I'm overwhelmed at this moment with a lot of feelings. First of all, my thanks to Frank and Ludie for making it possible for us to meet in this beautiful place on such a delightful day, the birthday of the greatest nation on Earth.
Secondly, I feel a sense of intense patriotism, as I've flown over these beautiful lands that God has used to bless us with and for which we are charged with stewardship; for great public servants like Pat Brown and Tony Coelho, who not only serves this district and California well but is a great Representative in the Congress; for our entire Nation; for all of you who have confidence in our country, who've been willing to come here at some financial sacrifice, but to be amply rewarded with the knowledge that you're participating in shaping the future of your own families and your own friends; the people that I've had meet me.
I flew over one field about 4 or 5 miles outside of town. And a farmer had used a lot of limestone or something, but there was a great big sign in the middle of the field that we could see from the airplane that said, "Hello, Jimmy. Welcome, Jimmy." [Laughter] But that was great. I don't know who did it, but I thank him.
And of course, we just came from Merced, where we had one of the most exciting townhall meetings that I've ever had. This was my 19th one. And the electricity that went through that crowd and the intensity of feeling for one another, the respect for the Presidency itself, love of our country was indeed an overwhelming sense of common purpose and common commitment toward the future.
So, it's a good day for us. And I'm very grateful to all of you for having come here to help us see how we can shape our country to be even better than it is today. I won't make a long speech, because I would like to spend the time I have with you shaking hands and thanking you individually and personally for the role that you play in making our country better. But I would like to say that we have a lot to be thankful for.
The biggest single responsibility on the shoulders of any President is to keep our Nation strong and at peace. God has blessed us, as you know, the last few years with peace, and I pray that I can go out of the office, having completed my service as President, with our Nation having stayed at peace. But I know that we can only do it if we are strong militarily, which we will be and are, if we stay strong economically, if we stay strong politically, diplomatically, and don't forget the moral and ethical standards of our country, which have been the source of our strength now for the 204 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed.
I have a great confidence in our country. One of the most stimulating questions that I got a few minutes ago in Merced was from a young man who said: How can we claim our country is great when there's so much difference between us within this Nation and between us and our friends and allies around the world, and all you read in the newspapers, all you see on television about those differences? And I pointed out to him that the sign of those differences is the sign of strength, that if we didn't have a lot in common, if we were always disagreeing, then it wouldn't be news, first of all, and the freedom that we share to express ourselves, to probe for better ways to live, to expose differences and failures and correct our mistakes, that's what makes the news. And that's a sign of dynamism and growth and strength that has been the source of progress in our country since it first began.
We had quite a discussion about immigrants. This crowd is a very blessed, affluent crowd. I look around at the faces and the characteristics and the features, and I would guess that every person here is part of an immigrant family. I don't see any native Indians here; there may be a few. But there has always been a tendency, as you well know, once our families got here—[inaudible]—to say, that's it, you know, let's don't go any further. When my family came over from England and Ireland, I would guess that some of them back in those days said, "We don't want to let the poor Irish come in, and we don't want to let folks from Eastern Europe come in, because they don't speak English very well," and so forth. And then later, of course, we had other people come.
Well, our Nation can assimilate this as long as we do it in accordance with the law and in accordance with a searching out, once people arrive here, of the true responsibilities of citizenship—hard work, dedication, struggling at first to learn a new language and to be part of a societal structure that's not a blend where we lose our religion and we lose our history and we lose the values that we brought here, but where we fit in like a beautiful mosaic with different parts, putting it together and making a country that's the best country on Earth.
And I mentioned briefly the refugees. There are 3 or 4 million refugees, hundreds of thousands trying to escape communism in Kampuchea, in Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands, over 10 percent of the population of Cuba want to get out. A lot of you have probably been to Berlin. You've seen the wall. It wasn't designed to keep people out of East Germany. It was designed to keep people in East Germany that want to escape from communism. We've got 800 or 900 thousand people that have left Afghanistan because the Soviet communism has been placed on those people, just wanting to get away from it.
And our country is so attractive that when people are refugees, there's one place they want to go. It's just like the promised land, just like it was to my folks several hundred years ago, another family 20 years ago or 2 years ago.
And our Nation is protected, because God has blessed us with great natural resources. But the main thing He's blessed us with are our human resources. It gives me power and authority and influence as President, because in our Nation we have people that relate to every other country on Earth, not just because of interest but also blood kinship. And we can understand not only people in foreign countries but one another better.
Another thing I'd like to say is that we've got problems. God knows that we've got problems. All Americans know that we've got problems, We've always had them. 204 years ago there were some people that signed the Declaration of Independence, put their names on the line 96 of them. Mayor Hart's great-grandfather in Merced was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. And those people suffered. After they signed the Declaration of Independence, a lot of them went bankrupt, including Thomas Jefferson. Their wives died in the war, one wife trying to escape British soldiers. Seven of them, I believe, fought in battle. Eight or ten of them were captured and served as prisoners. They faced bankruptcy. But they didn't lose their honor, and they didn't lose their principles and their morality and their commitment to freedom.
And then later on we had the War Between the States, then the First World War, the Second World War, the Great Depression, the Korean war, the Vietnam war, very divisive; the changing of social mores in this country so that black people were treated equally for the first time-that was not easy; it was tough times, tore people apart one from another—and then the embarrassment of Watergate; the Vietnam war tore us apart; the CIA embarrassments. Those kind of things afflicted our Nation much worse than the problems we face today.
But our country is a superpower because we've always been able to accommodate change with courage and with unity. We've never whined. We've never failed to face difficult issues. We've never failed to admit our mistakes. We've never failed, I know very well, to criticize our own Government. [Laughter] That's good, that's good, because when I'm criticized, I listen and I try to do better, and so does Tony Coelho, so did Pat Brown when he was in the Governor's office. This is part of the strength of America.
The last point I want to make is this: We've got struggles going on among us-environmental considerations versus economic progress. We've got struggles going on among us between the production of energy and conservation; the use of sunshine and the use of oil, imported oil, that energy produced in our own country. We've got movements of population, highly mobile population. The average person now stays in one place only about 5 years. It used to be, when I was a boy, that people very seldom moved, at least where I lived. We've got agriculture facing times of decreasing use of pesticides, decreasing use of cultivation, increasing use of solar power to produce better and better crops.
We are opening up areas of friendship between ourselves and new people around the world. In the last 2 years, we have made new friends of one-fourth of all the people who live on Earth, just when we recognized the People's Republic of China. This year out of the bay area so far, in spite of some economic depression, for instance, we have shipped American exports, American jobs, and so forth 39 percent more than we did last year. And at the same time we've reached out our hand of friendship to China, we have not lost the friendship and the trade that benefits us with the people of Taiwan.
So, we've explored for peace, explored and kept our strength, faced our problems, don't ignore them, don't deny them. But I can tell you that our country is today the greatest on Earth, strongest on Earth, and it's going to stay that way and it's going to be greater in the future.
And I think the part of it all that's overwhelming is the people and the partnership that we've formed. We have never failed to unite ourselves in a common effort when we recognized a challenge or a danger or a threat to our country. And I'm very grateful that on this Fourth of July we can kind of dramatize that partnership and that relationship, when the President of the United States can come to Modesto to shake hands with fine Americans and thank you individually for all you mean to this country.
Thank you very much. God bless you.