"Four years ago, you and I set forth on a journey to bring our vision to our country, to keep the American Dream alive for all who were willing to work for it, to make our American communities stronger, to keep America the strongest force for peace and freedom and prosperity.
Four years ago, with high unemployment, stagnant wages, crime, welfare and the deficit on the rise, with a host of unmet challenges and a rising tide of cynicism, I told you about a place I was born, and I told you that I still believe in a place called Hope.
Well, for four years now, to realize our vision, we have pursued a simple but profound strategy: opportunity for all, responsibility from all, a strong, united American community.
Four days ago, as you were making your way here, I began a train ride to make my way to Chicago through America's heartland. I wanted to see the faces, I wanted to hear the voices of the people for whom I have worked and fought these last four years. And did I ever see them! . . .
At every stop, large and exuberant crowds greeted me, and maybe more important, when we just rolled through little towns, there were always schoolchildren there waving their American flags. All of them believing in America and its future.
I would not have missed that trip for all the world. For that trip showed me that hope is back in America. We are on the right track to the 21st century. . . .
But our work is not finished.
What should we do?
First, let us consider how to proceed. Again, I say the question is no longer who's to blame, but what to do.
I believe that Bob Dole and Jack Kemp and Ross Perot love our country, and they have worked hard to serve it. It is legitimate, even necessary, to compare our record with theirs, our proposals for the future with theirs _ and I expect them to make a vigorous effort to do the same. . . .
Now, here's the main idea. I love and revere the rich and proud history of America, and I am determined to take our best traditions into the future. But with all respect, we do not need to build a bridge to the past, we need to build a bridge to the future, and that is what I commit to you to do.
So tonight, tonight let us resolve to build that bridge to the 21st century, to meet our challenges and protect our values. Let us build a bridge to help our parents raise their children, to help young people and adults to get the education and training they need, to make our streets safer, to help Americans succeed at home and at work, to break the cycle of poverty and dependence, to protect our environment for generations to come, and to maintain our world leadership for peace and freedom. . . .
By the year 2000, the single most critical thing we can do is to give every single American who wants it the chance to go to college. We must make two years of college just as universal in four years as a high school education is today, and we can do it. We can do it, and we should cut taxes to do it. I propose a $1,500-a-year tuition tax credit for Americans, a HOPE scholarship for the first two years of college to make the typical community college education available to every American.
I believe every working family ought also to be able to deduct up to $10,000 in college tuition costs per year for education after that. I believe the families of this country ought to be able to save money for college in a tax-free IRA, save it year in and year out, withdraw for college education without penalty. . . .
I want to say here, before I go further, that these tax cuts and every other one I mention tonight are all fully paid for in my balanced budget plan, line by line, dime by dime. And they focus on education. . . .
Tonight let us set a clear national goal: All children should be able to read on their own by the third grade. When 40 percent of our 8-year-olds cannot read as well as they should, we have to do something. I want to send 30,000 reading specialists and National Service Corps members to mobilize a volunteer army of 1-million reading tutors for third-graders all across America. They will teach our young children to read.
Let me say to our parents, you have to lead the way. Every tired night you spend reading a book to your child will be worth it many times over. . . .
We must give parents, all parents, the right to choose which public school their children will attend, and to let teachers form new charter schools with a charter they can keep only if they do a good job. . . .
We must require that our students pass tough tests to keep moving up in school. A diploma has to mean something when they get out. We should reward teachers that are doing a good job, remove those who don't measure up. . . .
I want to build a bridge to the 21st century in which we create a strong and growing economy . . .
Let us proclaim to the American people we will balance the budget, and let us also proclaim we will do it in a way that preserves Medicare, Medicaid, education, the environment, the integrity of our pensions, the strength of our people.
I could never allow cuts that devastate education for our children, that pollute our environment, that end the guarantee of health care for those who are served under Medicaid, that end our duty or violate our duty to our parents through Medicare. I just couldn't do that. As long as I'm president, I'll never let it happen. . . .
My plan gives Americans tax cuts that will help our economy to grow. I want to expand IRAs so that young people can save tax-free to buy a first home. Tonight, I propose a new tax cut for homeownership, that says to every middle-income working family in this country, if you sell your home, you will not have to pay a capital gains tax on it ever _ not ever. . . .
I propose also to give businesses a tax credit for every person hired off welfare and kept employed. I propose to offer private job placement firms a bonus for every welfare recipient they place in a job who stays in it. . . .
Tonight I challenge every business person in America who has ever complained about the failure of the welfare system to try to hire somebody off welfare and try hard. . . .
I want to build a bridge to the 21st century, where our children are not killing other children anymore, where children's lives are not shattered by violence at home or in the school yard, where a generation of young people are not left to raise themselves on the streets. With more police and punishment and prevention, the crime rate has dropped for four years in a row, now. But we cannot rest, because we know it's still too high.
We cannot rest until crime is a shocking exception to our daily lives, not news as usual. . . .
And I can tell you, something has happened to some of our young people. They simply don't think these drugs are dangerous anymore, or they think the risk is acceptable.
So beginning with our parents, and without regard to our party, we have to renew our energy to teach this generation of young people the hard, cold truth: Drugs are deadly, drugs are wrong, drugs can cost you your life. . . .
I want to build the bridge to the 21st century with a strong American community, beginning with strong families; an America where all children are cherished and protected from destructive forces, where parents can succeed at home and at work. . . .
We respect the individual conscience of every American on the painful issue of abortion, but believe as a matter of law that this decision should be left to a woman, her conscience, her doctor and her God. But abortion should not only be safe and legal; it should be rare. That's why I helped to establish and support a national effort to reduce out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy.
And that is why we must promote adoption. Last week, last week the minimum wage bill I signed contained a $5,000 credit to families who adopt children, even more if the children have disabilities. It put an end to the racial discrimination in the adoption process. It was a good thing for America.
My fellow Americans, already there are tens of thousands of children out there who need a good home with loving parents. I hope more of them will find it now. . . .
My fellow Americans, I want to build a bridge to the 21st century that makes sure we are still the nation with the world's strongest defense; that our foreign policy still advances the values of our American community in the community of nations. Our bridge to the future must include bridges to other nations. . . .
We are fighting terrorism on all fronts with a three-prong strategy.
First, we are working to rally a world coalition with zero tolerance for terrorism. . . . Second, we must give law enforcement the tools they need to take the fight to terrorists. . . . Third, we will improve airport and air travel security. . . .
There are times when only America can make the difference between war and peace, between freedom and repression, between life death.
We cannot save all the world's children but we can save many of them.
We cannot become the world's policeman. But where our values and our interests are at stake and where we can make a difference, we must act and we must lead. That is our job and we are better, stronger and safer because we are doing it.
My fellow Americans, let me say one last time, we can only build our bridge to the 21st century if we build it together and if we're willing to walk arm-in-arm across that bridge together. . . .
So look around here, look around here. Old or young, healthy as a horse or a person with a disability that hasn't kept you down, man or woman, Native American, native-born, immigrant, straight or gay _ whatever _ the test ought to be: I believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. I believe in religious liberty, I believe in freedom of speech, and I believe in working hard and playing by the rules. I'm showing up for work tomorrow. I'm building that bridge to the 21st century. . . .
Let us commit ourselves this night to rise up and build the bridge we know we ought to build all the way to the 21st century.
Let us have faith _ . . . American faith that we are not leaving our greatness behind. We're going to carry it right on with us into that new century, a century of new challenge and unlimited promise.
Let us, in short, do the work that is before us so that when our time here is over, we will all watch the sun go down, as we all must, and say truly that we have prepared our children for the dawn.
My fellow Americans, after these four, good, hard years, I still believe in a place called Hope, a place called America.