Bradley for President, Inc.
20 min. footage from Sioux
City town meeting run on cable in Iowa, Dec. 22, 1999.
You know its not hard to give an introduction to Bill Bradley because his
resume is as impressive as anybody's I've ever seen. Look at the
number of titles that Bill Bradley has worn in his life: Rhodes Scholar,
Olympic gold medalist in the 1964 Olympics, a professional basketball player
winning two NBA championships with the NY Knicks, a member of the NBA Hall
of Fame, successful author--the Senator has written four very successful
books, a United States Senator from New Jersey from 1979 to 1996, a leader
in racial relations and always a leader in working for improving the lives
of working families. Let's hear it for the next President of the
United States, Senator Bill Bradley.
Bill Bradley: Thank you very much Al. I really appreciate the chance to be here. Joanne thank you so much and all of you who would spend Saturday afternoon here with me I'm tremendously grateful to you and I hope that you'll find it informative and helpful as you think about your own decision in the upcoming caucuses in January.
As Al said I grew up in a small town, about 3,492 people, about. In Missouri, it was a town, there were 96 in my high school graduating class, there was one stop light. It was a multi-racial, multi-ethnic factory town. Most people worked in a glass factory. And it was a great town to grow up in.
My father, we'd call him these days, he was disabled. He had calcified arthritis in the lower spine. I never saw him tie his shoes, or drive a car, or throw a ball. And at age 16, before he got the arthritis, he dropped out of high school and went to work on the railroad to support his widowed mother and his two sisters. At age 21 he went to work at the bank in that small town; he said his job was shining pennies. And then, over 40 years, he worked his way up to be the majority shareholder in that small town bank--kind of the American Dream.
I once asked him, as a son sometimes asks his father, what is the thing your proudest of? He said the thing he was proudest of was throughout the Great Depression, he never foreclosed on a single home. He always found a way to work it out. And obviously, I was proud of him.
My mother was an energetic, church-going, civic-club attending, college-educated elementary school teacher who poured all of her attention into her only child, me. There's some knowing laughter in the room.
My mother always wanted me to be a success. My father always wanted me to be a gentleman. And neither one of them wanted me to be a politician. But that's what I became.
Now I remember where my father came from and his background. When I was in college he used to come up to me and say Bill, when are you going to get a job? When I was in graduate school he came to me and said Bill when are you going to get a job? Then one day I came home and said Dad I think I'm going to play professional basketball. He said Bill, when are you going to get a job? Then I told him what I was going to make. He said, not a bad job.
But that's where I grew up and so it seems so familiar to be in so many small towns in Iowa because its very much like the town that I grew up in in Missouri.
I was out campaigning about my 3rd or 4th month, somebody came up to me and said Bill? I said yeah. He said you running for president? I said yeah. He said what do you want your legacy to be? I thought that was a little premature. Because before you have a legacy you've got to get the nomination, you've got win the election, you've got to serve with distinction, you have to die. Then you have a legacy. The thought occurred to me, well what would I like to achieve over 4 or 8 years, if I was successful in this election?
Well first I'd like to have presided over a country that was at peace, and had growing respect from people around the world, for the kind of society and culture and economy and political system that we have. In other words that we'd be able lead in the way Jefferson says was our most powerful leadership in the world, which is leadership by example.
I'd like to have been the protector of the natural environment. Which means preserving those things that allow each of us to come into contact with something that's bigger than we are. And lasts longer than we do. I think of that every time I drive through Loess Hills for example. What a special place. What a special field. Has to always be preserved.
I want to be the good steward of a good economy. And by that I mean an economy that takes everybody to higher economic ground. You can't be satisfied with the economy if the stock market is at 10 or 11 thousand and family farmers in Iowa and across the Midwest are on the edge of bankruptcy. You have to have an economy that is flexible enough and robust enough to take everybody to higher economic ground.
And then I'd like to know that because of what we did over 4 or 8 years that every child in America has a chance to realize his or her potential. There are still nearly 14 million children in America who live in poverty. There's still 44 million Americans without any health insurance. And most Americans paying too much for their health insurance. And we're not yet at the time in our country's history when, in Toni Morrison's words, race exists, but it doesn't matter.
And so here we are
at this unprecedented economic time, and the key is to, I've always believed
in the aphorism fix your roof when the sun is shining, not when its raining.
And the sun is shining for the overall economy. And now is the time
to make good on the promises to family farmers, so people don't have to
live through these boom and bust cycles that destroy families, dispossess
people of their land, shatter a feeling and a way of life that is central
to who we are as a people. Now is the time to increase the number
of people with health insurance in America and decrease the number of children
living in poverty. And by doing all of those things, strengthen our
I want to be President
of the United States in order to use the power of that
And we'd then live in a world of new possibilities. For example, some people say, well, you'll never eliminate child poverty. In a world of new possibilities, we can. Some people say, you'll never cover everybody with health insurance. In a world of new possibilities, we will. Some people say there's no way that you can keep this economy growing like its growing and at the same time help family farmers and move working families up so they have a better chance to provide for their kids and they have a better future. But in a world of new possibilities, the one will follow the other like the morning follows the night. When you are president, what you do is say this is the way we go and here is the program. All presidents do that. But the untapped potential of the presidency is to unlock in each of us our capacity as a public citizen, our awareness of the connections among us as citizens and as human beings and to deepen the conviction that we all have that with hard work and clarity of purpose and giving your neighbor the benefit of the doubt, there's nothing that isn't possible.
So I want thank you very much for coming and now we'll go to questions and answers and we'll cover as much territory as we possibly can.
Questioner: Senator, I wonder if you can tell us in simple terms what your health care plan will do for us?
Bill Bradley: What my health care plan will do is assure that every child in America is covered with health insurance, give every adult the availability, access, of affordable health insurance, give every American tax relief to pay the premiums for health insurance, make health insurance portable so you can carry it from job to job, provide senior citizens with access to drugs, life-saving drugs that they need, and will provide social services to them that will allow them to stay in their homes. And finally, put doctors back in charge of the clinical decisions, and not distant bureaucrats.
Questioner: In your plan for campaign finance reform, what would you like to see done abut soft money?
Bill Bradley: We need to eliminate all soft money. And then you need a President who is going to put this right up there close to the top of the agenda because he realizes how important achieving campaign finance reform is to virtually everything else he would try to do. National health insurance? Give me a world with campaign finance reform, its going to be a lot easier. We can do this, if the people are on board.
Your health care plan sounds fine, but I'm very concerned about the cost.
How are we going to pay for it?
Bill Bradley: We're going to pay for my plan by closing tax loopholes, eliminating subsidies to some industries like the mining industry, taking some of the surplus and achieving savings through technology. I think that's how we can pay for it.
Questioner: Senator, both you and Al Gore want to insure all children. Simply put, what is the difference between your two plans?
The specific difference is that what Al Gore will do is take a system that's
really not working and throw more money at it. What he would do is
simply build on the existing system, Medicaid system which, you know is
fifty different systems in the country. He would build on the system
where only 30 % of the doctors actually accept patients, where people end
up in emergency rooms after they're already sick at the most expensive
health care, as opposed to going to the doctor before they get sick in
order to stay well. And what I want to do is begin fresh to assure
quality to every child and
Questioner: Mr. Gore says that your plan, your health plan, will trash Medicare. Is that true?
Bill Bradley: Absolutely not.
In fact, we provide a drug benefit that will allow senior citizens to have access to life saving drugs. I served on the Senate Finance Committee for 18 years, and I fought time and time again and successfully protected Medicare from premium increases or from cuts. As President I'd do the same.
Questioner: Senator, I'm an Iowa public school teacher. My question is: while you were in the Senate you voted in support of public school vouchers. Could you elaborate on that point please?
Bill Bradley: Sure, there were several times in the Senate when I did vote for experiments with vouchers. I do not believe vouchers however, are the answer to the problems in public education. What we need is to look at the needs of public schools and respond to those needs.
For example, I think that the biggest thing the national government could do with regard to public school is to help with the teacher demand of the next decade. Public schools are going to lose 2.2 million teachers in the next 10 years to retirement. And I believe we ought to help supply quality teachers for those public schools in urban and rural areas, so what I would suggest is that we provide ten thousand scholarships a year at seventy-five hundred dollars a scholarship for students who would agree to teach math, science, computer science and foreign languages in urban school districts for five years. Or rural school districts for five years.
And, second, we need
to offer fifty thousand scholarships or programs for whatever subject for
students who will agree to teach in urban or rural school
One last thing is that you know when it comes to urban public schools I think we also have to adopt the attitude of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Depression. What he said was we're in a Depression, I'm gonna try this thing. I'm going to try that thing. If it doesn't work, I'm gonna try a third thing but we are going to get out of this depression. And I say with regard to urban schools, and that is the spirit in which I voted for these experiments, we're going to try this thing, we're going to try that thing, but we are going to get something that eventually work in our urban schools and in some of our rural schools so that kids in this country can get a first class public education. Because the public schools are the backbone of this country's future.
Questioner: Senator, could you explain your position on pro-choice?
Well, I've always supported that women should be accorded the privacy to
make that decision. I've always been pro-choice. And
I think that this is not an issue that you can straddle on one side or
the other side, you just have to say what you believe. At the same
time, I really respect those who hold a different view because I know they
hold that view out of deep
Questioner: Most young people today don't get involved in politics because they don't trust the politicians. What have you done in your political career to prove to us that you're not politics as usual?
Bill Bradley: Very good question. In this campaign, the first speech I made dealt with this issue. I said when I go to college campuses, voluntarism has never been higher. People want to mentor kids. They want to help. But, political participation has never been lower.
Why is that? Because to young people in America, increasingly to all people in America, politics has become nothing more than the mechanics of winning. All the talk about fundraising, polling, spinning. What's been lost is why I got into politics. Service. What's been lost is the message Robert Kennedy gave in 1964 when I was a student intern. I heard him say, look, politics is a noble profession. It doesn't have to be corrupt or deceitful. It's a way you can help your fellow man. I said yeah, that's why I want to be in politics. Yes, sir.
Questioner: When you're President, what are you going to ask the American people to do for the country?
Bill Bradley: I'm gonna ask them to realize how central they are to achieving a better America. I mean, whenever I see somebody who sees beneath skin color or eye shape, to the individual I think - all of us could be that good. Whenever I see a company innovate and change our future right before our eyes, I think most of our companies could be that good. And whenever I see a neighbor give to another neighbor with no expectation of return I think more of us more often could be that good. What we're trying to do in this campaign is ask good people to join us so our voices can be heard. We, not the President, we can make the country a better place. The President's important. This is the direction we've got to go. He's the leader, this is what we do. But the power to get it done comes from the people. And the privilege to serve is an honor that they've given you with the expectation that you are going to achieve what they want you to achieve. I hope you'll be with us, I think together we can build a better America.