George Bush photo

Remarks at a Campaign Fundraising Luncheon for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Miami, Florida

August 16, 1989

Thank you, Ileana, and thank all of you for that warm welcome. What a pleasure it is, an uplifting pleasure, to be with the next U.S. Representative from Florida's 18th District. I'll tell you, I heard my friend Tom talk about a 2-week campaign. I don't believe there is such a thing as a 2-week campaign. But sure enough, that's what we're facing and why I want to thank each and every one of you for making a significant contribution to this campaign.

This is exciting. And it's grassroots, and you can sense a ground swell for our outstanding candidate. And the people of Dade County are going to turn one great Florida State senator into one great United States Congresswoman. I see my friends Bill Grant and Craig James and Mike Bilirakis here today. They need company; they need it bad in the United States House of Representatives. And so, I want to see her as the 11th member of an outstanding Florida delegation.

You know -- she pointed it out, Ileana did -- this is my first and last stop before going to Maine. And there aren't many things that are important enough to delay a vacation. I think we'd all agree on that. [Laughter] But electing Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to Congress is surely one of them. And anyway, it was right on the way -- [laughter] -- as she pointed out. And it is a pleasure -- I mean it -- it really is a pleasure to be here. And indeed, in a sense, it's, for me, like a -- I won't say high school reunion, but like a reunion -- seeing so many friends and so many people to whom I'm personally indebted for their political support. And of course, it's a great pleasure to be with our -- and I say that for a purpose -- our outstanding United States Senator Connie Mack. What a job he is doing for this State and for our country.

And I'm pleased to see my friend the mayor, Mayor Suarez. I'm delighted that Jeanie Austin, who's brought her lessons as Florida's party chairman to the leadership role at the Republican National Committee -- I'm pleased that she came down with us. She left some big shoes to fill in this State that's on the move politically. But if anybody can do it, it's Van Poole, who I've known for many, many years. And he's doing a great job as our State chairman. I wish that my national cochairman, Bob Martinez, was here. But I understand he's on a development mission to Israel, and I wish for him a landslide reelection. You think of the redistricting, the importance of that, and it is vital.

I'm going to get in trouble if I single out all my friends at this dais or out in the audience, but I see Jorge Mas here. And all I would say to you, Jorge, is keep up your battle -- sometimes lonely, always principled -- for bringing truth to Cuba. I support what you are doing in terms of TV Marti, and we are not going to let the people down.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my pal here, Alec Courtelis. I know some of you hate to see the guy -- [laughter] -- because every time you do, you're poorer. But the party or some good cause is richer. But nevertheless, I think I'd be remiss if I didn't say that, in my view at least, Alec was a large part in our being boosted to a 40-State victory last November. And, Alec, thank you; and thank you, Miami, too.

Every time I start this we get in trouble for those we don't have time to single out -- like what's-his-name, the old Republican Party chairman of Dade County, Jeb somebody. [Laughter] I called him and asked what I could do as President to help out during the final 2 weeks. He said I should fly to Miami at once and babysit his kids until after the election. [Laughter]

So this is an important election. The spotlight of the Nation is going to be on Dade County. I think you know that already. You can just feel it. You can sense it coming out of this primary season, as we move now 2 weeks before the general election. In our first 6 months, our administration has set out on a new course, sails filled with the new breeze that I talked about on the day I took office and launched upon the success of a great President whose name graces a Miami avenue not far from here: Ronald Reagan.

We've got plenty of problems around the world, but on the world scene, the United States stands tall and confident. We've recently returned from a successful NATO meeting, where we put on the table an innovative, imaginative program for conventional force reduction, which if we're successful -- and we're negotiating it with the Soviet Union -- will take a gigantic step to see that the world is going to be more peaceful for these young guys at this table over here. And that's a lot of what being a President is about. We've seen how democracy is surging forward around the world, taking roots in outposts like Poland and Hungary. The excitement I felt when I was in Poland and Hungary -- I just wish I could have shared it with everybody in this room.

And at home we've launched a series of bold proposals designed to make great cities like Miami places where every family can prosper: proposals to educate our kids, help clean up our environment -- air and water -- and in attacking crime and drugs, do nothing less than take back our streets.

If progress is to continue, and if we're to make this vision a reality for Miami and all America, then we need to send principled, tough, experienced legislators, like Ileana, to fight the battle in Washington. And we need, I might say parenthetically -- primary season over -- we need to send leaders like Miguel De Grande, Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, to fight the battle in Tallahassee. Do not forget the local level.

Let me click off a couple of examples as to why Washington is so impressed with Ileana. She's an effective teacher with a longstanding commitment to quality education. She's a smart leader, a veteran leader, with 7 outstanding years as a Florida legislator. We need experienced leaders like Ileana to win the war on crime and drugs, to maintain a strong foreign policy, and to help our children and our elderly fulfill the fullest potential of their lives. Florida's 18th, represented so long by Claude Pepper, is no place for rookies. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the only one with the experience to get the job done.

I expect that the number one issue in Miami -- the number one issue, indeed, across America -- is drugs and the violent crime they spawn. A strong foreign policy, hopes and plans for our children and our elderly -- all our dreams and best intentions -- will be for naught if we cannot win the war against the thunder in the streets and the evil that men do. The answer calls for common sense. Every criminal in this nation must understand that if they commit a crime they will be caught. And if caught, they will be prosecuted. And if convicted, they will do time. We must enforce those three principles. The comprehensive battle plan that we sent to Congress seeks to rid our streets of the violent criminals with an attack on four points: new laws to punish them, new agents to arrest them, new prosecutors to convict them, and new prisons to hold them.

Now, we've called upon the States for a long time to back us up with matching programs of their own. And here in Florida, Ileana hasn't just been with us; she's been leading the charge. She's led the fight for increased penalties for those caught selling drugs around our schools, passed the Drug-Free Workplace Act, and toughened our bail standards.

The time for talk is over. Five police officers were killed here in Dade County last year -- five. And Ileana wants that Federal death penalty for Miami's drug kingpins. She supports my personal pledge that anyone who kills a law enforcement officer should pay the ultimate price.

In the fall, we're going to be unveiling a total -- first time -- a total national drug strategy, and this law enforcement package is going to be a part of it. But with crucial votes ahead in the Congress, this is the kind of uncompromising, experienced crime fighter that we need in Washington right now.

And I know Marvin Weinstein wants to see her leadership on crime taken to Congress. I understand his daughter, Hillary, is here. Marvin Weinstein was victimized twice -- once by the brutal murder of his daughter and once by a criminal justice system that kept his family out of the courtroom, treating the victims of crime as second-class citizens. Ileana -- she responded -- she responded with the victims bill of rights and the new victims amendment to the Florida Constitution. And today things are different in Dade County. The judge, in a long-delayed murder trial, ruled recently that Ileana's new amendment protected the victim's parents' right to attend. And they said: "We finally got justice. After all these years, we finally know what happened." Ileana, you have made a difference in south Florida, and I think all of us are very grateful to you for that.

She knows that crime is not the only threat to America's society. She also knows the world as it really is when it comes to foreign affairs. With Cuba -- Castro's Cuba -- 90 miles away, she understands the horrors of totalitarianism. And listening to her, she also understands the blessings of freedom.

And on the subject of totalitarianism, let me simply state: I think I know the agony of divided families and the concern that many here today feel about their beloved Cuba. And, yes, someday I'd like to see improved, yes, normalized relations with Cuba. But that cannot be, and it will not be, as long as Castro violates the human rights of his own people; as long as he, almost alone in the entire world now, swims against the tide that is bringing sweeping change and democracy and freedom to closed societies all around the world. As President, I will look for signs that Castro wants to move away from subverting his neighbors, move towards more openness, more freedom for his own people. But until I see demonstrable change, there will be no improvement in relations with Cuba. It simply cannot be.

Speaking of freedom, I want to recognize one special couple here, not just as Ileana's proud parents but as defenders of liberty who struggled against Communist tyranny. I saw them smiling back there when their daughter was speaking -- Enrique and Amanda Ros. Why don't -- Amanda, you and Enrique stand up now so we can see you. Some of you, not all of you, know the story, so let me repeat it here.

As successful American entrepreneurs, they've proven once again, like so many here today, that if you're willing to work hard America is still the home of freedom and opportunity like nowhere else on Earth. Ileana tells of how, in 1939, her grandfather took a small boat into Havana Harbor to rescue his cousin who was trapped aboard the SS Saint Louis, a Jew fleeing the Nazi Holocaust. Ileana's grandfather watched helplessly as the infamous "Voyage of the Damned" was turned away. And that's why her grandfather helped smuggle Jewish refugees out of Cuba when Castro's tyranny crushed freedom on the island, crushed religious freedom -- crushed all freedom.

Her experiences give her an increased sensitivity to the problems of all oppressed minorities, wherever they may be. She's a strong supporter of Israel, of free emigration for Soviet Jews, and of the freedom fighters who are battling Communist oppression in this hemisphere and overseas. And that is principle; that is tough leadership. And that is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

She cares -- you can feel it when you talk to her. Her concern for the helpless explains her focus on the needs of the children and the elderly. As a teacher and a mother -- two children ages 2 and 4 -- she knows the potential in our youth, and she's witnessed the heartbeat [heartbreak] of drugs and missing children and lost opportunities. Ileana's election will help enfranchise two of the most underrepresented groups in Congress: America's teachers and America's working mothers.

And concern for others is why she successfully sought passage of legislation designed to provide a program for intermediate care for the elderly, creating an alternative between total-care nursing homes and living alone without any help. For the people of Florida's 18th, her efforts in Tallahassee complemented Congressman Pepper's leadership in Congress. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will carry on the legacy of Claude Pepper: standing up for our elderly in Washington.

But standing here in Florida, our space program's home State, and hoping to boost the candidacy of a talented young American woman, we ought to take note of some auspicious signs. After I leave tonight, at just about sunset, a full Moon is going to rise out of the waves to the east and shine over Miami. But it is no ordinary full Moon, because anybody watching tonight will witness the magic of a total lunar eclipse, an event not seen on these shores in nearly 7 years. So, go outside tonight and take your children -- your grandchildren, some of you old ones. [Laughter] And with any luck and if the weather holds, I'll be up there on the coast of Maine, watching with four Miamians of my own: Colu, George, Noelle, and little Jeb. And as you enjoy the magic of a summer night and as you think about the magic of a lunar eclipse, think also about the magic of America -- a land where dreams come true, a land where anything is possible, a country without limits.

Ileana's dream is your dream. It's not a Republican dream or a Dade County dream; it's the American dream. And we've got 2 weeks left, so let's go out there and make that dream come true. Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

Note: The President spoke at 1:09 p.m. in the ballroom at the Omni International Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Florida State Treasurer Tom Gallagher; Congressmen Bill Grant, Craig James, and Michael Bilirakis; Xavier Suarez, mayor of Miami; Gov. Bob Martinez; Jorge Mas Canosa, Chairman of the Advisory Board for Radio Broadcasting to Cuba; Alec Courtelis, finance chairman of the Republican Party; Jeb Bush, businessman and former State secretary of commerce; Miguel De Grande, attorney and candidate for the State legislature; and State Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

George Bush, Remarks at a Campaign Fundraising Luncheon for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Miami, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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