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pd17my99 Remarks on Departure for Fort McNair, Maryland, and an Exchange With...
that was strongly emphasized was the necessity of giving a more comprehensive economic and political perspective for the Balkans. President Clinton. If I could just say very briefly--Chancellor Schroeder has faithfully summarized the items we discussed and the conclusions that we drew, and I would just like to say on behalf of the United States how much I appreciate the leadership of the German Chancellor and the German people in dealing with the refugee crisis, in trying to relieve the pressure on Macedonia and provide for the economic needs of both Macedonia and Albania, and in looking to the long-term development of the Balkans and southeastern Europe, which is critical if you're going to avoid future incidents of this kind. And on all those scores, both as the German Chancellor and as the present leader of the EU, I think he has done an outstanding job, and I am personally very grateful for it. Cooperation of Russia and China Q. Mr. President, how important is it in your view to get the U.N. behind the principles on Kosovo, and what do you intend in order to get not only Russia but also China into the part? President Clinton. Well, I believe it would be very, very helpful if the United Nations would endorse a peace process if it is a peace process that will work. Meaning that the refugees would have to be able to come back with security and autonomy, and the Serb forces would have to be withdrawn, and there must be a multinational security force there that NATO is a core part of. Now, the U.N. did so in Bosnia. We were there as--under the umbrella of the U.N. NATO was there; Russia was there; Ukraine was there. It worked. And it will work again and, obviously, would be much better. With regard to the Chinese, of course, the Chancellor is going to China in a couple of days, and he will have fresh news when he comes back. But I believe if the Russians support this, the Chinese will support this. And I think they believe that this is something the U.N. should do. Q. Mr. President, what's the significance of the agreement or statement that Russia--[inaudible]--initially today? President Clinton. I think the Chancellor might want to comment on that as well. The significance is that as far as I know, this is the first time that the Russians have publicly said they would support an international security as well as a civilian force in Kosovo. This is a significant step forward, and I was personally very pleased by it. Balkan Peace Process Q. Mr. President, what is your personal impression? Do you think there is a message you can convey to the German people that there is a longer period of blood, sweat, and tears that you have to look forward to or to look at in the near future, or do you think that there is a real peace process underway? President Clinton. I think there is a real peace process underway, but it has no chance of reaching a satisfactory conclusion unless we maintain Allied unity and firmness. I don't think the process is long, but I don't think we can afford to be discouraged or be impatient. We need to stay with the strategy we have and continue to aggressively support our air campaign and to aggressively support any diplomatic initiative that will secure the conditions necessary for a lasting peace in Kosovo. [[Page 839]] Group of Eight Statement on Kosovo Q. Mr. President, and Chancellor, do you think that the agreement, the statement that was issued today by the G-8 and Russia, will do anything to hasten the end to the conflict? Chancellor Schroeder. I can only repeat and emphasize what the President of the United States of America has just said. I consider it as truly substantial progress which has been made there. There has been open talk about the presence and the necessity for the presence of international troops there, and I think things will continue along that way. I would also very much like to emphasize the fact that I agree that there is no reason whatsoever to now think about a change in the NATO strategy now that the strategy does seem to work, and I'm talking about military as well as political initiatives undertaken therein. President Clinton. Let me just say very briefly, I agree with what the Chancellor has said. I do believe it's an advance because you have to see the G-8 resolution here, the statement, in the context of Mr. Chernomyrdin's efforts. I mean, here is a man that served as Premier of Russia twice; very highly regarded, I think, by all of us who have ever dealt with him on all sides of this issue. And this statement, plus his ongoing effort, I think you have to read this as a move forward and increasing the likelihood that there will ultimately be a resolution of this that will actually work. Thank you. Note: Chanceller Schroeder spoke at 5:45 p.m. in the Office of the Chancellor at the Chancellery. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of Macedonia. In President Clinton's remarks, he referred to Special Envoy and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin of Russia. The President also referred to the European Union (EU). A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks. This item was not received in time for publication in the appropriate issue. <DOC> [Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents] [frwais.access.gpo.gov] [Page 839-845] Monday, May 17, 1999 Volume 35-Number 19 Pages 833-893 Week Ending Friday, May 14, 1999 Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Luncheon in Houston, Texas May 7, 1999 Thank you very much, Ken. I want to thank you for so many things, but particularly today for the work you have done on this. And I thank Joe Andrew for being willing to leave Indiana, a State no one thought could become a Democratic State, that just elected a new Democratic Governor and elected Senator Evan Bayh overwhelmingly, thanks in no small measure to his leadership there. And I look forward to many years of his leadership for the DNC. I'd like to thank Molly Beth Malcolm for being here and Steve Zimmerman for providing us this modest little room to have lunch in. [Laughter] Someone told me that Napoleon was once in this room, but not in Texas--[laughter]--and Frederick the Great, and all kinds of other people. I don't know if any of them were Democrats, but we are. We may have tripled the number of Democrats who have ever been in this room in the last 300 years, just today at lunch. [Laughter] But I am delighted to be here, and I thank all of you for coming. I want to talk a little today--I know several of you said that I looked tired, and I don't know whether it's just because I'm not young anymore or because I just got back from 2 days meeting with our troops and with refugees from Kosovo in Germany. But this is a rather unusual moment for our country, I think, because things are in some ways the best of times. We just saw today, again last month unemployment rate was 4.3 percent. We had another 234,000 jobs; we're up to 18,400,000 now in the life of this administration. The welfare rolls have been cut nearly in half. We've got a 30-year low in the crime rate. The teen pregnancy rate is going down. Basically, the social indicators are good. Many of the indicators relating to drug use are moving in the right direction. And I want to say a special word of thanks, by the way--I think he-- no, he didn't [[Page 840]] leave--to Mayor Brown, who in his previous incarnation was a member of our Cabinet and led our Nation's efforts to keep our children away from drugs. And I was elated when he was elected mayor, and I hope you'll keep him here for a good long time, because I think he'll do a great job for you. And thank you, Mayor, for being here today. Anyway, you know, we have to feel good about these things. And I do, and I feel grateful. But all of us are sobered and saddened by three events of the recent days. And I would like to mention--although they seem entirely disparate--one is the terrible tornadoes that have claimed record numbers of lives in Oklahoma and Kansas and related storms here in Texas and over in Tennessee; the second, obviously, is the heartbreaking tragedy in Littleton, Colorado--I know we were all glad to see the children go back to school this week; and the third is the conflict in Kosovo. And I would like to try, if I could, today--it's not exactly your typical party-stump speech at a fundraising luncheon--but just ask you to think with me about how we're--what lessons we should learn from those three events and how it relates to what we're trying to do in our administration and with our party. And I'd like to go back just for a moment to 1992 and late 1991, when I made the decision to seek the Presidency. I was in my fifth term as Governor. I was having a wonderful time. Our daughter was doing well in school and with her friends. And Hillary and I were having more fun with our friends because I was about to get the hang of being Governor, having done it for 10 or 11 years. And I really didn't want to do what I did in 1992--plus, it seemed like a fool's errand; President Bush was at, like, 75 percent approval in the polls when I made the decision to run. And I knew I was a relatively young person, and I could wait, and that was my kind of personal inclination. But I was profoundly disturbed by two things: first, by the objective conditions in the United States. There were--unemployment was high; inequality was increasing; wages hadn't increased in real terms in 20 years; and all the social indicators were going in the wrong direction. But the second thing that bothered me was that the debate in Washington seemed so divorced from the world, on the street in Arkansas where I lived and from the larger world beyond the borders of the United States, that it seemed to me that the parties were caught in a gridlock, labeling each other and fighting over turf in Washington that did not deal with what I thought were the two great challenges of our age: One was preparing for the 21st century by trying to take advantage of all the economic changes and the technology and globalization that was going on in a way that enabled people to build stronger families and stronger communities and left no one behind; and the second was, to find a way to deal with the dizzying array of differences in our own society in a way that respected those differences but pulled us closer together. And I didn't see much coming out that would do that. And it seemed to me that there was a way that you could actually strengthen the economy, for example, and improve the environment. There was a way to reward entrepreneurs and still reach out to people who were being left behind and let them go along for the ride in this new economy. There should be a way to reduce the deficit and still increase investment and education and health care. There should be a way to help people succeed at home as parents and succeed at work. There should be a way that we could glorify the individual, as we always have in America, and recognize that fundamentally we'll all do better if we're one community. And that's basically what the campaign in '92 was all about, and those words that I said, that I wanted a society that had opportunity for all and responsibility from all and a community of all Americans. And that's why I'm here today. You know, I'm not running for office, and some of the people out on the street are apparently elated about it. [Laughter] But that's the American way. I'm not running for office. I'm here because, while I am grateful for the role I have been able to play as President, in the 18 million new jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in 29 years and having 90 percent of our kids immunized against serious diseases for the [[Page 841]] first time in history, opening the doors of college to all Americans with the tax credits and the improved student loan program and the scholarship programs, and all the other things we've done--the air is cleaner; the water is cleaner; we've set aside more land to be protected than any administration in history, except those of the two Roosevelts-- I am grateful for all of that. But this is not a matter of personality. We had ideas that we turned into policies. We changed the role of Government. We have a smaller Government. There are fewer people working for the Federal Government now than in any time since John Kennedy was President. And yet, it's more active. We focus less on telling people what to do and more on giving people the tools to solve their own problems and creating the conditions in which Americans could thrive in the world. And the ideas matter. And the values, the principles of opportunity and responsibility and community matter. And the Democratic Party, therefore, matters. These ideas have benefited every people in every State. They have benefited Republicans and independents as much as they have benefited Democrats. They are capable of unifying the country at a time when so many continue to seek to divide it. And they also give us a clue about what we should do. We've still got big challenges out there. It would be a big mistake for us not to deal with the challenges of Social Security and saving Medicare and to do it in a way that will enable us now to reduce the debt of this country over the next 15 years to its lowest point since before World War II. Did you ever think you'd hear anybody stand up and talk about doing that? It would be a great mistake for us not to continue to push for education reform, to put more teachers in the classroom with modern facilities, to finish the job of hooking all our classrooms up to the Internet, to end the practice, nationwide, of social promotion, but not to label the kids failures, to give them the after-school programs and the summer school programs they need to have higher standards around the country. It would be a mistake for us not to continue to do this just because times are good here. It would also be a mistake for us not to continue to try to give opportunity to people who still don't have it. There are still places in Texas, with all the economy booming, that haven't felt this recovery. Just a few days from now the Vice President is going down to south Texas to have our annual empowerment zone conference. And I'm very proud of the fact that one of the things that we have worked hard to do in the last 6 years is to leave no one behind, to give tax incentives and other investments to poor communities to try to induce people to start businesses there and put people to work there. And I'm very proud of the fact that one of the major initiatives before the Congress this year, my so-called new markets initiative, would give people loan guarantees and tax credits to invest in the poor neighborhoods of America and urban and rural areas--like they can get today to invest in poor neighbors overseas. I think we ought to give people the same incentives to invest in Americans who don't have jobs and opportunity that we give them to invest elsewhere. I don't want to take the others away. I just want our folks to have the same chance. So there's a lot to do. And it would be a mistake, just because of our prosperity or because people are already talking about the next election, to overlook the fact that we still have a lot of time between now and January of 2001, and to put a great country in idle is a great mistake. The second thing I'd like to say is I think it is a mistake to forget about our continuing obligations in the face of the problems of the moment. But I think there are lessons in each of these three things that I mentioned that we're all very much preoccupied about now. What is the lesson of the tornadoes? This maybe belongs more in a sermon on Sunday than a political speech, but the lesson is, no matter how well America does, a little humility is always in order. We are not in full control. And we have to be sensitive about this, especially here in this part of the country. We have to do more to try to prepare ourselves for these storms, and we have to do more to try to minimize their impact when they occur. [[Page 842]] The Governor of Oklahoma said a couple of days ago when I called him after the tornado that--we were talking about how Oklahoma and east Texas and Arkansas are at the beginning of basically the tornado belt in America--and he said, ``You know, the more growth we have, the more expansion of our communities, the more construction we're going to have in these alleys where tornadoes often hit.'' And we began to talk about that, about construction and safety and prevention. I say that to point out that there are certain constants that we have to deal with in our society that call on us to be humble, call on us to be prepared and remember we're not in total control. Now, the second thing I'd like to say about Littleton is that the lesson here is that no matter how prosperous we are economically--and this was terrible for that community; I've talked to school officials and local officials there--we have to understand that there are forces at work in our society that call on us to make an extra effort to
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