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pd13se99 Letter to Congressional Leaders...

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hook them up to the Internet. So I say, let's give all of our kids

[[Page 1698]]

a chance to maximize their God-given potential.
    Now, here's the problem that we're about to confront in Congress 
when the Congress comes back. They passed a tax cut that's too big to do 
this. And in order to fund their tax cut, they have to do one of two 
things, both of which they said they won't do. They either have to get 
into the surplus produced by your Social Security taxes, which they 
promised to save to pay the debt down, or they have to cut what we're 
already spending on education, on the environment, on health care, on 
technology and research. That's what the problem is.
    So that's why they haven't sent me an education bill. I guess if I 
had that choice I wouldn't send one to the President either. [Laughter] 
They don't want to cut education when they said they wouldn't. They 
don't want to eat up the Social Security surplus when they said they 
wouldn't. And they can't figure out what to do. But I'll tell you this, 
if their tax cut passes and they respect the Social Security surplus, 
here's what would happen.
    Today, we're helping 12 million kids in poor communities to make 
more of their education. If their plan passes, 6 million of them 
wouldn't get help anymore. Today, we help a million kids to learn to 
read by the third grade. If their plan passes, half of them wouldn't get 
help anymore. Today, we're almost at our goal of a million kids in Head 
Start. There were some Head Start teachers out there when I was driving 
in today--if their plan passes, over 400,000 of them would lose their 
support. It means larger classes, fewer students, more trailers, and 
more leaky roofs.
    Now, I don't believe the American people want that. We can have a 
tax cut, but we've got to do first things first. Let's look after the 
long-term needs of the country, fix the economy long term, deal with 
Social Security and Medicare, deal with education, figure out what's 
left and then give it back to the people in a tax cut. Let's deal with 
our responsibilities to our children and our future first. I have put 
forward a plan that does that.
    Back in 1950, when he sent his school construction program to 
Congress, President Truman said this--49 years ago; it sounds pretty 
good still today. ``The Nation cannot afford to waste human 
potentialities, as we are now, by failing to provide adequate elementary 
and secondary education for millions of children.'' Equal opportunity in 
education is America's ticket to the future. It is a bedrock value in 
this country. It is indispensable to the 21st century for individuals 
and for our Nation alike. Fifty years ago it was Quonset huts; today 
it's trailers and broken buildings.
    Ladies and gentlemen, I thank all of you who worked to fix this 
building. I ask you to leave here on this Labor Day committed to fix all 
the buildings. I thank you for the applause you gave Le'Shia, and I 
thank all of her fellow students and their families for being here. I 
ask you to leave here thinking about all the little boys and girls like 
them all across America. I have been back and forth across this country, 
and I have seen the conditions that exist here today everywhere, in the 
largest cities and the smallest towns. There is nothing more important.
    Here in Norfolk we honor our military, which has made such a major 
contribution to this community. I want to thank the Navy Band for being 
here today, by the way. Thank you very much.
    There are those who believe that--and I saw some of their signs 
outside--that we don't need a strong military today because the cold war 
is over. I can tell you that's not true either. We still have 
significant challenges to your security. But I also want you to 
understand something I know you know, which is, maybe more than anything 
else, the future security of the United States of America will rest upon 
our ability to give every single child in this country the ability to do 
well in a global economy, in a global society, to live up to his or her 
dreams. That's what we're here on this Labor Day to support.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 2:28 p.m. on the playground. In his 
remarks, he referred to student Le'Shia Jamison, who introduced the 
President; Mayor Paul D. Fraim of Norfolk; John O.
Simpson, superintendent, Norfolk Public School District; Anita O. 
Poston, chairman, Norfolk Public School Board; John J. Sweeney, 
president, AFL-CIO; Robert A. Georgine, president, Building and 
Construction Trades Department, AFL-

[[Page 1699]]

CIO; James R. Leaman, secretary-treasurer, Virginia State AFL-CIO; Cheri 
James, president, Virginia Education Association; and Ronald I. 
Dozoretz, founder, FHC Health Systems.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 1699-1700]
Monday, September 13, 1999
Volume 35--Number 36
Pages 1689-1724
Week Ending Friday, September 10, 1999
Remarks at a Labor Day Picnic
in Newport News, Virginia

September 6, 1999

    Thank you very much. Let me just begin by saying how grateful I am 
for the wonderful reception you have given me. You know, I can't tell 
you how much I appreciate the kindness and friendship that you have 
given to me and my family, my Vice President and his family, and our 
administration, through two Presidential elections and 6\1/2\ years of 
our 8-year term. I thank you.
    I want to thank Congressman Sisisky and Delegate Crittenden here, 
who gave a pretty good reason for keeping Senator Robb in office, and I 
hope you'll listen to her.
    I want you to know what we were doing before we came here. We were 
actually working on a school, to highlight one of the things I'm trying 
to get this Congress to do, which is to pass a bill that would help us 
to build or modernize 6,000 new schools so our kids, whether they're 
rich or poor, will have world-class places to go to school in.
    So I want to thank the Secretary of Education, the national head of 
the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney and Secretary Riley, and the leaders of our 
two great teachers' organizations, the NEA and the AFT, Bob Chase and 
Sandy Feldman. They're all over here with me. Give them a hand. 
    Now, you know, somebody asked me the day before yesterday why I was 
coming down here. They said, ``You're not running for anything anymore; 
you can't.'' And I said, ``Well, yes, but I haven't lost my memory, and 
those people gave me two great terms as President. I wanted to go down 
and thank them.''
    And these two guys are--I want you to take care of Bobby Scott. He 
is a great resource for you and for the country. And I want you--you 
know, every time Senator Robb runs, he has a challenging race. You know 
why? Because he sticks up for you, that's why. Because he makes the hard 
decisions for the long run, because he was one of those guys who stood 
up in 1993. We didn't have a vote to spare. If he had changed his vote, 
I would have lost that economic plan that's given us 19.4 million jobs 
and the biggest surplus in history. And they tried to beat him 2 years 
later because he stood up for you. Because he believes we all ought to 
go forward together. And I've known him for nearly 20 years now, and 
he's always standing up. So next time the election comes around, I want 
you to stand up for him. Will you do it? [Applause]
    Now, let me say this. This is Labor Day, so I want to make some 
remarks about labor. There are a lot of big issues in this country 
today, but when I got elected President, it was after 12 years of people 
in the other party running the White House saying they were pro-business 
and good for the economy, and we had the worst recession since the Great 
Depression and the biggest deficit in history, and we quadrupled the 
debt in 12 years.
    I said I'm pro-business, but I'm pro-labor, too. I don't think you 
can help the economy if you hurt the working people. Guess what? We beat 
off all their efforts to weaken unions. We beat back all their efforts 
to hurt the fundamental interests of working people. We passed the 
Family and Medical Leave Act. We raised the minimum wage once. We helped 
people with child care who were working more, and we got 19.4 million 
jobs, record numbers of new small businesses every year, the lowest 
minority unemployment rate ever recorded. It works. If you take care of 
ordinary people, it works.
    So on this Labor Day, as we go back to work, I'd like to just 
mention some things that relate to you. Number one, we ought to raise 
the minimum wage again. Number two, we ought to do a better job of 
enforcing the law that says there should be equal pay for equal work 
between men and women. Number three, we ought to do more to help workers 
with children at home, working full-time, succeed by helping them with 
their child care expenses more. Number four, we ought to give investors, 
people with money, the same tax incentives to invest in poor 
neighborhoods in America we give them to invest overseas in poor 
neighborhoods, because we all know that not every neighborhood has been 
fully benefited by this economic expansion. I've been out there across

[[Page 1700]]

the country, in the cities, in the small towns, in the rural areas, on 
the Indian reservations, up and down the Mississippi River. You know as 
well as I do that in every part of America, there are still people in 
places who would work or work harder and better if they had a chance to 
do so, and I am determined to see that we don't stop this until 
everybody's involved. Number four, we ought--before we have this big tax 
cut the Republicans have proposed--we ought to take care of the big 
challenges facing America. We ought to make sure Social Security and 
Medicare are going to be all right when all the baby boomers retire. 
We've got the largest number of children in our schools in history, and 
they're more diverse than ever before. We ought to make sure they've got 
a world-class education before we give the money away. And I think that 
we ought to get this country out of debt for the first time since 1835, 
before we give the money away.
    Now, let me tell you why that ought to matter to you. Because if the 
Government is not borrowing money, that means that you're not in 
competition with the Government; that means you can borrow cheaper; that 
means home mortgages are lower; that means car payments are lower; that 
means credit card payments are lower; that means college loan payments 
are lower; that means more businesses, more jobs, a stronger economy for 
the future. That's why I want to get America out of debt, because it's 
good for little people.
    You know, I'll be retired pretty soon; debt will be good for me. 
I've got a good pension; I can buy those Government bonds all day long. 
I can make money out of debt. You'll make money if we get out of debt 
and your interest rates are lower and the economy grows more. And I want 
these children to have a good economy to grow up into. So you just 
remember this. Nothing that has happened in this country in the last 
6\1/2\ years that I have achieved as President could have been possible 
without others, beginning with the people that work with me, starting 
with the Vice President, going to the people in Congress like Senator 
Robb and Bobby Scott and Norm Sisisky; and going all the way down to the 
grassroots in America, the people like you that voted for us.
    So, on this Labor Day, as you leave here, if somebody asks you, what 
did the President say, tell them he said, ``We had an idea and it 
worked. That helping ordinary people works, and it requires people like 
you to be good citizens and keep people like them in office. And if you 
do, it will keep right on working.''
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 5:10 p.m., at a private residence. In his 
remarks, he referred to State Delegate Flora Davis Crittenden.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 1700-1703]
Monday, September 13, 1999
Volume 35--Number 36
Pages 1689-1724
Week Ending Friday, September 10, 1999
Remarks at Brooke Grove Elementary School in Olney, Maryland

September 7, 1999

    Thank you so much. You know, when I was in grade school, we used to 
joke that our favorite class was assembly. [Laughter] But you've been 
out here so long, and it's so hot, I'm not sure it's true anymore. 
[Laughter] I will try to be brief.
    I want to, first of all, say how greatly honored I am to be here 
with Governor Glendening and Senator Sarbanes and Congressman Cardin and 
your Representative, Congresswoman Morella; with Senator
Miller and the other members of the Maryland legislature; with your 
principal, Eoline Cary; Jerry Weast, the Montgomery County 
superintendent. I want to thank the teachers in the classes whom I 
visited, Ms. Tepper and Ms. Husted, and their students, who asked good 
questions and got me to read a book, a book about friendship, which I 
could use a little of myself from time to time. [Laughter] I want to 
thank the teachers, the parents, and the students. And I want to thank 
Nancy Grasmick, and Reggie Felton, the chair of the Montgomery County 
School Board, and all the people in Maryland for their dedication. And I 
thank you, Robin Davis, for your introduction and for your devotion to 
teaching. And we have also on the stage with us Jessica Goldstein, who 
is another one of the reading specialists, also hired under our program.
    Most of all, if I might, I'd like to say a special word of thanks to 
my friend of over 20 years, the Secretary of Education, Dick

[[Page 1701]]

Riley. I think plainly the finest Education Secretary this country has 
ever had. And I really thank him for his leadership.
    I knew before I came here that this was a blue ribbon school. Now 
that I've been here, I know why. I loved walking down the halls; I loved 
reading the posters on the walls; I loved talking to the students and 
watching the instruction. Education is the priority in this school. 
Education must be America's priority, as well.
    We now have in our schools, starting last year for the first time 
since the end of World War II, we've got a group of students in our 
schools bigger than the baby boom generation, the largest number of 
children ever in the schools of the United States. And as all of you 
know, it's also the most diverse group of students ever--racially, 
religiously, culturally. We have the largest number of students in our 
schools whose first language is not English, by far in the history of 
the country. And yet, we know that in a global society our diversity can 
be an enormous asset if, but only if, we can give every one of our 
children a world-class education. And we don't have a moment to lose.
    I'm here because for 6\1/2\ years we have worked very hard to raise 
standards, to raise expectations, to raise accountability, and to raise 
the level of support so that every child in America could have an 
education like the children of Brooke Grove Elementary get. And I think 
that's what all of you want.
    As I indicated, Dick Riley and I have been working on this issue for 
more than 20 years now. Both Hillary and I made it our first priority 
when I was Governor of my State for 12 years. Earlier this year I 
proposed an education accountability plan based on what I have seen 
working for more than a decade now, to help raise standards, make good 
schools even better, and have specific initiatives to help turn around 
schools that aren't making the grade--to provide more funds for after-
school and summer school programs for the kids who need it; to expand 
early reading programs; to reach our goal of connecting every classroom 
and library in the country, in every school, to the Internet by the year 
2000. We now have HOPE scholarships, more Pell grants, other student 
loans, grants, and tax credits, which have literally opened the doors of 
college to virtually every single American.
    And last fall, as you've heard, we persuaded a huge bipartisan 
majority in Congress to come together across party lines and put a 
downpayment on hiring 100,000 well-prepared teachers to lower class 
sizes in the early grades, teachers like Robin Davis and Jessica 
Goldstein, and over 160 others in Montgomery County alone, part of the 
30,000 teachers nationwide who are now meeting their students this year, 
under this initiative.
    Everybody knows what Robin said: Students learn better, especially 
early, in smaller classes. Now we have research which confirms that 
those early learning gains are maintained by the children all the way 
through high school. We're not talking about some theory, here. You 
heard a teacher with 20 years of experience stand up and say what she 

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