Office of the Press Secretary
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much, Congressman Dingell for your introduction, for your leadership and service and for your friendship.
I'm delighted to be here with all of you, and particularly pleased to have this occasion and to share it with Mayor Archer, and Ed McNamara, and Beth McDermott and all who have already been acknowledged.
And I also want to say a special word thanks to Dan Musser and the Grand Hotel staff. It is such a pleasure to be here again, and I am very grateful for the high standards that you.
I must confess, though, that it is a little awkward that this occasion occurs on this evening. Many of you may know that I grew up in the Chicago area. (Laughter.) I know. I am a rabid Chicago sports fan. (Laughter.) I mean, I just want to lay it all out there. (Laughter.) And I think it a little bit of cruel and unusual punishment for any of us hockey fans to be at a dinner, (Laughter.) listening to anyone give a speech. (Laughter.) I knew there'd be applause somewhere about that. So I hope that for those of you who are suffering through this and wondering what's happening on the ice, that somebody is taping it for you.
I really appreciate what you are doing here with this conference and the tradition that it represents. I think it is an exciting time for our country, and particularly for this region of our country and especially for Detroit and southeastern Michigan.
You have faced a lot of obstacles in the last decade. You have overcome many of them, and it is now time, as you well know, because of the subject matter of this conference, to be engaged in a broad and important discussion about the size and scope and role of government about the social responsibility and commitment of business, but more fundamentally, about what kind of country we are and what it means to be an American on the cusp of the twenty-first century.
We all know that there are unprecedented opportunities unfolding throughout our country and around the world. We are all grateful for the end of the Cold War and the replacement of totalitarianism with democracy after democracy, in places we really didn't expect to see that flower.
We see people all over the globe seeking to emulate our country, our democracy, our economy, and yet it is clear that despite the model and beacon we are to so much of the rest of the world, that we have many questions here at home, about who we are, where we're going, what kind of futures we're building for ourselves and our children.
We also have seen very vividly in the last weeks forces at work here and abroad undermining those values, the values that we hold dear; values of civility and community, of sacrifice and service, of peace. We see antipathy too often replacing empathy. Shouting replacing listening.
And now, as we saw to our collective horror, home-grown terrorism exploding in America's heartland. I don't need to tell leaders of this business community that too many Americans feel their lives are out of sync. American families have always been the anchor of our economy and the backbone of our country.
Yet as families try to cope in today's world, they are confronted by pressures, and burdens, and uncertainties that really didn't even exist in many respects a few years ago. From the fears that come with the necessary downsizing to be competitive, to the reality of stagnant wages, more and more Americans are stressed out.
There is a sense that nothing is really permanent in our society anymore, not families, not neighborhoods, not jobs, not even our values. And so instead of the working class or the middle class, we have now in our country what is being referred to as the anxious class. And I'm talking about hard-working, responsible men and women, who because of shifting employment trends have been forced to change jobs, maybe to take on an additional job. Many people who drive too far to work and get home too late. People who worry about whether they can afford to take care of their aging parents while sending their children to college. People who are struggling to keep their businesses and their dreams alive.
One of the great challenges we face, today, is how to address the stress and anxiety that is weakening the American family, how to undue the forces that erode institutions that strengthen and preserve families.
We have unfortunately engaged in what I would call a false debate for too long about what is afflicting our families and what we need to do to try to help. That false debate has posited on the one hand the idea, that all that is wrong with the American family is the changing economy, the global economic pressures, the kinds of stresses that are too frequently played out in the work-place, and that is we only could get our economic house in order, everything else would work out. On the other hand, we have those who say it is not the economy stupid, it is family values, and what we need to do is reinforce the values that we espouse and that many of us feel we grew up with. And if we can just get back to those values, then everything will work out. I do not believe it is an either/or choice. It is both/and. And if we do not begin to reorganize that, we will continue to breed cynicism. We will continue to see people giving up, and failing to take advantage of the opportunities that are offered. We do not have a person to waste in America.
The best social program is a job. The best social policy is a robust economy. But one does not live by jobs and the economy alone. There is also a spiritual dimension to life. There is a sense of connection to life.
And what we should be about the business of trying to do in all of our individual capacities, is both to make sure people have the opportunity to make a decent wage, to have incomes that will support themselves, and at the same time to try and reinforce values that support and strengthen families. That is what we have tried to in the last couple of years. It is a very big task. It is not a task that can be accomplished by any particular sector of our society acting alone. It is not a partisan task. It is an American challenge.
And it is important that we recognize that particularly when it comes to our children, children are the product of the values of both their families and of their society. We cannot draw a line between the two and expect to nurture our children in the ways that all of us would like to see occur.
If one asks, as I have for a number of years, business leaders across our country, I don't think the answers I heard elsewhere are any different from what you would tell me, about what you need to compete in the new global economy. You need an educated, healthy, productive, work force.
Earlier today I gave a commencement address at Brooklyn College. It is one of our great public colleges. It has been a gateway for Americans of all backgrounds to make a living for themselves, to rise to positions of power and influence. It has really been the door of opportunity through which men and women and minorities and immigrants and refugees walked.
And I said there and I would say again to this audience, part of the way we have secured the American dream for generations of Americans, is to make sure that education was readily available to all who were willing to except the responsibility that comes with the offering of the opportunity.
I do find it worrisome, if one focuses on the both and that if you believe as I do, that now more than ever we need an educated work-force, an educated work force that understands and can cooperate with the new concepts that many of you in this room are implementing in your businesses.
That this very point in time, when so many American workers are finally understanding their responsibility to improve their own education and training skills, that we are threatened with the possibility of reversing a historic commitment American have made to providing educational opportunity at all levels of the life- cycle.
I'm very concerned that any retreat in investing in education, is not just going to affect our educational institutions, but it will have the ripple effect that will begin to further undermine the opportunities available for many people in the new economy, and thereby increasing the anxiety of so many Americans who now already feel left out and forgotten.
This retreat on investing in our people has to be recognized as the challenge that I think it is, to making sure that we provide the grounding that people need in order to provide the best incomes and lives for their own families.
What you have done in Detroit and southeastern Michigan, by taking up the challenge of the empowerment zone, is an example of you recognition, that we need new ways of dealing with training our people, educating our people and employing our people. It's a very exciting opportunity that you've seized. You would not have received that grant if you had not had the vision to recognize what it could mean. But I hope. (Applause.)
But I hope as you begin to implement that vision, you recognize how much more is at stake, not only throughout your state, but throughout our country, as we attempt to provide a different approach to economic opportunity.
At the same time, we do have to recognize, that there is a values issue, that people have struggled with, that I have tried over the years, to try to bring to some marriage with the economy, as my husband has tried repeatedly to talk about.
And I think it's important that we recognize the need for reinforcing the kind of ideals and values that many of us took for granted in growing up. But again, in order to reinvigorate the quality of our life. We have to treat one another as valued human beings, worthy of respect. (Applause.)
One of the trends that I find very troubling is the increasing inequality that exists, not only between income groups that has been exacerbated over the last several years, but the attitudes that go along with that income inequality. In Michigan, as in the rest of the country, 30 percent of our young people eventually complete a four-year college education. We do not pay enough attention, nor give enough respect to the 70 percent who don't. (Applause.) We send a message to them that somehow that are not worthy, they are not up to the task of competing and winning in the global economy. We send a message to the children of people who themselves have not had the education or the opportunity to be as productive as they need to be today, that probably they too will not make it.
We do a lot of things that sends a message through our media particularly, that all really counts in America is how much money you have, how many toys you own before you die, and, that consumerism and materialism is really the way we will judge ourselves and one another. A political scientist has called the climate in which we are struggling to create these new ways of thinking, "Turbo-charged capitalism." And by that, he means that we too often have pushed forward on the economic front with very little regard to what we have done to the families of people who work, to the dreams of people who work, to the connections among people that build teams and communities and societies.
So as we think through, and as you go forward in this conference dealing with all of the problems and challenges confronting business in Detroit and business throughout America, let's begin to think in a both/and way. Let's begin to say to ourselves, "What is it that will build a strong company, and a strong economy for the long run?" "How do I make sure I always have a market, with consumers able to buy my services or products, and not through my policies and practices, undermine the kind of ability that people must have to be able to have control over their lives, to be able to make the decisions that are best for them and their families and to make better livings, which in turn has an economic impact?"
Now, this is not a question that is only for business. It is not a question that is only for government. Nor one that can be left to individuals or families alone. That is another one of those false dichotomies that we are suffering with. We take a look at a certain institution in our society, and we refuse to recognize how interrelated we all our.
That's another one of the challenges I think we have to meet. Because ultimately, what we need are partnerships, building teams, building communities. We have to "reinvent," to use the President's term, the way American society operates today, and I think that it is an exciting time to be taking on the challenges you are. And it is not only important to us in this country, it is vitally importantly both to the rest of the world, and to our continued leadership role.
Some of you know that I had a wonderful opportunity, a few weeks ago, to travel to South Asia with my daughter. And in those five countries, which we visited, we saw people struggling to build democracies and sustain them, and to create market economies, where just a few years ago, they were in the thrall of controlled state economies, often without any real clear sense of what it meant to be productive in the global economy.
But I must say, it is very humbling, to shake the hands and look into the eyes of men and women who have paid the ultimate price for their belief in democracy. Leaders who have lost mothers and fathers, and brothers and sons to political assassination, who themselves have been exiled and tortured and imprisoned. And to know that they have been willing through incredible circumstances, unknown in our country to us, to continue to persevere because they believe, maybe more than some of us do today, in the promise that this country has always stood for.
And I must say, when I returned home, I was troubled and a little bewildered to find as I had seen before, so many people in our country who are not committed to democracy and a better future in the same way that I saw abroad. Who are, in simple terms, in a bad mood all the time about America. Who don't really have any sense of the possibility and the promise and the blessings that we have here. And I thought to myself, in part, that is because we have been categorizing and simplifying, and in many respects, undermining our capacity to believe, our capacity to believe in ourselves and in our country. (Applause.)
So as we go forward, as we go forward in the public debates of the next months, I hope that we will do so, not as Republicans, or Democrats, or Independents, but as Americans. And I hope we will look at every proposal, every idea that is made, and look at it critically by asking ourselves, "Will this increase our security, our confidence, our belief in ourselves? Will this truly extend opportunity and truly require responsibility from our fellow citizens? Is this an investment that will pay off if we stay the course and make sure it is implemented correctly?"
If we ask those kinds of questions, and if we begin to respect one another, particularly those who feel left out from all of the wonderful changes that have occurred that people in this room have figured out how to take advantage of.
And if we keep our eye on the most important issue, and that is our children, what we owe them, what we will provide for them, then I think that this debate about the role of government, the responsibility of business, the values of family, all of that will be good for our country. Because out of it, will come some new resolve that this country, indeed, is able to provide for its citizens the kind of society that all of us will feel proud of being part of, as we do move into the twenty-first century.
Thank you all very much.