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FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY

President Bill Clinton Remarks at HFA Fundraiser


Home of Tracy & Jay Snyder
November 17, 2015
PRESIDENT CLINTON: (In progress) happy to be back in your beautiful place. I was almost
late. Whenever I come here, I find myself staring at the walls. I want to see what they have that
I should know about. And I thank you for your long friendship to me and to Hillary.
Until this horrible incident in Paris, I thought I was totally useless in this presidential campaign,
because I watched these Republican debates, and I thought, What can I say? Ive been married
40 years; Im a grandfather; my daughter just wrote a great childrens book, and we work
together every day. Im not mad at anybody. I cant do anybody any good. (Laughter.) I don't
want to insult anybody and I don't want to make any outrageous claims. I just feel totally out of
whack.
Well, Im mad now, I guess (inaudible) what happened. But there are still some funny aspects to
this election. It may be my last civil rights crusade I want to break the iron grip that women
have on the job of presidential spouse. (Laughter.) And Im (inaudible) have a chance to do that
job. (Laughter.)
But let me say something seriously that affects all of us. One of the things that drives people
nuts when you see something happen like what happened in Paris is we all feel so both angry and
powerless at the same time, which, of course, is the whole point of doing it. We live in a world
that we are condemned increasingly to share, whether we like it or not. The borders of nations
look more like nets than walls. And usually the consequences of that only make the news when
theyre truly horrible.
But its important not to forget that in this new century a billion people have moved out of
extreme poverty into the global middle class, thanks to, no small measure, to the simple
cellphone, which has enabled millions and millions of people to get information online. Ten
years ago, after the South Asian tsunami, when I was working for the UN, we put all the people
back in (inaudible) survivors, when so many people were killed in Indonesia and around Sri
Lanka and the southeastern coast of India. We gave them all cellphones. Their economy their
incomes went up 30 percent, because they finally knew what the price of fish was up and down
the coastline.
Weve had a huge increase in the number of women-owned businesses, a huge increase in the
percentage of young girls going to school with young boys, a big decrease in maternal and child
mortality. In Nigeria, where Boko Harams sold children into slavery, mostly in (inaudible) north
where the poverty rank is three times what it is in the Lagos area, about 75 percent, people from
our foundation have worked alongside those militants in the same exact places, giving out 50
cent packets of oral rehydration therapy and zinc to keep young children five and under from
dying of waterborne illnesses: cholera, dysentery, diarrhea.

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Im saying this to make the following point: We have to think as well as feel our way through
this. We are living in a time when everybody is more vulnerable to the negative forces of our
interdependence and has more access to the possibilities, the positive possibilities, of our
interdependence. Therefore, the job of every citizen not just the next president is to do
whatever we can within our span of control to increase the positive and reduce the negative
forces. To minimize the job of the next president is to minimize the prospects of big bad things
happening and to make more good things happen, to create a world where cooperation dominates
conflict, inclusion dominates exclusion and where people share possibilities and responsibilities,
where they celebrate our diversity. Look around this room. Its a much more interesting crowd
than this would have been if it had been held 30 years ago.
Thirty years ago, most of the people here would have been a lot of people were whitehaired
white guys in suits. Im glad my demographic has not been entirely eliminated, but (laughter)
its a much more interesting group. One of the reasons we need desperately to pass
immigration reform in America is one of the great strengths of America has looking in the future
is our diversity and our relative youth. Of all the countries in Europe, Ireland is the only country
younger than America. If China hadnt changed their one-child policy, we would have been
younger than China in 20 years. But we got to pass immigration reform (inaudible).
Once I got (inaudible) I think this elections about two things. (Inaudible) touched our hearts and
I hope our brain, which is what happened in France and whats happening in the Middle East and
its happening all over the world. We have to hire somebody to be president who will use every
tool available to a president diplomacy, development, and defense intelligently to maximize
the chances that good things will happen and minimize the chances that really bad things will
happen, with no unrealistic policies in a world where borders look more like nets than walls and
where technology makes every person a king for good or ill.
I don't think theres any question of all of the available candidates who that is. But I think theres
a larger underlying issue, which is that to preserve Americas ability to lead the world insanity,
whether its to fight what were dealing with now or avoid the most calamitous consequences of
climate change, we have to be able to restore broad-based growth at home so we can believe in
our own lot again.
I don't know if you watched the last Democratic debate, but I was appalled that no one asked and
no reporter wrote about the fact that a week before that debate a national report was published
which said that the life expectancy of working-class, non-college-educated, white Americans,
men and women, was dropping and was now less than Hispanics, still slightly higher than
African Americans because of the genetic propensity to develop Type II diabetes and have heart
attacks and strokes, but theres (inaudible). Why? Because this countrys still coming apart at
the seams for millions and millions of people. We have to figure out a way to restore broadbased growth, to have more jobs, more business formation, rising wages.
And there was almost no discussion about it, except on the minimum wage front how much,
how quick. And its a lot better than the Republicans did. Every one of them stood up there with
a straight face and said we always know that if you raise the minimum wage unemployment goes
up, which is the furthest thing from the truth you can imagine. We got almost 23 million jobs

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when I was president. I raised the minimum wage once and tried to raise it twice. And I told
somebody if I was trying to kill jobs, I did a very poor job of it. (Laughter.) It wasnt true.
So I feel proud to be part of a party that produced three intelligent people who could stand up
there and even have an honest discussion and debate about whats the best way to raise the
minimum wage, how much, how fast, and whats the best way to continue to improve healthcare
outcomes and moderate healthcare costs. But we have got to deal with this. And its a global
problem.
One of the reasons Im for immigration reform is that on balance immigrants add to the
employment base, not take away from it. And problems that their housing in the most antiimmigrant parts of America, like in coal country, West Virginia and Kentucky, dont have
anything to do with immigrants.
One of the things Ive been proud of Hillary for a lot of things, but I want to tell you probably
the most (inaudible). Last week, she became the only candidate for president to offer a
comprehensive plan to speed the economic transition back to work and a middle-class lifestyle
for the people whove been dislocated in West Virginia, Kentucky, southern Ohio, southwest
Pennsylvania because of the decline of coal. Why? Because the Presidents approval rating in
West Virginia was 22 percent. We dont have a real good chance to carry West Virginia in the
general election. But she did it anyway, because we had a moral obligation, when people have
not done anything wrong, and either the economy or the in this case, the imperatives of climate
change have changed what we have to do to give them a transition plan. Thats what I did for the
tobacco farmers in Kentucky and Carolina, when I tried to put them out of business. It took eight
years, but we did it, and we did it right. And I was really proud of her for doing it, because she
wont get any votes out of it, but it was the right thing to do.
So heres what I want to say. If you believe that the most important jobs of the next president are
to restore broad-based and inclusive prosperity, which means more jobs, more businesses, higher
incomes, more help for working families so that you have equal pay for women and paid family
leave, support for childcare and preschool education; and if you believe the second thing is to
build a world where you maximize the chances that good things will happen and minimize the
chances that big bad things will happen, its not close whos the most qualified person.
When I was President, I spent a lot of time reading the histories of my predecessors. And I
reached some unusual conclusions, including, in fact, that some of those who were viewed as not
very successful failed not because they were bad people but because they werent well suited for
the time in which they served. For example, before me only one governor of a small state had
been elected president, Franklin Pierce, the governor of New Hampshire in 1852. We needed
one. They picked him because they thought he was the only person of either party that had a
reasonable chance to hold the country together, because he was a successful congressman,
successful lawyer, a very good joker, and a genuine military hero in the Mexican War.
On his way to the inauguration, which was then held in March, Franklin Pierces wife and only
child were going by train. There was a train wreck; 11 people were hurt. Nobody else got more
than a broken arm. His son hit his neck and died. So he lost a year of his presidency just trying

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to recover his wife and his own sanity and peace of mind. And so when you see things like that,
when they rank them in the history books, nobody ever said anything about it. Plus which he had
the overarching vision to hold the country together because we were drifting apart over slavery
and he had a party that was 50 percent divided right down the middle. So (inaudible) check off
hes as failure.
Abraham Lincoln, by contrast, if he had governed in a normal time of regular prosperity, average
growth, might have been a failure. Because his whole life was ripped by periodic, paralyzing fits
of depression. If you read what his law partners used to say who traveled with him, theyd say
theyd share a hotel room and wake up at night and hed be sitting bolted up right in the bed in a
catatonic state, staring at the ceiling. Once so depressed he couldnt leave his home for a whole
month, when he was already a successful lawyer with children. But when the country was
bleeding and in danger of dying, and he knew the only answer was to win a war and set free the
slaves, he buried his own depression. And what he saw as the weakness that drove him into it
and the larger purpose of the nation he became our greatest President, but he might have failed
in more normal times and youd remember him as the tall, gawky guy with a squeaky voice.
Why am I telling you this? Because I believe that when I was elected President in 92, I was
well suited to deal with the economic challenges then facing the country and to look at the fact
that we were about to enter the first four-year period weve had after the Cold War and a new,
complicated world that had to be put together in different ways again. Since I have been voting
and even before, when I was aware of politics, I believe Hillary is the best qualified person for
the moment in which she is seeking to serve than anybody Ive ever known.
It was easier for her to make proposals that rationally made more sense for the economy in 2008
than it is now, when both parties are driven to the extremes and people are driven to distraction.
But I know whats going to happen when the next president takes her or his hand off the Bible
and goes to work. We are either going to restore broad-based prosperity, social mobility, and the
American dream in a way that helps the struggling and the striving and the successful so we
grow together, or were not. We are either going to build a world where we seek greater security
and achieve it through cooperation and the use of everything, not just military but not just
diplomacy, and smart investments too, or were not. And all the rest will be background music.
If we succeed, were the best positioned country in the world for the next 50 years. And if we
dont, people will say isnt it too bad that America went into a period of decline from which it
could not escape? And I don't think we have much of a leveling option. I think were either
going to get our act together and unleash the phenomenal potential represented by this room and
the stories in this room, or we will continue to be gripped with almost infantile political paralysis
as weve seen in Washington.
When I met Hillary in law school, all she cared about, besides getting through school, was the
fact that poor people didnt have legal aid. She was in the legal aid clinic. When she got out of
law school, she could have had a clerkship or a job at a big firm. She went to work for the
Childrens Defense Fund. And I remember she went to long after we met, she took a trip to
Georgia and Alabama to see why so many black teenagers were in prison with adults, with

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nobody caring what would happen to them. Nobody was looking at her then and she had never
been elected to anything.
When she came to Arkansas to be with me, like me, she got a job at our law school teaching.
She started the first legal aid clinic. I think thats (inaudible) how far wed come in 40 years.
The judge that had jurisdiction over it said he didnt know what he thought about these lawyers
just helping poor people, and he didnt know what he thought about lady lawyers in general.
(Laughter.) And now he had a lady lawyer in charge of giving aid to poor people. He wound up
liking her.
When I was elected governor, we had all these poor people in the Mississippi Delta who were
woefully unprepared to start school. And Hillary discovered an Israeli preschool program called
HIPPY, Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters to teach parents in this case,
immigrants from Ethiopia and across North Africa and other places, who did not speak either
Hebrew or English when they got to Israel teach them to be their childrens first teachers so
they would be ready to start school and succeed. She said, I read about this. I think this would
work here. I said, What are you going to do about it? She said, Well, the woman who
developed it, Avima Lombard, I called her and shes going to be here in two weeks, so weve got
to cover her costs. I said, Good.
Before I knew it, we had a big program. Then more than half the states had a HIPPY program.
Today, all these years later, the biggest winner in America is still in our native state. And she
hadnt been elected to anything. When she accepted my request to redo the school standards of
our state, a national expert said we had the worst school system in America. When she
recommended to the legislature changing it, the chairman of the committee, who thought we
were crazy because we were threatening all these rural school districts who could never offer
science or math or language, thats when she made her presentation. He said, I think maybe we
elected the wrong one of you. (Laughter.)
When I ran for president nine years later, the same guy that said we had the worst schools in
America said we had one of the two most improved school systems in the country. She did that.
Shed never been elected to anything.
Thats what she did fighting for healthcare in the White House, passing the Childrens Health
Insurance Program. She made a partnership with a man who literally hated me, the most rightwing member of the Republican leadership, Tom DeLay. She found out that, like most people,
he had a good quality; he and his wife believed in adoption. And we had all these kids stuck in
the foster care system, and the older they got the harder it was to convince anybody to adopt
them. And she worked with him to pass a bill that doubled the number of children moving out of
foster care to permanent adoptive homes. Never been elected to anything.
When she got elected to the Senate, finally, she noticed that before Andrew Cuomo became
governor, both Republicans and Democrats were convinced there wasnt much a governor could
do for economic development upstate. So she decided to become the de facto economic
development officer for upstate New York. She got all the New York winegrowers to sell their
wine in New York City restaurants. She put all these tiny manufacturers on e-commerce. Ill

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never forget meeting this guy that made absolutely superb fishing rods and he told me he tripled
the clients of his business and his employment, and all his new customers were in Norway,
because Hillary told him he could advertise and sell on the internet. Therell be farmers pretty
soon from Long Island going to Iowa to campaign. And theyll do just what they did eight years
ago. Theyll say, Im a Republican farmer from New York. You probably want to know why
Im here. Ill tell you why. She is the only person that ever did anything for us, and heres what
she did.
This is a job. You got to be able to give a good speech, you got to be able to take 11 hours of heat
in a congressional hearing, you got to be able to win a debate. But in the end, you got to show
up and make decisions and get things done. And what we need to do is to restore the American
dream in this country and extend it to everyone. And we need to build a world of partnerships so
that in the end well win the battle of whether what we have in common is more important than
our differences. The rest of it will all be background music. And there is nobody in this country
better qualified for that job at this moment in our history.
Thank you. (Applause.)
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