Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Students at Congress Heights Elementary School

March 12, 1984

The President. This is like theater in the round. [Laughter] If I sit down any way, somebody's going to be behind me here.

Well, the last time we met we didn't really meet. Mr. Dalton and I were at the White House and you were all here, and we were beamed in here on television. And it was at that point that he learned for the first time that the White House wanted to adopt Congress School. And we're very happy that we did.

I know that some of our people have been here and have been in your classes. There have been field trips and all. And I have to tell you, they're learning as much from those meetings as you are, and maybe more at times. But they're all enjoying it. And we all are very interested in education and the importance of this school and what it's going to mean in all of your lives.

And it may seem strange to you, but years and years from now when you're as old as I am—if anyone could ever be that old—you're going to be surprised at how much you remember about these days right here in this school and how much they're going to mean to you.

But now I understand—you know, if you're going to be partners—and incidentally, this whole idea of partnership is spreading all over the whole country, all the way across. I'm almost afraid to tell you who are partners of the schools in San Diego, because then you'll probably wish that you had them instead of us. [Laughter] But the football team there and a baseball team there have adopted schools in San Diego. But this is going on.

Now, there has to be some kind of personal relationship when you're doing this. So, I'm going to—I want to have a student from here be a pen pal, and we'll exchange letters. And I understand that the young man who's going to do this is Rudolph Hines. Where is Rudolph Hines? He doesn't know this yet.

There. Rudolph, come on up here. [Laughter] Hi. My name's Reagan. Rudolph, the idea is that you and I will kind of exchange letters with each other. You write and I'll answer you, or I'll write and you'll answer me. And we'll kind of keep in contact that way. And maybe you can tell me some of the things that are going on here, and maybe sometimes in my letters, I'll complain about what's going on at the White House. [Laughter] Rudolph. Thank you.

The President. There. Now, I understand that we've got a little time in which I can answer questions, and so I'm going to ask you, Rudolph, you'll have to keep watching them to see who raises their hand. And just for one, at least, would you pick the first one that I'm supposed to answer?

So, who has a question? I know there must have been times when you've said, "Boy, if I could ask him something I'd sure ask him this or that." So go ahead. Who has a question? That's you.

Q. What do you do at the White House? [Laughter]

The President. Well, there are a lot of people that have been asking that question. [Laughter] Let me just give you an idea of what's taken place so far today, and maybe that will explain it.

This morning, into the White House for what we call a staff meeting—that's catchup with anything that's new or that we need to discuss for today. And then I went into the Cabinet Room and we had a number of Congressmen in there—leaders and chairmen of committees and so forth in the Congress. And I discussed with them plans for trying to reduce the Federal deficit. And we had a good meeting.

Then I went back to the Oval Office and two gentlemen1 came in who are not part of government but who have just come back from a trip to the Middle East. And they've been in several countries over there. They've been in Turkey and Saudi Arabia and Morocco and, well, a number of other—Egypt and Oman and those countries. And they wanted to tell me that they had met there with the heads of government in those states, and they reported to me on the things that they had discussed and that these heads of state had discussed with them as to things that we can do to be closer with them.

1 At his daily press briefing, which was held later in the day, Larry M. Speakes, Principal Deputy Press Secretary to the President, identified the gentlemen as David Rockefeller and Archibald Roosevelt.

Then they left the office and in came two Foreign Ministers—the Foreign Minister of a country in Central America, Costa Rica, and the Foreign Minister of Honduras. Now these are both countries down there where we're trying to be helpful and where there is war going on and people are being killed. And we're hoping that we can find an answer that will end all that and allow them to live better and live the way we do and live in peace with each other.

And at about that time, somebody came into the office and just stood there staring at me until I knew that they were telling me that time was up, and I said goodbye to the Foreign Ministers because I had to get in the car and come over here to Congress School.

So, that's just an idea of what part of the day is. And pretty soon somebody's going to look at me or tap me on the shoulder and tell me I have to go back over to the Oval Office because I have another meeting over there.

Now I'm on my own, aren't I? Young lady. Yes?

Q. Mr. President, would you return to politics or go back to the movies when you leave the White House?

The President. [Laughing] No, I think that probably it's the time for me to retire from thinking about the movies. I have a hunch—we have a ranch which I miss very much. And I have a hunch that when this job is over that maybe I'll just go to the ranch and ride my horses and do the things that have to be done around the ranch. There's always a lot to be done. As a matter of fact, last summer I had a couple of weeks there, and we built some 400 feet of fence out of telephone poles, and there were just three of us working at it. So I'd find things to do. But, no, I don't know what—I liked pictures, and I liked working in them, but I think that's all finished now.

You, yes.

Q. How did you get to become President?

The President. Oh! [Laughing] I think there are always some people that tell you whether you should try to do that or not, and this happened—I had been Governor of California for 8 years, and on the basis of that, there were people that thought that I should seek this particular job. And so I did, and was elected by the people to be President. And I have to tell you it's a hard job, but it's also a very challenging and fulfilling thing to have an opportunity to do something that you think might help the people of our country.

Now I think I better turn to the other side here, hadn't I? All right.

Q. Will the White House adopt our school again next year?

The President. Oh, I didn't know this was a yearly thing. We've adopted the school, and as long as I'm in the White House, you're our school.


Q. Mr. President, how do you feel about Congress Heights as a whole since the adoption?

The President. Well, from everything that I've heard from all of our people who have been able to come here—and, incidentally, I know I've met some of you before, and not just on television, because there were some of you who visited the White House, and I saw you outside on the South Lawn there and got to say hello to a number of you—but from all that I've heard, everybody on our side is very happy that you're our adopted school.

Q. What do you like most about being the President?

The President. Visiting Congress School. [Laughter]

There are—may I just add to that, also, as you know—there are other things, too. I think it's being in a position where you can be of help to people, and I like people. Yes?

Q. How has your business been going? [Laughter]

The President. Well, I can tell you business has been steady. [Laughter] I mentioned going to the ranch last summer and everything. And my wife, Nancy, told me after that vacation, she said that she's decided that Presidents don't get vacations, they just get a change of scenery.


Q. What are your feelings about supporting a woman as a Presidential candidate in 1988? [Laughter]

The President. Well, I have to tell you this, that I am firmly convinced—I don't know that I can say about a particular year or not, who'd be supported—I am convinced that one day before too long there's going to be a woman holding this job. And among the heads of state that I have been able to meet, both when I was Governor and since I've been President, people like Golda Meir, when she was the head of government of Israel, Margaret Thatcher, who is the present Prime Minister of England, Indira Gandhi of India—I have found them to be really tremendous people, wonderful people and strong leaders. And I see no reason why the United States should not be able to do the same thing. The little girl in red—yes?

Q. [Inaudible] [Laughter]

The President. Well—[laughing]—shall we try the one in green? Then I'll come back to you.

Q. How did you get to the White House?

The President. Does she mean to live in it?

Q. How did you get to be President at the White House?

The President. Well, I've asked myself the same question several times. But I think that it all came from when I was asked, and agreed, to become the Governor or seek the Governorship of California. And on the basis of the 8 years there as Governor, that led to this.

I have to tell you, though, I never had any idea in my life, prior to that time, that I would ever be doing anything like this. So don't be surprised, or don't be disturbed if all of you haven't made up your minds yet what you want to do with your future, with your life. I didn't really settle down to what I was going to do until I'd actually finished my total education. Now, I said we'd turn to you.

Q. Why did you decide to adopt Congress Heights out of all the other schools?

The President. Well, we had looked at a number, and then between us, we all decided that this was the school we'd like to do. So we had a meeting on education over at the White House, and it was covered by television, and the television was being played also to your school here, as you know. And there, on television, we made the announcement that it was going to be your school. And Mr. Dalton, who was standing there beside me, didn't know that I was going to say that.

So, I think we just did it—that we believed that here was a school that we would like to have this relationship with, and get to know you and let you get to know us.

Mr. Dalton. Mr. President, I know that you have another appointment. I want to interrupt to say that the Congress Heights School appreciates being a partner with the White House, and your endeavors have been rewarding to the students. And before you go, we would like to make a small presentation to you from one of your schools.

Tammi Gardner will make a small presentation.

The President. Well, all right. Thank you very much.

Tammi. Mr. President, I would like to present this scroll to you from the family, from members of the Congress Heights family.

The President. Well, Tammi, thank you very much. You are partners. You've all signed this for us. Well, believe me, we're very proud to have this. Let me—well, of course you've seen it because you all signed it. [Laughter] Well, this is wonderful. And, Tammi, thank you, and thank all of you.

Now I know I didn't get to all the hands. But I think, as partners, there'll be other occasions when we can get together, and we'll answer the questions we missed today or, maybe, at that time, you'll have figured out some different ones you want to ask.

But again, this has been a great pleasure and—well, the principal says that I can't, that my time is up. He says that I can't take any more. It's the same way with the press there in the press conferences. There are always more hands than we have time for.

So again, just remember what you were going to ask, and I know I'll be back again. Thank you all very much. And, Rudolph, thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:57 a.m. at the elementary school in the District of Columbia. During the question-and-answer session, Annie Staton, a teacher, repeated the students questions for the benefit of the other participants and observers. William Dalton is the principal of the school.

The White House adopted the school on October 13, 1983, as part of the National Partnerships in Education Program.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Students at Congress Heights Elementary School Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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