[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 2, 1998]
[Pages 1964-1966]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Telephone Interview With Samuel Orozco of Radio Bilingue
November 2, 1998

1998 Elections

    Mr. Orozco. Is there any message you would like to send to our 
listeners in Radio Bilingue, Mr. President?
    The President. Yes, Samuel, thank you very much. The first and most 
important message is to implore every person within the sound of my 
voice to vote on Tuesday, November 3d. November 3d is no ordinary 
election day, for on November 3d we will decide whether, as a nation, we 
focus on progress or partisanship for the next 2 years. We will decide 
the direction our country will take in the new century. And it will be 
determined, this election, not only by who votes but by who does not 
    I have worked very, very hard to focus on matters of importance not 
only to Hispanics but to all Americans. When I came into office, we had 
a troubled economy, a big budget deficit, high crime, and deep 
partisanship. And over the last 6 years, the economy has improved; the 
crime rate is at a 25-year low; we had the first surplus in 29 years, 
the lowest percentage of people on welfare in 29 years, the lowest 
unemployment in 28 years. But we're still fighting these partisan 
    I want very much to have the opportunity to do what America needs. I 
have a plan for 100,000 teachers and smaller classes and modern schools, 
a plan for a Patients' Bill of Rights that guarantees the right of 
people in HMO's to see a specialist when they need one and to have the 
other medical protections they need, a plan to raise the minimum wage, a 
plan to save Social Security for the next century. We have to do these 
things and so much more.
    And I think everyone within the sound of my voice understands that I 
and the Democrats have been fighting for this, that the Republicans have 
opposed us on these matters. So what I want to do is to make everyone 
understand that all the good things that we have done in the last couple 
of years, we have done in the face of intense opposition.
    We got a big Hispanic education action plan passed at the end of 
this last Congress, because I wouldn't agree to a budget unless we put 
it in there--over $500 million to reduce the dropout rate and increase 
the college-going rate among Hispanics. We got a big initiative to 
reduce the naturalization backlog to make more citizens more quickly. 
We're moving forward in a whole range of areas.
    But there is so much we will be able to do with a few more Democrats 
in Congress. And the kind of intense support that can come tomorrow from 
the Hispanic community can make a difference in California, in Illinois 
in the Senate race, in House races all across the United States, in New 
York in the very important race for the Senate there, many other places. 
So I

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believe that this election may well be riding on whether Hispanic-
Americans vote.

Bilingual Education

    Mr. Orozco. One issue very dear to Latino communities in our 
country, Mr. President, is bilingual education. Proposition 227, 
approved here in California, seeks to eliminate bilingual education. You 
have said that being able to speak more than one language is a gift that 
we all need. What role do you envision for the Spanish language in the 
U.S. in the next century, and how determined are you to stand by 
bilingual education?
    The President. Well, as you know, I opposed Proposition 227 because 
I thought it was artificial. I do think all children, schoolchildren, 
whose native language is Spanish should become fluent in English and 
should be able to read, speak, and learn in English. But I believe that 
during that process, it's important to have effective bilingual 
    I also believe that more and more children whose first language is 
not Spanish should learn to speak Spanish. I believe that more and more 
of our school districts, and perhaps even our States, should adopt a 
requirement that students, in order to get out of high school, should 
have 4 years of language and should demonstrate some proficiency in it. 
In a global economy, that would help us a lot. So I would like to see 
the bilingual education matter taken out of politics and put back into 
    The truth is that a lot of our children would not have to spend so 
long in bilingual programs if we had more well-trained bilingual 
education teachers who could teach the children the subjects they're 
learning and help them to learn English more quickly. And I think we 
ought to focus on the problem instead of turning it into a political 

Immigration and Mexico-U.S. Border

    Mr. Orozco. A final question, Mr. President. You have said that 
immigration is not only good for America, it is America. You have also 
enthusiastically supported the North American Free Trade Agreement, an 
agreement which is supposed to erase borders and bring friends together. 
However, the Mexico-U.S. border is becoming a costly, dangerous, and 
fortified wall. What are you doing to create a friendlier border with 
    The President. Well, we're trying to work with the Mexican 
Government more on economic and environmental projects and on building 
up the economy on both sides of the border so there will be less danger 
of drug trafficking and more possibilities for commerce that benefit 
both sides. The Mexican Government has begun to work with us more 
closely to deal with narcotrafficking, because it's a big problem in 
Mexico as well as the U.S.
    But we can't just have a negative approach. We also have to finance 
more economic projects and more environmental projects along the border 
and make sure the border operates more smoothly. And that's what I have 
worked hard to do.
    I think that if we can keep this global financial crisis from 
reaching Mexico and the rest of Latin America, that we will see over the 
next 5 years a marked improvement in our relationships with Mexico, a 
marked improvement in the Mexican economy, a smaller problem with 
illegal immigration, and more joint action on drug trafficking. And that 
is my goal.

1998 Elections

    Mr. Orozco. Mr. President, tomorrow is election day. Many Latinos 
will vote for the first time, and they make good voters. But many 
hesitate because they don't believe in politicos. They don't believe in 
the promises of the politicians. What message would you have as a final 
message for Latino voters?
    The President. Well, first of all, I think you can look at the 
promises I have made to the American people, including Latinos, over the 
last 6 years, and you can look at how many jobs have been created, how 
much welfare has gone down, how much unemployment has gone down, how 
much crime has gone down. You can look at my record on immigration. You 
can look at my record on appointing Hispanics to key positions in my 
administration. You can look at my record in fighting AIDS in the 
Hispanic community and my record in trying to fight for this education 
initiative to improve the educational prospects of young Latinos. And 
you can look at my record in fighting for a fair census that counts all 
Americans. So I'm not just a politician making promises. I have a 
record. I have done what I said I would do, and it has been good for the 
Latino community in America.

[[Page 1966]]

    And if you look ahead, basically if you want smaller classes, more 
teachers, and modern schools, and you want the National Government to 
help, then you only have one choice, because the Democrats and I are for 
it; the Republicans are opposed to our initiative. If you want a raise 
in the minimum wage, we're for it, and they're opposed to it. If you 
want to protect patients that are in managed care plans and give them 
the right they need to see specialists and to keep treatment going, 
we're for it, and they're opposed to it. If you want to see the surplus 
we have protected to save Social Security for the elderly, long term, 
and to protect the integrity of Medicare, then you should support us. If 
you want more done on child care to support working families with young 
children, we have an initiative; they're opposed to it.
    So I would say, based on our record and the clear differences 
between parties, it is very much worth going out to vote. And if you 
don't vote, the consequences of not voting are that in the next 2 years 
the Congress will spend their time and money the same they have in the 
last year, which is basically fighting inside-Washington political 
games, trying to gain political advantage through investigations and 
other things, instead of doing the people's business.
    So I would say there's a clear case for voting and a clear case for 
voting for the Democrats for Congress and Senate tomorrow. And I hope 
that everyone within the sound of my voice will do so.
    Willie Velazquez spent his life at the Southwest Voter Education 
Project saying ``Su voto es su voz.'' And it's really true, and more 
true now than ever before.
    Mr. Orozco. Mr. President, on behalf of Radio Bilingue, thank you 
very much.
    The President. Thank you very much, Samuel. Goodbye.

Note: The interview began at approximately 7 p.m. The President spoke by 
telephone from the Residence at the White House. A tape was not 
available for verification of the content of this interview.