[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book II)]
[October 21, 1993]
[Pages 1794-1797]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Dinner
October 21, 1993

    Thank you very much. David, I was hoping you'd talk a little longer; 
I didn't even get to finish my salad. [Laughter]
    Ladies and gentlemen, I'm delighted to be here tonight. I've already 
had a chance to say hello to almost all of you, except the Members of 
the Senate who see me all the time. I thanked Senator Metzenbaum and 
Senator Levin--they came upstairs to see me, Senator Kennedy. We even 
had our picture taken. I came all the way to Boston to see you, and you 
didn't do that. [Laughter] I want to thank Norman Brownstein for the 
wonderful work he did tonight in getting you all here. Let's give him a 
hand. [Applause]
    I'd also like to say a brief word if I might about this wonderful 
facility we are in. We have some people here who are still associated 
with it. The Holladays, who helped to found this, were good enough to 
support me early in my Presidential campaign. And a lot of our friends 
have been active in this wonderful place which once actually had a fine 
showing of artists, women artists, from my home State here. So I have 
been delighted to have finally the chance to come here and see this and 
I--Mr. Chairman, I don't know who picked this place, but whoever did is 
a near genius in my estimation, because I love it.
    It was just about a month and a week ago when we had the remarkable 
signing of the Israel-PLO peace accord on the grounds of the White 
House. Many of you were there. I imagine all of you saw it. Hundreds of 
millions, perhaps over a billion people around the world saw it occur. I 
would like to begin my remarks by making two observations, if I might. 
First of all, about the peace process itself. When I traveled across 
this country last year and asked many, if not all of you, to support my 
campaign, I said that I believed the time was ripe for peace in the 
Middle East but that it could not be achieved unless the President of 
the United States understood that in the end the United States could 
never impose a peace on the Middle East but could only guarantee it if 
it were to occur. After I was elected, I met with Yitzhak Rabin in the 
White House, and we sat for a long time alone. And he looked at me with 
those soulful eyes of his and said that he was prepared to take real 
risks for peace, that he thought the time had come to try to make it. 
And I told him, if he would take the risks, we would do our best to 
minimize those risks. The rest is history. It was a peace made directly 
between Israel and the PLO, as all the best agreements are. It was a 
difficult thing, as we saw during the signing, sometimes from the 
language, sometimes from the body language. But as the Prime Minister 
said, ``One never makes

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peace with one's friends. You have to make peace with your enemies.''
    I want all of you to know that since that day I think that we have 
gone forward together to try to make the peace stick, to try to make it 
work, and to try to expand on it. We've had a donors' conference of 
representatives from 43 nations raise several billion dollars in 
commitments from people to make this peace agreement work. We have seen 
now the first public meeting of leaders from Jordan and Israel. We've 
seen the states of Morocco and Tunisia welcome Israeli officials for the 
first time. We have seen real progress. There is still a lot to do. I 
have urged the Arab States to recognize Israel, to drop the boycott, to 
get rid of the hostile United Nations resolutions. And I have done what 
I could to keep this process going.
    An especially remarkable part of it has been the unity I have seen 
emerging between leaders of the American Jewish community and Arab-
Americans, a couple of hundred of whom met at the White House for 
several hours after the signing ceremony and began to explore what they 
can do together to try to help to bring opportunity and peace and 
harmony in the areas where the peace accord covered.
    I believe we're moving in the right direction. I also have to tell 
you I don't think that we will have a complete peace until we have just 
that, a complete peace: one that involves Syria and Lebanon, as well as 
the PLO and Jordan; one that enables the people of the Middle East to 
live together in true security and to give the children of that area a 
normal life. I want to ask you tonight to help me to stay with our 
present policy, to be aggressive in pushing the process forward but to 
recognize always that in the end, there is no peace that the parties do 
not themselves voluntarily undertake.
    When we had that signing ceremony, I wanted so much for the Prime 
Minister and Mr. Arafat to come, but they couldn't make up their minds 
whether they wanted to come for a while, for reasons that I'm sure all 
of you appreciate, many of you more deeply than I. In the end they 
decided to come because, since they had agreed to it, they might as well 
make the most of it. And when they did and when they reached out across 
decades of division and shook hands in that electric moment that was 
felt around the world, I think that people had a sense of possibility in 
so many areas that they had not had for a long time.
    That's the second thing I want to say to you tonight, as I ask you 
on behalf of your country, on behalf of Israel, on behalf of all the 
peace-loving peoples of the world, to continue to help me to implement 
this peace process and push it forward, respecting that in the end all 
the parties themselves will have to voluntarily decide on the next 
    I ask you also to help me to give that sense of possibility back to 
the American people. For there are so many days when I think that the 
biggest obstacle to the dreams I brought with me to the Presidency, the 
biggest obstacle is the sense that maybe we really can't change things, 
the sense of hopelessness so many people feel, the sense of mistrust in 
institutions and leaders. It is, I think, almost a truism that no great 
democracy can change profoundly until things are in pretty rough shape. 
And yet, when things get in pretty rough shape, there are so many people 
who have been so disappointed, who feel so injured, who feel so insecure 
that it is difficult to make the changes that need to be made. And so 
today, America, every day, gets up and presents to me a complex picture 
of hope and fear, a complex picture of eagerness to embrace the future, 
to compete and to win, and to promote the things we all believe in and a 
sense of insecurity that makes people sort of draw inward.
    I think for the last year, hope has been winning. A sense of 
possibility and movement has been happening. Thanks to the people in the 
Congress who have supported the initiatives of this administration, 
including those in this audience, we have moved to really bring down the 
deficit. We've got the lowest interest rates in 30 years, business 
investment's back up, consumer spending is back up on important, big 
    We've got some real sense of movement in this economy. Thanks to 
this group of Congress Members who have been willing to support this 
administration, we signed, a week after the Middle East peace accord, 
the national service bill that Eli Segal did so much to shepherd through 
the Congress, which literally has the potential to revolutionize the way 
young people all across America look at their country and feel about 
themselves, which asks young people to give something back to their 
Nation and, in return, offers them a chance to go to college, no matter 
how meager their own income.
    We have begun to face the health care crisis.

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We have begun to deal with so many issues that have been too long 
ignored in this struggle to find our way in the world. There are those 
who have said, well, I haven't done everything right. For that, I plead 
guilty. But I'll tell you one thing: In this administration, we show up 
for work every day with our sleeves rolled up and a determination to 
face the challenges before us. And tonight I was thinking about the 
history of our relationships with Israel; I'm reminded that when Harry 
Truman recognized Israel, a long time ago now, he was still in the 
process of making the post-World-War II world with our allies. We had 
moved into the cold war, but now we all look back on that era as if it 
were self-evident what our domestic policies ought to be and what our 
foreign policies ought to be. But in truth, those of you who lived 
through that, particularly those of you who were adults or nearly so, 
then, will remember clearly that there were a couple of years after 
World War II when we had to work out what our foreign policy was going 
to be, when we had to develop the institutions necessary to carry that 
foreign policy out, when we had to work through in our minds what 
America's responsibilities at home were. And we are going through the 
same period now.
    We know that we are the only superpower. We know we can't solve 
every problem in the world, but we know there are a lot of people's 
suffering and misery that we can alleviate. And if we believe in 
democracy and freedom, if we don't want to see the proliferation of 
terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, then we have to try.
    We know that we have an interest in Russia maintaining its 
democratic bent and continuing to reduce its nuclear arsenal. Clearly, 
we know if we could bring peace to the Middle East, it might 
revolutionize the range of options we have with the Muslims all over the 
world and give us the opportunity to beat back the forces of radicalism 
and terrorism that unfairly have been identified with Islam by so many 
    We know some things for sure. But we also know that we are still 
working this out. Here at home, it is the same thing. But I can tell you 
this: I am convinced that if we will continue to honestly speak with one 
another about these issues, we'll find a way to do it.
    I believe we have to find a balance between the security people need 
to change and the changes we need to make. I believe we will never make 
America what it ought to be until we provide health care security to all 
of our citizens. I believe we will never have an America that is strong 
until we tell the American people, ``You can be a successful parent and 
a successful worker.'' That's what that family leave bill was all about. 
That's what our budget bill was all about, which lifted the working poor 
out of poverty when they have children at home.
    I believe we will never be able to do what we need to do as a people 
until we say, ``Okay, if we can't guarantee you a job anymore, we can at 
least guarantee you employability.'' If the average person has to change 
jobs eight times in a lifetime, how can we not have a program worthy of 
the capacities of all Americans. It gives them a chance for lifetime 
education and training.
    And finally, let me say, I believe we will never meet our challenges 
at home and abroad until the American people are more secure on their 
own streets again. For all the violence in the Middle East, my friends, 
we can read stories every day on every street in America that rivals 
anything you can read about in the Gaza in the toughest times. If you 
look at what has happened, 90,000 murders in 4 years in America, more in 
any given year than ever happened at the height of the war in Vietnam; 
you look at the fact that this is the only advanced country in the 
world, the only one where we don't even check your criminal record or 
your mental health history in some States to see if you can get a gun 
and where people seriously argue that that infringes on constitutional 
rights. This is the only country in the world where police go to work on 
mean streets every day and confront young people who grew up in chaotic 
circumstances who are often better armed than they are.
    So, I say to you, we have some things to do here at home. We are 
breeding generation after generation of people who have no claim to the 
mainstream of this society and on whom the future has no claim. We are 
breeding so many people who are so alienated and who have no sense of 
all these things that you and I came here to celebrate tonight. Just 3 
weeks ago, a little girl named Launice Smith was shot and killed in this 
city. She was on a playground 3\1/2\ miles from this wonderful building. 
She was 4 years old, one of 1,500 people who are shot in this town every 
year, our Nation's Capital. Her father could not go to her funeral 

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he's in prison for shooting another 4-year-old on another playground 
several years ago when he was 19 and got in an argument over hair 
barrettes. He got angry, and another kid handed him a gun, and he used 
    The point of all that I am saying is this: We've got to change in 
this country. And we've got to have the security----

[At this point, there was an interruption in the tape.]

----have to first recognize that the great power of America is the power 
of our ideals, our values, our institutions, and our example. And that 
we cannot do what we're supposed to do unless, as a Nation we are both 
more united and more self confident than millions of our fellow citizens 
are as we enjoy this great dinner tonight.
    So, I ask you to remember that and to renew your commitment not only 
to peace in the Middle East and to American's continuing role in the 
world--and I thank the many of you who said as we walked through the 
line tonight, that you believed we did have a role of leadership in the 
world to alleviate suffering and to do what we can to promote freedom 
and democracy--but also, to rebuild this country here at home.
    Most people in this country, whatever their incomes, whatever their 
race, whatever their walk of life, and wherever they live, are wonderful 
people. They get up every day. They go to work. They never break the 
law. They do the best they can by their kids, and they're absolutely 
determined to make the most they can of their lives. But they are living 
in a country that has not yet made the decisions necessary to organize 
itself in a way that permits all of us to live up to the fullest of our 
God-given capacities. And until we make the decision to have an economic 
program, an education program, a health care program, a family policy, 
and a law enforcement policy, and a commitment to rescuing our kids that 
will permit us to do that, we will not have the security we need to lead 
the world and to face the future. I believe that we are on the road to 
changing this country. I know what I saw on September the 13th, when 
Arafat and Rabin shook hands, was an instant, shocking realization all 
across the world that things we never thought possible were, in fact, 
    And I ask you to help me now liberate the imagination and the 
spirit, and the energy of the American people for the jobs that we have 
yet to do at home and abroad, because those things can also be done.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 8:30 p.m., at the National Museum of Women 
in the Arts. In his remarks, he referred to David Wilhelm, chairman of 
the Democratic National Committee; Norman Brownstein, attorney and 
Democratic fundraiser from Denver, CO; and Wilhelmina Holladay, 
president, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and her husband, 
Wallace Holladay.