Indiana Governor Evan Bayh at the Democratic National Convention
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EVAN BAYH: This is a proud night for my family – and it’s a very proud night for Indiana. I come from here – the heartland – a place where values run deep, and love of family and country is strong. A place where the most important title a man can have is not governor – but father, husband, son.
My parents did not start with much. But they believed in the promise of America – that this country would offer opportunity, and that with hard work they could leave their children an even better life.
My father joined the Army. America sent him to college. Indiana sent him to the Senate. He’s here tonight. Dad, I want to tell you how proud of you I am – and how grateful for the guidance you have given me.
My mother was raised in the Depression’s Dust Bowl. She knew the meaning of work, and the full measure of love. I miss her. Mom died of breast cancer when she was 46. I will never forget the last time we spoke. I sat at her bedside, held her hand in mine.
We talked of the future, not of the past – of faith and responsibility and love – the cords that tie one generation to the next. We talked of the girl I would marry – the girl she would never meet. And we talked of the grandchildren she longed for – but would never hold.
Nine months ago, my wife, Susan, gave birth to those grandchildren. Twin boys. Beau and Nick. When we tiptoe into their room, and look down at our sleeping children, all of our hopes and fears for tomorrow lie quietly before us.
Tonight, I stand between my father and my sons. The dreams our parents had for us are the dreams Susan and I share for our boys. The times are vastly different now; the challenges we face are new. But the values that must guide us are the same.
They are the values that President Clinton has worked to restore to meet the challenges of our time: Opportunity for all Americans; responsibility from all Americans, and a sense of community among all Americans.
He’s meeting the challenge of bringing the deficit down. After 12 years of rocketing deficits and quadrupling debt, President Clinton cut the deficit 60 percent. He and Vice President Gore cut the federal workforce by 250,000 for the smallest federal government since President Kennedy.
And when his opponents threatened our values with deep cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment, President Clinton said no and our party stood with him. And when they shut the government down, the president said no again, we stood with him again – and the American people won.
Bill Clinton is balancing the budget while keeping our pledge to the elderly, the young and our future – not because it is easy – but because it is right.
And he’s meeting our economic challenges. Since he took office, over 10 million new jobs have been created – 10 times the number during the previous four years; over a million new jobs in construction and manufacturing alone. And for the first time since the 1970s America leads the world in making cars – ahead of Japan.
And he’s protecting our traditional value of making hard work pay. He fought for an increase in the minimum wage – and 10 million Americans got a raise. He cut taxes for 15 million families who used to get up every morning and work all day long – only to get a paycheck on Friday that still left them in poverty. Now, anyone who works 40 hours a week will not live in poverty.
But we must go beyond these historic gains because our progress has yet to touch all Americans. In quiet corners across our country, families still struggle to pay the mortgage, save for college, make ends meet. To you, our neighbors, I say the president’s agenda for the future reaches these quiet corners. His agenda balances the budget to keep interest rates down and the economy strong.
It protects against wholesale cuts for the elderly, the sick, the young, the environment, the fight against crime and drugs. And it provides for tax cuts – not an election-year gimmick, but targeted tax cuts aimed at families trying to care for and educate our children, a $500 credit to care for each child, $1,500 to help pay for the first two years of college, a $10,000 deduction for education and training after high school.
We create real opportunity with these tax cuts – and, what’s more – we can pay for them. That’s something our opponents cannot say. They know their plan is too expensive – it will explode the deficit, raise interest rates, slow the economy, and still require deeper cuts in the things we care about.
The president is committed to balancing the budget and giving families the tools they need to build their own lives. That’s what governing is all about. Getting priorities straight – and holding to them. That’s just what we did in Indiana. First we balanced the budget, and then passed the largest tax cut in history and more support for education every single year.
I come from teachers. My great-great-grandfather, Christopher Bayh, arrived in Indiana with a yellow tag on his overalls that said “railroad” – and that’s where he went to work – because he knew no English. But, his first grandson became a teacher. And he married a teacher – my grandmother.
No one here tonight would have traveled half as far if it weren’t for our teachers – they’re the real American heroes. President Clinton is meeting the challenge of improving our schools. And he starts with the basics – the values and discipline that brings students to the classroom – and brings them ready to learn: Tougher truancy laws; more drug prevention; school uniforms; higher standards so a diploma means something.
In this election, no issue more clearly defines the differences between the two major parties and their nominees than education. On that issue alone, President Clinton and Democrats who share his vision deserve the support of the American people.
And we’re meeting the challenge of changing welfare, while still protecting our values. President Clinton understands that welfare was intended to be temporary, make work possible. And across America he has made that happen. Over the last three and a half years, long before Congress acted, President Clinton gave Indiana and 40 other states the go-ahead – to find our own solutions.
Today, Indiana leads the nation in moving people off welfare and into jobs – and, thanks to this president, we did it without orphanages, or cutting health care or food. Today, a million fewer Americans are on welfare than four years ago, and child-support collections are up 40 percent. We’re helping families back on their feet – and into jobs.
Now, we must do more. We must ensure opportunity through jobs for all able-bodied adults – and education for their children to break the cycle of poverty once and for all. There’s more opportunity in America today. More jobs. Better education. Welfare reform.
But a shadow threatens to spread over this new opportunity: Crime and violence. They prey upon our children and on our parents. Violence must be stopped. Violent criminals must be severely punished. And under President Clinton, they are.
Thanks to him, dangerous repeat offenders are going to jail for life – with no chance for parole. He is putting 100,000 more police on our streets. And that adds up. For each crime that’s prevented – a victim is spared.
The president’s plan is working: More police, safer streets, a violent crime rate that has dropped each of the last four years. These are programs signed into law. Laws of opportunity, of responsibility. Laws building stronger communities. The collective legacy of a presidency. But they cannot define an era. Only the heart can do that.
And we must do more – much more – to heal our nation – to bridge the divide that separates so many. That is our genius as a nation. That is our obligation as a party.