Wednesday, January 20, 1999

State of the Union address (Take 3)

        Fifth, to assure that our classrooms are truly places of learning, and to respond to what teachers have been asking us to do for years, we should say that all states and school districts must adopt and implement sensible discipline policies.

        Now, let's do one more thing for our children. Today, too many of our schools are so old they're falling apart, or so overcrowded students are learning in trailers. Last fall, Congress missed the opportunity to change that. This year, with 53 million children in our schools, Congress must not miss that opportunity again. I ask you to help our communities build or modernize 5,000 schools.

        Now if, if we do these things — end social promotion, turn around failing schools, build modern ones, support qualified teachers, promote innovation, competition and discipline — then we will begin to meet our generation's historic responsibility to create 21st century schools.

        Now we also have to do more to help the millions of parents who give their all every day at home and at work.

        The most basic tool of all is a decent income. So Let's raise the minimum wage by a dollar an hour over the next two years.

        And let's make sure that women and men get equal pay for equal work by strengthening enforcement of the equal pay laws. That was encouraging, you know. There was more balance on the seesaw. I like that. Let's give 'em a hand! Give 'em — that was great.

        Working parents also need quality child care. So again this year, I ask Congress to support our plan for tax credits and subsidies for working families, for improved safety and quality, for expanded after-school programs. Our plan also includes a new tax credit for stay-at-home parents too. They need support as well.

        Parents should never have to worry about choosing between their children and their work.

        Now, the Family Medical Leave Act — the first bill I signed into law — has now since 1993 helped millions and millions of Americans to care for a new baby or an ailing relative without risking their jobs. I think with all the evidence that it has been so little burdensome to employers that we should extend family leave to 10 million more Americans working in smaller companies. And I hope you will support it.

        Finally, on the matter of work, parents should never face discrimination in the workplace. So I want to ask Congress to prohibit companies from refusing to hire or promote workers simply because they have children. That is not right.

        America's families deserve the world's best medical care.

        Thanks to bipartisan federal support for medical research, we are now on the verge of new treatments to prevent or delay diseases from Parkinson's to Alzheimer's, to arthritis to cancer, but as we continue our advances in medical science, we can't let our health care system lag behind.

        Managed care has transformed medicine in America — driving down costs, but threatening to drive down quality as well. I think we ought to say to every American: You should have the right to know all your medical options — not just the cheapest. If you need a specialist, you should have a right to see one. You should have the right to emergency care if you're in an accident. These are things that we ought to say, and I think we ought to say you should have a right to keep your doctor during a period of treatment, whether it's a pregnancy or chemotherapy or anything else. I believe this.

        Now, I have ordered these rights to be extended to the 85 million Americans served by Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs.

        But only Congress can enact the Patients' Bill of Rights for all Americans. Now, last year, last year, thank you. Last year, Congress missed that opportunity and we must not miss that opportunity again. For the sake of our families, I ask us to joint together across party lines and pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights.

        Thank you.

        As more of our medical records are stored electronically, the threats to all our privacy increase. Because Congress has given me the authority to act if it does not do so by August, one way or another, we can all say to the American people we will protect the privacy of medical records and w we will do it this year.

        Now, two years ago, the Congress extended health coverage to up to 5 million children. Now, we should go beyond that. We should make it easier for small businesses to offer health insurance. We should give people between the ages of 55 and 65 who lose their health insurance the chance to buy into Medicare, and we should continue to ensure access to family planning. No one should have to choose between keeping health care and taking a job. And therefore, I especially ask you tonight to join hands to pass the landmark bipartisan legislation proposed by Senators Kennedy and Jeffords, Roth and Moynihan, to allow people with disabilities to keep their health insurance when they go to work.

        We need to enable our public hospitals, our community, our university health centers to provide basic, affordable care for all the millions of working families who don't have any insurance. They do a lot of that today, but much more can be done. And my balanced budget makes a good down payment toward that goal. I hope you will think about them and support that provision.

        Let me say we must step up our efforts to treat and prevent mental illness. No American should ever be able — afraid, ever, to address this disease. This year we will host a White House Conference on Mental Health. With sensitivity, commitment, and passion, Tipper Gore is leading our efforts here, and I thank her for what she's done on it. Thank you. Thank you.

        As everyone knows, our children are targets of a massive media campaign to hook them on cigarettes. Now I ask this Congress to resist the tobacco lobby, to reaffirm the FDA's authority to protect children from tobacco, and to hold the tobacco companies accountable while protecting tobacco farmers.

        Smoking has cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars under Medicare and other programs. You know, the states have been right about this: taxpayers shouldn't pay for the costs of lung cancer, emphysema, and other smoking-related illnesses, the tobacco companies should. So tonight I announce that the Justice Department is preparing a litigation plan to take the tobacco companies to court, and with the funds we recover, to strengthen Medicare.

        Now, if we act in these areas — minimum wage, family leave, child care, health care, the safety of our children — then we will begin to meet our generation's historic responsibility to strengthen our families for the 21st century.

        Today, America is the most dynamic, competitive, job-creating economy in history. But we can do even better in building a 21st Century economy that embraces all Americans.

        Today's incomes gap is largely a skills gap. Last year, the Congress passed a law enabling workers to get a skills grant to choose the training they need, and I applaud all of you here who were part of that. This year, I recommend a five-year commitment to the new system so that we can provide over the next five years appropriate training opportunities for all Americans who lose their jobs and expand rapid response teams to help all towns which have been really hurt when businesses close. I hope you will support this.

        Also, I ask for a dramatic increase in federal support for adult literacy, to mount a national campaign aimed at helping the millions and millions of working people who still read at less than a fifth-grade level. We need to do this.


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Text of State of the Union address
State of the Union address (Take 2)
- State of the Union address (Take 3)
State of the Union address (Take 4)
State of the Union address (Take 5)
State of the Union address (Take 6)
State of the Union address (Take 7)
Clinton's lawyer presents scathing rebuke
Both parties praise president's counsel
Chabot: Ruff got it wrong
Defense low-key till end
GOP collecting, editing queries