Selected Primary Speeches and Statements

Gov. Bill Clinton's speeches in 1991 helped establish him as an early Democratic front-runner.  In particular, his speech at the DLC convention in Cleveland in May, and the policy speeches he delivered at Georgetown University later in the year outlining a "New Covenant" were significant.  Clinton's speeches at several "cattle show" events during this time were well also received.

1. Democratic Leadership Council Annual Convention  |  Cleveland, OH  |  May 7, 1991.
The DLC formed in 1985 "to revitalize the Democratic Party and lead it back into the political mainstream."  Clinton was named chairman of the group in March 1990.  In May 1991 he was not yet a candidate for president, but was seen as a likely to run.  Clinton's keynote speech at the DLC convention in Cleveland on May 7, 1991 wowed influential political reporters.  One can see some of the language and themes he carried into his campaign.

2. Announcement Speech  |  Outside Old State House,  Little Rock, AR  |  October 3, 1991.

3. "The New Covenant: Responsibility and Rebuilding the American Community"  |  Georgetown University  |  October 23, 1991.
Clinton stated that the American Dream is "dying here at home" and called for a New Covenant "to provide opportunity for everybody, inspire responsibility throughout our society, and restore a sense of community to our great nation -- a new covenant to take government back from the powerful interests and the bureaucracy, and give it back to the ordinary people of our country."

4. "A New Covenant for Economic Change"  |  Georgetown University  |  November 20, 1991.
Clinton set out four goals: "put economic opportunity in the hands of ordinary people, not rich and powerful special interests; ...revolutionize government to invest more in the future; ...encourage the private sector to organize in new ways and cooperate to produce economic growth; and ...challenge and lead America to compete and win in the global economy, not retreat from the world."
A New Covenant for Economic Change by Governor Bill Clinton (printable version)
5. Association of Democratic State Chairs  |  Palmer House, Chicago  |  November 22, 1991.
The big six candidates addressed national Democrats at this "cattle show" event in Chicago. Clinton's speech was well-received. "This election is about the real problems of real people and what we can really do about them," Clinton said.  He set out three problems: "we've lost our economic leadership,"
"government doesn't work any more," and the "country needs desperately to be coming together."
6. Iowa Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Dinner  |  Des Moines, Iowa  |  November 23, 1991.
Iowa did not see much of the candidates due to home-state Sen. Harkin's campaign, but the JJ Dinner was a major multi-candidate event. Addressing close to one thousand Iowa Democrats,
Clinton said, "I am a Democrat by heritage, instinct and conviction." As in his speech the previous day in Chicago, Clinton identified "three great problems" that must be addressed.  Clinton said, "First, we have to regain our economic leadership.  Second, we have to prove we can make government work for people again.  And third, we have to pull this country together instead of letting it be pulled apart."  "We need a national economic program, a national education program, a national health care program and a national environmental and energy policy," Clinton said.

7. "A New Covenant for American Security" |  Georgetown University  |  December 12, 1991.
Clinton presented his vision for America's post-Cold War posture.  He said "the President seems to favor political stability and his personal relations with foreign leaders over a coherent policy of promoting freedom, democracy and economic growth."  Clinton set out two major foreign policy challenges, saying that the United States must "define a new national security policy that builds on freedom's victory in the Cold War" and "forge a new economic policy to serve ordinary Americans by launching a new era of global growth."
8. News Conference on Draft Controversy  |  Manchester, NH  |  February 13, 1992.
Days before the New Hampshire primary, a controversy over Clinton's draft status threatened to derail his candidacy.  Clinton addressed a recently leaked letter he had written in 1969, delivering a forceful rebuttal to the idea that he had done anything wrong.  Clinton told the assembled reporters, "I gave up the deferment before I knew what my lottery number was, and...I put myself willingly back in the draft."

9. New Hampshire Primary Election Night Speech  |  Best Western, Merrimack, NH  |  February 18, 1992.
Clinton finished second in terms of the number of votes he won, but he grabbed a top billing with his declaration that "New Hampshire tonight has made Bill Clinton the comeback kid."  Clinton thanked the many people who had helped his campaign in the Granite State. "The hits that I took in this election are nothing compared to the hits that the people of this state and this country are taking every day of their lives under this administration," Clinton said, recounting stories of some of the people he had met.

10. Economic Speech  |  Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania  |  April 16, 1992.
In a speech delivered 12 days before the Pennsylvania primary, where Clinton faced Jerry Brown's insurgent challenge, he focused on the economy.  Clinton said he sought to talk about "real change -- about the fundamental problems of leadership and organization that are holding our economy back, and put forth a plan to address the long-term economic challenges we face."  Clinton said Wharton "is home to much of America's economic potential, and has produced many of our best corporate leaders" but "is also a powerful symbol of where our country went wrong in the 1980s."

11. Family Values Address  |  Cleveland City Club, Cleveland, OH  |  May 21, 1992.
Clinton's reply to a speech by President George H.W. Bush and to Vice President Dan Quayle's Murphy Brown speech.  He set out six main points: reward work and family, specifically by expanding the EITC; reform the welfare system ("end welfare as we know it"); protect children from the consequences of divorce and absent fathers; help parents do the best possible job of raising their kids; bolster the family's role in education; and instill a sense of personal responsibility.

12. "America Speaks: National Town Meeting"  |  WQED Studios, Pittsburgh, PA  |  June 12, 1992.
By June, Ross Perot's rise threatened to marginalize Clinton.  The DNC put together a half-hour town hall meeting from the studios of public television station WQED in Pittsburgh.  About a dozen people in the audience queried Clinton on subjects including jobs, the homeless, health care, and balancing the budget.  The program was broadcast nationally.

13. Announcement of Selection of Sen. Al Gore, Jr. as Running Mate  |  Governor's Mansion, Little Rock, AR  |  July 9, 1992.
Clinton introduced Gore as "
a leader of great strength, integrity, and stature. A father who, like me, loves his children and shares my hunger to turn this economy around, to change our country, and to do it so that we don't raise the first generation of children to do worse than their parents."  Gore, he said "has what it takes to lead this nation from the day we take office."  Gore pledged to "help Bill Clinton in his dramatic effort to lift the public dialogue so that we can make this campaign a national conversation about America's future, so that we can present to the American people, ideas, choices, a sensible plan for getting our country moving in the right direction again."

The "New Covenant" rhetoric has drawn a lot of analysis over the years.  See for example:
Jack R. van der Slik and Stephen J. Schwark.  "Clinton and the New Covenant: Theology Shaping a New Politics or Old Politics in Religious Garb?" Journal of Church and State, Vol. 40, No. 4 (AUTUMN 1998), pp. 873-890.

James D. Boys.  "Grand strategy, grand rhetoric: The forgotten covenant of campaign 1992."  Politics, Vol. 41, Issue 1 (Aug. 3, 2020).