Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Dinner Honoring the Republican Majority in the Senate

November 18, 1981

Thank you very much. Look, if we're a family, I'm the father, sit down.

Howard, thank you very much. And incidentally, I think everyone here would agree with me, thank you also for being a magnificent leader of this majority in the Senate.

Now, last Sunday I called Howard out in Tennessee, because it was his birthday. And tonight I think, if we're a family we should recognize it's Ted Stevens' birthday today. Happy Birthday.

Now, I don't know whether you're to this age or not, but I gave Howard a suggestion that I've found very useful over the years, and that is if you are past 39, subtract 39 from you present age and refer to this as whatever that anniversary would be of your 39th birthday from here on. [Laughter] And that way we'll all stay in trim.

I hadn't realized, Howard, that it was exactly a year ago. I was about to stand up here tonight and say "about a year ago." I was here, we were all here under much the same circumstances—with a couple of important changes. I had not yet cheeked in at the time clock, and your majority had not yet attained voting status in the Senate. But we were all both looking forward to those things taking place.

It isn't strange that I hadn't realized that it was 1 year ago exactly tonight. Nancy and I only found out the next morning about the parties that were held on the anniversary of the election. We went to bed early. [Laughter] No one could have convinced me anyway that it had been only a year. I thought it was a year 6 weeks after inauguration. [Laughter]

Let me just take a few minutes here to say what, in my mind, has happened in this year. "Family" is not a bad word to describe it. I served 8 years as a Governor. During only 1 of those 8 years did I have a bare majority. The rest of the time I was up against pretty much what we're up against with regard to the other House. And many times I've said I'll go to my grave wondering what it could have been like in that State if we had had our party in control of the legislature as well as the executive branch. And now I have a second chance. Many of you do, too.

I remember we discussed the last time a year ago when we were here, that there was only one among us who had ever served on a Republican majority before. He is still in the Senate. And I've already issued an Executive order that those fellows that are up for reelection are going to be reelected— [laughter] —we'11 accept no change in that.

As I look back over these months and what we've accomplished, it's been kept a secret by the Washington Post— [laughter] —the rest of the country knows what we've done. And I just have to say a thank you to all of you, because when the chips were down, always you were there. And I know it's going to continue that way.

When I say we've accomplished much, I'm not going to go into details of the things that you know better than anyone else. And probably each of you, from your mail count, could match the very things that I have received in the mail from those people we represent out there—letters that have made me so proud at times of what you've done and what we've accomplished together.

A young man in college who writes to tell me that he's been going to college on government loans, but he is going to drop out a year and work and save, because he doesn't think under the circumstances it would be right to impose another year on the government of his country by accepting another government loan. The man that wrote to me a letter that had to be translated for me because it was written in braille—he lost his eyesight 37 years ago in Germany in World War II—and he wrote to tell me that if cutting his benefit would help his country, then go ahead and cut that benefit.

The incident of just a few days ago that I know you're all aware of—that almost accidentally came to our attention—of the little 3 1/2-year-old girl who had never lived at home with her parents and couldn't, actually, because of a regulation with regard to the government grant they had to have for medical expenses of 10 to 12 thousand dollars a month. And Dick Sehweiker found out within 24 hours after we made it public that, by golly, he could change that regulation and got it changed. And I had the pleasure of calling those parents and speaking to them and their unspeakable happiness that the fact that their little girl was going to come home. The doctors had said she would be better off at home, and it would only cost a thousand dollars a month at home.

I could go on picking out letters like this of people expressing their willingness—the young sailor that wrote to tell me that he was writing for 180 of his crewmates on a submarine, and he said, "We just want you to know how good it feels to once again be Americans." And he said, "We may not be the biggest navy, but we're the best." And I don't think we've been hearing things like that for quite some time around here. And I'll get maudlin if I keep on going, so I'd better not.

You each are sent here, and one of your principal responsibilities in addition to that of the country itself, is to your State. And then I've always thought that I'm the only one that's elected in which I'm the lobbyist for all 50 of the States. And therefore I promise you that anything that I in my heart believe is right for California, that's what I'll recommend to you. [Laughter]

I hope that we'll be here many more times for anniversaries of this and with a larger majority every time. And maybe after the next election we'll be able to invite a few representatives from the other House simply because they're a majority too, and when we have them both, then I think this country will go forward faster than it has. But I have to say, even with that handicap, thanks to all of you, we've made gains that I don't think any of us could ever have believed possible when we were here just a year ago today. With one House and the executive branch—somehow we've managed to make it work over on the other side. It's just that it'll be easier when they're a majority as you're a majority.

So, God bless you all. Thank you all for the relationship that we've had. If there's anything lacking in it and I don't know about it, well, please let me know about it, because, so far, I've felt nothing but warmth and a kindred spirit and feeling from all of you.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 10 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Dinner Honoring the Republican Majority in the Senate Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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