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STATE OF THE UNION : Clinton’s Seven Challenges

<i> Associated Press</i>

Here are excerpts from President Clinton’s State of the Union address before Congress:

CHILDREN AND FAMILY

Families are the foundation of American life. If we have stronger families, we will have a stronger America.

All strong families begin with taking more responsibility for our children. I’ve heard Mrs. Gore say that it’s hard to be a parent today, but it’s even harder to be a child. So all of us . . . have a responsibility to help children make it, and to make the most of their lives and their God-given capabilities.

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To the media: I say you should create movies, CDs and television shows you would want your own children and grandchildren to enjoy. I call on Congress to pass the requirement for a V-chip in TV sets, so parents can screen out programs they believe are inappropriate for their children. . . .

I say to those who produce and market cigarettes: . . . Our administration has taken steps to stop the massive marketing campaigns that appeal to our children. We are simply saying: Market your products to adults, if you wish--but draw the line on children.

I say to those on welfare . . .: For too long our welfare system has undermined the values of family and work instead of supporting them. The Congress and I are near agreement on sweeping welfare reform. . . . I challenge this Congress to send me a bipartisan welfare reform that will really move people from welfare to work and do right by our children. I will sign it immediately.

To strengthen the family, we must do everything we can to keep the teen pregnancy rate going down. . . . Tonight I am pleased to announce that a group of prominent Americans is responding to that challenge by forming an organization that will support grass-roots community efforts all across our country in a national campaign against teen pregnancy. . . .

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I call on American men and women to respect one another. . . . I challenge America’s families to work harder to stay together. . . .

EDUCATION

Every classroom in America must be connected to the information superhighway, with computers, good software and well-trained teachers. We are working with the telecommunications industry, educators and parents to connect 20% of California’s classrooms by this spring, and every classroom and library in the entire United States by the year 2000. I ask Congress to support our education technology initiative so we make this national partnership successful.

. . . I challenge every community, every school and every state to adopt national standards of excellence to measure whether schools are meeting those standards, to cut bureaucratic red tape so that schools and teachers have more flexibility for grass-roots reforms, and hold them accountable for results. That’s what our Goals 2000 initiative is all about.

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I challenge every state to give all parents the right to choose which public school their children attend and let teachers form new schools with a charter they can keep only if they do a good job. . . .

We have created a new student loan program that has made it easier to borrow and repay loans--and we have dramatically cut the student loan default rate.

Through AmeriCorps, our national service program, this year 25,000 young people will earn college money by serving their local communities to improve the lives of their friends and neighbors. . . .

I challenge Congress to expand work study and help 1 million young Americans work their way through college by the year 2000; to provide a $1,000 merit scholarship for the top 5% of graduates in every high school in the United States. . . .

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ECONOMIC SECURITY

People who work hard still need support to get ahead in the new economy--they need education and training for a lifetime, they need more support for families raising children, they need retirement security, they need access to health care.

. . . So I challenge Congress to consolidate 70 overlapping, antiquated job training programs into a simple voucher worth $2,600 for unemployed or underemployed workers to use as they please for community college tuition or other training. This is a GI bill for America’s workers we should all be able to agree on.

More and more Americans are working hard without a raise. . . . I challenge you to raise their minimum wage. . . .

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I agree that we need a tax credit for working families with children. That’s one of the things most of us in this chamber, I hope, can agree on . . . and it should be part of any final budget agreement.

I want to challenge every business that can possibly afford it to provide pensions for your employees, and I challenge Congress to pass a proposal . . . that would make it easier for small businesses and farmers to establish their own pension plans. . . .

Finally, if our working families are going to succeed in the new economy, they must be able to buy health insurance policies that they do not lose when they change jobs or when someone in their family gets sick. . . .

And Congress should start by passing the bipartisan bill offered by Sen. [Edward] Kennedy and Sen. [Nancy Landon] Kassebaum that would require insurance companies to stop dropping people when they switch jobs and stop denying coverage for preexisting conditions.

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And even as we enact savings in these programs, we must have a common commitment to preserve the basic protections of Medicare and Medicaid--not just to the poor, but to people in working families, including children, people with disabilities, people with AIDS and senior citizens in nursing homes.

CRIME

At last we have begun to find the way to reduce crime, forming community partnerships with local police forces to catch criminals and to prevent crime.

This strategy, called community policing, is clearly working. Violent crime is coming down all across America. In New York City, murders are down 25%, in St. Louis 18%, in Seattle 32%.

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. . . We are already a third of the way there--and I challenge Congress to finish the job. Let us stick with the strategy that’s working, and keep the crime rate coming down. . . .

The Brady bill has already stopped 44,000 people with criminal records from buying guns. The assault weapons ban is keeping 19 kinds of assault weapons out of the hands of violent gangs. I challenge the Congress to keep those laws on the books.

Our next step in the fight against crime is to take on gangs the way we once took on the Mob. I am directing the FBI and other investigative agencies to target gangs that involve juveniles in violent crime and to seek authority to prosecute, as adults, teenagers who maim and kill like adults.

And I challenge local housing authorities and tenant associations. Criminal gang members and drug dealers are destroying the lives of decent tenants. From now on, the rule for residents who commit crime and peddle drugs should be: One strike and you’re out. . . .

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Meanwhile, we continue our efforts to cut the flow of drugs into America. For the last two years, one man in particular has been on the front lines of that effort.

Tonight I am nominating him--a hero of the Persian Gulf War and the commander in chief of the United States military’s Southern Command, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, as America’s new drug czar. . . .

THE ENVIRONMENT

Because of a generation of bipartisan effort, we do have cleaner air and water. . . .

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But 10 million children under 12 still live within four miles of a toxic waste dump. A third of us breathe air which endangers our health. And in too many communities, the water is not safe to drink. . . . Yet Congress has voted to cut environmental enforcement by 25%. . . . I challenge Congress to reexamine those policies and reverse them. . . .

To businesses, this administration is saying: If you can find a cheaper, more efficient way than government regulations to meet tough pollution standards, do it, as long as you do it right.

To communities, we say we must strengthen community right-to-know laws requiring polluters to disclose their emissions, but you have to use the information to work with business to cut pollution. People do have a right to know that their air and water are safe. . . .

GLOBAL LEADERSHIP

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Because of American leadership, more people than ever before live free and at peace, and Americans have known 50 years of prosperity and security. We owe thanks . . . to our veterans of World War II.

I would like to say to Sen. Bob Dole, and to all others in this chamber who fought in World War II, and to all others on both sides of the aisle who have fought bravely in all our conflicts since, I salute your service, and so do the American people.

All over the world, even after the Cold War, people still look to us and trust us to help them seek the blessings of peace and freedom. But as the Cold War fades into memory, voices of isolation say America should retreat from its responsibilities.

I say they are wrong. The threats we face today as Americans respect no nation’s borders. Think of them: terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, organized crime, drug trafficking, ethnic and religious hatred, aggression by rogue states, environmental degradation. If we fail to address these threats today, we will suffer the consequences in all our tomorrows.

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Of course, we can’t be everywhere. Of course, we can’t do everything. But where our interests and our values are at stake, and where we can make a difference, America must lead. . . .

ROLE OF GOVERNMENT

This Congress banned gifts and meals from lobbyists. This Congress forced lobbyists to disclose who pays them and what legislation they are trying to pass or kill. This Congress did that and I applaud you for it.

Now I challenge Congress to go further: to curb special interest influence in politics by passing the first truly bipartisan campaign finance reform bill in a generation. . . .

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And I also appeal to Congress to pass the line-item veto you promised the American people.

Our administration is working hard to give the American people a government that works more and costs less. Thanks to the work of Vice President Gore, we are eliminating 16,000 pages of unnecessary rules and regulations, shifting more decision-making out of Washington back to states and local communities.

As we move into an era of balanced budgets and smaller government, we must work in new ways to enable people to make the most of their own lives. We are helping America’s communities, not with more bureaucracy, but with more opportunities. Through our successful empowerment zones and community development banks, we are helping people to find jobs and to start businesses. . . .

But there are some areas that the federal government should not leave and should address and address strongly. One of these areas is the problem of illegal immigration. . . . I announce I will sign an executive order to deny federal contracts to businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

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Let me be very clear about this: We are still a nation of immigrants; we should be proud of it. We should honor every legal immigrant here . . . working hard to be a good citizen, working hard to become a new citizen. But we are also a nation of laws. . . .

I say again: The era of big government is over. But we can’t go back to the era of fending for yourself. We have to go forward to the era of working together. . . . We have to reach across it to find common ground. . . .

Our country is, and has always been, a great and good country. But the best is yet to come if we all do our part.


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