December 30, 1998

This past week has been difficult for my husband and me. But we have been sustained by the overwhelming support of the American people and the love and encouragement of family and friends.

In countless calls, letters, faxes and e-mails, citizens from every corner of this great country and every walk of life have urged the President to stay the course. And he has vowed to do just that.

Since the first days of his presidency, my husband has fought -- often at a high political cost -- for what he believes is best for this country.

Thanks to his bold economic plan, our budget is balanced for the first time in 30 years, unemployment is at its lowest rate in a quarter century, and our economy is the strongest in the world.

The work of ensuring economic security for every American, however, is far from finished. This President's first priority for the next Congress is to fix Social Security and Medicare. He is also determined to make sure that more children in this country have access to quality child care, health care and education.

Because of his hard work and political will, up to 5 million more children receive health care today than when he took office. In the last budget agreement, he fought for and won approval of a plan to decrease class size by hiring 100,000 more teachers and to improve and enlarge the Head Start program for disadvantaged preschoolers.

He fought for the largest expansion of educational opportunity in history, opening the doors of college to millions of students. And because of his hard work, the Family and Medical Leave Act allows Americans time off from their jobs for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for a seriously ill family member.

But there is still more to do. There are still abused and neglected children who need our protection. There are still families in this country who can't afford adequate child care or health care. There is still no Patient's Bill of Rights. And there is still more to do to make our schools the best in the world.

Because he is determined to save the lives of 3,000 young people a day by cutting teen smoking, the President will continue to stand up to Big Tobacco.

He will also continue to stand up to the gun lobby. He fought for the Brady Bill -- even though that, too, was politically risky -- because it was right. Waiting periods and background checks have kept handguns away from 250,000 felons, fugitives and stalkers.

My husband's commitment to securing peace around the world remains unwavering. He permitted Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to come to this country in the face of vocal opposition from every corner of the foreign policy establishment. This courageous decision began a process of intensive U.S. engagement that culminated in the historic Good Friday peace agreement last spring. I remember vividly the marathon negotiating session in April that kept Bill on the phone much of the night, prodding and cajoling until both sides signed a pact to end more than 30 years of sectarian violence.

Last week, during a three-day trip to Israel and Gaza, where he continued his mission to secure lasting agreements for peace in the Middle East, he learned that Iraq's President Saddam Hussein had reneged, once again, on his promise to allow United Nations weapons inspectors to do their jobs.

A President bears many burdens, but there is no heavier burden than the decision to undertake military action. After long days and nights of careful consideration with his national security advisers and our allies, my husband ordered American troops to bomb selected military targets in Iraq.

Although our mission is complete for now, he remains watchful and vigilant, determined that Saddam Hussein will never again develop the capacity to threaten his neighbors and the world with weapons of mass destruction.

This is the stuff of the presidency. The power is awesome, the burden heavy, the toll immeasurable. Only a few aspire to the job, and fewer still have the courage, the talent and the character to do it well. My husband is one of these few.

As we gather with family and friends to celebrate this holy season of peace and joy, of reflection and renewal, I pray that we can commit ourselves to reconciliation and an end to partisan divisiveness in our country.

There are so many important issues that demand the undivided attention, not only of the President and the Congress, but also of the American people.

Let's turn our attention to these issues and see what we can do together. I pray that your holiday season is filled with blessings and joy.