George Bush photo

Remarks at a Bush-Quayle Fundraising Luncheon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

May 15, 1992

Thank you very much, and thanks to all of you. Elsie, you are fantastic. Thank you for that introduction. Let me quickly thank the Scouts, those that did the Pledge of Allegiance. May I thank also Susan, who did the anthem. It's tough to get up there, not a note, and sing "The Star-Spangled Banner." I thought she was great. Great treat to see Mr. Fred Rogers, who did the invocation. We Bush family are his fans.

May I salute, of course -- oops, he's gone -- Senator Specter, who flew up with us and whose reelection is very, very important not just to Pennsylvania but to this country. I am all-out for him, and I'm glad that he's doing as well as he is. But I strongly ask your support for him come the fall.

The Congressmen with us today are all outstanding: Rick Santorum is your own; Tom Ridge and Bill Clinger and Larry Coughlin. And let me just say as one who does not have the numbers on Capitol Hill I'd like, it is a joy to work with these Members of Congress. They are supportive. They are innovative. And they are outstanding.

I also wanted to single Bobby Holt out. Many of you know him; he's a Texan. But he was our national finance chairman, and he's done very, very well for us, thanks to you and many other groups like this around the country. Also, of course, an old friend is our event cochairman, Pete Love. We go back a long, long time. And Chuck Corry, I was delighted to have your support, and thank you. They give you great credit for this, you should know, behind your back, all good.

And to Dr. Murray, the president of Duquesne, my thanks for letting us be here. I am a doctor from Duquesne, I believe, some years ago, and I'm very proud of that. And Pastor Neal, thank you very much.

In sum, I am glad to be here. We've had a chance to shake a few hands out here, and somebody said, "Well, you're the President. Doesn't that seem a little onerous?" I said, "No. At least you get to look in people's eyes and thank them for what they're doing." Because sometimes in this line of work I'm in, that doesn't come so easy.

I just want to share with you some objectives. But I know there's been an awful lot of talk this year about change. But talk is very cheap; the tickets were not, I understand. [Laughter] But let me start with a promise: In terms of objectives, the time for talk nationally is over, and the time for change is now.

I saw that firsthand out in Los Angeles. I came back one week ago, a week ago I believe today, and I want to begin today by sharing a little bit what I saw, what I heard, and try to describe what I felt. Each one of us saw the images of hate, and we saw the horror, images that we can't possibly forget soon. But what I saw in Los Angeles, even in the hardest hit parts of south central L.A., the most heavily impacted area, should give us all cause for hope.

Everywhere, the people I met told me about acts of individual heroism, about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Some braved the gangs of looters to form these bucket brigades and putting out the fires when the firetrucks couldn't get through. Some of them stood up to the angry mobs right out across the color lines to help a child or save a life. These stories may not make the headlines, but they sure make you proud, proud to be an American. I came away reinforced by the spirit of this community that had been devastated by their trial.

The founder of our party knew something about courage and change. He knew when the questions of the "stormy present" had outlived the "dogmas of the quiet past." Some still prefer the comfortable dogmas of quieter times. But you know and I know that the time has come for change. Without pointing fingers, we need to ask ourselves, is the present system meeting our goals? I believe that we all know that it is not. It is time, therefore, as Lincoln put it, "to think anew and act anew."

As Republicans, we all agree that we've got to rebuild our house on the rock of Republican faith, Republican principles. Those principles tell us that we must keep power where it belongs, and that's close to the American people. That was the lesson I got out of the riot-torn South Central: Keep the answers as close to the people as possible. Clearly we've got to strengthen the American families, somehow instill character and values in our young people, and that we must encourage entrepreneurship, ownership, risk-taking. We've got to increase investment, and that will create jobs.

The challenges that we face go deeper than the recent crisis in Los Angeles, of course. Beyond our emergency aid, we've got to bring hope and opportunity not only to that area but to all American cities as well. That was the message that I gave to the congressional leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, when I called them down to the White House this past Tuesday. For your information, it was a good meeting. There was a good spirit of bipartisanship at that meeting. I laid out there a game plan, a six-point plan for a new America. Let me just run it by you, see what you think of it.

First, and this has to come first, we have to preserve order. We have to keep the peace because families cannot thrive and children cannot learn and jobs cannot flourish in a combat zone. So that is square one.

I was thinking about this in the first hours of that Los Angeles violence. People cannot tackle tough problems if they're too busy dodging bullets. It's just that simple. Violence and brutality destroy order, and they destroy the rule of law. That kind of violence should not be condoned. It should not be explained. It cannot be excused, and it must be condemned.

The fellow in Los Angeles named Reverend E.V. Hill, black pastor in a church at Mount Zion, and in the Mount Zion Church in south central Los Angeles, right in the heart of the riot zone, I stood up there, and there were 200 pastors behind me, and the church was full, large church. It was on the National Day of Prayer, Thursday. I mentioned support for the police, saying essentially what I've just said to you all, and the whole church erupted in applause.

And that is the spirit behind one of these initiatives that we've put forward. It's a leadership called "Weed and Seed." First, you've got to weed out the gang leaders, the drug dealers, the career criminals, and then you've got to seed the community with expanded employment and educational and social services. In walking distance from this very spot we are starting a "Weed and Seed" program in the Hill district. This is new, and it is tough. It's going to help people take back the streets and take back the neighborhoods and take back control of their lives.

The second one: We've got to rebuild the community, with investment this time, with investment and with opportunity, with hope. That means enterprise zones for our inner cities, and it also means a lot of private sector activity. The enterprise zones, if we work it properly through the tax committees, will serve as magnets for investment. Then you have the private side: Peter Ueberroth has taken on a big assignment out there. And he is confident that he can get a lot of businesses to set up suppliers in the troubled areas, real jobs in real businesses.

The third objective: We must reform the welfare system. We've got to replace the handout with a hand up. We've got to replace the perverse disincentives that penalize families for working, for saving, and worse, penalize some families for staying together. If we talk about the family being a problem in urban America, we ought to find ways to keep the family together. A review and a revision of the welfare system is the answer.

The fourth one: We've got to have a strong jobs program for city youth. We need to teach kids how to run a drugstore, not how to run a drug ring. That means things like our apprenticeship initiative and our Job Training 2000 program.

The fifth of the six: We've got to revolutionize, and I mean revolutionize, American education. We have a strategy. It's called America 2000. That strategy offers choice. It offers competition. It offers community action. Children in our inner cities deserve the same opportunities that kids in our suburbs have. The special interests can just step aside on this one. Whether it's the public or private or religious, parents, not the government, have the right to choose their children's schools. It works at the higher level; it will work at the lower level in the education system.

And sixth, the last of these six points I gave to the leaders: We must promote new hope through homeownership. I've never understood how anyone could be content with the present system, to take pride in warehousing the poor. Our HOPE initiatives gives poor families a stake in their communities, something they can pass on to their children. The bottom line: HOPE can turn housing into homes. We start with tenant management, ownership there, people in those areas, tenant management, and then move it right into owning one's own home. It's a good concept, and we've been proposing it now for, I think, 3 years. But it's a time to try this new idea.

At every turn during this trip to L.A., I heard people -- it's surprising, really -- at all levels of the community talking about the principles that guide, underpin these initiatives: Personal responsibility, opportunity, ownership, independence, and dignity. There wasn't a single community leader, not one, that told me, well, we ought to keep doing it the way we've been doing it; all we ought to do is just add money to existing programs. I didn't hear that from one single person. These ideas I've put out are new. Some have been proposed before, but we've got to try them. You know the sound of those words about the American dream. Well, they're the heart and soul, these ideas, of the American dream.

Now, we all know what the critics will say. They'll come right back, "Well, you've proposed all this before." And that's true, but these ideas have not been tried, I repeat. Now is the time for a bipartisan approach. I think the American people are a little tired with this endless politics out there. I don't think you've caught me yet -- that may change in the fall -- criticizing any opponent, our own party or the other side. But I think far more important than criticizing, particularly at this time, is to try to get something done for the American people. And that's why I want these six points enacted.

Bipartisan support -- I want to go back to that -- for immediate action on this agenda has begun. As I say, I salute the Speaker and others. We had a good meeting with all the congressional leadership on Tuesday. But we must not settle for business-as-usual. That's the word that I gave to them, Republican and Democrat alike.

But what's going on in urban America is just one part of a larger issue because the need for reform doesn't end where the suburb begins. Our revolution in education is not just about helping inner-city students. It's about helping all our students, from kindergarten to college. Reform means aggressive action to break down barriers to free trade, to create new markets, cracking open new markets to American goods the world over. We went through a flurry during the early months of this year, flirting with protectionism. That's not the way to get the job done for the American worker or the American consumer. We've taken aim at the status quo in all of these things, and we've set our sights out there on pushing through the changes that we've been proposing.

I'll tell you another area, and I expect many of you here would agree: We need legal reform. We need to put an end to those outrageous court awards that strain our civility and sap our economy. Literally -- if you traveled with me, you'd hear it over and over again -- we've gotten to a point where doctors won't deliver babies, cost of insurance skyrocketing, where fathers are afraid to coach Little League, all because of the fear of some frivolous lawsuit. Americans need to spend less time suing each other and more time helping each other. We need to change the product liability laws and the tort reform laws. We must reform our legal system, and no lobby should stand in the way.

So far I've mentioned just some things that Government can do. Let me conclude this way. Government alone cannot solve our problems. We need health care reform to open up access to affordable health care for all Americans. It used to be you didn't have to go broke just to get better. And today, more than 30 million Americans have no health care coverage at all. We can and we must change that. We've put forward a comprehensive health care reform plan -- again, change -- a reform plan that will keep America first in the world in high quality health care. At the same time it would open up access, give access to all Americans regardless of their income status, making it more affordable by what is known in the insurance field as pooling. Contrary to what the big Government folks say, we can do it without nationalizing or socializing our health care system. That path would instantly diminish the quality of our health care, and we've got the best in the entire world.

So national health care would be a disaster. And as long as I am President, I simply cannot let a national health care plan become law. I'm going to keep working for the kind of health care reform to bring access to the poor through the insurance process. And I believe that will work.

I've mentioned what Government can do, but again, Government cannot solve all the problems. We may be able to make good laws, but it's never been able to make men good. That doesn't come from Big Brother. It comes from your family. It comes from your mother and your father. And I'm talking about the moral sense that must guide us all. In the simplest terms, I am talking about knowing what's wrong and doing what's right.

And go back to Los Angeles for a minute. Time and again the people I met there put their finger on one root cause for the turmoil we see, the declining influence of the American family. And they are right. They are absolutely right. Ask yourself: What keeps a kid in school, away from drugs, and off the street? It's not Government spending. It's not the number of SBA loans or HUD grants. It's whether a child lives in a home where they are loved and cared for and kept on the right path. Barbara Bush was right: What happens in the White House doesn't matter half as much as what happens in your house. As so we must find ways to strengthen the American family. I believe it, and I've made it my mission as President to put the American family first.

That's why I keep coming back to the Good Samaritans that I call Points of Light: Those who help the other guy; the people who help the poor and the elderly, kids in trouble, kids without families. They never ask a nickel. Government alone cannot create the scale and energy needed to transform the lives of people in need. So let the cynics scoff. Let the central planners scoff about it. We know these volunteers are the lifeblood of the American spirit. And it's not just in suburban Pittsburgh, outside of Washington, or Houston, Texas. It was right there, alive and vibrant, in south central L.A., a Point of Light, one American helping another, somebody lifting up a kid, somebody calling a kid by his name.

I believe in our party because I believe in our fundamental principles. We are right about family. We are right about freedom. We are right about free enterprise. And certainly, I believe, we are right about faith. And most of all, we are right about America's future.

I really believe -- we're in times of pessimism out there. You don't have to listen to 20 seconds on the evening news to find out everything's wrong with this country. Out there in Los Angeles, when I said if some of these guys would just report some of the things that are positive that are happening in the community, it would inspire others. And the place out there broke into standing applause because they knew what I was talking about.

No, we have the strength and the spirit. I believe we have it in Government. I know we've got it in our communities. And I think each of us has it in himself or herself, in ourselves, to transform America into the Nation that we've dreamed of for generations.

I am not pessimistic about the United States of America. We are not a country in decline. Do not listen to the pessimists and the politicians that want to capitalize on somebody else's misfortune. We are turning this economy around. It's beginning to move. This Points of Light, this concept is valid. We're pushing with a new bipartisan spirit in the Congress. And we have a lot to be grateful for.

Thank you all very much for your support. And may God bless our country.

Note: The President spoke at 1:20 p.m. in the Union Building at Duquesne University. In his remarks, he referred to Elsie Hillman, Bush-Quayle Pennsylvania chairman; Susan Giver, Allegheny County Young Republicans chairwoman; Fred Rogers, creator of public television children's programs; Charles A. Corry, chairman of USX Corp.; and Elsie Neal, Methodist minister.

George Bush, Remarks at a Bush-Quayle Fundraising Luncheon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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