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Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at St. Agatha High School in Detroit, Michigan

October 10, 1984

The President. Well, thank you all very much for a most heartwarming reception. I feel like I'm playing in theater of the round in here. [Laughter] It's good to be back in Michigan and great to be in Redford Township with the St. Agatha Aggies.

Now, I understand that you're in the midst of "Spirit Week," and I know you're looking forward to a great homecoming football victory. But I have an idea that your spirit isn't just for a week, but for always.

You know, really, in getting around the country as I have, your generation is really terrific, and I thank you for helping turn our country around in that regard. We've come here because you're what America is all about. You're America's future, and the future rests in the hopes and the dreams that you have inside your hearts. And helping you make those hopes and dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about.

Now, I've often been accused of being an optimist, and I hope so. All my life I've seen that when people have freedom and a vision, when they have the courage and opportunity to work hard, and when people believe in the power of faith and hope, they can accomplish great things. And today, right here in Michigan and all across America, in your factories and farms, and out at Tiger Stadium, we're meeting the challenge and accomplishing great things.

And I know how excited you are about the Tigers; they're a great team. And I can't take a side on the series now, what with a California team and with the Tigers [laughter] . And having been a sports announcer and broadcasting major league baseball some years ago, I kept saying, well, maybe I could cheer for one and pray for the other. [Laughter] And then I realized that wouldn't work either, and I found myself being reminded of something—if you wouldn't mind a personal story—reminded of something that has to do with praying and athletics.

It was in a chalk talk in college. I was a freshman, and the lightest man on the line. And there that evening we were in a classroom, and the coach was diagramming plays on the board. And I don't know how it happened, but the coach evidently started it. It got around to prayer with regard to football. Well, I'd never gone in a game in my life in high school or college that I hadn't prayed before that game. But being a freshman, and all those big "hollegers" around me, I would have been the last person in the world to admit it. But as the talk went on, suddenly I was discovering that everybody on the team did the same thing—went into a game, but only after praying.

But the amazing thing is I'd worked out a prayer for myself. You can't pray to win. We're all God's children, and how is He going to favor one side and not the other? So, knowing that was impossible, I'd figured out for myself that I would pray that I did my best, didn't make any mistakes, that no one would be injured on either side, and that the best team would win, and that we would all be content and satisfied, we wouldn't have any regrets of saying, "Oh, why did I do this or not do that?" when the game was over. And as the conversation went on, I discovered that every fellow in that room had worked that same thing out for himself.

So, that's why if I'm praying at all for the World Series games, I'll just be praying that the best team wins and that no one gets hurt and that we can all be happy when it's over. So, I hope you don't mind my sharing that with you.

You know, in the past few years there's been a grassroots revolution to recommit our schools to an agenda for excellence that will reach every child in this land. Teachers, school principals, school boards are joining with parents to bring back discipline and higher standings [standards], 1 proven values, and quality education. And what do you know? After 20 years of decline in the scholastic achievement tests for college entrance exams, the scores are going up.

1 White House correction.

I'm going to continue to get our—or in our efforts to get passed in the Congress the tuition tax credit bill. This bill would help hard-working parents who-like yours-who pay to send you to this school and to other independent schools throughout the country, and yet who are also paying their full share of taxes to support the public schools. And I think that only fairness dictates that there should be credit given taxwise for this double burden.

We've been working for excellence at all levels of our society, and the victories are those that all of us have achieved—our strong economy, our return to the values of faith, family, and neighborhood, and our determination to stay strong and be prepared for peace. These aren't just victories of an administration in Washington, they're victories of the people of this country. You made them possible.

The wisest thing that's ever been said, I think, about peace was the simplest. It was when Pope Paul VI spoke before the United Nations in 1965. And he said, "No more war. War never again."

I have seen four wars in my lifetime. I've lost friends in those wars and the sons of friends. If we're prepared for peace, if we stay strong and we realize there are no cheap, easy solutions, no easy answers, a peace that brings liberty and human dignity will settle in and grow deeper.

I told Foreign Soviet Minister Gromyko just 12 days ago that we remain ready to reduce nuclear arms—hopefully to eliminate them altogether—ready to negotiate a fair deal, and ready to meet them halfway.

You know, each day the world turns completely, and so each day the world is reborn. Possibilities that yesterday didn't exist emerge to startle us. With your help and support we're going to keep on the path to a lasting peace. And with your help and support we're going to keep on getting victories for all the people. As long as we remember that the difference between having faith in people and faith in big government is the difference between success and failure, we're going to be able to reach for the stars. As long as we concentrate on hard work and high tech, not on hard times and high taxes, we can have the future of our dreams.

More than 208 years ago a small band of patriots began one of history's greatest adventures-something called America. These brave men and women laid everything on the line for freedom, independence, opportunity, and peace. And ever since, our country has been an inspiration to free-domloving people everywhere and a magnet to millions of immigrants seeking the miracle that is America.

And let me tell you that I was very happy to be at the ceremony just 10 days ago when two of your classmates, those who led us in the Pledge of Allegiance—Sheila Della and Jennifer—became new American citizens.

That's proof that America's adventure isn't over yet; it never should be. Your generation will be ready to meet the challenges before you, so be confident, aim high, work hard, stick to your values, and you'll never go wrong. The future is yours, and it's going to be terrific. And it's going to be better than anything that any of the rest of us ever knew because that's what America's been doing generation after generation.

To your principal, Mrs. Kolis, to Father Murphy, 2 to all your teachers, and especially to all of you, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your letting me join you here today. And I also have to thank especially my pen pal, Carol, 3 who issued the invitation. You see, Presidents do get letters when you write. [Laughter]

2 Father William Murphy, pastor of St. Agatha Parish.

3 Carol Tumidanski, a junior, wrote to the President in August, inviting him to visit the school.

Now, I know that that's all of the monolog. I know that we're going to have a dialog, and I've been looking forward to this, questions and answers for a limited period of time. So, when you're ready.

Mr. Sowden. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. President, Patrick Allgeyer has a question for you.

World Series

Q. Mr. President, do you think the Tigers have as good a chance of winning the World Series as you have of being reelected? [Laughter]

The President. I'm afraid to answer that question— [laughter] —because if I should guess wrong on that, just think, I'd have to spend the rest of the month worrying about what's going to happen. Just let me say I'll go back to that original prayer idea: May the best team win.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. By the way, just taking wild shot here, what position do you play?

Q. Offensive tackle, sir. [Laughter]

The President. I thought so.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you.

Mrs. Kolis. Mr. President, Dennis Shubitowski has a question for you.

Views on the Presidency

Q. Mr. President, is being the President of the United States really what you expected it to be?

The President. Yes. [Laughter] I had some experience. You know, I was Governor of California for 8 years, which is the most populous State in the Union. It's about 10 percent of the whole country in numbers of people. And, so, I found that there's a great similarity between that experience, being the chief executive officer of a State, and of the Federal Government. So, there weren't too many surprises.

At the same time, there were some. You see, the Presidency—you don't become President—the Presidency is an institution over which you have temporary custody. And I'll just tell you one little incident to illustrate what I mean. Every place I went—and those marines at the helicopter-they were throwing those salutes. Well, I was an officer in World War II, and I'm not in uniform, and so I knew I wasn't supposed to salute, or felt that I wasn't, and yet it bothered me. I'd try to nod and speak, and they'd still hold that salute.

So one day I was talking with the Marine Commandant, the head man, and I said to him—a marine had just saluted me—and I said, "You know, there ought to be some regulation," I said, "if I'm Commander in Chief, as I am now, of the Armed Forces, there ought to be a regulation that I can return salutes." And the general said, "Mr. President, I think if you did, no one would say anything." So, I learned that.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. Sowden. Mr. President, Glenn Williams has a question for you.

Nuclear Disarmament

Q. Mr. President, if you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?

The President. That one thing would be the total elimination of nuclear weapons and.—

Mrs. Kolis. Mr. President, Janet McLarty has a question for you.

Women in the Space Program

Q. Mr. President, what do you think the first woman walking in space will do for women across the Nation?

The President. Oh, well, I think what's taken place in space already, with Sally Ride and her mission up there and now the two of them up on this present mission—I think it is just further proof and evidence that probably the last and worst era of discrimination that we've known has come to an end.

Mr. Sowden. Mr. President, Robert Iafrate has a question for you.

The President. All right.

High School Extracurricular Activities

Q. Mr. President, what clubs or activities were you involved with in your high school? [Laughter]

The President. I majored in extracurricular activities. [Laughter] In addition to athletics, I was in the drama club, and I wound up as president of the student body. And I'd been in the student senate before that. And it continued that way through college in which, then, I added a Greek letter fraternity to the list of things that I belonged to. I never dreamed when I was in the drama club that I might wind up making my living that way, but— [laughter] —I did.

But I believe—seriously, let me answer your question, Robert—that I believe that the extracurricular activities are just as important as every other part of education, that there is teaching and learning in all of those things. It brings more out of you. And I like the idea, however, that all of those things are based on retaining a level of grade for eligibility that shows that you are not neglecting studies in order to participate in them.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mrs. Kolis. Mr. President, Janet Sypniewski has a question for you.

Teenage Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Q. Mr. President, I know Mrs. Reagan spends much of her time working against alcohol abuse. How do you feel about this subject, especially among teenagers?

The President. I feel as strongly as she does, and that's really saying something because she is really wrapped up in this. Alcohol is just another form of drug, and all of them—there's just no place for them. You're growing up now, and you're laying, among other things, the physical foundation for the rest of your life. And it's just like buying a used car and then finding out the various places where it breaks down because somebody abused it in its younger days.

You only get this piece of machinery once. Take care of it. Really take care of it. And I'm prepared to tell you from personal experience that there'll come a place down the road when you'll really be happy that you did, because I've been 39 years old now for about 31-odd years. [Laughter]

Mr, Sowden. Mr. President, John Peltz has a question for you.

Medical Care

Q. Mr. President, do you favor a national health program? Why, or why not?

The President. When you say national health program, do you mean just encouragement of health or socialized medicine?

Q. Socialized medicine.

The President. Socialized medicine? No. Today, if you have to get sick any place in the world, get sick here in this country. We have the greatest medical care of any country in the world. And those countries that are practicing socialized medicine, the quality of the care has declined, the waiting list is forever, and the cost is far greater than it is here. In spite of the recent escalation in medical practice charges, the cost is greater.

I believe that—provide medicine and medical care for those people who cannot afford it for themselves, as we're doing. But the rest of it should be right out there in private enterprise, the same as we do everything else.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mrs. Kolis. Mr. President, James Kitchen has a question for you.

The President. All right.

Tuition Tax Credits

Q. Mr. President, do you think Congress will ever pass legislation for tuition tax credit?

The President. Yes, I do think that, if we will all remember that they work for us. We're going to continue pushing for this. But what we need to do—they need to hear from the people, and I have used this expression many times—they need to get letters; they need to be called when they're back in their districts and so forth, as to what it is we, the people, want. And the expression I've used is: It isn't necessary to educate them, it isn't necessary to make them see the light—make them feel the heat. [Laughter]

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. Sowden. Mr. President, Dantes McSween has a question for you.

President's Legacy

Q. Mr. President, for future generations, do you want to be remembered as Ronald Reagan the actor, or Ronald Reagan, President of the United States? [Laughter]

The President. I'll take this one. [Laughter] Yes, I would like to be remembered for this. Oh, I made some pictures that I was proud of. I also made some that I hope will never show up on the late-late show. [Laughter] The studio didn't want 'em good, it wanted 'em Thursday. [Laughter] No, I would hope that I could accomplish something for which I would be remembered.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mrs. Kolis. Mr. President, Ken Craig has a question for you.

U.S. Relations With Other Countries

Q. Mr. President, when you become frustrated in your dealings with other countries, how do you deal with your frustrations? [Laughter]

The President. [Laughing] Well, I don't let them see it. [Laughter] I go home, and I talk it over with Nancy, and— [laughter] -she calms me down to a certain extent. But I have to say this: There have been less and less of those times as time has gone on in these last couple of years.

I believe that our relations now with other countries are better than they have been within my memory—our alliances with our friends and allies in NATO, the recent trip to China and what we accomplished there, and even with this recent visit with Mr. Gromyko. I think that he understands us a little better. I was rather frank with him, and I told him that we didn't like his system, but we weren't trying to change it for them, and they better not try to change ours.

And I think the frustrations are less. It is complicated. It is very touchy. The most frustrating thing today is the whole new thing in recent years of terrorism that's all over the world—these cowardly acts such as we've seen in the tragedies in Beirut, and all. That, and trying to establish whether there is some government, actual government that is inspiring this and supporting these terrorist movements, that is frustrating.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. Sowden. Mr. President, Mary Pittiglio has a question for you.

Q. Mr. President, how do you feel about traveling to different countries, especially those where there is political unrest?

The President. Well, it goes with the job, goes with the territory. And I have to tell you, I've had enough traveling by now in my life that I'm not crazy about it. But I must say, it does pay off, it does cement relationships: our recent trip to England for the summit conference—our allies there, the seven nations, the seven of us that are there together in dealing with our problems of trade, commerce, and so forth; our trip to Japan with Prime Minister Nakasone. He is, I think, an excellent man and dedicated to improving the relations with us. And so you come home, usually, with quite a feeling of accomplishment.

Q. Thank you.

Mrs. Kolis. Mr. President, Jennifer St. Croix has a question for you, sir.

Views on the Presidency

Q. Mr. President, being President and in the public eye, do you ever get any privacy?

The President. Yes. It isn't easy. You do know that you live in a fishbowl. But when you get up and through that gate at Camp David for weekends now and then, you certainly have a degree of privacy. We do, when we can, get to California to our ranch. And then there's a private life at home and within the walls of the White House. You don't always have a state dinner or things of that kind going on. So again, I think that I was probably more prepared for it by virtue of my experience as Governor than some people who, for the first time, find themselves in that fishbowl.

The understandable security precautions that have to be taken in the world the way it is today are frustrating, such as your friends and neighbors and parents and all who are outside here in crowds when we came in. And you'd love to be able to go over and say hello, and you can't do it.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. Sowden. Mr. President, thank you very much.

The President. All right. I want to thank you, but listen, I want to just—for you young ladies—I just want to give you one little experience, having mentioned summit conferences and so forth. The one before this one in England was held in Virginia, and held in that town that was the first British colony here and, really, the cradle of our nation. And the first meeting was to be held in what had been the British Governor's residence.

And we met that night for dinner, the first meeting, and I was all prepared for Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of England. I was going to say to her, in that particular house, "Margaret, if one of your predecessors had been a little more clever, you would be hosting this gathering here in our country." [Laughter] And I started. I said, "Margaret, if one of your predecessors had been a little clever . . ." She quietly turned to me and said, "I know, I would have been hosting this gathering." [Laughter]

Well, thank you all, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the gymnasium of the high school. He was introduced by Dian Kolis, principal, who moderated the question-and-answer session together with Robert Sowden, dean of students.

Following his visit, the President traveled to Warren, MI.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at St. Agatha High School in Detroit, Michigan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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