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Talking it Over
November 8, 2000
It was nearly two years ago that I was first asked to consider running for the United States Senate from New York. The thought of trying to fill the shoes of one of this country's finest public servants, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was daunting. Yet, the prospect of continuing to work for the issues that Americans care about was the motivation I needed -- at least to study the idea. Six months later, I stood with Senator Moynihan at his farm in Pindars Corners, prepared to embark on a listening tour of the state to hear what New Yorkers had to say.
The months between that day and my official announcement the following February offered an unprecedented opportunity to listen to New Yorkers from Brooklyn to Buffalo, Staten Island to Skaneateles. What I heard convinced me that the people of New York care about the same issues I have championed for 30 years -- among them: the best education for our children, reliable and affordable health care, and dependable, high-quality child care.
I know that government is not the source of all our problems nor the solution to them. Rather, when people work hard to live up to their responsibilities, it's the role of government to help them make a better life for themselves and their families.
As is the case around the country, there are people in New York who need the government's help. They need jobs and investment; in many cases, they need help shifting from old-fashioned manufacturing jobs to the high-tech economy of the 21st century. And they need a champion -- someone who not only acknowledges and cares about their problems, but who will fight to solve them as well.
Since July of '99, I have shaken literally thousands of hands and cooed at almost as many adorable babies. More importantly though, I have listened to their parents, friends and neighbors tell me stories I will never forget. If they choose me to represent their interests in the United States Senate, their stories will keep me going as I fight to win them health insurance, child care and college tuition tax credits; federal legislation to deter hate crimes; modern schools with quality teachers and smaller classes; a prescription drug benefit for our seniors; and a meaningful Patients' Bill of Rights.
I'll never forget Suanne, whom I met at the Dutchess County Fair in August. Although Suanne is a single mother with no health insurance, her 13-year-old daughter is covered by CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program). CHIP was created by my husband's administration specifically for working families who can't afford insurance for their children. Unfortunately, Suanne has medical problems of her own, the cost of which, she fears, could send her onto welfare.
Mercedes is a lifelong resident of Queens and the mother of three daughters. She stays at home because she can't afford child care, yet the family struggles to get by on her husband's salary alone. Although she wants to return to work, she cannot afford to pay someone to care for her children after school.
John Smith is the principal of Central Islip High School, which has 1,603 students enrolled now and expects a 30 percent increase over the next five years. He laments that the lack of adequate classroom space prevents the school from offering the additional classes that New York's students need to prepare for the tough new Regent's requirements.
Graham is a registered Republican who promised me his vote. He wants prescription drug coverage for seniors so that he -- and thousands like him -- don't have to cross the border to buy their drugs in Canada.
Carol lives in Manhattan where she cares for her husband who was severely disabled in a car accident ten years ago. Like so many other women of her generation, she fills two roles in the family: sole breadwinner and full-time caregiver.
Like every one of these people, Carol would benefit from a proposal that the administration has put before Congress, but that Congress has failed to enact. Your lawmakers went home last weekend without passing a Patients' Bill of Rights, education funding, a prescription drug benefit for seniors, child care funding and a tax credit for long-term caregivers. In addition, they failed to pass meaningful gun control, hate crimes legislation, the President's New Markets Initiative and an increase in the minimum wage.
Today is Election Day, and as I write this, it's too early to know how people here in New York and across the country have voted. We don't yet know whether they have voted to turn back the clock or to continue the policies of the last eight years that have brought unprecedented prosperity to our nation.
What I know, though, is this: If the people of New York send me to the Senate, they know where I stand on the issues that are important to them. And they know that I'll spend the next six years fighting for every one of them -- old or young, black or white, rich or poor, male or female, upstate or down -- even Yankees fan or Mets.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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