THE WHITE HOUSE
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE PEOPLE OF APPALACHIA
4:10 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Well, the Governor always told me if I would only come to Appalachia I would get a very warm welcome. (Applause.) I want to thank the good people of Hazard and Perry County for giving me that warm welcome. I want to thank all the people of Eastern Kentucky who have made me and my party feel so welcome today -- Paul and Judy Patton. I thank Mayor Gorman and Judge Noble. I thank those who have come with me today -- our Agriculture Secretary -- you heard from Secretary Glickman -- our HUD Secretary, Secretary Cuomo; SBA Administrator Alvarez. We have two Congressmen here -- Jim Clyburn from South Carolina and Paul Kanjorski, who came all the way from Pennsylvania, because they have places like Appalachia there, and they wanted to come down here to be with you. (Applause.)
I want to thank Duane Ackerman and the other CEOs who are here, including Dick Huber of Aetna; the One Central Bank Kentucky CEO, Kip Stolen; Sarah Gould from the MS Foundation; John Sykes from Sykes Enterprises -- I'll mention him in a moment.
I want to thank the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who keeps hope alive. (Applause.) And the others in our group, including Al From, the leader of the Democratic Leadership Council; and David Wilhelm, who is from nearby in Ohio and was my first Democratic National Committee Chairman. I'd like to thank the young people here in AmeriCorps -- (applause) -- and I would like to say a special word of thanks to Cawood Ledford. Boy, he is -- (applause) -- I was thinking that if old Cawood had been a political announcer instead of a basketball announcer and I could have kept him with me these last 25 years, I'd have never lost an election. (Applause.)
You know, Kentucky has been good to me and Hillary and to the Vice President. It has been brought to my attention that, in addition to the economy, we've been pretty good for Kentucky. Since I've been in office, UK basketball has had the most successful six years since Adolph Rupp was the coach. (Applause.) And Tim Couch hasn't done badly, either. (Applause.)
You know, yesterday we celebrated the last 4th of July of this century -- the last 4th of July of this century. Think of it -- 223 Independence Days. I want you all to drink plenty of water and I'll make this quick, but you need to know why we came here. I wanted to come to the heart of America and Appalachia to talk about whether we're all going forward into the 21st century; whether we really can build a bridge over which we can all walk together.
I'll bet you some of you here are actually the descendants of those people Governor Patton talked about, the Revolutionary War heroes who helped to settle this state. But, you know, whether our parents and their parents came here on the Mayflower or slave ships, whether they landed on Ellis Island in the 1890s or came to Los Angeles Airport in the 1990s, around the 4th of July we're supposed to celebrate what we have in common as Americans, to reaffirm that what unites us is more important than what divides us. Well, if we believe that, we have a shared stake in one another's success.
I came here to say to you I believe at this time of prosperity, if we can't find a way to give every single hardworking American family the chance to participate in the future we're trying to build for our country, we'll never get around to do it. Now is the time to move forward. (Applause.)
Our country is the world's leading force for peace and freedom and human rights. We have the lowest crime rate in 25 years, the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years, 90 percent of our little children are immunized against serious childhood diseases for the first time in history. We have the longest peacetime expansion we've ever had -- almost 19 million new jobs. Wages are rising for the first time in 20 years for ordinary people. We have a million kids lifted out of poverty, the lowest minority unemployment rate ever recorded.
And yet, even though this is a blessed time for America, not all Americans have been blessed by it. And you know that as well as I do. (Applause.)
So I came here to show America who you are. (Applause.) And when I leave here I'm going on to the Mississippi Delta, to my home country. Then I'm going up into the Middle West, and then over to Phoenix, Arizona, and up to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and then ending this tour in East Los Angeles to make a simple point -- that this is a time to bring more jobs and investment and hope to the areas of our country that have not fully participated in this economic recovery. We have an obligation to do it. (Applause.)
I started out the morning in the town of Tyner, a little village, with a wonderful woman who took me to see her 69-year-old father that just lost his wife after 51 years of marriage. And I saw four generations of that family. And I walked in the neighborhoods and I listened to the people tell me they needed better housing and better transportation.
And then I went on to Mid-South Electronics, a place that had 40 employees 10 years ago, and has 850 today and about to expand some more, to make the point that any work that can be done by anybody in America can be done here in Appalachia -- and throughout the other places in this country where they're not fulfilling their promise. (Applause.)
I came here in the hope that with the help of the business leaders here, we could say to every corporate leader in America: Take a look at investing in rural and inner-city America. It's good for business, good for America's growth, and it's the right thing to do. If we, with the most prosperous economy in our lifetimes, cannot make a commitment to take every person along with us into the 21st century, we will have failed to meet a moral obligation and we also will have failed to make the most of America's promise.
You know, these economists in Washington and New York used to tell me that if the unemployment rate ever dropped below 6 percent in America we'd have inflation out of control. Well, it's been under 5 percent for two years now and inflation is still low. (Applause.) And I'm telling you, it can go lower. We can hire more people, we can have more jobs -- (applause) -- but we've got to go to the places where there have not been enough new jobs and there has not been enough new investments and we have to provide incentives for people to go there. (Applause.)
I asked these business and political leaders to join me because we wanted to send a signal to America that we know that government can't solve these problems alone. But we know that we'll never get anywhere by leaving people alone, either -- you've tried it that way here in the hills and hollows of Kentucky and West Virginia and Ohio and Virginia and Appalachia, for years; that didn't work out very well -- that what works is when we go forward together.
I came here to say that I believe the government's part is to create the conditions of a strong economy, to give individuals the tools they need to succeed, including education and training, and to give incentives to businesses to take a second look at the places that they have overlooked. And then the job of the private sector is to give you a chance to make the most of your God-given ability. That is what we are trying to do. (Applause.)
With the help of Vice President Gore, we've had 135 empowerment zones and enterprise communities -- I was in one earlier today. They've helped to create tens of thousands of jobs. But we have to do better nationwide. We've worked with people like the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation. But we have to do better nationwide.
So that's why I'm going around here. I want to do two things -- well, really three. Number one, I want people to know a lot of good things are going on here now. (Applause.) Number two, I want them to understand that more good things can go on, and number three, I want us to do more. I want us to pass a law in Congress to create new markets in America, to say we're going to give a businessperson the same incentives to invest in new markets in America we give them today to invest in new markets overseas. (Applause.)
Now, meanwhile, I want to thank the companies represented here -- companies like Bell South, ready to help provide jobs and training for your people. The MS Foundation. The Appalachian Regional Commission, with my friend, Jesse White, here, will help Appalachian entrepreneurs create new small businesses. Sykes Enterprises is making a major commitment -- listen to this -- to construct two information technology centers in Eastern Kentucky that will bring hundreds of new jobs to Pike and Perry Counties. Thank you, Mr. Sykes. (Applause.)
Across our nation, banks like Bank One, City Group, Bank of America, First Union, will invest hundreds of millions of dollars to finance new small businesses and other promising enterprises. I want to thank all these companies for their support.
But again, I say: Look here, America. We've got people working out here and doing fine and doing marvelous things. Look here, business community. Take another look. There are great opportunities here. But I also want to say to the Congress: Just simply give me one more tool for them, give people the same incentives to invest in Appalachia or the Native American reservations of the Mississippi Delta or the inner cities we give them today to invest in poor countries overseas, and let the American people show what they can do. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, it's been a hot day -- but when I'm gone, I hope you'll remember more than that the President came and you were hot. I hope you will remember that it was the beginning of a new sense of renewal for this region and for all the people in our country to go forward together. (Applause.)
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
4:21 P.M. EDT