Tuesday, December 15, 1998

We are here today to celebrate many things: the innovation and leadership of some of America's best mayors. The new spirit sweeping communities across America. The life and energy that is returning to some of America's oldest neighborhoods. And a new recognition across the land of this simple fact: if America is going to be strong, our cities must be strong.

It wasn't very long ago that most people were willing to throw in the towel on America's cities. Years of neglect had left many people to believe that our cities' best days were behind them. In fact, the very word "city" was in danger of becoming a metaphor for everything that was wrong with America.

Together, we're beginning to turn things around. America is enjoying the healthiest economy in a generation, and for the first time in nearly two decades -- America's cities are helping to lead the way. We are here today to celebrate some of the cities that are proving what Teddy Roosevelt said when the National Civic League was founded 104 years ago: that "there are many ways in which a man or a woman can work for the higher life of American cities."

Some of the cities here today are being celebrated for designing programs to get our children off the streets and into better lives. Some are being honored for providing affordable housing. Others have worked to end gang violence, to bring green spaces back to our our inner cities, to expand downtown businesses, and even provide a safe haven where victims of domestic violence can get their lives back together. And we have been proud to play a role. The budget we fought for and signed just a few months ago is the best budget for America's cities in more than a decade -- including a second round of empowerment zones, a down payment on 100,000 new teachers, and more than twice the funding to clean up contaminated "brownfields."

All of you are showing us the way. The 10 cities we celebrate today come from different regions, with different challenges, and different opportunities. But they do teach us one thing in common: that when Americans work together as partners -- when business, labor, and government can focus on the issues that unite us rather than the things that can divide us, miraculous things happen. That's the message of the cities we are honoring this morning -- and that's also the lesson of the holiday season we are celebrating right now.

For all the awards we are bestowing, these All-American cities have already won something a lot more important: a better life for all of their citizens. So congratulations to all the award winners here this morning -- and keep up the good work!

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