U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presumptive presidential nominee and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (D) spoke at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual meeting.View at C-SPAN >>>>
Speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors conference in Indianapolis, Clinton also addressed Donald Trump’s response to the “Brexit” vote, saying “steady, experienced leadership is so important at times like these” and that “bombastic comments in turbulent times can actually cause more turbulence.”
In her remarks, Clinton also reaffirmed her commitment to addressing the scourge of gun violence in our country.
Clinton’s remarks, as transcribed, are below:
“Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much. I am absolutely delighted to be here with all of you, among so many friends. A lot of the mayors here have been laboring in the vineyards of your cities and your states and working to provide better lives for the people you represent, and only America’s mayors could find a way to put Lady Gaga and the Dalai Lama on the same program. I’m really impressed by that.
I want to thank your president, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, for her leadership of this organization. It’s always great seeing a woman serving as president. And I want to – I want to add a special word of greeting. Stephanie told me that her mother, Dr. Rawlings, is here. And I’m kind of partial to mothers showing up to see their even grownup sons and daughters perform official functions with such grace and dignity. So, Dr. Rawlings, congratulations to you as well.
And I want to acknowledge your next president, Mayor Mick Cornett. And I have followed with great interest a lot of your creative ideas in Oklahoma City, and I really look forward to your leadership of this organization, Mayor. And thanks to a longtime friend, the mayor of Indianapolis, hosting us here. Thank you so much, Mayor Joe Hogsett. And Joe, as I’m sure you have already realized, even though he is a relatively new mayor, comes in with so much energy and ideas, and I thank you for your leadership of this great American city.
Before I begin addressing some of our common issues and challenges, I want to say a few words about what we have seen happening in Britain. A lot of Americans woke up on Friday to alarming headlines from across the Atlantic, and they are wondering what this decision in Britain means for us.
I’m sure everyone in this room with retirement savings asked the same question. In the day after the vote, Americans lost $100 billion from our 401(k)s. Now, we are resilient, and we will bounce back from this and from all of the other shocks that are in the system. But it is a reminder that what happens around the world has consequences that can hit home quickly and affect our lives and our livelihoods.
Our priority now must be to protect American families and businesses from the negative effects of this kind of tumult and uncertainty. And that’s why steady, experienced leadership is so important at times like these.
We need leaders like yourselves at the local and state and federal level, who understand how to work with other leaders to manage risks; who understand that bombastic comments in turbulent times can actually cause more turbulence; and who put the interests of the American people ahead of their personal business interests. And we need leaders who recognize that our alliances and partnerships are among our greatest national assets, now more than ever.
Working with our allies has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy under Democrats and Republicans alike, because it makes America safer and more prosperous. And it should continue to guide us now. And we’ve got to be clear about this. No one should be confused about America’s commitment to Europe – not an autocrat in the Kremlin, not a presidential candidate on a Scottish golf course.
We have to reaffirm that the United States and the United Kingdom are different countries in many important ways – economically, politically, demographically. But we still have a lot of common interests and values. Just as we have seen there are many frustrated people in Britain, we know there are frustrated people here at home too. I’ve seen it, I’ve heard it, I know it. That’s why I’ve worked hard to find solutions to the economic challenges we face. It’s why I’ve put forward real plans to create good-paying jobs, raise wages, reduce student debt, bring down costs for college and prescription drugs, and so much else. People across America know that they don’t want empty promises, they want solutions. And that is what, working with you, I hope to offer to them.
Now, a big reason why our economy isn’t working for everyone the way it should is because of political dysfunction. We’ve got to get Washington working again. And just as I’ve heard so many mayors over the years say, there’s not a Republican or Democratic way to fix the streets or plow the snow or create more economic opportunities. We do what works. We do what we need to serve our people.
And that means the work you are doing and in many ways the solutions you are pioneering in America’s cities are even more important. We are all, and especially me, counting on you, our mayors, to get stuff done. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to be here today.
It is a special personal honor to follow to the podium a man who has shown extraordinary leadership in recent weeks, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. And like so many of you, I watched those press conferences coming from Orlando, and I watched the mayor being very collected, very clear about what was happening, what he knew, what he didn’t know, but with an overriding message that his city, the city that he loves and serves, would persevere. So Mayor Dyer, please know that all of our hearts are with you, and with the LGBT and Latino communities, the people of your city.
The attack in Orlando was the worst mass shooting in American history. Sadly, several mayors here today have had to respond to similar tragedies that included mass shootings or, in your case, Mayor Cornett, a horrific bomb explosion. When I was last with the mayors at the conference last year, it was just days after the massacre in Charleston. There are more mass shootings in the United States than in any other country in the world. It is not even close. I do not think Americans are more violent, are worse human beings. I believe we cannot accept this, not now and not ever.
As Congressman John Lewis said a few days ago, ‘How many more mothers, how many more fathers, need to shed tears of grief before we do something?’ No person should be gunned down while learning, teaching, praying, or dancing. It is time for us to come together to strengthen our gun laws and keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. And here is what I know.
I know we can respect the Second Amendment and make common-sense reforms. Yet Congress is paralyzed. Not a filibuster in the Senate, not a sit-in in the House, could convince the leadership to move forward. I really believe the American people deserve better. In fact, every survey I’ve looked at shows that there is a very big majority of Americans who favor this path, and a considerable majority of gun owners who agree.
Now, of course it is not just about guns. Leaders in Congress refuse to act on a wide range of issues that really matter to American working families. Last week’s split Supreme Court ruling on immigration could lead to the tearing apart and deporting of millions of people, breaking up families. It would not have happened, I don’t believe, if Congress had done its job and passed comprehensive immigration reform. Remember, we had a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate. The House leadership would not let it come to the floor for a vote. I think it’s fair to say they did not because they were playing to the loudest voices instead of the most people because I believe it would have passed the House if there had been a chance to vote on it.
We also know that in this Senate, Senators have not done their job and held a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. And I have no way of knowing how Judge Garland, who is highly qualified and, before he was nominated for the Supreme Court, respected on both sides of the aisle – I have no way of knowing how he would have voted. I would not pretend to presume that. But we’ve never had a situation like this where we lose a justice of the Supreme Court, where the President, in my view, is obligated under our constitution to nominate a successor, and where the Senate flat-out refuses even to hold a hearing to consider. They could vote down Judge Garland. But instead, they refuse to act.
I think that is part of what it driving the frustration on the part of so many Americans. Let’s have a vote. We’re a democracy. Either vote somebody up or vote somebody down. Either vote on guns or vote them down. And contrast that with what you do every day. Mayors show up. You do your job. The American people show up and do their job. We should expect nothing less from the United States Congress.
And I’m sure that many of you, regardless of party affiliation – I know some are Republican, some are Democrats, and some in your systems are nonpartisan, nonaffiliated – I’m sure many of you are running out of patience. When you look to Washington from predictability, for decisions, maybe smart investments in affordable housing, schools, and transportation, you don’t get the help you seek. Instead, like other Americans, you see grandstanding. You hear threats to default on our nation’s debt or to shut down our government. Instead of solving problems, Washington is too often making them worse.
Now, make no mistake. There are still many passionate, committed people in Congress fighting the good fight every day on both sides of the aisle. I was providing to serve in the Senate for eight years. Some of that time I was in the majority and some of that time I was in the minority. But I got up every day looking for ways to work with my colleagues to make something happen for the people I represented, and that was especially important after 9/11, where I needed to make the case about rebuilding New York, helping the families whose loved ones had been murdered on that terrible day.
So I know that we can build relationships and we can find common ground. I take inspiration from those who get up every day in the Congress and keep working to solve problems. They don’t get cynical and they don’t give up, just like you. You’re on the front lines every day as well. And the people you serve are more than just your voters. They’re your neighbors. You see them in the supermarket. You see them when you worship. You see them at your kids’ games. You see them. They tell you their problems and their ideas, and they count on you to help move your city forward. You can’t respond with a snarky tweet. You’ve actually got to deliver results because you know you’re going to see them at the supermarket and at your kids’ ball games and everywhere else in the city.
That’s why more and more cities are where things are happening and getting done, and I want to thank you. You are taking the lead in investing in early childhood education, cutting carbon emissions to tackle climate change, ending veteran homelessness, implementing innovative transportation projects that connect affordable housing to job opportunities, and so much more.
Some experts have actually said this could be the decade of the city because our urban areas are growing twice as fast as they were in the last decade. Cities are the major reason why our country has come back from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, with more than 14 million private sector jobs created over the last six and a half years. So you know what we have accomplished, and you know how much more we have to do.
Your constituents are already working harder and longer just to keep their heads above water. Too many of our urban neighborhoods are plagued by poverty that persists from generation to generation. Communities of color still face barriers of systemic racism. Wages are still too low, and inequality is too great. Jobs in many parts of our country are booming, and in other parts they are still too hard to come by. So these challenges are serious, but you give me hope that together we can overcome them. I believe with all my heart that our nation is at our best when we are rising together, when those who have been left out and left behind get a fair chance to lift themselves up. And that’s when communities, cities, and regions grow stronger, and our entire country is better off.
Last week in North Carolina I laid out a five-step plan to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. First, within my first 100 days as president, I will work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in job creation since World War II. This will be particularly important for America’s cities. Second, let’s make college debt-free for all and transform the way we prepare Americans for the jobs for the future. Third, let’s rewrite the rules so more companies share profits with employees and fewer ship profits and jobs overseas. And fourth, let’s make sure Wall Street corporations and the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes. And fifth, let’s put families first and match our policies to how families actually live and work in the 21st century.
Focusing for a minute on jobs, I have this old-fashioned belief: Anyone willing to work hard in America should be able to find a good job that pays enough to support a middle class life, and a job that provides dignity and pride. So the heart of my plan will be a big commitment to infrastructure. And the public investment will be aided by a new National Infrastructure Bank that will bring private sector dollars off the sidelines and be put to work in rebuilding America. We’re going to set some big, ambitious goals.
I have to say when I was growing up, one of the things that my parents just drilled in me was not only loving my country, but that we could do anything we set our minds to. Anything, because we were Americans. Well, let’s set some goals again, and let’s hold each other accountable for achieving them, like connecting every household to broadband by the year 2020. If you have, like I have, traveled across our country, you know there is a digital divide. You know there’s even a cell telephone divide. You know that there are kids going to school and small businesses struggling to succeed who do not have a fast connection to broadband, and they are being shut out of the global marketplace.
Let’s set a goal to build a cleaner, more resilient power grid with enough renewable energy to power every home in America. And I feel strongly about this because some country will be the 21st century clean energy superpower. We invent most of the technologies and products, but if we don’t have a plan and set these goals, it’s more likely to be China or Germany than […] It needs to be us. We need to have a public-private partnership to succeed.
We’re also going to invest in public transit; fix failing water systems like the one that poisoned children in Flint – renovate our public schools so every child in every community has access to safe, high-tech classrooms, laboratories, and libraries.
I used to have the ‘Chelsea test’ when I was First Lady of Arkansas, and then when I was First Lady of the United States. And I would go into schools around our country and the first thing I would think is, ‘Is this a school,’ just by looking at it and meeting the staff, ‘that I would send Chelsea to?’ Now I’ve got the Charlotte and Aidan test. My new – my granddaughter and grandson. And I’m asking the same question: Is this a school that I would send – and you know, a lot of public schools, the answer was a resounding yes; in a lot of them, no. Schools that were literally falling down, filled with mold, no books in the library – which I actually saw myself.
So when we want to live up to what we all say about our next generation, our children are really the treasure of our country, we need to pay attention to where they spend most of their waking hours, and what kind of message that sends to them and their families.
Now, investments like these will help your cities unlock more economic potential and compete in the increasingly competitive global marketplace. So our goal should be full employment in a full-potential economy. And that means we have to make sure the good new jobs of the future reach the neighborhoods that need them the most – from urban cities to rural areas.
We’re going to have to target billions of dollars to help young people in underserved communities find a job, maybe a first job, because in the absence of that first job, getting them into the workplace is really difficult. They need the attitudes of what goes with a good work ethic as well as the skills and the preparation, so that they can start to build financial stability, gain those skills, the confidence, and the experience to build and pursue their own career.
We need to direct billions of dollars to support small businesses in hard-hit communities where investment is scarce, so entrepreneurs have a real chance to turn their ideas into growing enterprises that will put people to work. After all, most of the new jobs – two-thirds of them – will come from small businesses. And right now, we are falling backward in the creation of small businesses because we don’t have the credit, the access to credit, that we used to. It hasn’t come back after the Great Recession. And we need to do more to help people start those businesses and succeed.
And we need to focus on second chance reentry programs so that people returning from prison have a fair chance to reestablish their lives and strengthen their communities.
Now, there are some programs that I will shamelessly borrow from. For example, we need to push for initiatives like an expanded New Markets Tax Credit program – something that my husband introduced on a bipartisan basis toward the end of his second term. And everywhere I go across the country, I see projects, I see revitalization because of the New Markets Tax Credits. I want us to explore Jim Clyburn’s, Congressman Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 plan to direct more federal investment into underserved areas – those neighborhoods where we have generational poverty that need extra help to be able to get themselves up and going. And I want us to be measured by how much incomes rise for hardworking families, not how much higher CEO bonuses can go. We’ve been on that path, and now we need to move toward really investing in everybody again.
I want to see how many children climb out of poverty, how many urban communities can give their residents a better future. I think that’s what it means to have an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.
Now, to make this happen, there’s no question we’ve got to get Washington to work much better, and that starts with getting unaccountable money out of politics. We’ve got to take –we’ve got to take on Citizens United and get rid of the secret money that is rigging the system.
Now, I think it’s fair to say many of you in city and state elections run under tighter regulations, or at least disclosures, than we now do on the federal side. I don’t say this as a Democrat, I say this as an American: I think we are really skating on thin ice. It’s getting to the point where we have no idea where money is coming from. It’s not being disclosed. It could be foreign government money. It could be criminal cartel money. You don’t have to say; we’ll never know.
So this is about how we make government work and restore confidence and trust in it. And I think it will clear the way to actually get something done. If you look around at the people here, both of the sides of the political divide came together to create the bipartisan ‘Mayor’s Compact for a Better America’ plan. That’s the kind of cooperation we want to see more of, across the board.
And I can imagine that some of our Republican friends here today may have questions about whether you can really work with a Democrat or work with me personally. Now, we will disagree. I disagree with some of my Democratic friends. But I think there’s much more we can agree on. And for me, as someone who worked across the aisle as First Lady, as Senator, as Secretary of State, I know we can’t get big things done unless we work together.
So I intend to push for an agenda that I think would really help the people of this country – our cities – and create economic opportunity, bring us back together. But I will also always listen. I think that is a lost art.
I want to gather people together and figure out how we’re going to solve problems. It’s what I’ve always done. I helped create the Children’s Health Insurance Program when I was First Lady, working with senators and members of Congress on both sides. It now covers 8 million kids a year.
When I worked with Republicans and Democrats and Independents across New York State, I knew and I said no political party has a monopoly on good ideas. And the federal government doesn’t either.
I want to give you the tools you need to get things done. At last year’s conference, I talked about an approach we’re calling ‘flexible federalism,’ recognizing that the needs and opportunities in each city differ from others. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. We need to listen and respect one another.
That is why I will never plan for you. I hope we will plan with you to respond to your priorities to get more funding, whether it’s infrastructure or housing or second chance programs, and then give you more flexibility, cutting through all the silos in the federal government so you can make the most use, as you see it, of these dollars.
So I have a very old-fashioned idea that we do work better when we’re listening and cooperating, and we do work better when we have the local level really helping to lead the way, when we get a partnership not only between federal, state and local governments, but between the private and the not-for-profit sectors along with government.
So that is my hope. That is what I am intent upon doing. It’s what I will talk about during this election. It’s what I hope to do if I am so fortunate enough to be your president. We are more effective when federal and local governments see each other as allies, not adversaries. That’s why I’m not just asking to be your president. I’m asking to be your partner.
Now, I’ve heard there’s a running joke in this organization, Tom, that my husband took office as a president but left as a mayor, because he spent so much time with your predecessors and actually some of you were there then. Well, I’m here to tell you I will build on that.
Just like you have the backs of the people you serve, I will have your backs every day. So be ready. I intend to be calling you and asking you for advice, working with you nonstop, visiting to see what you’ve done that works that we can bring to scale and make available for others around our country.
And I want us always to have an open line of communication. I’m excited by what we can do together. Despite all of the griping and the gridlock, I’m excited, because I think the time is ripe. I think people are tired of the partisanship and the extreme scapegoating and finger-pointing. And I think we all enter public service because we want to get things done. That is my hope and that is my promise to you.
You deserve a president who gets that – who recognizes all the good work you’re doing in your cities and who sees our cities as proof that America’s best days are still ahead of us. There is no challenge too great and no barrier too high for us to overcome together.
Thank you all very, very much.”