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Remarks By Vice President Al Gore
Women For Gore Event

Tuesday, June 1, 1999

Thank you, Hillary. There’s no doubt about it: America loves Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Hillary, America knows you as a lifelong advocate for children and families: as someone who knows that it takes a village—and also knows how to mobilize that village to meet the challenges families today face.

To all of us, you are an inspiring role model. To Tipper and me, you are also a cherished friend. We have enjoyed working side by side with you and the President these past 6½ years to bring positive change to the families of our nation. I am so very grateful for your endorsement today.

I also want to thank my very best friend: my wife Tipper. Both in our home life and in our work together, she has taught me the meaning of a strong, loving partnership. From her work on homelessness and mental health policy to her advocacy for empowering parents to enforce their own values in a toxic culture—for many years, Tipper has been a national leader.

Don’t you agree that she’ll make a great First Lady?

There’s another woman I want to acknowledge, because she has been an inspiration to me for all of my life.

Early in this century, before women’s long, arduous struggle to win the vote was over, my mother, born Pauline LaFon, was raised in a poor farm family in Weakley County in Northwest Tennessee. [Incidentally, Lois DeBerry, it was the Tennessee state legislature that put the 19th amendment over the top.]

My mother used to tell me the stories my grandfather had told her—about my grandmother’s and my great-grandmother’s struggle to inherit land that was rightly theirs. In spite of their right to a fair share of the land— and to rural families, of course, land is life itself—it went entirely to their brothers. Those inequalities, and others she encountered on her own, made a deep impression on my mother as a young girl. She set out to help change them. And she did.

She worked her way through college, and took her blind sister, Thelma, with her—taking notes and reading lessons for the both of them. Then she did the almost unheard-of : she asked for a loan from the Rotary Club and took a bus alone to Nashville, where she lived at the YWCA, waited tables at night for 25-cent tips, and worked her way through law school. My mother, Pauline LaFon, became one of the very first women ever to graduate from Vanderbilt Law School.

She became the only female attorney in Texarkana, and one of only dozens in the entire nation at that time. She mentored young women attorneys and gave them confidence. She practiced oil and gas law, and also took on divorce cases—unprecedented areas for a female attorney to handle back then. My mom refused to let anyone tell her she could not do it because she was a woman. She showed me how just one person with courage and the hint of a chance could make a world of difference for women.

And in her honor, I make this vow: the progress we’ve made in women’s rights to equality in this century is only the beginning of the progress we are going to make together in the 21st.

When I look out at the remarkable women leaders in this room, I see women who have been at the forefront of our crusade to make this a more open, equal nation for all people. Because of you, this is a time of opportunity that, when she was a girl, my mother could only dream of: new opportunities for hope in the home, in the workplace, and in the human heart. But we have more work to do.

First, we’ve got to keep our prosperity going. That means opening up new opportunities for women-owned businesses—which are growing at twice the rate of all businesses. Some of the smartest entrepreneurs in America today are women striking out on their own and realizing their goals on their own terms. I respect that spirit: that’s why I fought so hard to triple the number of small business loans to women entrepreneurs.

Now I’ll fight to make this simple principle a reality: you deserve an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work.

I vow to lead an administration that is willing to look at the truth about the American family: good American working parents are over-stretched and under-supported. Instead of sentimentalizing families that no longer exist, let’s give families the help they need. The facts: in seven out of ten households, both parents are at work all day. The average two-parent family works almost 500 more hours a year than it did a generation ago. Parents today must spend 22 hours less each week with their children. The number of single-parent families has quadrupled. These parents are doing a terrific job—but they need more support for their everyday heroism.

I’ll never forget the couple Tipper and I met in the hospital ten years ago. Because their employers would not let them take enough time off to be with their child when he needed them, they both lost their jobs

It shouldn’t be so hard to be a good, strong family—one in which parents and children have that most precious of commodities: time with one another. Families are the first place we turn for fulfillment. We should do more as a nation to strengthen these hard-working families.

Remember the bad old days not so long ago? It’s important not to forget how much harder things were only recently for parents juggling work and family. Twelve years ago, I cosponsored the bill that was to become the Family and Medical Leave Act. But after facing two presidential vetoes, we learned the hard way: if you can’t beat the administration, you’d better be the administration.

I was so proud that Family Leave was the first bill the Clinton-Gore administration enacted into law.

But I have listened to working parents and I know our work is not done. Now let me tell you about a bill I’d like to sign as President: extending Family Leave, so parents can meet with their children’s teachers without fear of losing their jobs.

We can go even further: as your President, I’ll work to make pre-school available to every child, in every family, in every community in America. Your children deserve not only a more flexible workplace for their parents, they deserve the best education in the world as well. Parents deserve schools that are places of excellence—schools that welcome their involvement, prepare their children for the future, and make it easier to raise strong families. That is why I want to bring revolutionary change to our schools.

I want to reduce class sizes not just in the early grades, but in all grades. I want to work with parents and teachers to use new technology to tailor learning to each child. I want to make it easier for parents to save for their children’s college tuition—tax-free and inflation-free. And I believe teachers should be treated like professionals—I want to improve teacher quality, and lift up America’s teachers.

Parents also deserve support in instilling moral values. I want to bring more discipline and character education to our schools. In the days since Columbine, we have all been struggling to understand why some children choose evil over good. But this much we know: we need to make our schools gun-free, drug-free, safe and secure. We need to get the guns away from children and criminals.

Finally, parents deserve more control over the violence and degradation peddled to their children as entertainment. Twenty years ago, Tipper was right.

The home should be a sanctuary, never a prison of brutality. I want to lead the fight against domestic violence, which is a leading reason women seek treatment for injury in America’s emergency rooms. And I want to lead the fight for safe communities, so that any woman can walk down any street in any city in America at any time, free from fear, and safe from assault.

If you elect me as your President, I will continue fighting for healthier families and for a clean environment. Some of the things I fought for have been very basic: when I was in the House, I led the fight to make infant formula safer. In the Senate, I fought for clear warning labels about the dangers of alcohol, so that pregnant women could be better informed.

Others have been even more fundamental: in 1980, I worked to pass the original Superfund legislation to clean up dangerous toxic waste sites, and make sure our children grow up next to parks, not poisons.

Throughout my career, I have fought for more research funds for those diseases so recently considered less important because they befell only women, such as breast cancer. I fought so that one day we can cure these diseases, and, even more importantly, prevent them. I pledge to you: women’s health will always be at the top of my agenda.

And I promise you this: I’m going to make sure that Tipper wins her battle to bring high quality mental health care to every American family that needs it.

I will fight for policies that honor the decency of your caring for an aging or disabled family member—Tipper and I have learned first-hand, from caring for our own parents, how hard it can sometimes be. I’m proud that my father wrote the first Medicare plan ever to pass on the Senate floor. I’m proud that my party created Social Security—so important, especially for older women. And I’m going to make sure that Social Security and Medicare are never threatened, never weakened, never taken away.

And know this, I will always, always defend a woman’s right to choose.

Every time Congress has tried to play politics with that fundamental personal right—imposing gag rules, and attaching anti-choice language to any bill they can think of—we have stood up to them and stopped them. If they try it again, we’ll stop them again. And if they try it after the year 2000, with your help, I’ll stop them.

That hard-won right will be safe with me as your President.

Let’s be clear: when we talk about women’s issues, we are talking about the issues that touch all of our families, and all of our lives. Women deserve a President who gets that; who will fight for the equality women deserve and craft the policies of support their families need.

For me, women’s rights are about my mother’s example, my wife’s inspiration, my daughters’ brightest hopes. I want to create a 21st Century in which my three daughters have every opportunity that my son will have.

With this remarkable group of leaders by my side, I know together we are going to reach that day. Thank you and God bless you.


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