Wednesday, January 20, 1999

State of the Union address (Take 7)

        Last year, the House passed the bipartisan campaign finance reform legislation sponsored by Representatives Shays and Meehan and Senators McCain and Feingold. But a partisan minority in the Senate blocked reform. So I'd like to say to the House: Pass it again, quickly. (Applause.) And I'd like to say to the Senate, I hope you will say yes to a stronger American democracy in the year 2000. Thank you.

        Since 1997, our Initiative on Race has sought to bridge the divides between and among our people. In its report last fall, the Initiative's Advisory Board found that Americans really do want to bring our people together across racial lines. We know it's been a long journey. For some it goes back to before the beginning of our republic, for others back since the Civil War, for others throughout the 20th century. But for most of us alive today, in a very real sense this journey began 43 years ago when a woman named Rosa Parks sat down on a bus in Alabama and wouldn't get up. She's sitting down with the first lady tonight, and she may get up or not, as she chooses.

        We know that our continuing racial problems are aggravated, as the presidential initiative said, by opportunity gaps. The initiative I have outlined tonight will help to close them. But we know that the discrimination gap has not been fully closed, either.

        Discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry or gender, disability or sexual orientation is wrong and it ought to be illegal. Therefore, I ask Congress to make the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land.

        Now, since every person in America counts, every American ought to be counted. We need a census that uses most modern scientific methods to do that.

        Our new immigrants must be part of our one America. After all, they're revitalizing our cities, they're energizing our culture, they're building up our new economy. We have a responsibility to make them welcome here, and they have a responsibility to enter the mainstream of American life. That means learning English and learning about our democratic system of government. There are now long waiting lines of immigrants that are trying to do just that. Therefore, our budget significantly expands our efforts to help them meet their responsibility. I hope you will support it.

        Whether, whether our ancestors came here on the Mayflower, on slave ships, whether they came to Ellis Island or LAX in Los Angeles, whether they came yesterday or walked this land a thousand years ago, our great challenge for the 21st century is to find a way to be one America. We can meet all the other challenges if we can go forward as one America.

        You know, barely more than 300 days from now, we will cross that bridge into the new millennium. This is a moment, as the First Lady has said, to honor the past and imagine the future.

        I'd like to take just a minute to honor her for leading our Millennium Project, for all she's done for our children, for all she has done in her historic role to serve our nation and our best ideals at home and abroad. I honor her. Thank you.

        Last year I called on Congress and every citizen to mark the millennium by saving America's treasures. Hillary has traveled all across the country to inspire recognition and support for saving places like Thomas Edison's Invention Factory or Harriet Tubman's Home. Now we have to preserve our treasures in every community. And tonight, before I close, I want to invite every town, every city, every community to become a nationally recognized “Millennium Community” by launching projects that save our history, promote our arts and humanities, prepare our children for the 21st century.

        Already, the response has been remarkable, and I want to say a special word of thanks to our private sector partners and to members in Congress, of both parties, for their support. Just one example: Because of you, the Star Spangled Banner will be preserved for the ages.

        In ways large and small, as we look to the millennium, we are keeping alive what George Washington called “the sacred fire of liberty.”

        Six years ago, I came to office in a time of doubt for America, with our economy troubled, our deficit high, our people divided. Some even wondered whether our best days were behind us. But across this country, in a thousand neighborhoods, I have seen, even amidst the pain and uncertainty of recession, the real heart and character of America.

        I knew then that we Americans could renew this country.

        Tonight, as I deliver the last State of the Union address of the 20th century, no one anywhere in the world can doubt the enduring resolve and boundless capacity of the American people to work toward that “more perfect union” of our founders' dreams.

        We're now at the end of a century when generation after generation of Americans answered the call to greatness, overcoming Depression, lifting up the dispossessed, bringing down barriers to racial prejudice, building the largest middle class in history, winning two world wars and the “long twilight struggle” of the Cold War.

        We must all be profoundly grateful for the magnificent achievements of our forbears in this century.

        Yet perhaps in the daily press of events, in the clash of controversy, we do not see our own time for what it truly is: a new dawn for America.

        A hundred years from tonight, another American president will stand in this place to report on the State of the Union. He — or she — will — will look back — he or she will look back on a 21st century shaped in so many ways by the decisions we make here and now. So let it be said of us then that we were thinking not only of our time, but of their time; that we reached as high as our ideals; that we put aside our divisions and found a new hour of healing and hopefulness; that we joined together to serve and strengthen the land we love.

        My fellow Americans, this is our moment. Let us lift our eyes as one nation, and from the mountaintop of this American century, look ahead to the next one, asking God's blessing on our endeavors and on our beloved country.

        Thank you, and good evening.



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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)
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