CNN/TIME AllPolitics Vote '96

Transcript of Clinton's Acceptance Speech Following The 1996 Presidential Election November 5, 1996



CLINTON: We have work to do to make the permanent underclass in the country a thing of the past, to lift our fellow citizens who are poor from the degradation of welfare dependency to the pride and dignity of work.

We have work to do to strengthen our families; to help our parents succeed at home and at work. To keep our children safe from harm in their schools, their streets, their homes and their communities. To clean up our environment so that our children grow up next to parks not poison; to tell them that drugs are wrong and illegal and they can kill them; to teach them right from wrong.

My fellow Americans, I will do all I can to advance these causes. But all our citizens must do their part to continue the upsurge of personal responsibility that in that last four years has brought crime to a 10-year low, child support collections to an all-time high, and reduce the welfare rolls.

Will you help me do that? We must do it together.


We must make our democracy stronger by enacting real, bipartisan campaign finance reform. Talk is no longer enough. We must act and act now. And the American people will be watching the leaders of both parties to see who is willing not just to talk but to act. I am willing to act, and I ask others to join me.


And we must keep America the world's indispensable nation. Finishing the unfinished business of the Cold War, meeting the new threats to our security through terrorism and the proliferation of dangerous weapons, and seizing these extraordinary opportunities to extend our values of peace and democracy and prosperity.

Every American here tonight and every American within the sound of my voice can take pride in the fact that in these last few years for the first time in all of human history, a majority of the human beings living on this globe live under democracies where the people rule.


The challenges we face, they're not Democratic or Republican challenges. They're American challenges. What we know from the budget battles of the last two years and from the remarkable success of the last few weeks of this Congress is the lesson we have learned for the last 220 years -- what we have achieved as Americans of lasting good, we have achieved by working together. So let me say to the leaders of my Democratic Party and the leaders of the Republican Party, it is time to put country ahead of party.

We do not know the final outcome of the congressional elections but we know this: The races are close. The American people have been closely divided. The Congress, whatever happens, will be closely divided.

They are sending us a message: Work together. Meet our challenges. Put aside the politics of division and build America's community, together.


On this beautiful night when we have shared so much joy and so much music and so much laughter and so much pride, it is hard for me to believe that it was 23 years ago when I first began to go to the people of Arkansas to ask for their support.

The most lasting and important thing that I have learned in all those 23 fleeting years is this: When we are divided, we defeat ourselves. But when we join our hands and build our families and our communities and our country, America always wins.

What we need to do is to do the work of America, the way we seek to do the work of raising our children and doing our work and supporting our religious institutions and our community institutions.

If we would simply be Americans, the way we seek to live in all of our other roles, there is no stopping America. Our best days are still ahead.


And so, I say, when we look into our hearts and simply ask what is right for the American people and the future of our children, when we set aside our differences and build on our shared values of faith and family and work, when we roll up our sleeves and work together, American always wins.

And my fellow Americans, America is going to keep winning these next four years.


Let me say that, as all of you here from my native state know, I believe this and I have tried to live by it because there is no person in America who has been given more gifts than I have. There is no person in America tonight who feels more humble in the face of this victory than I do.

Fifty years ago, when I was born in a summer storm to a widowed mother in a small town in the southwest part of our state, it was unimaginable that someone like me could have ever become president of the greatest country in human history.


It has been, for me, a remarkable journey, not free of failure, but full of adventure and wonder and grace.

I have worked hard to serve but I did not get here on my own.

Every step along the way for these last 23 years and long before, there was a teacher, a doctor, a neighbor, a parent, a friend, a wife, a daughter who always had time to care, who always tried to give me instruction and encouragement and who never gave up.

I got here tonight, my fellow Americans, because America gave me a chance. That is what all the children of America deserve. Our people have to give them the tools to give them not a guarantee, but that real chance to live up to their God-given potential.

And I ask you to join me in that commitment. Every child deserves the main chance that I was given.


And so I say again let us resolve to run our country the way we try to run our lives. Whether you are the party of Thomas Jefferson or the party of Abraham Lincoln, whether you're an independent or unaffiliated, remember that we all belong to the greatest nation in history.

To us, much has been given and much is still expected. We must rise to the challenge of building that bridge to the 21st century. Tonight is a night for joy, not just for us here but for all Americans.

For the 53rd time in our history, our people have made their quiet and deliberate decision. They have come together with their powerful voice and expressed their will.

Tonight we celebrate the miracle of America. Tomorrow we greet the dawn and begin our work anew. I am more grateful than I can say. You have given me an opportunity and a responsibility that comes to few people.

I will do my best, and together we will -- we will build that bridge to the 21st century. Thank you. Good night, and God bless America.

Thank you.

Copyright 1996 By Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. No Portion Of This Transcription May Be Copied, Sold Or Retransmitted Without The Express Written Authority Of Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.



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