'A new beginning' Clinton calls victory 'clarion call' to future

November 04, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- President-elect Bill Clinton says his election victory is a vote for a "new beginning" and a "clarion call for our country to face" future challenges.

Speaking last night after President Bush conceded, Mr. Clinton accepted President Bush's telephoned congratulations and urged the crowd to applaud the "grace" of his concession and his "lifetime of public service."

Nationwide, Mr. Clinton won the backing of 43 percent of the voters, gaining 43,472,628 votes and 32 states. Mr. Bush won 38 percent, or 37,929,665 votes, and 18 states. Independent Ross Perot got 19 percent, or 19,138,191 votes.

In his Little Rock speech, Mr. Clinton said he would reach out to Republicans and independents, including Mr. Perot, and called for unity.

'My fellow Americans," he began, standing in the cold outside the Old State House in downtown Little Rock, where he announced his candidacy exactly 13 months earlier. "On this day, with high hopes and brave hearts, in massive numbers the American people have voted to make a new beginning.

"This election is a clarion call for our country to face the challenge of the end of the cold war and the beginning of the next century, to restore growth to our country and opportunity to our people, to empower our people so they can face problems too long ignored, from AIDS to the environment, to conversion of our economy from a defense to a domestic economic giant."

"And perhaps most important of all, to bring our people together as never before, so our diversity can be a source of strength in a world that is ever smaller, where everyone counts and everyone is a member of America's family."

"We're all in this together," Mr. Clinton said, "and we will rise and fall together."

After his address, Mr. Clinton's running mate, Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr., emphasized the generational change of leadership, saying we "are the children of modern America, with the "exuberance and optimism which so often characterizes a generation of younger leaders."

He also noted they were the first Southern team, president and vice president, in modern times.

More than 15,000 thousand people standing elbow-to-elbow in the street cheered lustily and waved flags and Clinton campaign posters.

They had waited for hours to get a view of the next president of the United States and, as he approached, joined a choir in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful."

Mr. Clinton's half-brother, Roger, and Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder were among the notables occupying a VIP section. But James Carville, the strategist whose deft sense of the public pulse helped guide the Arkansas governor to victory, waited for Mr. Clinton's arrival in the crowd of ordinary people.

Mr. Clinton, arriving with his wife, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea, blew a kiss to the crowd, then waved. They were quickly joined on stage by the man the public address announcer identified as the "next vice president," Mr. Gore, who came with his wife, Tipper, and their children.

But Mr. Clinton's long day wasn't over. He visited a succession of parties, telling one group of supporters around 2 a.m. today that his was a "victory for the American people."

The parties enabled Mr. Clinton to extend personal thanks to friends and supportive Arkansans, who elected him governor a record five times. Looking out to the crowd at one party, he pointed out "the lady who gives me my allergy shot every week."

When he finished his brief remarks, Mr. Gore spoke, obviously savoring the moment: "Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn't get any better than this."

"We all have to join hands now in making Bill Clinton the best president this nation ever had," he said.

Confetti guns then erupted, spewing colored paper over celebrants as the music system blared "Power to the People."

It was a day to party in Arkansas, which rallied around its native son as he came under ferocious attack from the Republicans. Thousands of people choked the streets of downtown Little Rock long before the election results were in, some coming from other states.

The governor who boasted during the campaign of having created jobs in his administration would have been proud to see the local economy pumped up by record occupancy rates in hotels and entrepreneurs selling an imaginative range of souvenirs.

For $3 you could buy a Clinton-Gore bar of soap, for $15 a locally designed T-shirt likening Hillary Clinton, to great women from the past: Golda Meir of Israel, Indira Ghandi of India and Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

All of the activity was jammed into a multi-block area near Mr. Clinton's campaign headquarters and the old State Capitol, a columned monument.

Wallace's Grill, a little down-home restaurant where Mr. Clinton sometimes ate breakfast, stayed open late, serving juicy cheeseburgers and soft drinks to an endless procession of diners.

"He's a very nice man," said George Hronas, the grill owner, recalling Mr. Clinton's visits and his usual order: eggs over and sausage.

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