"THE AGE OF POSSIBILITY":

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If Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole was right when he said Tuesday's State of the Union address would be the first shot of President Clinton's re-election campaign, the President clearly is running on togetherness. In a speech that tried to strike a unifying and conciliatory tone after months of partisan budget wrangling, Clinton stressed the common ground, evoking a vision of "the age of possibility" and stating: "The era of big government is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves. We must go forward as one America: one nation working together, to meet the challenges we face together." The President was addressing not only Congress but also a public that, despite low interest rates, low inflation, and a slowly growing economy, is increasingly nervous about the future. "The state of the Union is strong," he declared, citing a decline in crime and poverty rates along with what he called the strongest economy in three decades. "While more Americans are living better lives," he said, "too many of our fellow citizens are working harder to just keep up, in search of greater security for their families." His prescription: "We must answer three fundamental questions: First, how do we make the American dream of opportunity a reality for all who are willing to work for it? Second, how do we preserve our old and enduring values as we move into the future? And third, how do we meet these challenges together, as one America?" Clinton called upon Congress to work out its differences with him, and join him in a pledge to never shut down the federal government again. While the line drew one of the evening's loudest roars of applause, everyone in the chamber knew that the clock is ticking toward yet another possible shutdown this Friday.