February 10, 2000
AL GORE: There is a state issue here in Florida that I have already spoken out on, but I'd like to tell you again what my position is. I think that the governor of Florida, whatever else you might think about him, I don't know him very well, but I think that he is dead wrong in trying to repeal affirmative action here in the state of Florida. I think that we need to continue having efforts to break down the barriers and bring people into our society. Now, let me just give you one quick example on that one. Black and white high school completion rates are now just about equal, and that's only one measure of a lot of progress that has been made.
But look at another kind of statistic: The average African American family wealth is less than one-tenth the average white family wealth. And one of the main reasons why is that's a measured category that collects the accumulated impact of many generations of lessened opportunity. Somebody in my community graduates from college, has a good idea, wants to start a small business, needs a little investment capital.
First thing, you pick up the phone and call a member of the family-- a parent or an uncle or an aunt or somebody-- "do you have something out of your savings account to spare?" Well, if the family has one- tenth as much, that's not an option. And yet it's in our nation's interest to have a program such as the one at the Small Business Administration to provide some seed capital if there is going to be no other way to get a good, solid idea up and started, to create some jobs in a community that needs jobs, entrepreneurs in a community that needs role models. It's not only in the interest of the African American community; it's in the interest of the entire United States of America.
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: I would like to know, as President, what you would do as President to put more teeth in affirmative action?
AL GORE: Well, I think it's in our national interest to have a smoothly working affirmative action program. I think that it's in the interest of the entire country. So I would put teeth in it, to use your words, by insisting that those in charge of each department, each agency, to have an aggressive plan in place to make it work.
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: I feel the baby boomers have a new challenge, the care of their elderly parents. Are there any initiatives or plans to address this growing concern?
AL GORE: Our parents are living longer. The fastest growing age group is 85 and older. There are now 75,000 Americans 100 and older. Willard Scott could fill up that whole program every morning if Smucker's jelly could pay for it. That means there are some people in their 80's who are taking care of their parents. That's right. Some of you know some. And the medical expenses that our generation has for our parents usually exceeds the medical expenses for our children. I have proposed a new initiative on long-term care within a balanced budget that would give a tax credit to the family caregiver to help defray expenses (Applause) and that would honor their work and help them with those expenses. I want to create a national network of family care giving support centers, places in each community where families thrust into this situation can go right away for advice and help and adult day care and respite care. Many times having a place to take your loved one to recharge your batteries can make all the difference in the world. These are the kinds of initiatives that I think we need more of. We need to accept this long-term care challenge and rise to the occasion. Let me make a couple of closing comments. I think a President of the United States can make a difference, because I don't think the presidency is an academic exercise. It's not a seminar on some theory. It is a day-by-day fight for real people who face real problems. It's the only position in the Constitution that's filled by someone who has the responsibility to fight for all of the people, not just one state or one district or one group of people or the special interests or lobbyists, but all of the people, especially those who don't have a champion otherwise, especially the voiceless, especially the powerless. I want to fight for you! I want to fight for Florida! I want to fight for America and for our future, and I'd like to have your votes on March 14 in the Florida primary. Thank you very much for coming here. Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Bradley also had a town meeting in Tampa. His was Monday night.
BILL BRADLEY: I know I'll never be able to understand the fact of discrimination as an African American or a Latino understands that. I know that. But I want them to know that I know and I see it. And I want us all to understand that discrimination today is no longer, you know, blocking somebody at the school door or not allowing somebody to come into a hotel, but it occurs in many other ways. It occurs in the digital divide that's out there, increasingly getting larger and larger between those who have and those who don't. I'm talking about the fact that Medicaid... that two-thirds of the doctors in this country don't accept Medicaid patients, so Medicaid patients end up getting third-rate care. I'm talking about the fact that an African American can go to a bank, and same income status, same everything, and often not get the loan. And I'm talking about the issue of access to capital, because not only is a continued discrimination in that area wrong, it's wrong-headed. Not only is it immoral, but it's impractical, because by the year 2010, less than 60% of the people who enter the workforce in America are going to be native-born white Americans. And that means if labor economics means anything, that increasingly the future of white Americans will depend on the talents of non-white Americans. And that is not ideology; that is demographics. And I have come to Florida today to stand with those in opposition to Governor Bush's position on affirmative action. (Applause) I think that he has demonstrated a lack of vision and leadership by repealing affirmative action laws for the state of Florida. (Applause)
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: I've heard a little bit about what you would like to do about these historical inequalities and long-standing cultural stereotypes, but what do you believe, more importantly, we as citizens should do about these issues?
BILL BRADLEY: The first thing is I would ask you, when was the last time you had a conversation about race with somebody of a different race? No, no, I'm not... (Laughter) that's a rhetorical question. If the answer is "never," well, you know, you're part of the problem. If the answer is "well, I tried it a couple of times; it didn't seem to work," then I'd say try it again. I would say first of all, begin that dialogue with an assumption that what you're going to emphasize is your common humanity, not differences, and do so with candor. Talk about what you feel and begin to get people talking together.
MAN IN AUDIENCE: Senator, it's the year 2004, and you've just completed an inspiring four years in office. Looking back on those four years, what would you say your greatest accomplishment was?
BILL BRADLEY: If I achieve four or five things, I know that it will have been a successful four years. First, I'd like to have passed legislation that gave access to affordable quality health care for all Americans. That's what I'd like to do. (Applause) Second, I would like to have, because of what we did, reduced the number of children in poverty by four million on the way to over ten years eliminating child poverty. (Applause) The third thing I'd like to have accomplished is to have passed fundamental campaign finance reform... (Applause) ...that will take money out of the political process and return it to the people. Fourth, I would like to have passed common-sense gun control in this country... (Applause) ...taken steps... taken steps to make sure there is a qualified teacher in every classroom; pushed our collective humanity a few feet forward when it comes to the issue of race and ethnicity in America. And I would like to have built all of those things on the base of a growing economy that I made the right decisions about as President, to keep it growing and growing, and the benefits broader... more and more broadly shared. That's what I'd like to have had. (Applause)
JIM LEHRER: We'll hear from Republican candidates Bush and McCain tomorrow night.