[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[February 2, 1995]
[Pages 152-154]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]



Remarks Announcing the Nomination of Henry W. Foster, Jr., To Be Surgeon 
General and an Exchange With Reporters
February 2, 1995

    The President. Thank you very much, Madam Secretary, and let me say 
it's a pleasure to have Mrs. Foster and Senator Frist, Congressman 
Clement here.
    The Surgeon General of the United States has enormous 
responsibilities. As the public face of our Public Health Service, he or 
she really is the people's doctor, the person responsible for promoting 
good health practices and alerting the Nation when health threats exist. 
To fill this post, I wanted someone who is both a top-flight medical 
professional and a strong leader and effective communicator. Dr. Henry 
Foster is such a person. And I am pleased today to announce my intention 
to nominate him as the Surgeon General of the United States.
    He is widely respected in the world of medicine and science. After 
serving his country for 2 years as an Air Force medical officer, he 
became chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Andrew Memorial Hospital at 
Tuskegee University.
    For the past 21 years, he has worked at Meharry Medical College in 
Nashville, Tennessee. As the dean of the school of medicine and its 
acting president, he helped Meharry to lead the way to meeting the 
health needs of the poor and the underserved. At the moment, he is a 
visiting senior scholar at the Association of Academic Health Centers 
here in Washington.
    In the communities he's served, Dr. Foster has won hearts and minds 
for his innovation and his dedication to saving the lives of young 
people and vulnerable people. He's received numerous honors for his work 
in obstetrics and dealing with sickle cell anemia and, very notably, in 
the prevention of teen pregnancy.
    He has shown us how one person can make a difference. Eight years 
ago he developed and directed the ``I Have A Future'' program at Meharry 
to help stop teen pregnancy. It has been an unqualified success. Working 
with young people that others might think beyond help, he built up their 
self-esteem. He taught them job skills. He encouraged them to stay in 
school. Most important, he told them to be responsible for themselves. 
Thanks to Dr. Foster, these young people have a chance to live a good, 
full life.
    I want Dr. Foster to use what he's learned to help America attack 
the epidemic of teen pregnancies and unmarried pregnancies. We know 
Government can only do so much. So large a part of Dr. Foster's job 
obviously will be to use his enormous skills of persuasion to reach out 
to people in the private sector, in the religious, education, 
entertainment, sports, and other communities in this country. As I said 
in the State of the Union, when I challenged all sectors of our society 
to help us deal with these problems that must be dealt with one by one, 
we have to have help everywhere. I am convinced Dr. Foster is the person 
to galvanize this help and lead this charge. We want everyone to do 
their part to find the solution to this problem.
    I want Dr. Foster now to say a few words, but as I introduce him, I 
want to thank him for taking on a task in public service at a time when 
public service sometimes has prices that are clearer than rewards. I 
thank him for his willingness to serve, to try to make a difference in 
the health care of the people of this country and especially to try to 
make a difference in the future of the people of this country.
    I thank his friends and colleagues for supporting him, the marvelous 
letter we received from Donna Shalala's predecessor, Dr. Lou Sullivan, 
the letter we received from the head of the American Medical 
Association, and of course, the support you have from your Congressman, 
Bob Clement, and from Senator Frist, who just told me that he's the 
first doctor elected to the United States Senate since before the 
Depression.
    So I would say it is time. Now, I'm going to try to keep from 
feeling so poorly I need his help in any way other than a legislative 
sense.
    Dr. Foster, the podium is yours.

[At this point, Dr. Foster thanked the President and made brief 
remarks.]

[[Page 153]]

Teen Pregnancy

    The President. You just hit the high point. Now you have to answer 
questions. [Laughter]
    Q. Dr. Foster, do you think that at the--your programs about teen 
pregnancy in Nashville can be applied on a national scale?
    Dr. Foster. I certainly do, and there have been efforts already to 
replicate the program. There is no doubt about it, it can be----
    Q. I hear a lot about personal commitment, but I don't hear anything 
about official commitment. Mr. President, does your plan to combat teen 
pregnancy carry any new money with it? How do you intend to do that, or 
is it going to be done primarily by the private sector?
    The President. We have a whole plan we've been working on for 
months, and Dr. Foster and I are going to get together and go over the 
outlines that we had worked on before he agreed to come on, and we will 
finalize that. I expect we'll be announcing it sometime in the very near 
future, and we'll talk about then how we intend to do it.
    Q. Will it take more Federal money?
    The President. Well, I think the main thing we have to do is to 
galvanize the resources that are there now, spend the money that's there 
now better, and get--I have been led to believe by many people all 
across this country that there will be an enormous amount of support for 
this effort in the private sector if they have confidence that it's a 
serious, disciplined, organized effort that is likely to work.
    I might let Dr. Foster say more about that.
    Dr. Foster. No, the only thing I would add that didn't come out, we 
are going to also utilize greatly the volunteer efforts. There is an 
emerging middle and upper black class that's doing everything now to 
give back. This has only developed among African-Americans since World 
War II. And I'm surely certain that the same sort of emergence is 
occurring with Hispanics and other ethnic groups in this country.
    Q. Mr. President, does he have same license to be as outspoken and 
blunt as Dr. Elders did, or some areas--did you caution him that there 
are some areas that he shouldn't be talking about?
    Dr. Foster. No comment. [Laughter]
    The President. I can't do better than that. [Laughter]
    Q. Mr. President, some conservatives have already said that they 
plan to oppose the nomination because of Dr. Foster's support for 
distribution of contraceptive devices in public schools and his stand on 
abortion. Do you anticipate a problem--in this confirmation?
    The President. No. I'll tell you, the policy of the administration 
is that we should have appropriate education policies in schools, that 
we should encourage abstinence among our young people, that the question 
of contraception is one that should be resolved at the local level 
involving all sectors of the local community. There is no national 
policy on that, and there will not be.
    In terms of the other issues that could be raised, I am confident 
that thoughtful conservatives will have the same view of Dr. Foster as 
Senator Frist does when they have the same opportunity to review his 
whole record. I think that--you know we got an endorsement from the head 
of the American Medical Association already and from President Bush's 
HHS Director, Dr. Sullivan, who went to medical school with Dr. Foster, 
and I think there will be many others coming forward. So I feel good 
about it.

Deficit Reduction

    Q. Mr. President, the budget that is going to be released on Monday, 
are you calling for a smaller deficit decrease than you had originally 
hoped for?
    The President. A smaller deficit----
    Q. Are your efforts to decrease the deficit----
    The President. Our efforts to decrease the deficit--let me say 
this--I'm calling for twice as much in budget cuts as I am for the cost 
of the middle class bill of rights, the tax relief for the middle class. 
So my tax cuts are paid for, and there is further deficit reduction in 
our budget. And we will keep a tight rein on the budget deficit.
    The one thing that we have no control over in the budget deficit is 
the impact of higher interest rates on the deficit. The American people 
should know that whenever interest rates are raised by the Fed, among 
other things, the cost of carrying the Nation's debt goes up. So we 
can't do anything about that. And in that sense, the deficit will not go 
down as much as I had hoped, because the interest rates have gone up. 
You can't overcompensate for that. There's nothing to be done about it.

[[Page 154]]

    But we're doing a better job in controlling inflation and health 
care than I thought we would a year or so ago; the whole country is. I 
don't mean just the Government; the people in health care and the people 
in business are working harder on it. We have a lot of budget cuts that 
are very important and significant in this budget, and I'm looking 
forward to working with Congress to see how we can do even better. And I 
think that I'm encouraged by what they said, that they want to pay for 
their tax cuts. So I think that this--when I submit the budget, I think 
it'll be the beginning of a very positive thing. I don't have bad 
feelings about it.

China

    Q. What's your reaction to China saying that your human rights 
report is indiscreet and meddling in their own affairs?
    The President. Well, that's always been their view, and we disagree. 
I mean, we believe there are international standards for human rights. 
The Human Rights Assistant Secretary is charged by law with submitting a 
report every year. All he did was fulfill his legal responsibility to 
tell the truth as he saw it, and I support what he did. I think Mr. 
Shattuck's done a good job, and I think it's a very--it's by far, by the 
way, the most comprehensive report ever filed by the State Department on 
human rights, and it covers far more than China. China was not singled 
out. We evaluated every country in every part of the globe with any 
issue in this regard.
    Thank you very much.

Baseball Strike

    Q. How are the baseball talks going? Have you gotten feedback?
    The President. We just--we're in it. That's all I can say. Not up, 
not down--we're in it.

Note: The President spoke at 2:10 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Dr. Foster's wife, St. Clair 
Foster.