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pd18oc99 Statement on the Conclusion of the Independent Counsel's Investigation...


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[Page 2000-2004]
 
Monday, October 18, 1999
 
Volume 35--Number 41
Pages 1991-2064
 
Week Ending Friday, October 15, 1999
 
Remarks to the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute Conference in 
Chicago, Illinois

October 9, 1999

    Thank you. Good morning. You know, I was a little sleepy before I 
came in here and saw you. [Laughter] And I'm ready to go now. I thank 
you very much.
    Let me begin by saying a simple thank you. Thank you for your 
friendship; thank you for your support; thank you for bringing all of 
the children who are here in this audience today to remind us of what 
our deliberations are all about. Thank you, Juan Andrade, for your long 
leadership and your friendship to me. And thank you, Rey Gonzalez.
    Thank you for bringing the Juan Andrade Scholarship award winners 
outside for me to have my picture taken with them. I enjoyed that. They 
were great. People who are worried about America should take a look at 
those young people. They would worry a lot less and feel a lot more 
hope.
    I want to express my appreciation to everyone at the U.S. Hispanic 
Leadership Institute for working since 1982 on your noble mission of 
empowerment through education and voter participation. Your work has 
paid off. You see it in greater Hispanic participation in elections and 
in the growing number of Latino elected officials, like Congressman Luis 
Gutierrez. I think he is here today, and I thank him for his work.
    I also want to thank the many dedicated Hispanic members of our 
administration, including my Deputy Chief of Staff, Maria Echaveste, who 
is here; our Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Mickey Ibarra; the 
EEOC Chair, Ida Castro--I know she has been or will be on your program--
along with George Munoz, Aida Alvarez,
Henry Solano, Saul Ramirez, and Secretary Bill Richardson, and a number 
of other young people in our administration who I've seen wandering 
around here at your meeting, and some of whom have worked on my trip 
here.
    Let me say that there is another mission that you have followed over 
the years. You have helped to forge unity among the diverse elements of 
Hispanic America. You remind us that there are actually differences of 
ethnicity, national origin, and even, occasionally, of opinion among 
Hispanic-Americans; but that you are united by common values of faith 
and family, hard work, and a common vision of a better America. That is 
America at its best--a diverse nation, now the most diverse in our 
history, and growing increasingly so.
    In a global economy, in a global society, our diversity can be a 
godsend if we make the most of it, if we enjoy it, if we respect it, if 
we honor it, and if we believe that the common humanity that unites us 
is more important than all the differences among us. That thought was 
uppermost in my mind 6\1/2\ years ago when I became President.
    Vice President Gore and I came into office determined to move away 
from the divide-and-conquer politics which had dominated our country for 
the previous 12 years. It had

[[Page 2001]]

weakened and divided America, and it was wrong. We wanted to find a way 
to unify our country, to unify our thinking, to unify our action, and to 
move our country forward, based on values all Americans share--
opportunity for all, responsibility from all, a community of all our 
people. With that in mind, we put in place a new economic plan, new 
crime and welfare policies, new education, environment, and health 
policies, new policies to empower the poor and elevate citizen service. 
I think the results speak for themselves.
    We have the longest peacetime economic expansion in history; the 
highest homeownership in history; the lowest unemployment rate in 29 
years; the lowest welfare rolls in 32 years; the lowest poverty rates in 
20 years; the lowest crime rates in 26 years; the smallest Federal 
Government in 37 years; the first back-to-back budget surpluses in 42 
years. Along the way we managed to pass the family and medical leave 
law, which has given millions and millions of Americans the right to 
take some time off when a baby is born or a parent is sick without 
losing their jobs. Ninety percent of our children are immunized against 
serious childhood diseases for the first time in our history. Our air 
and water are cleaner; our food is safer. We have opened the doors of 
college with the HOPE scholarship and other increases in financial aid. 
We have opened the doors of health care to 5 million children; 100,000 
young Americans have served in AmeriCorps.
    Just last week we learned that median household income rose 3\1/2\ 
percent last year, but for Hispanics it rose at an even faster rate of 
4.8 percent in one year. Even though this community has serious 
challenges, including, I might say uppermost, a high school dropout rate 
that is too high, we now have the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate in 
history, the lowest Hispanic poverty rate in a generation, and a million 
new Hispanic homeowners since 1994.
    In 1993 we doubled the earned-income tax credit for lower income 
working people. It now lifts over a million Hispanics out of poverty. We 
raised the minimum wage that directly benefits 1.6 million Hispanic 
workers, and I think it's time we raised the minimum wage again.
    We increased the number of Small Business Administration loans to 
Hispanic entrepreneurs by 250 percent. We thank Aida Alvarez for her 
leadership there. And as the Vice President recently announced, the SBA 
has planned to expand lending to the Hispanic community even more. We 
revolutionized welfare in a way that allowed the rolls to be cut nearly 
in half--millions of people to move from dependence to the dignity of 
work, what with more child care, more transportation aid, guaranteed 
food and medicine to children, and we have succeeded in reversing the 
unfair cuts in the welfare reform law, restoring benefits to over 
600,000 legal immigrants.
    Under the Vice President's leadership, we've reduced the 
naturalization backlog at INS, streamlining the process to make it 
easier for immigrants who play by the rules to become full partners in 
America. We have more to do, and I ask you to help us with that.
    I'd also like to ask your help with one other thing. In the 1997 
bipartisan balanced budget bill, we created the $24 billion Children's 
Health Insurance Program. It was the largest expansion of children's 
health coverage since the enactment of Medicaid. It required all the 
States to file plans to use this money to enroll children without health 
insurance in the program. This year we finally got all the States 
enrolled. But the alarming thing is that we estimate there are at 
least--at least--4 million more children who could be covered by the 
money that is there waiting for them to provide health insurance who 
have not signed up yet.
    So I ask you, when you go back home, make sure that in your 
community there is a systematic effort underway to get health care to 
every Hispanic child who doesn't have it, who is eligible for this 
program.
    Like you, I believe in the concept of empowerment, so I will mention 
this one last issue. I asked the Vice President to lead our efforts to 
create over 100 enterprise zones and empowerment communities across our 
country, to generate billions of dollars in new private sector 
investment and public investment in these low income areas. You can see 
them operating from Chicago to Philadelphia to Cleveland to Detroit to 
south Texas to the

[[Page 2002]]

Mississippi Delta to Appalachia. And you can see them working. I have 
asked for an increase in the number of empowerment zones and community 
development banks, and we're fighting for them now in the budget.
    I want to talk to you about what we're going to do next. I thank you 
for your support. I am pleased by the progress we have made. But in 
America we must always be determined to change, to improve, to move 
forward. And we must honestly face the fact that there are still a lot 
of challenges out there that have not been met.
    When I came up on this stage--I'll just give you one example--when I 
came up on this stage, one of the people back here said, ``Mr. 
President, there are some people in our community with disabilities who 
are out there. Be sure and say hello to them on the way out.'' One of 
the important things I'm trying to get passed in this Congress is a bill 
sponsored by Senator Kennedy and Senator Jeffords which would allow 
people with disabilities to move into the workplace and still keep their 
Medicaid insurance because they can't get health insurance in the 
workplace. That's the sort of thing we need to be doing.
    I ask you to take just a few minutes and focus on the outstanding 
challenges--places where we haven't made enough progress and places 
where we haven't received enough cooperation from this Congress. Let me 
begin with judicial nominations.
    I am proud that we have succeeded in appointing more Hispanics to 
the Federal bench than any administration in history. And I'm proud 
that, on the whole, the judges I've appointed are the most diverse group 
in our history--nearly half are women or minorities. More than half my 
current judicial nominees are women or minorities, and they are good 
judges. My appointees have garnered the highest ratings from the 
American Bar Association of any President in 40 years.
    Now, I would also say that unlike previous administrations, there 
has been article after article after article saying that I have avoided 
putting ideological extremists on the court, unlike what happened in the 
previous decade or so. So these people are well-qualified, they're 
diverse--you would think the United States Senate would be falling all 
over themselves to confirm them.
    Now, let's look at the facts. Earlier this week I said it was a 
disgrace that the Senate defeated on a straight party-line vote my 
nomination of Ronnie White, a highly talented African-American jurist 
from the State of Missouri that was the first African-American to serve 
on the Missouri State Supreme Court, who was endorsed by one of his 
State's Republican Senators, supported by Republican Senators on the 
Judiciary Committee, but when he came to the floor, for political 
reasons back in Missouri, 100 percent of the Republicans in the majority 
voted to deny his confirmation and distorted his record in capital 
punishment appeals cases. It was wrong. That's the kind of thing that's 
going on up there that ought to stop.
    But unfortunately, it's not an isolated event. Listen to this: 
Richard Paez, the first Mexican-American ever to serve as a judge in the 
Federal District Court in Los Angeles, I nominated more than 3\1/2\ 
years ago for a seat on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. For more 
than 3\1/2\ years he has been waiting for the Senate to confirm his 
nomination. Is it because he's not qualified? No. The American Bar 
Association said not that he was qualified, but that he was well 
qualified. He received the highest rating from the ABA. He has broad, 
bipartisan support back in California and in the legal community. Yet, 
he still has not been given a Senate floor vote. Why? Well, they don't 
want to vote him down because they hope that you will vote with them in 
the next election, but they don't want to vote for him. So this man has 
been hanging there for 3\1/2\ years.
    Now, I don't know about you, but if I took 3\1/2\ years to make a 
decision, you wouldn't think I was a very good President. And most of 
you couldn't hold your jobs if you took 3\1/2\ years to do your assigned 
tasks. Can you imagine that? How many times has somebody been on you 
because you took 3\1/2\ hours? [Laughter]
    Another fine candidate for the Ninth Circuit, a renowned appellate 
lawyer, Marsha Berzon, has been waiting for more than 18 months to 
receive a floor vote. That is, they put these people out of committee 
and they just never bring them up. They just disappear

[[Page 2003]]

somewhere in the dark recesses of the calendar of the Senate. Now, I 
think the treatment of Richard Paez and Marsha Berzon is shameless.
    We have also been working to get three other exceptional Hispanic 
nominees confirmed: Judge Julio Fuentes for the Third Circuit; civil 
lawyer Enrique Moreno for the Fifth Circuit; and Judge Ronald Guzman for 
the Northern District of Illinois, here.
    I am pleased to announce that Judge Guzman finally received his 
judiciary committee hearing last week for a vacancy here. But the 
Senate's treatment of Judge White and its failure to vote on the 
outstanding Hispanic nominees that are pending creates a real doubt 
about their ability and their willingness to perform their 
constitutional duties to advise and consent.
    So I urge you to help me get a Senate vote on Judge Paez, Judge 
Fuentes, Judge Guzman, Marsha Berzon, Enrique Moreno. They should be 
confirmed. They should be confirmed. But they ought to be voted on one 
way or the other.
    Now, let me say, in spite of the difficulties we have had with this 
Congress, they're capable of putting partisanship aside and putting the 
country first. We did it on the third try with the welfare bill in '96. 
We did it with the Balanced Budget Act in '97. We did it last year when 
they voted right before the election for my program to put 100,000 
teachers in the schools. And just last week, at the end of this session 
that just concluded, finally, after 2 years of work, a substantial 
bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives passed a strong, 
enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights.
    Now, that bill is a long way from becoming law, but a lot of people 
never thought we could get this far. It gives you the right if you're in 
an HMO to see a specialist if your doctor says you should; to go to the 
nearest emergency room if you're in an accident; to keep your doctor 
through a course of treatment, whether for chemotherapy or a pregnancy; 
and to hold your health care plan accountable if you're injured.
    So we're capable of doing this. I have asked the Congress to do 
more. I have asked them to keep our prosperity going by paying down our 
debt and getting America out of debt in 15 years for the first time 
since 1835. We can do that.
    I have asked them to keep working until the prosperity of this 
moment reaches every community and every person willing to work for it. 
I have asked them to double the number of empowerment zones and 
enterprise communities. And I have asked them to adopt my new markets 
initiative, which would simply say we want the same incentives for 
people with money to invest in poor communities in America we give them 
to invest in poor communities around the world, because people in 
America deserve the chance to be a part of America's prosperity.
    I've asked them to work with me to meet the challenge of the aging 
of America by saving Social Security and modernizing Medicare and adding 
a prescription drug benefit. I have asked them, now that we have the 
lowest crime rate in 26 years, to ask them to join me in making America 
the safest big nation on Earth by closing this gun show loophole in our 
background check law and doing more to keep guns out of the hands of 
children and criminals.
    I have asked them to help me give all of our children--all of our 
children--a world-class education, demanding more from our schools, but 
also investing more. Our agenda is clear: Build or modernize 6,000 
schools; there are too many kids in the schools and too many schools are 
run down or too many kids going to school in trailers. Put 100,000 
teachers out there and focus on the early grades to give our children 
smaller classes. Have more after-school and summer school programs like 
Chicago does, so that you can say, ``Okay, we're going to have high 
standards; we're going to end social promotion, but we will not label 
children a failure when the systems fail them.'' We want them to have 
access to the help they need. Close the digital divide; hook up every 
classroom and every library in this country to the Internet at a rate 
even the poorest schools can afford. That's what we're doing.
    I am proud that we won almost $500 million in the 1999 budget for 
the Hispanic education action plan, to make sure Latino children get the 
tutoring, the after-school, the mentoring programs they need to help 
them

[[Page 2004]]

meet higher academic standards, finish, not drop out of high school, and 
go on to college.
    It will take time for these efforts to have an impact, but you can 
help at the local level. Hold up these young scholarship winners as an 
example to the young people in your communities. We cannot make America 
what it ought to be in the 21st century unless we dramatically reduce 
the 30 percent dropout rate among Hispanic-American children.
    As many of your leaders have told me, not withstanding our best 
intentions in this administration, we have a lot more to do to make sure 
that the States and the school districts who accept Federal dollars 
actually spend those dollars in a way that reaches underserved Hispanic 
students, and we are working on that, as well.
    Let me finally make this one point. I have always wanted an 
administration that looks like America. You've heard me say that a dozen 
times, I bet. More and more, America will look like you. More and more, 
there will be more people listening and more people performing like 
Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez. There will be more books. There will be 
more movies. There will be a bigger part of our culture.
    And what I ask you to do as you rise in dominance and influence, not 
only in our political life but in our cultural life, is never to forget 
your roots and never forget the pain of discrimination or being ignored, 
and make sure that you are always a force for good, for building one 
America.
    If you look around this old world today, the biggest problem I have 
faced as your President in my responsibilities around the world is 
dealing with the racial and the ethnic and the religious and the tribal 
conflicts where people occupy the same land and cannot get along; where 
they continue to believe what is different about them is more important 

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