[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[October 4, 1997]
[Pages 1287-1288]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]



The President's Radio Address
October 4, 1997

    Good morning. Today I want to talk about our responsibility for 
raising our children and strengthening our families. Six years ago 
yesterday, when I announced that I would seek the Presidency, I said 
that our greatness depends upon our ability to create opportunity for 
all, get responsibility from all, and build a community of all 
Americans; and that the role of Government was to give our people the 
tools and establish the environment that would enable them to build that 
kind of America. I also said that nothing would ever replace the 
fundamental role of citizens' responsibility.
    That is nowhere more important than when it comes to the family. The 
family is the cornerstone of our society. It unites us across all our 
faiths. This week, for example, Jewish parents at Rosh Hashana say a 
blessing for the family and over their children. The United States 
Catholic Conference has noted, ``The most important work to help our 
children is done quietly--in our homes and neighborhoods, in our 
parishes and community organizations. No government can love a child and 
no policy can substitute for a family's care, but clearly,'' the 
Catholic Conference has noted, ``families can be helped or hurt'' by the 
actions of government.
    Here we have tried to help families. From improving our schools to 
helping parents reconcile the demands of work and childrearing, to 
expanding access to college and health care, to punishing domestic 
violence, families have always been at the heart of our concerns. We 
have worked hard to help parents take responsibility for their children 
and even to require that as much as we can.

[[Page 1288]]

    We passed the family leave law to allow parents to take some time 
off to care for sick children or welcome new babies. We've raised the 
minimum wage and increased the earned-income tax credit so that 
Americans who work full time will be able to raise their children out of 
poverty. We cracked down on deadbeat dads, increasing child support 
collection by 50 percent. We're building a new system of welfare that 
promotes work and responsible parenting. And we're doing everything we 
can to punish domestic violence and to reduce it. And of course, the 
strong economy we have helped to build has created millions of high-
paying jobs, bringing dignity, stability, and opportunity for millions 
of families.
    This has been an important concern of all the members of our 
administration for a long time. Even before we took office, the Vice 
President and Tipper Gore had begun holding their annual family 
conferences in Nashville, exploring all the various challenges facing 
our families in their efforts to stay together and raise their children. 
And the First Lady has been working on these issues for 25 years. Soon 
she'll be holding a national conference here on child care to help 
people get affordable, accessible quality child care. And she's raised 
some brave questions, like whether we ought to toughen our divorce laws 
to make it more difficult for parents to walk away from their children.
    But the most important work always is done in the hearts and homes 
of individuals. And it's clear to everyone that in recent decades too 
many parents, especially men, have not taken their responsibilities 
seriously enough to their families, their children, and themselves. And 
there are serious consequences. We know, for example, that the simple 
failure to pay child support is one of the chief reasons women and 
children are on welfare. And this week, the Vice President and Secretary 
Riley released a report showing that when fathers do take an active 
role, their children do better--much better--in school.
    The need for men to take responsibility for themselves and their 
families is something that unites Americans of all faiths and 
backgrounds and beliefs. A couple of years ago we had a Million Man 
March in the District of Columbia which highlighted the importance of 
African-American men building families and raising their children and 
taking responsibility. There were many people who had a lot of political 
differences with some of the speakers, but no one questioned the need or 
the sincerity of the hundreds of thousands of men who came from all 
across America to reaffirm their personal responsibility for their 
children.
    Today, thousands of members of a Christian men's organization, 
Promise Keepers, are meeting on The Mall in Washington. Again, there are 
those who have political differences with some of the statements which 
have been made by some leaders of the organization. But again, no one 
can question the sincerity of the hundreds of thousands of men who have 
filled football stadiums across our country and who are willing to 
reassume their responsibilities to their families and to their children 
and, therefore, to our future. Their presence here is yet another 
example of the Nation's understanding and attention to the need to 
strengthen our families. There is nothing more important.
    When all of us, men and women, take responsibility for raising our 
children and passing on our values, our families are strengthened. And 
when our families are stronger, America is stronger.
    When I think of how many parents there are out there like my mother 
who sacrifice to raise their children, when Hillary and I look with 
bittersweet pride at our own daughter going off to college now, I'm more 
acutely aware than ever of the special responsibilities and the 
wonderful rewards of parenthood. For me, there has been no job, even the 
Presidency, that is more important. And that should be true for all 
mothers and fathers. The future of our children is truly in our hands.
    Thank for listening.

Note: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from the Oval Office at the 
White House.