Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks to Direct Connection Program Participants

May 16, 1988

The President. You know, we can take credit for the fact that the Sun is shining out there, because this morning it was supposed to rain this afternoon, and as sure as we canceled it or moved it in here, why, the Sun is out, and it's not going to rain.

But a month ago in the Oval Office, I met with eight of you and wished you good luck and Godspeed. You were off to Helsinki to meet with a group of young Soviets to discuss issues of importance to all of you and to your countrymen. And I've heard you were even more successful than you had anticipated. You agreed to a set of resolutions on ways to develop better communication and understanding, to protect the environment, and to press for increased cooperation between our two countries. I know you've already presented your proposal to General Secretary Gorbachev and that you've come here today to present it to me. In a few days from now, I understand you'll also hand it to Secretary-General Perez de Cueliar at the United Nations. First, let me say: "You all do get around."

In all seriousness, I know how satisfied you must be with your efforts. I can see that in your faces—they're bright, expectant, and determined. I don't need to tell you that Mr. Gorbachev and I are both older than you—a little bit. [Laughter] We've both lived through the horrors of World War II and its aftermath and the division of Europe and the cold war. I've always tried to be candid about our fundamental differences and will continue to be. I believe this helps, not hinders, the peace process. But so, too, our attitudes and those of our contemporaries have been deeply affected by a history we cannot ignore. And I hope we've all learned enough from that history not to repeat its mistakes. I hope you share with me the conviction that by acknowledging real differences we can, working together, reach across the great divide that has gripped us. I assure you that Nancy and I give you all the encouragement we can in this endeavor. And we trust that some of the aura of enthusiasm and renewal that surrounds you will be contagious as we negotiate with Soviet leaders in the days and months ahead.

Now, I hope to expand our cooperative exchanges with the Soviet Union to increase the cultural, educational, and people-to-people contacts, like yours, that are indispensable. And I want you to know that I'll read your proposal carefully and take it to heart as I leave for Moscow for my next meeting with the General Secretary. We older folks must temper our enthusiasms with the wisdom and experience of age and by the reality of today's world. But that doesn't mean that we still cannot learn much from you young people. You know, I've often said, and I deeply believe, that if all the young people of the world could get together and get to know each other there would never be another war.

You know, as I look at your faces—and I'll bet this is true for you, what I am going to say right now, too—I can't tell which of you are from America and which are from the Soviet Union or if there are some of you from Finland. I see only freshness and beauty and intelligence and determination. Youth united can be a mighty force.

Almost 2,000 years ago, standing on a hilltop near Galilee, the greatest man who ever lived expressed in mighty and inspired words the hopes of your generation for a peaceful future. And if you don't mind, I find his words especially fitting today: "Blessed are the peacemakers," He said, "for they shall be called the sons of God. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth."

Well, thank you all for coming here today, and God bless all of you. And now we're going to come down and shake hands.

Audience member. Mr. President, we, the youth representatives of the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Finland, gathered to create a vision for the 21st century. We believe that we have to help lay groundwork of a new and positive relationship of our two nations in the future.

The President. Thank you very much. Audience member. We are eager to present our generation's ideas and preparations for our future. Thus, we have carefully recorded some of the beliefs, visions, and tactical ideas which were produced at the conference. We would like now to present to you the fruits of our joint work: our agenda for the 21st century. Thank you for your time considering our ideas, and we ask for your support with our proposals by discussing them at the Moscow summit.

The President. Thank you very much, and I look forward to reading it.

Note: The President spoke at 2:05 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Direct Connection was a student organization dedicated to promoting communication between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks to Direct Connection Program Participants Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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