This has been a time of dramatic transformation, and you have risen
to every new challenge. You have made our social fabric stronger,
our families healthier and safer, our people more prosperous. You,
the American people, have made our passage into the global
information age an era of great American renewal.
In all the work I have done as President--every decision I have
made, every executive action I have taken, every bill I have
proposed and signed--I've tried to give all Americans the tools and
conditions to build the future of our dreams in a good society with
a strong economy, a cleaner environment, and a freer, safer, more
I have steered my course by our enduring values: opportunity for
all, responsibility from all, a community of all Americans. I have
sought to give America a new kind of Government, smaller, more
modern, more effective, full of ideas and policies appropriate to
this new time, always putting people first, always focusing on the
Working together, America has done well. Our economy is breaking
records with more than 22 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment
in 30 years, the highest homeownership ever, the longest expansion
in history. Our families and communities are stronger. Thirty-five
million Americans have used the family leave law; 8 million have
moved off welfare. Crime is at a 25-year low. Over 10 million
Americans receive more college aid, and more people than ever are
going to college. Our schools are better. Higher standards, greater
accountability, and larger investments have brought higher test
scores and higher graduation rates. More than 3 million children
have health insurance now, and more than 7 million Americans have
been lifted out of poverty. Incomes are rising across the board. Our
air and water are cleaner. Our food and drinking water are safer.
And more of our precious land has been preserved in the continental
United States than at any time in a 100 years.
America has been a force for peace and prosperity in every corner of
the globe. I'm very grateful to be able to turn over the reins of
leadership to a new President with America in such a strong position
to meet the challenges of the future.
Tonight I want to leave you with three thoughts about our future.
First, America must maintain our record of fiscal responsibility.
Through our last four budgets we've turned record deficits to record
surpluses, and we've been able to pay down $600 billion of our
national debt--on track to be debt-free by the end of the decade for
the first time since 1835. Staying on that course will bring lower
interest rates, greater prosperity, and the opportunity to meet our
big challenges. If we choose wisely, we can pay down the debt, deal
with the retirement of the baby boomers, invest more in our future,
and provide tax relief.
Second, because the world is more connected every day, in every way,
America's security and prosperity require us to continue to lead in
the world. At this remarkable moment in history, more people live in
freedom than ever before. Our alliances are stronger than ever.
People all around the world look to America to be a force for peace
and prosperity, freedom and security.
The global economy is giving more of our own people and billions
around the world the chance to work and live and raise their
families with dignity. But the forces of integration that have
created these good opportunities also make us more subject to global
forces of destruction, to terrorism, organized crime and
narcotrafficking, the spread of deadly weapons and disease, the
degradation of the global environment.
The expansion of trade hasn't fully closed the gap between those of
us who live on the cutting edge of the global economy and the
billions around the world who live on the knife's edge of survival.
This global gap requires more than compassion; it requires action.
Global poverty is a powder keg that could be ignited by our
In his first Inaugural Address, Thomas Jefferson warned of
entangling alliances. But in our times, America cannot and must not
disentangle itself from the world. If we want the world to embody
our shared values, then we must assume a shared responsibility.
If the wars of the 20th century, especially the recent ones in
Kosovo and Bosnia, have taught us anything, it is that we achieve
our aims by defending our values and leading the forces of freedom
and peace. We must embrace boldly and resolutely that duty to
lead--to stand with our allies in word and deed and to put a human
face on the global economy, so that expanded trade benefits all
peoples in all nations, lifting lives and hopes all across the
Third, we must remember that America cannot lead in the world unless
here at home we weave the threads of our coat of many colors into
the fabric of one America. As we become ever more diverse, we must
work harder to unite around our common values and our common
humanity. We must work harder to overcome our differences, in our
hearts and in our laws. We must treat all our people with fairness
and dignity, regardless of their race, religion, gender, or sexual
orientation, and regardless of when they arrived in our
country--always moving toward the more perfect Union of our
Hillary, Chelsea, and I join all Americans in wishing our very best
to the next President, George W. Bush, to his family and his
administration, in meeting these challenges, and in leading
freedom's march in this new century.
As for me, I'll leave the Presidency more idealistic, more full of
hope than the day I arrived, and more confident than ever that
America's best days lie ahead.
My days in this office are nearly through, but my days of service, I
hope, are not. In the years ahead, I will never hold a position
higher or a covenant more sacred than that of President of the
United States. But there is no title I will wear more proudly than
that of citizens.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.