August 16, 2000
As I write this, my husband and I are about to leave Los Angeles, where we were privileged to speak to the 4,370 Democratic delegates convened to nominate Al Gore for president and Joe Lieberman for vice-president.
As I contemplated what I wanted to say, not just to the delegates, but to the 10,000 volunteers, 15,000 members of the media and millions of Americans watching at home, I knew the most important message was "thank you."
When Bill, Al, Tipper and I climbed onto the campaign bus in 1992 after the convention, we began a journey that took us to the heartland of America. Along the way, we saw faces full of hope. But we also saw faces bleak with despair -- the faces of fathers out of work, mothers trapped on welfare and children without adequate medical care.
I remember one group holding a sign that read, "Please stop. If you give us eight minutes, we'll give you eight years." We stopped and listened. And they, indeed, rewarded us with eight incredible years.
Now it's my turn to say thank you.
In the summer of 1936, in his acceptance speech to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, Franklin Roosevelt declared, "This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny." Here in the summer of the year 2000, we, too, have a rendezvous --- a rendezvous with responsibility.
In 1992, when Bill Clinton and Al Gore accepted the nomination, they understood that responsibility: to offer every hard-working American the tools and opportunities to build a better life.
Among other initiatives, the Clinton-Gore administration has worked to lift children out of poverty and enroll them in Head Start, child care and after-school care; to immunize more children than ever against disease; and to double the number of foster children adopted into loving, permanent homes. The first bill my husband signed as president allows parents to take family and medical leave to care for newborns or seriously ill family members.
When I worked for the Children's Defense Fund, we subscribed to this governing principle: "Leave no child behind." This administration has taken tremendous strides to ensure that no child is left behind. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of work to do.
When a child is afraid to go to school -- afraid of becoming the victim of guns and violence -- that's a child left behind. When a child needs medical attention, but doesn't get it because his or her hardworking parents can't afford health insurance, that's a child left behind. And when a child struggles to learn in an overcrowded classroom, without textbooks or a highly trained teacher, that's another child left behind.
What does it take to make sure that no child is left behind in the 21st century? First, it takes responsible parents -- parents who jealously guard the time they have with their children, whether it is eating dinner together and listening, or going to their recitals, plays and games. But it also takes the rest of the village -- teachers, coaches, business owners, community and religious leaders, even government officials and politicians.
There are those who believe that government and politicians are irrelevant, and that elections don't matter. They're wrong. This year's election matters -- and it matters most for our littlest citizens.
If we're to give every child the chance to succeed in the new economy by modernizing our schools, setting high standards and hiring qualified teachers, this election matters. If we're to pass common-sense gun safety laws to keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals, this election matters. If we're to help parents gain control over what their children see on TV, in the movies, in video games and on the Internet, this election matters. If we're to raise the minimum wage, enforce tough child support laws and guarantee equal pay for equal work, this election matters. And, if we're to insure more children through the Children's Health Insurance Program, pass a real patients' bill of rights and provide access to affordable health care to every child and family in this country, this election matters.
If you care about these issues -- if you feel that you and your family are better off now than you were eight years ago -- you know that this election matters.
Before he was vice president, I admired Al Gore for his leadership in the Senate, his understanding of the future, and his pioneering efforts to fight environmental threats. Since 1992, he has worked side-by-side with the president as a trusted partner, helping to make the hard decisions that have led us to the most peaceful, prosperous and promising time in our nation's history.
With Joe Lieberman by his side, I know that President Al Gore will continue this important work: keeping America on the road to prosperity and making sure that no child is left behind.
As I think back on this chapter of my life, I am so grateful for the extraordinary opportunity you have given me. Your faith and support, in good times and in bad, have been a precious gift, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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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