National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

President Clinton Marks 20th Anniversary of Family and Medical Leave Act in Opinion Piece

President Clinton Marks 20th Anniversary of Family and Medical Leave Act in Opinion Piece

February 5, 2013 — "Twenty years ago today, ... I stood in the White House Rose Garden to sign the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provided millions of Americans with the opportunity to take time off to care for a new child or sick relative," President Clinton writes in a Politico opinion piece. He adds, "It was then and remains today the embodiment of my governing philosophy of empowerment through opportunity and responsibility."

Clinton continues, "To this day, I receive more thanks from citizens for the FMLA than any other single piece of legislation I signed into law." He notes that from 1991 to 1997, the percentage of full-time workers in large- and medium-sized companies taking maternity leave increased from 37% to 93%. Clinton adds that 35 million U.S. residents had taken unpaid leave by the end of his second term, and today's estimates suggest that 100 million have done so.

However, "Near the end of my administration, I argued that we needed to find 'new ways to provide paid leave to those workers who need to take off but cannot afford to do so,'" Clinton writes. He points out that most developed nations provide some type of paid family leave, "and it's helped, not hurt, their economies."

"There are few greater joys for me as a private citizen than seeing the impact the FMLA has had on hardworking Americans over the last 20 years," Clinton writes. He concludes, "If we can once again infuse our nation with opportunity for every family, and responsibility from every individual, the foundations of American exceptionalism can survive and thrive in the face of today’s challenges" (Clinton, Politico, 2/5).