at Yale Law School.
If you want to know where I come by the passionate commitment
I have to bringing people together without regard to race,
it all started with my grandfather.
I learned a lot from another person, too. A person who for
more than 20 years has worked hard to help our children--paying
the price of time to make sure our schools don't fail them.
Someone who traveled our state for a year, studying, learning,
listening, going to PTA meetings, school board meetings, town
hall meetings, putting together a package of school reforms
recognized around the nation, and doing it all while building
a distinguished legal career and being a wonderful loving
That person is my wife.
Hillary taught me. She taught me that all children can learn,
and that each of us has a duty to help them do it. So if you
want to know why I care so much about our children and our
future; it all started with Hillary. I love you.
Frankly, I'm fed up with politicians in Washington lecturing
the rest of us about "family values." Our families have values.
But our government doesn't.
I want an America where "family values" live in our actions,
not just in our speeches--an America that includes every family,
every traditional family and every extended family, every
two-parent family, every single-parent family, and every foster
I do want to say something to the fathers in this country
who have chosen to abandon their children by neglecting to
pay their child support: take responsibility for your children
or we will force you to do so. Because governments don't raise
children; parents do. And you should.
And I want to say something to every child in America tonight
who is out there trying to grow up without a father or a mother:
I know how you feel. You're special, too. You matter to America.
And don't ever let anybody tell you you can't become whatever
you want to be. And if other politicians make you feel like
you're not a part of their family, come on and be part of
The thing that makes me angriest about what's gone wrong
in the last 12 years is that our government has lost touch
with our values, while our politicians continue to shout about
them. I'm tired of it.
I was raised to believe its that the American Dream was built
on rewarding hard work. But we have seen the folks in Washington
turn the American ethic on its head. For too long, those who
play by the rules and keep the faith have gotten the shaft,
and those who cut corners and cut deals have been rewarded.
People are working harder than ever, spending less time with
their children, working nights and weekends at their jobs
instead of gong to PTA and Little League or Scouts, and their
incomes are still going down. Their taxes are going up, and
the costs of health care, housing and education are going
through the roof. Meanwhile, more and more of our best people
are falling into poverty -- even when they work forty hours
Our people are pleading for change, but government is in
the way. It has been hijacked by privileged, private interests.
It has forgotten who really pays the bills around here --
it's taking more of your money and giving you less in return.
We have got to go beyond the brain-dead politics in Washington,
and give our people the kind of government they deserve: a
government that works for them.
A President -- a President ought to be a powerful force for
progress. But right now I know how President Lincoln felt
when General McClellan wouldn't attack in the Civil War. He
asked him, "If you're not going to use your army, may I borrow
it?" And so I say, George Bush, if you won't use your power
to help America, step aside. I will.
Our country is falling behind. The President is caught in
the grip of a failed economic theory. We have gone from first
to thirteenth in the world in wages since Reagan and Bush
have been in office. Four years ago, candidate Bush said America
is a special place, not just "another pleasant country on
the U.N roll call, between Albania and Zimbabwe." Now, under
President Bush, America has an unpleasant economy stuck somewhere
between Germany and Sri Lanka. And for most Americans, Mr.
President, life's a lot less kind and a lot less gentle than
it was before your Administration took office.
Our country has fallen so far, so fast that just a few months
ago the Japanese Prime Minister actually said he felt "sympathy"
for the United States. Sympathy. When I am your President,
the rest of the world will not look down on us with pity,
but up to us with respect again.
What is George Bush doing about our economic problems? Now,
four years ago he promised us fifteen million new jobs by
this time. And he's over fourteen million short. Al Gore and
I can do better.
He has raised taxes on the people driving pick-up trucks,
and lowered taxes on people riding in limousines. We can do
He promised to balance the budget, but he hasn't even tried.
In fact, the budgets he has submitted have nearly doubled
the debt. Even worse, he wasted billions and reduced our investment
in education and jobs. We can do better.
So if you are sick and tired of a government that doesn't
work to create jobs; if you're sick and tired of a tax system
that's stacked against you; if you're sick and tired of exploding
debt and reduced investments in our future -- or if, like
the great civil rights pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer, you're just
plain old sick and tired of being sick and tired -- then join
us, work with us, win with us. And we can make our country
the country it was meant to be.
Now, George Bush talks a good game. But he has no game plan
to rebuild America from the cities to the suburbs to the countryside
so that we can compete and win again in the global economy.
He won't take on the big insurance companies and the bureaucracies
to control health costs and give us affordable health care
for all Americans. But I will.
He won't even implement the recommendations of his own Commission
on AIDS. But I will.
He won't streamline the federal government, and change the
way it works; cut a hundred thousand bureaucrats, and put
a hundred thousand new police officers on the streets of American
cities. But I will.
He has never balanced a government budget. But I have, eleven
He won't break the stranglehold the special interests have
on our elections and the lobbyists have on our government.
But I will.
He won't give mothers and fathers the simple chance to take
some time off from work when a baby is born or a parent is
sick. But I will.
We're losing our family farms at a rapid rate, and he has
no commitment to keep family farms in the family. But I do.
He's talked a lot about drugs, but he hasn't helped people
on the front line to wage that war on drugs and crime. But
He won't take the lead in protecting the environment and
creating new jobs in environmental technology. But I will.
You know what else? He doesn't have Al Gore and I do.
Just in case -- just in case you didn't notice, that's Gore
with an E on the end.
And George Bush -- George Bush won't guarantee a woman's
right to choose. I will. Listen, hear me now: I am not pro-abortion.
I am pro-choice strongly. I believe this difficult and painful
decision should be left to the women of America. I hope the
right to privacy can be protected, and we will never again
have to discuss this issue on political platforms. But I am
old enough to remember what it was like before Roe v. Wade.
And I do not want to return to the time when we made criminals
of women and their doctors.
Jobs. Education. Health care. These are not just commitments
from my lips. They are the work of my life.
Our priorities must be clear: we will put our people first
again. But priorities without a clear plan of action are just
empty words. To turn our rhetoric into reality we've got to
change the way government does business -- fundamentally.
Until we do, we'll continue to pour billions of dollars down
The Republicans have campaigned against big government for
a generation. But have you noticed? They've run this big government
for a generation. And they haven't changed a thing. They don't
want to fix government. They still want to campaign against
it, and that's all.
But, my fellow Democrats, it's time for us to realize that
we've got some changing to do too. There is not a program
in government for every problem. And if we want to use government
to help people, we've got to make it work again.
Because we are committed in this convention and in this platform
to making these changes, we are, as Democrats, in the words
that Ross Perot himself spoke today, a revitalized Democratic
party. I am well aware that all those millions of people who
rallied to Ross Perot's cause wanted to be in an army of patriots
for change. Tonight I say to them: join us and together we
will revitalize America.
Now, I don't have all the answers. But I do know the old
ways don't work. Trickle down economics has sure failed. And
big bureaucracies, both private and public, they've failed,
That's why we need a new approach to government--a government
that offers more empowerment and less entitlement, more choices
for young people in the schools they attend, in the public
schools they attend, and more choices for the elderly and
for people with disabilities and the long-term care they receive--a
government that is leaner, not meaner. A government that expands
opportunity, not bureaucracy--a government that understands
that jobs must come from growth in a vibrant and vital system
of free enterprise. I call this approach a New Covenant --
a solemn agreement between the people and their government
-- based not simply on what each of us can take but on what
all of us must give to our nation.
We offer our people a new choice based on old values. We
offer opportunity. We demand responsibility. We will build
an American community again. The choice we offer is not conservative
or liberal. In many ways it's not even Republican or Democratic,
It's different. It's new. And it will work.
It will work because it is rooted in the vision and the values
of the American people. Of all the things George Bush has
ever said that I disagree with, perhaps the thing that bothers
me most is how he derides and degrades the American tradition
of seeing -- and seeking -- a better future. He mocks it as
"the vision thing." But remember just what the Scripture says:
"Where there is no vision the people perish."
I hope -- I hope nobody in this great hall tonight or in
our beloved country has to go through tomorrow without a vision.
I hope no one ever tries to raise a child without a vision.
I hope nobody ever starts a business or plants a crop in the
ground without a vision--for where there is no vision the
One of the reasons we have so many children in so much trouble
in so many places in this nation is because they have seen
so little opportunity, so little responsibility, and so little
loving, caring community that they literally cannot imagine
the life we are calling them to lead. And so I say again,
where there is no vision America will perish.
What is the vision of our New Covenant?
An America with millions of new jobs in dozens of new industries
moving confidently toward the 21st Century. An America that
says to entrepreneurs and business people: We will give you
more incentives and more opportunity than ever before to develop
the skills of your workers and create American jobs and American
wealth in the new global economy. But you must do your part;
you must be responsible. American companies must act like
American companies again -- exporting products, not jobs.
That's what this New Covenant is all about.
An America in which the doors of college are thrown open
once again to the sons and daughters of stenographers and
steelworkers. We'll say: Everybody can borrow the money to
go to college. But you must do your part. You must pay it
back -- from your paychecks, or better yet, by going back
home and serving your communities. Just think of it. Think
of it; millions of energetic young men and women, serving
their country by policing the streets, or teaching the children
or caring for the sick, or working with the elderly or people
with disabilities, or helping young people to stay off drugs
and out of gangs, giving us all a sense of new hope and limitless
possibilities. That's what this New Covenant is all about.
An America in which health care is a right, not a privilege.
In which we say to all of our people: Your government has
the courage -- finally -- to take on the health care profiteers
and make health care affordable for every family. But you
must do your part: preventive care, prenatal care, childhood
immunization; saving lives, saving money, saving families
from heartbreak. That's what the New Covenant is all about.
An America in which middle class incomes -- not middle class
taxes -- are going up. An America, yes, in which the wealthiest
few -- those making over $200,000 a year -- are asked to pay
their fair share. An America in which the rich are not soaked
-- but the middle class is not drowned either. Responsibility
starts at the top; that's what the New Covenant is all about.
An America where we end welfare as we know it. We will say
to those on welfare: you will have and you deserve the opportunity
through training and education, through child care and medical
coverage, to liberate yourself. But then, when you can, you
must work, because welfare should be a second chance, not
a way of life. That's what the New Covenant is all about.
An America with the world's strongest defense; ready and
willing to use force, when necessary. An America at the forefront
of the global effort to preserve and protect our common environment
- and promoting global growth. An America that will not coddle
tyrants, from Baghdad to Beijing. An America that champions
the cause of freedom and democracy, from Eastern Europe to
Southern Africa, and in our own hemisphere in Haiti and Cuba.
The end of the Cold War permits us to reduce defense spending
while still maintaining the strongest defense in the world.
But we must plow back every dollar of defense cuts into building
American jobs right here at home. I know well that the world
needs a strong America, but we have learned that strength
begins at home.
But the New Covenant is about more than opportunities and
responsibilities for you and your families. It's also about
our common community. Tonight every one of you knows deep
in your heart that we are too divided.
It is time to heal America. And so we must say to every American:
look beyond the stereotypes that blind us. We need each other.
All of us, we need each other. We don't have a person to waste.
And yet, for too long, politicians have told the most of us
that are doing all right that what's really wrong with America
is the rest of us. Them. Them the minorities. Them the liberals.
Them the poor. Them the homeless. Them the people with disabilities.
Them the gays. We've gotten to where we've nearly them'd ourselves
to death. Them, and them, and them. But this is America. There
is no them; there is only us. One nation, under God, indivisible,
with liberty, and justice, for all.
That is our Pledge of Allegiance, and that's what the New
Covenant is all about.
How do I know we can come together to make change happen?
Because I have see it in my own state. In Arkansas we're working
together and we're making progress. No, there is no Arkansas
miracle. But there are a lot of miraculous people. And because
of them, our schools are better, our wages are higher, our
factories are busier, our water is cleaner, and our budget
is balanced. We're moving ahead.
I wish -- I wish I could say the same thing about America
under the incumbent President. He took the richest country
in the world and brought it down. We took one of the poorest
states in America and lifted it up.
And so I say to those who would criticize Arkansas: come
on down. Especially if you're from Washington -- come to Arkansas.
You'll see us struggling against some problems we haven't
solved yet. But you'll also see a lot of great people doing
amazing things. And you might even learn a thing or two.
In the end, the New Covenant simply asks us all to be Americans
again--old-fashioned Americans for a new time. Opportunity.
Responsibility. Community. When we pull together, America
will pull ahead. Throughout the whole history of this country,
we have seen time and again that when we are united, we are
unstoppable. We can seize this moment, we can make it exciting
and energizing and heroic to be an American again. We can
renew our faith in ourselves and each other, and restore our
sense of unity and community. Scripture says, our eyes have
not yet seen, nor our ears heard, nor our minds imagined what
we can build.
But I cannot do it alone. No President can. We must do it
together. It won't be easy and it won't be quick. We didn't
get into this mess overnight, and we won't get out of it overnight.
But we can do it--with our commitment and our creativity and
our diversity and our strength. I want every person in this
hall and every citizen in this land to reach out and join
us in a great new adventure to chart a bold new future.
As a teenager I heard John Kennedy's summons to citizenship.
And then, as a student at Georgetown, I heard that call clarified
by a professor I had, named Carroll Quigley, who said America
was the greatest country in the history of the world because
our people have always believed in two great ideas: first,
that tomorrow can be better than today, and second, that each
of us has a personal, moral responsibility to make it so.
That future entered my life the night our daughter Chelsea
was born. As I stood in that delivery room, I was overcome
with the thought that God had given me a blessing my own father
never knew: the chance to hold my child in my arms.
Somewhere at this very moment, another child is born in America.
Let it be our cause to give that child a happy home, a healthy
family, a hopeful future. Let it be our cause to see that
child reach the fullest of her God-given abilities. Let it
be our cause that she grow up strong and secure, braced by
her challenges, but never, never struggling alone; with family
and friends and a faith that in America, no one is left out;
no one is left behind.
Let it be our cause that when she is able, she gives something
back to her children, her community, and her country. And
let it be our cause to give her a country that's coming together,
and moving ahead -- a country of boundless hopes and endless
dreams; a country that once again lifts up its people, and
inspires the world.
Let that be our cause and our commitment and our New Covenant.
I end tonight where it all began for me: I still believe
in a place called Hope.