Thank you very much. And thank you, Jim. Thank you all. Chicago, Chicago, what a wonderful town, and it's even more wonderful if you're in Rosemont. I remember I was here in '84. You'll remember we were doing something then—had us traveling around. [Laughter] Flying in on Air Force One, I thought I saw a new building on the Chicago skyline. And then, as we got closer, I discovered it was William "the Refrigerator" Perry. [Laughter]
But it's great to be back home in Illinois. And it's great to be here with so many old friends: Governor Thompson; Lieutenant Governor George Ryan; State COP chairman, Don Adams; and county COP chairman, my longtime friend, Don Totten. And, of course the Illinois Republican delegation to the House of Representatives. I think they must be one of the finest groups of Representatives this country has ever had. And proof of it is that they're not here because there's some very important business going on in the House—and they're all there, and I'm glad they are.
They do have one serious drawback, however: There simply aren't enough of them. I need more of the kind of support that they give me in the House. And we're going to do something about that this November, aren't we? And I know this sounds optimistic, but don't you think it's time that Minority Leader Bob Michel got a chance to try his hand at being majority leader—Speaker of the House of Representatives? Speaking of support in Congress, I need a gutsy, determined fighter like Judy Koehler supporting me in the Senate. And while we're on the subject of guts, Cook County needs a tough, principled man like Jim O'Grady in the sheriffs office. He'll keep this city safe for law-abiding citizens and not so safe for those who don't abide by the law.
Well, as I said, it's great to get out of Washington and back to the land of my roots. As you may know, I went to Eureka College. That's a little bit to the south and west of here. And I'll never forget graduation day, when the president of the school handed me my diploma. He asked me a question that really stuck in my mind. He asked, "Are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?" [Laughter] Well, I've posed that question myself a few times since.
There was a time, and not so long ago, back in 1980, when the American people had to answer that question with a big, resounding "No!" The complete mismanagement of the party then in power had made an invalid of the once powerful giant of the American economy. After years of neglect, our proud military had fallen into disrepair and the mighty United States had become a whipping boy for penny-ante dictators and fanatics. A chorus of doom and gloom rose up from our opponents saying our best days were behind us and ringing down the curtain on America.
But you can be sure the American people never lost faith in our country. They knew that America's best days were ahead of her, that the future was bright. And all they had to do was to clear out those people in Washington who were making such a mess of things. As usual, the American people were right. We came in and cut taxes, squashed inflation, unburdened the economy of needless regulations, heralding one of the longest peacetime expansions in history. Today there are actually 30,000 pages less in the Federal regulations than there were those few years ago. We built up our military, and around the world we spoke out loudly and clearly for freedom.
Today America is once again strong and united. Our economy is a powerhouse of economic growth and job creation, and we've regained our rightful place as leader of the free world. Now, there's one change that makes me particularly proud: We have restored pride in the uniform of the military of the United States of America. Today's recruits—and they're all volunteers-are the most educated and some of the most highly motivated—simply the finest young men and women who have ever served their country. Indeed, we have a higher percentage of high school graduates in the military than we have ever had in our entire history, even with our wartime drafts. If we ever have to send them in harm's way, I'm going to make sure they have the very best possible equipment that America can produce.
But it's important to remember those dark days 51/2 years ago, because the tax-and-spend crew is still lurking in the shadows, just waiting for a second chance. The liberal leadership of the Democratic Party hasn't changed; they're as addicted as ever to big government, high taxes, and inflation. They're just itching to repeal our tax cuts, to replace our opportunity society with a welfare state. And their foreign policy is still the same: slash defense and, when in doubt, always "blame America first." The Democratic leadership would chart the most dangerous course for a nation since the Egyptians tried a shortcut through the Red Sea. You have to think about that one for a minute. [Laughter]
I've come here today to tell you that this election in 1986 will be a crucial moment of decision for our country. Will liberal policies return us to the days of malaise? Or will America continue down the road to progress? The answer to that question depends on one thing: electing Governors like Jim Thompson and Senators like Judy Koehler who'll work to build America strong and proud.
I don't have to tell you how important it is to have Jim Thompson of Illinois supporting our efforts to slim down the Federal bureaucracy and bring government back where it belongs: closer to the people. There are many people in Washington who have forgotten—or who want to forget this nation is a federation of sovereign States, and that is our basic strength.
I don't have to tell you about Jim Thompson's qualifications. The people of Illinois have kept Jim Thompson Governor longer than any other in this State's history, and for a very good reason. Jim Thompson is a leader. When he came into office in 1977, he, too, confronted the wreckage of liberal Democratic policies, but he immediately cut overspending and scaled back on the size of government. He led the fight on another issue that's close to my heart—tax reform, giving the hard-working people of this State a long, overdue break from the tax collector; and he completely wiped several other taxes off the books. He got the Illinois economy moving again, attracting new businesses and creating new jobs; and today more people are working in Illinois than ever before.
Foremost among his efforts is relief for the hard-pressed agricultural sector. With tax cuts, research funds, and loan programs, Jim Thompson has been a friend to the farmers of Illinois. He's also led the fight for passage of tough legislation that puts criminals where they belong—behind bars. And he's been tireless in promoting excellence in education, making this State's school system his top budget priority. A leader in tax reform, jobs, and education, and a tough fighter in the war against crime—a man who shares with the American people a vision of the future that is as big and hopeful and full of heart as this great country of ours—Jim Thompson's my kind of Governor, and I'm sure he's yours. Between the worn-out liberalism of his opponent, and Jim Thompson's future-oriented leadership, there isn't much of a contest. I think it's clear that come this November, the people of Illinois are going to say loud and clear, "Four more years for Jim Thompson!"
We also have to get a message to the people of Illinois, and to all the American people, if we're going to keep America on track in the future. It's vital that we keep Republican control of the Senate. We couldn't have accomplished what we have if we had not had control of that one House. Imagine having to deal with two Tip O'Neills, and you'll know what I'm talking about. If the Democratic leadership took over the Senate, they would put so many obstacles in our way, we'd need "the Refrigerator" to push through our legislation. [Laughter] We'd be playing a purely defensive game, fighting a rear-guard action to keep the opportunity society and our strong foreign policy from being dismantled piece by piece. I'd have to sleep with my veto pen under my pillow. [Laughter]
But there's only one President, and if he has to fight an obstructionist leadership in both Houses of Congress, it could dangerously stalemate our country. We can't let America be paralyzed by a hostile Congress. We have too much yet to accomplish, and that's why I need someone like Judy Koehler that I can count on in the Senate, because she's a fighter for Illinois, a fighter for America. Now, I know the pundits say that Judy is the underdog in this race, but I've never put too much stock in what the pundits say. I remember back in 1980—it was just about 6 months before the Republican Convention. They asked the Washington Press Club who they thought would be elected President that year. And all the candidates were listed except one, who received so few votes from the Press Club that his name didn't even appear in the papers. Well, I decided to hang around and give it a try anyway. [Laughter] So, Judy, from one underdog to another: Just hang around here and let's see what happens. Forget the pundits; it's the people who count. And I bet you when they see more of this feisty, principled lady in action, they're going to say: A woman Senator from Illinois is a very good idea. They're going to elect Judy Koehler to the U.S. Senate.
Could I interrupt here a second and tell something about this whole history of our wonderful ladies in politics. Before Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of England, she became the head of the Conservative Party in England; the Labor Party was in power. I was there as Governor of California on a trip to England, and I'd been asked to do some errands there by the President. And I got to meet her, and we had a very good conversation. And that night there was a party, and an English lord somebody-or-other came over to me and said, "What did you think of our Mrs. Thatcher?" And I said, "Well, I'm just greatly impressed. I think she'd make a great Prime Minister." And he said, "Oh, my dear fellow, a woman Prime Minister?" [Laughter] And I said, "Well, you had a queen once named Victoria who did rather well." He said, "Jove, I'd forgotten all about that." [Laughter] Well, Judy, don't let anybody forget about you. You're going to make a great Senator, and we are all going to be happy to have you there.
Now, maybe you've noticed that I've been very careful to refer to the "liberal leadership" of the Democratic Party. That's because I believe the liberals who have taken control of the Democratic Party don't represent the vast majority of honest, hardworking Democrats. That reminds me of my brief career as the drum major in the Dixon YMCA Boys' Band. And during one Decoration Day parade, I was up there in the front leading the band, and I was supposed to follow the man on the white horse. But all of a sudden he turned and rode back down the parade, I guess to see that everything was coming along right, and I kept on leading the band. But then the music began to sound rather faint, and I took a look over my shoulder. The parade had turned a corner without me, and I was all by myself, walking right out of a musical career. So, I can sympathize with the liberal leadership of the Democratic Party. There they are, still on that same old leftward course while the country has made a right turn.
And, no, I don't mistake the honest, patriotic, rank and file of the Democratic Party for its liberal leadership. And I'm grateful for all the help that they've given us in these last few years. I'm sure there must be a number of Democrats in this room; some of them may be former Democrats as I am, but also some who still haven't made the change. But they have found more in our party of what they believe in than they now find under the present leadership of their own party. We couldn't have been elected in 1980. We couldn't have brought America back without their help and the help of Democrats like those who are here today who believe in the same values of family, faith, and love of country that we do. Our Democratic allies deserve a vote of thanks, a real round of applause for all they're doing for America. [Applause]
And that's another reason why I'm glad to have this chance to be with Jim O'Grady again. I had Jim to the White House last winter, and I encouraged him to run. Jim's capable and effective—a man who can bring integrity to government, someone our children can be proud of and look up to. And Jim is a symbol of a realignment that is going on in this country—of people who feel they've been deserted by their party leaders, who can take party loyalty only so far and then just have to vote their true beliefs. When he was at the White House, Jim said to me, "The great Democratic Party of my father's and grandfather's time just doesn't exist anymore. Mr. President, I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me. That's why I switched parties." And I said, "Jim, join the crowd."
I know how tough it can be to change parties. I was working for Republican candidates for some time before I changed my registration. But for anyone who's concerned about, and thinking about doing, that, I think Winston Churchill—when he changed parties, was a member of Parliament in England. And he answered a question as to why. He said, "Some men change principle for party, and some change party for principle." All I'm asking of the people of Illinois is to remember that the Governors, Representatives, and Senators you elect will determine the future of America. Will we push on down the road to pride, progress, and prosperity, or will we turn our backs on our destiny and retreat back into the failures of the past? I know which way the American people will choose. They're going forward with hope and faith in their hearts, forward to a future as big as our dreams.
They're going forward with Jim O'Grady, with Judy Koehler, and the Illinois A-Team of Republican Representatives. They're going forward with Jim Thompson, because he's a leader with experience and imagination —the kind of positive, forward-looking Governor this great State of Illinois deserves. So, when you go to the polls this November, win one for Judy Koehler and Jim O'Grady. Win one for Jim Thompson and his partner, Lieutenant Governor George Ryan. Win one for the great State of Illinois and for America. And I don't mind asking you a favor: Win one for the Gipper.
I'm just going to close with one little statistic here. I know that statistics aren't the most entertaining of things to say, but right now, with a few people beginning to rumble a little and worry that maybe things are going to fall off the track here, would you be interested to know that today 61.2 percent of all the people, male and female, in the United States, 16 years of age or over are employed—1,650,000 more of them in the last 7 months; 201,000 just last month. I think that's a pretty good indication that we must be on the right track. And let's not let anybody sidetrack us.
Thank you all, and God bless you all.