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Tuesday, Aug. 27, 1996
© Associated Press
Remarks made by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on Tuesday night:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Tipper. Thank you all so much. Thank you. Thank you all and good evening. I am overwhelmed by your warm welcome. And I want to thank my friend, Tipper Gore.
You know, we are gathered here together to have a really good time. I am overwhelmed and very grateful to all of you. You know after this reception, I think you all are ready for the rest of this convention, which has already been so positive and good.
I know and you know that Chicago is my kind of town. And Chicago is my kind of village.
I have so many friends here, people who have been important to me all my life, and it seems like every single one of them has given me advice on this speech. One friend suggested that I appear here tonight with Binti, the child-saving gorilla from the Brookfield Zoo.
You know, as this friend explained, Binti is a typical Chicagoan - tough on the outside but with a heart of gold underneath.
Another friend advised me that I should cut my hair and color it orange and then change my name to Hillary "Rodman" Clinton.
But after considering these and countless other suggestions, I decided to do tonight what I've been doing for more than 25 years; I want to talk about what matters most in our lives and in our nation - children and families.
I wish - I wish we could be sitting around a kitchen table, just us, talking about our hopes and fears, about our children's futures. For Bill and me, family has been the center of our lives. - But we also know that our family, like your family, is part of a larger community that can help or hurt our best efforts to raise our child.
Right now, in our biggest cities and our smallest towns, there are boys and girls being tucked gently into bed, and there are boys and girls who have no one to call mom or dad, and no place to call home.
Right now there are mothers and fathers just finishing a long day's work. And there are mothers and fathers just going to work, some to their second or third jobs of the day.
Right now there are parents worrying: "What if the baby sitter is sick tomorrow?" Or: "How can we pay for college this fall?" And right now there are parents despairing about gang members and drug pushers on the corners in their neighborhoods.
Right now there are parents questioning a popular culture that glamorizes sex and violence, smoking and drinking, and teaches children that the logos on their clothes are more valued than the generosity in their hearts.
But also right now there are dedicated teachers preparing their lessons for the new school year. There are volunteers tutoring and coaching children. There are doctors and nurses caring for sick children, police officers working to help kids stay out of trouble and off drugs.
Of course, parents, first and foremost, are responsible for their children.
But we are all responsible for ensuring that children are raised in a nation that doesn't just talk about family values, but acts in ways that values families. Just think - as Christopher Reeve so eloquently reminded us last night, we are all part of one family - the American family. And each one of us has value. Each child who comes into this world should feel special - every boy and every girl.
Our daughter, Chelsea, will graduate from college in 2001, at the dawn of the next century. Though that's not so far away, it is hard for any of us to know what the world will look like then, much less when Chelsea is my age, in the year 2028. But one thing we know for sure is that change is certain - progress is not.
Progress depends on the choices we make today for tomorrow, and on whether we meet our challenges and protect our values. We can start by doing more to support parents and the job they have to do. Issues - issues affecting children and families are some of the hardest we face, as parents, as citizens, as a nation.
In October, Bill and I will celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. And Bill was with me when Chelsea was born, in the delivery room, in my hospital room, and when we brought our baby daughter home. Not only did I have lots of help, I was able to stay in the hospital as long as my doctor thought I needed to be there.
But today, too many new mothers are asked to get up and get out after 24 hours, and that is just not enough time for many new mothers and babies. That's why the president is right to support a bill that would prohibit the practice of forcing mothers and babies to leave the hospital in less than 48 hours.
That's also why more hospitals ought to install 24-hour hotlines to answer questions once new mothers and fathers get home. That's why home nurses can make such a difference to parents who may not have grandparents or aunts and uncles around to help. We have to do whatever it takes to help parents meet their responsibilities at home and at work. The very first piece of legislation that my husband signed into law had been vetoed twice - the Family and Medical Leave Law.
That law allows parents time off for the birth or adoption of a child or for family emergencies without fear of losing their jobs. Already it has helped 12 million families, and it hasn't hurt the economy one bit.
You know, Bill and I are fortunate that our jobs have allowed us to take breaks from work not only when Chelsea was born, but to attend her school events and take her to the doctor. But millions of other parents can't get time off. That's why my husband wants to expand the Family and Medical Leave Law so that parents can take time off for children's doctors appointments and parent-teacher conferences at school.
We all know that raising kids is a full-time job and since most parents work, they are, we are stretched thin. Just think about what many parents are responsible for on any given day. Packing lunches, dropping the kids off at school, going to work, checking to make sure that the kids get home from school safely, shopping for groceries, making dinner, doing the laundry, helping with homework, paying the bills, and I didn't even mention taking the dog to the vet.
That's why my husband wants to pass a flex-time law that will give parents the option - to take overtime pay either in extra income or in extra time off depending upon whichever is best for your family.
Our family has been lucky to have been blessed with a child with good health. Chelsea has spent only one night in the hospital after she had her tonsils out, but Bill and I couldn't sleep at all that night.
But our experience was nothing like the emotional strain on parents when their children are seriously ill. They often worry about where they will get the money to pay the medical bills. That is why my husband has always felt that all American families should have affordable health insurance.
Just last week the president signed a bill - sponsored by Sens. Kennedy and Kassebaum, a Democrat and a Republican - that will enable 25 million Americans to keep their health insurance, even when they switch jobs or lose a job or have a family member who's been sick. This bill contains some of the key provisions from the president's proposal for health care reform. It was an important step, achieved only after both parties agreed to build, not block, progress on making health care available to all Americans.
Now the country must take the next step of helping unemployed Americans and their children keep health insurance for six months after losing their jobs.
If you lose your job, it's bad enough, but your daughter shouldn't have to lose her doctor, too. And our nation still must find a way to offer affordable health care coverage to the working poor and the 10 million children who lack health insurance today.
The president also hasn't forgotten that there are thousands of children languishing in foster care who can't be returned home. That's why he signed legislation last week that provides for a $5,000 tax credit for parents who adopt a child. It also, it also abolishes the barriers to cross-racial adoptions. Never again will a racial barrier stand in the way of a family's love.
My husband also understands that parents are their child's first teachers. Not only do we need to read to our children and talk to them in ways that encourage learning; we must support our teachers and our schools in deeds as well as words.
The president announced today an important initiative called America Reads. This initiative is aimed at making sure all children can read well by the third grade. It will require volunteers, but I know there are thousands and thousands of Americans who will volunteer to help every child read well.
For Bill and me, there has been no experience more challenging, more rewarding, and more humbling than raising our daughter.
And we have learned that to raise a happy, healthy and hopeful child, it takes a family, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes business people, it takes community leaders, it takes those who protect our health and safety, it takes all of us.
Yes, it takes a village.
And it takes a president. It takes a president who believes not only in the potential of his own child, but of all children - who believes not only in the strength of his own family, but of the American family, who believes not only in the promise of each of us as individuals, but in our promise together as a nation. It takes a president who not only holds these beliefs but acts on them. It takes Bill Clinton.
Sometimes, late at night, when I see Chelsea doing her homework, or watching TV, or talking to a friend on the phone, I think to myself, her life and the lives of millions of boys and girls will be better because of what all of us are doing together. They will face fewer obstacles and more possibilities. That is something we should all be proud of, and that is what this election is all about.
Thank you very much.
'It Takes A Village....'
By Hillary Rodham Clinton
I write these words looking out through the windows in the White House at the city of Washington in all its beauty and squalor, promise and despair. In the shadow of great power, so many feel powerless. These contradictions color my feelings when I think about my own child and all our children. My worry for these children has increased, but remarkably, so has my hope for their future.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
We know much more now than we did even a few years ago about how the human brain develops and what children need from their environments to develop character, empathy, and intelligence. When we put this knowledge into practice, the results are astonishing. Also, because when I read, travel, and talk with people around the world, it is increasingly clear to me that nearly every problem children face today has been solved somewhere, by someone. And finally, because I sense a new willingness on the part of many parents and citizens to turn down the decibel level on our political conflicts and start paying attention to what works.
There's an old saying I love: You can't roll up your sleeves and get to work if you're still wringing your hands. So if you, like me, are worrying about our kids; if you, like me, have wondered how we can match our actions to our words, I'd like to share with you some of the convictions I've developed over a lifetime--not only as an advocate and a citizen but as a mother, daughter, sister, and wife--about what our children need from us and what we owe to them.
"IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD"
I chose that old African proverb to title my book because it offers a timeless reminder that children will thrive only if their families thrive and if the whole of society cares enough to provide for them. The sage who first offered that proverb would undoubtedly be bewildered by what constitutes the modern village. In earlier times and places--and until recently in our own culture--the "village" meant an actual geographic place where individuals and families lived and worked together.
For most of us, though, the village doesn't look like that anymore. In fact, it's difficult to paint a picture of the modern village, so frantic and fragmented has much of our culture become. Extended families rarely live in the same town, let alone the same house. In many communities, crime and fear keep us behind locked doors. Where we used to chat with neighbors on stoops and porches, now we watch videos in our darkened living rooms. Instead of strolling down Main Street, we spend hours in automobiles and at anonymous shopping malls. We don't join civic associations, churches, union, political parties, or even bowling leagues the way we used to.
WE CAN'T TURN AWAY FROM THIS BRAVE NEW WORLD
The horizons of the contemporary village extend well beyond the town line. From the moment we are born, we are exposed to vast numbers of other people and influences through the media. Technology connects us to the impersonal global village it has created.
To many, this brave new world seems dehumanizing and inhospitable. It is not surprising, then,, that there is a yearning for the "good old days" as a refuge from the problems of the present. But by turning away, we blind ourselves to the continuing, evolving presence of the village in our lives, and its critical importance for how we live together. The village can no longer be defined as a place on a map, or as a list of people or organizations, but its essence remains the same: it is the network of values and relationships that support and affect our lives.
NEW WAYS OF COMING TOGETHER
One of the honors of being First Lady is the opportunity I have to go out into the world and to see what individuals and communities are doing to help themselves and their children. I have had the privilege of talking with mothers, fathers, grandparents, civic clubs, Scout troops, PTAs, and church groups. From these many conversations, I know Americans everywhere are searching for--and often finding--new ways to support one another.
Even our technology offers us new ways of coming together, through radio talk shows, e-mail and the Internet. The networks of relationships we form and depend on are our modern-day villages, but they reach well beyond the city limits. Many of them necessarily involve the whole nation. They are the basis for our "civil society," a term social scientists use to describe the way we work together for common purposes. Whether we harness their potential for the greater good or allow ourselves to drift into alienation and divisiveness depends on the choices we make now.
CREATING CONSENSUS, RESISTING EXTREMIST RHETORIC
We cannot move forward by looking to the past for easy olutions. Even if a golden age had existed, we could not simply graft it onto today's busier, more impersonal and complicated world. Instead, our challenge is to arrive at a consensus of values and a common vision of what we can do, individually and collectively, to build strong families and communities. Creating that consensus in a democracy depends on seriously considering other points of view, resisting the lure of extremist rhetoric, and balancing individual rights and freedoms with personal responsibility and mutual obligations.
THE TRUE TEST...
of the consensus we build is how well we care for our children. For a child, the village must remain personal. Talking to a baby while changing a diaper, playing airplane to entice a toddler to accept a spoonful of food, tossing a ball back and forth with a teenager, are tasks that cannot be carried out in cyberspace. They require the presence of caring adults who are dedicated to children's growth, nurturing, and well-being.
What we do to participate in and support that network--from the way we care for our own children to the jobs we do, the causes we join, and the kinds of legislation we support--is mirrored every day in the experiences of America's children. We can read our national character most plainly in the result.
MORALITY, AND SELF-INTEREST, AT STAKE
How we care for our own and other people's children isn't only a question of morality; our self-interest is at stake too. No family is immune to the influences of the larger society. No matter what my husband and I do to protect and prepare Chelsea, her future will be affected by how other children are being raised. I don't want her to grow up in an America sharply divided by income, race, or religion. I'd like to minimize the odds of her suffering at the hands of someone who didn't have enough love or discipline, opportunity or responsibility, as a child. I want her to believe, as her father and I did, that the American Dream is within reach of anyone willing to work hard and take responsibility. I want her to live in an America that is still strong and promising to its own citizens and lives up to its image throughout the world as a land of hope and opportunity.
THIS, THEN, IS AN INVITATION TO A JOURNEY...
we can take together, as parents and as citizens of this country, united in the belief that children are what matter--more than the size of our bank accounts or the kinds of cars we drive. As Jackie Kennedy Onassis said, "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much." That goes for each of us, whether or not we are parents--and for all of us as a nation.