Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Fund-raising Luncheon for Senator John Heinz in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

September 17, 1987

Thank you very much, and thank all of you, and Senators Heinz, Specter, and Congressman Coughlin, John Cardinal Krol, Earl Baker, and all of you. I came to Pennsylvania to be a part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of the United States. I can't think of a Member of the United States Senate who has fought harder to put the ideals of our Constitution into practice than the man we honor today, Senator John Heinz. Pennsylvania can be proud of its two Senators and, believe me, I'm grateful for the job they're doing.

There's a story, you knew I'd have one of these— [laughter] —about a fellow who always wanted to work with animals. And he applied to the zoo, and they had an ad out—they needed someone there. And then he found out to his dismay that the job they had immediately open was dressing in a gorilla outfit, taking the place of the gorilla who just died, until a new one could be delivered. And then they promised that he'd have a regular job at the zoo, once that took place.

Well, he put on the suit, and he got in the cage. And he got a little bored sitting around, so, particularly when the children were there, he began doing tricks and showing off for them. And finally he got so interested in that, he got carried away one day—he was swinging on a rope, and he swung so far that he landed in the lion's cage that was next door. And the lion came roaring at him. And he started screaming for help, "Somebody get me out of here! Get me out of here!" And the lion jumped on him and said, "Shut up, or you'll get us both fired!" [Laughter] Now, this story is not to suggest that John's been working in a zoo— [laughter] —although at times Washington does look a little that way.

John was first elected to the Senate in 1976, and since 1981 he's been a part of a team that has held the special interests at bay, brought taxing and spending under control, and put America's house, economic house, back in order. I think we Republicans can be proud of what we've accomplished; and we couldn't have done it without energetic and responsible Senators like John Heinz and Arlen Specter. Believe me, having worked with these two, I can fully appreciate that saying about having a friend in Pennsylvania.

Together we took on one of the toughest jobs in the world: cleaning up after the other party had been in total control of the United States Government. They'd held a majority in both Houses of Congress almost continuously since the 1930's. And in the last 4 years of the 1970's, they had also captured control of the White House and every Federal department and agency.

Our country ended up with double-digit inflation, economic stagnation, sky-high interest rates, and unprecedented national pessimism. These maladies, which brought such suffering to our people, as much as liberal Democrats would like us to believe otherwise, were not the result of a natural disaster, a plague, or even the celestial influence of Halley's comet. The mess we found ourselves in was a result of bad policies, of haywire liberalism. And let us reaffirm today that, whoever is the Republican Presidential nominee in 1988, our candidate will be a darn sight better than any one of the pack that is vying for the other party's nomination. If you listen to what they're saying, they want to take us back to the failed policies of the past.

Well, with responsible policies, we revived our nation's economic vitality and, just as John has told you, put the country back on its feet. And as he also told you, our people have enjoyed 57 months of growth. We are, if we can make it all the way to Thanksgiving, on our way to achieving the longest period of peacetime growth in the country's history. Employment is at an all-time high. And since the recovery began, our economy has created 13.6 million new jobs, and poverty, which started increasing in 1979, has begun to decline. Prime interest rates which were beating the life out of our economy at 21 percent when we got in Washington, are now under 9 percent. Inflation, which was public enemy number one in 1980, has been put in a cage and kept under control.

Together we pulled America back from the edge of an economic catastrophe. Having done that, we moved forward to tackle some of the severe problems that were crying out for responsible action. High on the list was reform of our Social Security system. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Senator Heinz for the terrific job that he did as a leading player on the National Commission on Social Security Reform. He helped rescue that system from bankruptcy.

Even though the one-time Speaker of the House [Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr.] denied it was true when we said it, we would have been bankrupt in that particular program by July of 1983. He denied that, but after the '82 election was over, then he came to see me about seeing what we could do to rescue Social Security. Well, partly as a result of his exemplary effort on this commission, he was named by the national seniors magazine, 50 Plus, as one of the most effective legislators on behalf of the elderly. And, as one of those, thank you. [Laughter] John was also instrumental in eliminating the mandatory retirement age of 70, and you can bet I'm happy about that. [Laughter] He also was a driving force behind reforms that protect our citizens' private pension coverage.

I might add here that a side benefit of a strong, growing economy is an expanding stock market. By creating the conditions in which our stock market has flourished, we've been part of a process that has dramatically strengthened the pension funds of the American worker. And the same is true for the endowments of many of our institutions of higher learning, which have also been major beneficiaries of the expanding stock market. There's no way the Federal Government could have contributed so much to America's retirees or to higher education through government grants and spending programs. This just goes to show you the program that will do more good for more people is a strong, growing economy-and that's a platform all Republicans can stand upon.

In the last 6 1/2 years, we've proven to the American people that it is the Republican Party that best represents their interests. Instead of trying to curry favor from the special interests that have flocked to the Nation's Capital, Republicans like John Heinz are out meeting and talking with the citizenry, the taxpayers, the working men and women to whom America owes its greatness. I understand that John has had more than 350 town hall meetings across the width and breadth of this State since being elected to the Senate.

Our greatest challenge is to make certain that the people hear our message, so they can look at the facts and decide for themselves which direction America should go. In these next 15 months, public support and party unity will be essential. And there's much left to do: confirming Bob Bork on the Supreme Court, accomplishing real, credible budget reform, seeing to our national security, and supporting those who struggle for freedom.

As we can see by the high-pitched opposition to Judge Bork, our job is not going to be easy. But let me remind you, since coming to Washington 6 1/2 years ago, our critics have been proven wrong time and time again. In the case of Judge Bork, the American people, I'm certain, are finding him to be intelligent, prudent, a firm believer in the Constitution and a strong defender of individual rights. I predict he will be confirmed by the Senate and, over his career on the Supreme Court he will make great contributions to the American way of life.

And let me suggest that Americans have every reason to be confident about the future. We have been at the helm during a pivotal moment in our history. First, we had to take care of the problems we inherited. Then we put America on the path that is carrying her into the 21st century, and we're well on our way. Less than a decade ago, one could hear gloomy predictions about how bad things were going to be. Our young people were being told to lower their expectations. Do you remember that? It was even being said that America's best days were behind her.

Well, we've proven the pessimists wrong. We've unleashed an entrepreneurial surge that is changing the face of American enterprise. High technology and computers are being put to work throughout our economy, increasing the efficiency of business, large and small. Productivity has been on the increase and government, business, and labor are working together as never before. We aren't telling young people to lower their expectations; we're challenging them to set their sights high. That's why they're flocking to our banner as never before. They aren't looking for the easy way out or interested in promises of what government will do for them; they're interested in opportunity and in being free to build the kind of lives they want to build to accomplish things for themselves.

Yes, there's every reason to be proud of what we've achieved and to be optimistic about the future. And if we can get our message to the people—and I know we will—I have three predictions: The next President of the United States will be a Republican, Senator Heinz will be reelected, and the GOP will recapture control of the United States Senate.

I would just like to interject here, we couldn't have accomplished, even with all your help—and it was your help that did it—what was accomplished in these last several years had we not, for 6 of those years, had that majority, slight as it was, in the Senate. How many of us are conscious of the fact that in my administration we've had one House for 6 years? Now, for 2 years, they'll have both Houses, and for 8 years, they've had the House of Representatives. But from 1931 through 1980, the Democrats controlled both Houses of the Congress for 46 of those 50 years. And Republican Presidents, up until my term, only one had a Republican Congress for a mere 2 years out of his 8 in office. The Democrats' Presidents only had a Republican Congress for 2 out of those 50 years. The rest of the time they had the whole show. So, that meant that for half a century, they've been in charge of redistricting, reapportionment. We're going to have to fight awfully hard to break the gerrymandering that's been going on for half a century.

I was sitting here a little while ago and mentioning that in 1984—I've been told that a half a million more people voted for Republican congressional candidates than voted for Democratic candidates. But they elected about 40 more Representatives in the House than we did. I was Governor when California reapportioned, and I can tell you that I think the only good district they left us was somewhere south of the border. [Laughter]

But just remember those three predictions here, and determine that you're going to make them come true. I want to thank each and every one of you for what you're doing to make them come true. And I'm going to thank you in advance for sending this man back to the United States Senate, where he is so desperately needed. It wouldn't make any sense at all to send a Senator back there of the other party who would then cancel out the vote of Senator Specter. So, keep it the way it is. Thank you all, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:41 p.m. in the Wyndham Ballroom at the Franklin Plaza Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to Senator Arlen Specter, Representative Lawrence Coughlin, John Cardinal Krol, and Earl Baker, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Fund-raising Luncheon for Senator John Heinz in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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