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pd06oc97 Statement on the Report of the Commission on Immigration Reform...


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of the campaigns. And I have worked very hard to do that. But we have to 
do both.
    Now, just today, the United States Senate began debate on a very 
important bill, the campaign finance reform bill sponsored by Senator 
John McCain of Arizona, a Republican, and Senator Russ Feingold of 
Wisconsin, a Democrat, working together to curb special interest money 
in politics. I called on Congress to stay in session and not go home 
until it acts on reform. And I'm delighted the debate has begun. But I 
want to say to you, we have debated this before, and every time we 
debate it--at least since I have been President--every year we've had a 
good campaign finance reform bill before the Senate, I have supported 
it. And every year, it has died under the parliamentary tactic that 
allows one more than 40 Senators to keep any

[[Page 1433]]

bill from being voted on--called the filibuster--so that you never 
really know.
    Now, maybe this year there will be a different strategy. But I 
pledge to you, you hide and watch, there will be a lot of efforts to 
make it look like we're going to do something and nothing will happen, 
unless we all work hard and demand that something happen.
    So if you're worried about this and you'd like to see a system where 
you felt greater confidence in the way campaigns are financed, you 
should do two things. One is, you should say to your Congressman and 
Senators, ``Pass good campaign finance reform this year, and do it, and 
we want it.'' And secondly, you should support our efforts to lower the 
cost of campaigns by saying that people who follow these limits and 
don't abuse the system should be given reduced cost for access to you on 
television, on radio, in the newspapers, and other ways of 
communications. We have to lower the cost if we're going to clean up the 
way it's financed. And I hope you'll support them both.
    I want to go back now to the economy and talk about the role of 
education in it, and especially your role in community colleges. We 
decided that we needed a new economic strategy for the new economy that 
had three components: one, reduce the deficit; two, find a way even 
while you're cutting the deficit to invest more money in people, in 
technology, and the future; and three, expand markets for American 
products and services abroad.
    By removing the deficits, we could free our people of this huge 
deadweight of high interest rates and other problems that have been on 
us since the early 1980's. We did that in 1993 when we passed our first 
deficit reduction plan that had cut the deficit by 87 percent before we 
passed the balanced budget amendment. And I'm very proud of all the 
Members of Congress who supported that.
    By investing in education and health, we knew we would enable more 
Americans to actually win the race over the long run that the global 
economy imposes on all of us. And we did. We've expanded funding for 
Head Start, for public school programs like putting more computers in 
the schools and trying to hook up every classroom and library to the 
Internet by the year 2000, by expanding Pell grants and work study 
programs, even before this last budget.
    By reducing trade barriers, we thought we could knock down unfairly 
high hurdles that Americans have had to leap for too long. There's a lot 
of big debates about trade in Washington, and out here in the country 
every poll says all Americans always believe we're being treated 
unfairly. And we do have the most open markets in the world, on the 
whole, but you should know that we're now the biggest exporter in the 
world, 220 trade agreements in the last 5 years. We're the number one 
exporter in the world. We're the number one producer of automobiles 
again in the world. And we're number one in computers in the world.
    And I'm in a big struggle now to try to get Congress to renew my 
authority to make these kind of trade agreements because we have 4 
percent of the world's population and 22 percent of the world's income. 
And one more fact, every expert says that in the next 10 years the 
developing economies in Asia and Latin America will grow at 3 times the 
rate--now, they're much poorer, but they'll grow at 3 times the rate of 
Europe, Japan, and the United States.
    Now, if we have 4 percent of the population and 22 percent of the 
income and other economies are going to grow 3 times as fast as we are, 
is there any way that you can think of for us to maintain our standard 
of living and improve it if we don't sell more to the other 96 percent 
of the people in the world? I think not. That's my simple case, and I 
hope you will support my continuing to be able to make these kinds of 
trade agreements to raise our incomes and give us a better future.
    You know that this strategy has worked, that the American people 
have produced 13 million jobs almost--just under 13 million jobs in the 
last 4\1/2\ years. Unemployment is below 5 percent. We've had the 
largest drop in welfare in our history. We now have the smallest 
percentage of people living on welfare in America we've had since 1970, 
after two decades of immigration, bringing a lot of people in from 
around the world. A lot of our poorest communities are experiencing a 
renewal.

[[Page 1434]]

    We also have seen dramatic drops in the crime rate, nationally, in 
no small measure because we adopted a strategy pioneered in Houston by 
Mayor Lanier of putting more police on the streets, putting them on the 
streets in the areas where they are most needed, supporting their 
communities. We've done that now for 100,000 police. We need to do it 
until every American community is safe for children to play in and walk 
the streets in and be in school in again.
    The balanced budget adopted in July reflects these priorities: cut 
the deficit, balance the budget, expand investment in people. It has, 
for example, enough funds--$24 billion--to insure half the kids in this 
country who don't have health insurance. Almost all of them are in 
working families where the mother or the father or both can't get health 
insurance on the job. It provides tax relief for working families, $500 
tax credit a child. It's worth about $1,000 in income to the typical 
family with two children.
    It also has some other important programs. The America Reads 
program--we're going to try to mobilize one million volunteers--I hope 
some of them will be here at this community college--organized by 
AmeriCorps, our national service program, which has been very active in 
Texas, and others to get a million volunteers to make sure every 8-year-
old can read independently in this country. That's very important with 
all the diversity we have.
    But the most important part of the budget, in my judgment, over the 
long run, will be the work we did so that we could finally say, for the 
first time in history, we have opened the doors of college to all 
Americans who are willing to work for it.
    After all, the new economy is a knowledge economy. In the 19th 
century, opportunity came from access to a land grant, like one that 
gave many of your ancestors here in Texas a little bit of land to start 
their homes. In the 21st century, instead of a land grant, people will 
want a Pell grant, because they know that what they know is their key to 
the future, not what they own but what they know and what they can 
learn.
    Our goal is simple. By the end of this century, we want education in 
a community college like this, the 13th and 14th years of education, to 
be as universal when we start the new century as a high school diploma 
is today. That is a simple goal, and if we achieve it, it will explode 
opportunity in the United States and change the future of every young 
person in this room and in this country. And I hope you'll support us in 
achieving it.
    Now, let me just briefly explain how this budget supports that goal. 
We issued a report from the Department of Education today explaining it, 
but let me just go through it. First and foremost, this balanced budget 
gives nearly 6 million students a $1,500 a year HOPE scholarship. That's 
a tax cut for the first 2 years of college.
    Here at San Jacinto and community colleges across Texas and in six 
other States, that means that your tuition and your fees will be 
completely covered by the tax cut you will get because of this program. 
But in fact, all across America, those who get the maximum HOPE 
scholarship will find that it covers about 90 percent of the national 
average, not only of full-time tuition but also of fee costs for 
community colleges. It is a great thing. Now, the budget also gives 
further higher education and training tax cuts after the first 2 years 
to 7 million Americans who are juniors and seniors in college, who are 
graduate students, or who are older workers who went back to school to 
take classes to upgrade their skills, because we want to continue 
education for a lifetime.
    What my objectives are here are: number one, open the doors of 
college to all; number two, make the first 2 years of college as 
universal as high school is today; number three, make it possible for 
everybody to keep on learning for a lifetime, so they never have to 
stop. That's what we're trying to do.
    Now, in addition to the tax cuts, because not everybody has enough 
income to pay income tax, we also had the biggest increase in Pell 
grants in 20 years. The average Pell grant will be about $2,000 a year 
for 1.4 million community college students. We created another 100,000 
work-study positions. We created 200,000 more last year. So in 2 years, 
we will have gone from 700,000 to a million work-study positions. All 
these things are very, very important.
    In addition to that, we have created an IRA, individual retirement 
account, that you

[[Page 1435]]

can put money in every year, and then you can withdraw from it tax-free, 
penalty-free, if the money is being used for education, health care, or 
to buy a first-time home. So these are the options that are there.
    So I say to you, this, I think--when people look back on this budget 
30, 40, 50 years from now, if they can say about it, ``This is the first 
time they opened the doors of college to all. They made the first 2 
years of college as universal as a high school diploma. They created a 
system where people could keep on learning for a lifetime''--that is a 
legacy that Congressman Bentsen and everybody in the United States 
Congress who support this can be proud of, because they are giving you 
the tools you need to make the most of your own lives and your future. 
And I think they did a great job, and I'm very proud of them.
    Let me also make one other point about education. Everyone now 
accepts--you can go anywhere in the world and people would accept the 
fact that America has the finest system of higher education in the 
world, the community colleges, the universities, the graduate work, 
research institutions--people would say that. Also, people would say 
their education, kindergarten through 12, is not as good as it ought to 
be. Now, they would admit that we have more challenges than most people. 
We have more racial and ethnic diversity; we have more income diversity. 
We have more challenges. But that cannot be an excuse for us not to 
achieve high standards. In fact, the poorer the children are, the more 
they need high academic standards in the early years--the more they need 
that.
    And so I advocated in my State of the Union Address something I have 
been out there advocating for a decade now, which is that we ought to 
have national academic standards, at least in the basic courses. What 
should a fourth grader be able to know in reading? What should an eighth 
grader be able to know in math? Those are two places to start. And I 
have advocated that we set up these voluntary standards and have 
voluntary exams and give them to the students and not have anybody 
punished who doesn't do well but at least give every school, every 
district, and every parent some idea about whether their children know 
what they're supposed to know at an early time so if something needs to 
be done they can do something about it.
    Now, the community colleges--think about how they work. You know if 
what you're doing doesn't work--why?--because your graduates won't get 
jobs. If either you don't give them a good education, they won't be able 
to produce, that reputation will get out, and people won't hire you, or 
if you get trained in the wrong things, then you will be a mismatch so 
you won't get hired. So you have a check, right? We need a check for our 
children.
    The United States is the only major country in the world without a 
set of national academic standards. Now, because virtually all of our 
teachers and principals are dedicated, because virtually all of our 
parents care, a lot of people get a good education anyway, but it is 
very uneven. So I hope you will support that.
    Earlier today I learned that 43 Democratic Senators have signed a 
letter supporting my standards and saying that they would either stop or 
vote to uphold a veto if there was a bill passed in Congress to keep us 
from participating. But the House of Representatives last week passed a 
bill saying the Federal Government can't have any funding of these 
exams. I think that's a mistake.
    So I hope--most of you--you're up on--in community college now, a 
lot of you here are out of that. But don't forget those kids coming 
behind. And don't forget what a challenge it's going to be. And having 
high expectations of people does not put them down; it lifts them up. It 
does not put people down; it lifts them up. So I ask you to help.
    Here's the last point I want to make--and some of you may think I'm 
meddling here, but I plead guilty. [Laughter] We need an economy that 
works for everybody. We need an educational system that works for all. 
We still have to make sure our country works for everybody. Texas knows 
all about diversity. This has always been a diverse place. After all, it 
was Mexico first. So we know about this here. And I might say, I really 
have appreciated the fact that attitudes toward immigration in Texas, 
among both Democrats and Republicans, generally have been more con

[[Page 1436]]

structive here than in many other places in the country.
    But even you may not have any idea about just how diverse this 
country is becoming. In the Fairfax County School District, just across 
the river from Washington, DC, in one public school district there are 
students from 182 nations whose native languages number more than 100.
    Now, because of all the upheavals in the world and because of what 
America means, more than ever people seek to come here to redeem the 
promise of this country. We need to find a way to say we value all this 
diversity. In a global economy--in a global economy--two things will pay 
off like crazy: one, high levels of education and skills; and two, being 
able to relate to everybody else. You know, you can go to any continent, 
and you will find people who are eager to do business with America and 
have closer ties with America, for one thing because they have kinfolks 
in America. You can go to any country and find that.
    So we have to ask ourselves, are we going to be united or divided in 
this? Yesterday--you may have seen the news--we celebrated the 40th 
anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School 
yesterday. It was a wonderful day. Nine children, 40 years ago, put 
their necks on the line to do this and really were in danger. Their 
parents had to undergo the agony of sending their children out the door 
armed only with their schoolbooks, and they were all threatened with the 
loss of their jobs. It was a difficult time, but it helped to make us 
more one America.
    Look around the world today. When you see--just pick up the paper on 
any given day and see what kind of foreign policy problem I'm dealing 
with. Is it Bosnia? Is it Northern Ireland? Is it the Middle East? Is it 
tribal slaughter in Rwanda or Burundi? You will be amazed the number of 
foreign policy problems your President is called upon to deal with 
because people in other parts of the world insist upon killing each 
other or hating each other because of their racial, their ethnic, or 
their religious differences. It is stunning.
    There is something almost endemic to human nature which makes people 
want to be at odds with folks who are different, from them, just like 
there is something in the human heart that causes people to reach beyond 
that and want to embrace people who are different once you realize that 
down deep we're all the same. So this is a huge thing.
    I want to start with a story to get to where I may be meddling. A 
half a century ago--a half a century ago--Mayor Bob Lanier was a law 
student at the University of Texas. The school then still denied 
admission to African-Americans. So he volunteered to go over to a tiny 
one-room classroom that had been set up for black law students in a 
basement several blocks from the law school and teach constitutional law 
to students who had been unconstitutionally barred from the university.
    One of his students was a man named Heman Sweatt, who went on to 
become the first African-American admitted to the University of Texas 
Law School, after the Supreme Court decision of Sweatt v. Painter. Then 
the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, which basically 
said that the schools of this country, the public schools, had to be 
integrated. It was that case that gave the basic power to those nine 
children who walked up the steps at Little Rock Central High School 40 
years ago yesterday.
    Well, 50 years later, Bob Lanier, who is about to end his service as 
the Mayor of Houston, continues to open doors, reaches out to everybody 
in the community. Businesses that were run by minorities and women that 
were once shut out of city hall now have an opportunity to compete for 
the city's business. And I just want to say that I'd hate to see Houston 
turn back the clock on the progress of the last 50 years and the 
progress that Mayor Lanier has made in the last few years.
    I'd also like to compliment the work of a group called Houston 
Together that includes a number of citizens, but including Congresswoman 
Sheila Jackson Lee and Phil Carroll of Shell and Ken Lay of Enron. By 
drawing strength and diversity, this whole area is on a remarkable track 
to the 21st century. Again, the city and the county should work the way 
San Jac does. That's what you've got to do. You've got to have--
everybody has got to feel like they've got a part in this, a voice that 
will be heard, an interest

[[Page 1437]]

that will be taken account of, and then in the end, a way of coming to a 
unified decision. I think that is terribly important.

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