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Remarks By The President At Hillary 2000 Reception

Mayflower Hotel Washington, D.C.

8:30 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. First, let me thank Weldon and Connie for getting us all together, and thank all of you for coming and for contributing to Hillary's campaign. I want to thank the large number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were here earlier, who came by to express their support. I'm looking forward to being with them, and I suppose a lot of you, tomorrow night at the dinner.

I won't keep you long, but I want to make two or three points. First of all, you ought to know how you came to be here tonight. Weldon came up to me one day, and he said, so Hillary is really going to run. I said, yes. He said, well, you know, I'm from New York -- and I said, have I got a deal for you. (Laughter.) And here it is. (Laughter.)

Anyway, I am very grateful to him and to Connie and to all of you for helping Hillary, and I'll be quite brief in bringing her on. I'm very grateful that I had the chance to serve, and I'm very grateful that the country is in better shape. And I'm glad that we were able to do some things that people hadn't done before, too -- reach out to people within our country, and also beyond our borders, that had too long been overlooked.

She had a lot to do with that. She went to Africa before I did. She went to India and Pakistan and Bangladesh, before I did. She has been to more countries, trying to help empower poor people and support democracy and support women's rights and support getting girls in schools where they don't go to school, than any First Lady in the history of this country by a long, long way.

She helped to establish this Vital Voices Network of women around the world that have worked for peace in Northern Ireland. I just got a -- I was just in Nigeria, and when I mentioned it, all the members stood up and started applauding in this audience. The guys in the audience didn't know what I was talking about, but the girls in the audience knew about Hillary and their deal, it was great.

So I'm grateful for what she did there. What I want to say is that I think in a lot of ways this election is as important, in some ways maybe more important, than the election of 1992, which brought Al Gore and me to the White House, Tipper and Hillary and our crowd. Because then the country was in bad shape, and the people took a chance on me. But I don't know that it was much of a chance, since the country was in bad shape. (Laughter.) Everybody knew that we had to do something different.

Now, we're laughing, but you know I'm telling the truth, right? How many people do you think went in that room and said, in that voting booth, I don't know about this guy, he's a governor of this little state, I'm not sure where it is. I mean, you know, they say all these bad things about him but, oh, what the heck.

Now, the country is in good shape. And I think sometimes it's harder to make a good decision in good times than it is in bad times, because you have to actually decide. What do you want? Where do you want your country to go? What do you want it to be? And the reason I feel so strongly about this election, it's the first time in 26 years I haven't been on the ballot. (Laughter.)

My party has got a new leader, my family has got a new candidate. (Laughter.) My official title is Cheerleader-in-Chief. (Laughter.) But the reason I feel strongly about it is, we worked so hard to turn this country around, get it going in the right direction, and now there's a real hard decision, or set of decisions, to be made. And I can tell you, after eight years here, obviously it matters who the President and Vice President are. It matters hugely. Every single Senate seat, every single House seat. (Applause.) I wanted to say, in the presence of the Black Caucus members that were here, even when we went into the minority, nothing I achieved here, of any real substance, could have been possible if they hadn't stuck with me every step of the way. It matters, and it really matters who's in the Senate.

And, we need to keep changing as a country, but we need to build on what we've done. And when I think of all the great questions facing America, how are we going to provide education for the largest and most diverse group of kids in our history -- and I think how long Hillary's been working on that, and the results we got, because of her efforts, when we were at home in Arkansas.

When I think about how are we going to balance the demands of work and rearing children -- which is a challenge not just for poor working people, but for middle class working people and for a lot of people that are upper middle class -- and I think that, you know, she spent a lifetime working on that. Everybody talks about it now. One of the most popular pieces of legislation we ever passed, and she helped pass it, was the Family and Medical Leave law. Over 20 million people took some time off when a baby was born of a parent was sick without losing their jobs. Twenty-two years ago -- 22 years ago -- she founded a state wide advocacy group for families and children at home, long before it was fashionable to think about.

When I think about how are we going to spread this prosperity to people and places that have been left behind, that's what she spent eight years doing as First Lady, going to places to promote microcredit and economic empowerment, all around the world. Same issues apply in upstate New York, and the inner city areas that have been left behind.

I could go on and on and on. We need somebody who's spent a lifetime working on the things that we need to decide to do now, because most people don't have to do it now. And we need somebody who thinks about the future all the time. And so even if I didn't know her better than anybody in this room, I'd be for her because of what she's done and what she's achieved, and what she wants to do. (Applause.)

You know, most of the time we've been hit so many times, between the two of us, we're kind of thick-skinned. But one thing sometimes people say that really steams me is, I heard somebody the other day say, well, she wouldn't even be running if she weren't First Lady.

Let me tell you something. If you look at her record as a lawyer, as a public servant -- she spent 30 years helping everybody else. She never asked anybody to do anything for her. But if she hadn't married me so long ago, and chosen to live a life of volunteer public service, she could have been doing this 20, 25 years ago.

So you get somebody now who has spent a lifetime in public service, always giving to other candidates, other causes, always leading by the power of her example, who actually has spent a lifetime doing what America needs to focus on most, today, when we think about the future.

This is a big decision, and you've helped to make sure it will be the right one, and I am very grateful to you. But you will be very proud of what she does for New York and America.

Thank you. (Applause.)

END 8:40 P.M. EDT

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