Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the American National Red Cross and the Williamsburg Economic Summit Conference

June 04, 1983

My fellow Americans:

Normally I discuss only one topic on these weekly broadcasts, but this week will be an exception. I want to speak to you about the economic summit we just concluded at Williamsburg, Virginia. Before I do, however, I must draw your attention to a very serious situation facing thousands of our fellow citizens and an institution we love and need very much—the American Red Cross.

As you know, 10 months of bad weather have ravaged many sections of the country. Tornadoes, floods in the South, savage storms along the Pacific coast, an earthquake in California, and now, mudslides in Nevada and Utah have inflicted terrible destruction on lives and property.

The Red Cross is doing everything it can to help, as it always does. But its budget has been exhausted by its huge relief operations during this relentless spell of bad weather. The Red Cross has no additional disaster funds to meet these new catastrophes.

There will be other disasters, no doubt. And the Red Cross must be ready for them. All of us would want to be able to count on this vital, charitable institution if and when our families ever need help. So, let's make sure the Red Cross has what it needs to continue giving assistance to other disaster victims. We can do that through our own personal contributions. The Red Cross has launched an appeal to replenish its disaster funds. I urge you and your family: please help and give today through you local Red Cross chapter.

Now, a few words about our deliberations at the economic summit at Williamsburg. I was very pleased that the leaders of the great democracies could meet in that beautiful colonial city so rich in history and culture. It was a perfect place to renew ties and pledge our best efforts to achieve stronger prosperity and security by living up to those cherished values that bind us-democracy, individual freedom, moral purpose, human dignity, and personal development.

Perhaps you're thinking, "That sounds fine. But how does it affect me?" Well, Williamsburg was meaningful and constructive in several ways. The leaders of the seven free industrialized nations met in a private, informal setting—one that encouraged some of the best talks among the allies in recent years. We were determined, as sincere and well-intentioned individuals, to talk through our problems, to rise above bickering and discord so, together, we could forge a common strategy for growth and jobs to ensure the better future our people deserve.

I think we succeeded. Our meetings produced a shared spirit of confidence, optimism, and cooperation—confidence that an economic recovery is beginning, optimism that it can spread to all countries and that it will last, if our countries cooperate to keep inflation down, reduce interest rates further, and put a stop to protectionism.

Williamsburg also demonstrated, to the chagrin of the Soviets, that the spirit of unity in the West for peace through strength is alive and well. Every Western leader who attended agreed that we must resist Soviet efforts to drive a wedge between us. And we all committed ourselves to maintain our security while seeking real arms reductions and working for the cause of peace.

The Williamsburg summit was a positive gain that sent a message of hope to the world. That makes it all the more important for each country to follow up with sound, commonsense policies that carry us forward toward greater progress.

This coming week I'll meet with the bipartisan leadership of the Congress to discuss concrete ways we can follow up on the summit. Here at home, we must not jeopardize what we've worked so hard to build—a strong recovery from a terrible recession caused by years of economic mismanagement. In 2 1/2 years, inflation has been knocked all the way down from an annual rate of 12.4 percent to 3.9 percent and, for the last 6 months, only eight-tenths of 1 percent.

The prime interest rate has been cut more than in half from a killing 21 ½ percent to 10 1/2 percent today. Industries like autos, housing, and steel, which had been brought to their knees by those terrible inflation and interest rates, are now regaining strength and calling back workers.

Since we took office, thanks to the incentives provided by tax cuts, among other things, more than 1.1 million new businesses have started up. That's an American record. These are the seeds for millions of new jobs and new technologies for the future. Yes, unemployment is too high. But it fell slightly again in May, and it will fall further. Nearly 800,000 jobs have been created since December. Last month there were 375,000 more people on the payrolls than the month before.

So, let me repeat: We must keep going forward and not undo the progress we've made. I sincerely hope the Congress will work with us. But let there be no misunderstanding about my position. Hard-working families are already overtaxed; and you know I'm not just whistling in the dark. The United States did not succumb to a decade of difficulties because you, the people, are not taxed enough. We got ourselves in difficulty because government spends too much. We don't need tax increases; we need spending restraint. And that's why the Williamsburg communiqué makes an explicit call, one I'm prepared to defend with Presidential vetoes.

We will tackle budget deficits, and we must do it by limiting the growth of government expenditures. In the spirit of the summit, I will also continue to oppose quick fixes of protectionism—legislation like the local content rule, which would force domestic manufacturers of cars to build them with a rising share of U.S. labor and parts. Well, it's a cruel hoax. New cars would be more expensive, more jobs would be destroyed than protected. We would buy less from our trading partners, they would buy less from us, and the world economic pie would shrink. Recrimination and retaliation would increase.

We left Williamsburg confident that we can build lasting prosperity, but only with hard work, discipline, incentives, cooperation, and competition. And we can build a safer, more peaceful world, but only if our free nations stand together and remain strong. It's not easy, but nothing worth having ever is.

Till next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, Md.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on the American National Red Cross and the Williamsburg Economic Summit Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives