Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release Saturday, August 19, 2000


The Map Room

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THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. During the recent political convention we asked people all across our country to take stock of our nation's progress and the challenges that lie ahead. One thing is clear: We live in a moment of unprecedented peace and prosperity, and getting there was not a matter of chance, but of choice.

When the Vice President and I set out to restore the American Dream eight years ago we faced some choices. But with the support of the American people, we made those choices together. Today I want to talk about how far we've come and how we can use this historic good time to address our outstanding challenges at home and abroad.

We now enjoy the longest economic expansion in our history, turning record deficits into record surpluses, creating more than 22 million jobs, with the lowest unemployment in 30 years. And average family income has jumped by more than $5,000.

But more than just being better off, America is a better nation. We ended welfare as we knew it. With the benefits of job-training, child care and transportation, 7.5 million Americans have moved from welfare to work. We're turning our schools around with higher standards, more accountability, more investment. As a result, our reading, math, and SAT scores are going up, and more students than ever are going to college.

We made our communities safer by putting 100,000 new police officers on the streets, banning assault weapons, keeping guns away from a half million felons, fugitives and stalkers, and together, we brought crime to a 25-year low.

We've also extended the life of the Medicare trust fund by 26 years, and passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which over 20 million Americans have used to take a little time off for a newborn baby or a sick loved one. Our air and water are cleaner, our food is safer.

We've also stepped up our fight against AIDS, doubling AIDS research and prevention efforts. We're working on the reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act to provide a lifeline to half-million Americans living with HIV and AIDS.

While we're making real progress in the fight against AIDS here at home, we have to do more to combat this plague around the world. That's why today I'm pleased to sign the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act. This bipartisan legislation authorizes funding for AIDS treatment and prevention programs worldwide, and increases investment in vaccines for the world's children, including AIDS vaccine research. I hope Congress will also approve our vaccine tax credit to speed development of such critical vaccines for the developing world.

Fighting AIDS worldwide is not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing. In our tightly connected world, infectious disease anywhere is a threat to public health everywhere. AIDS threatens the economies of the poorest countries, the stability of friendly nations, the future of fragile democracies. Already HIV-AIDS is the leading cause of death in Africa, and increasingly threatens Asia and the states of the former Soviet Union. In the hardest-hit countries, AIDS is leaving students without teachers, patients without doctors, and children without parents. Today alone, African families will hold nearly 6,000 funerals for loved ones who died of AIDS.

But we still have time to do a world of good if we act now. This bill is an important step in the fight against AIDS. It's also a symbol of the good we can accomplish when we work together in a bipartisan spirit. In that same spirit, Congress still has time to get important work done for the American people this fall. When they return in a few weeks, they'll still have time to put progress before partisanship to pass a real patients' bill of rights; affordable Medicare prescription drug benefits for all our seniors; to set aside the Medicare surplus so that it can only be spent to strengthen Medicare, not raided for tax cuts we can't afford; to pass tax cuts that help middle class families send their kids to college and provide long-term care for their loved ones.

We should also pass a strong hate crimes bill and common-sense gun legislation. We should rebuild our crumbling schools, hire the rest of those 100,000 teachers, and raise the minimum wage.

These are big challenges, but if we make the tough choices together, we'll keep our progress and prosperity going.

Thanks for listening.

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