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Remarks at a Fundraising Breakfast for Governor Kay Orr in Omaha, Nebraska

February 08, 1990

The President. Thank you all. It's sure nice to be back. Thank you, thank you. Thank you very, very much. Kay, thank you so much. And to P.J., the mayor, delighted to be with you, sir. I remember sitting in that Oval Office just before you were elected. I liked his confidence; I liked his strength. And he's doing a great job. I want to salute our congressional delegation. I don't think Virginia or Doug are here today, but they're doing a superb job in Washington, steadfast in support of the principles Kay just was enunciating.

I'm delighted to see my friend and, in a sense, mentor, your former Governor, Charlie Thone, way down here -- and a good friend he is, and great Governor he was for this State. And then I salute Norm Riffle and Duane Acklie, Sallie Folsom. I'm especially pleased to have our [Republican] national chairman out here, Lee Atwater, who is doing a superb job for the party all across this country. The national committee has never been stronger.

And, of course, my friend and the future Senator, Hal Daub. I've worked with him; I know him well. His wife was extremely active in supporting me in the early days of the last campaign. And I'm grateful to both of them. And I know he'll make a fine Senator. Hal, good luck to you.

I'm delighted to be here at this relatively early morning breakfast. It reminds me of the time I told our oldest grandkid that the early bird gets the worm. He says, "I think I'll sleep in and have pancakes." [Laughter] You know how these 12-year-olds are.

Well, this morning, appropriately, we're going with Special K -- and, yes, in honor of a very special woman who has come a long way since she first worked for the Republican Party in -- I don't want to date you, Kay, but I'm told it was 1963. And she's gone from ringing doorbells to making history -- the great Governor of the State of Nebraska, Kay Orr. And I am so proud to be with her today. And a confession: We've known each other since 1976. I wanted to come here, and so did Barbara, to personally and enthusiastically endorse her. I'm here because she's made the tough choices and, in my view, the right decisions -- and because her first term has produced not rhetoric, not empty rhetoric, but solid results for Nebraska. Dwight Eisenhower once said, "Our best protection against bigger government in Washington is better government in the States." So, let's guarantee that that keeps going. Let's help Kay keep making government better, and let's be sure that she wins a second term.

I was going over some of the economic statistics, and I believe that this election will decide whether Nebraska enjoys continued prosperity and whether you continue to have the leadership it takes to win in the battles we're in: the war on crime and drugs. It will decide whether Nebraska has farm policies that work -- we want a Governor we can work with and listen to as we try to adapt our farm policies to the needs of these States -- an education system that makes the grade. Those are the questions. And I am absolutely convinced that the answer lies in "Four More for Orr."

Barbara and I love Bill, Kay's husband. And I'm told that he likes to tell -- he went to the bank to cash a check and the teller looked up and said, "Are you the wife of the Governor?" [Laughter] Then she got a little flustered and tried to make amends. "What I mean," she said, "are you Mr. Kay Orr?" [Laughter] Look, Bill, I know what you mean here. Kay said, "It's fine you're here, Mr. President, but if you really want to get this crowd fired up, bring Barbara." So, here she is. [Laughter] We've got a lot in common, my man. [Applause] Not too much -- look, I've got to live with her, please.

No, but as America's first Republican woman Governor, Kay has become a household name. And why not -- with stats that rival the Big Red. Let me tell you, more than 23,000 new jobs and $2.4 billion in new investment since 1987 -- those are Kay Orr victories. And so is net farm income, nearly tripled, and an unemployment rate -- what's the rate you told me?

Governor Orr. At 2.7.

The President. Two-point-seven. If there ever is full employment in the United States, it has to be an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent. And that's cut in half from what it was. Nebraska's first-ever child care credit, crusade to improve secondary and higher learning -- still further victories -- and so are our Drug Advisory Council. And then, we all know of her commitment to wetlands and to wildlife preservation.

These triumphs have helped the working people of Nebraska. And Kay needs a second term to finish the job that she's so effectively begun. And yet the need, as Ike said, is not a State's alone -- in this instance, not Nebraska's alone. I need her, too, to support the work of our administration. And I mean it, we do want to make America a kinder and gentler place and get more results for more Americans than at any other time in our history. Last Wednesday night I talked of this in my State of the Union Address and of the triumphs of 1989, like the lowest unemployment rate nationally in 16 years, inflation at less than 5 percent, the longest peacetime economic growth in the history of the United States. And yet what I call the "idea called America" is like Nebraska: It's something to build upon, not to rest upon. I feel that our administration is really just beginning. And I think Kay would concede that although she's been Governor 4 years, she's got a feeling of commencement as well.

And so, we have sent legislation to the Congress now to confront at the national level our most crucial issues. For example, prosperity does mean little if our kids aren't free from drugs. So, last month I announced a 1990 National Drug Control Strategy: Phase II of the comprehensive drug policy we unveiled last year. And I'm very pleased with the support it is getting all across the country. We're asking Congress to spend over $10.5 billion in fiscal year 1991 for education, treatment, interdiction, and enforcement, about a 70-percent increase since I took office in 1989.

We also want mandatory time for firearms offenses -- no deals when criminals use a gun -- and as Phase II proposes, an expansion of the death penalty for these drug kingpins. I believe it's long overdue. And then we have requested significant increases in Federal assistance to States and localities in drug use prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. And we've already made considerable progress in adding more police, more prosecutors, more prisons. Kay Orr supports these steps. Her initials aren't K.O. for nothing. [Laughter] And that's what she intends to help to do to crime and drug use. I need her. I need her as Governor to work with the local police and the mayors in this great State to take back the streets.

Then there's another priority, and one in which Barbara's been standing for for a long, long time. I'm talking about the education of our kids. Kay Orr knows, as I do, that the future of the country really fundamentally begins with education. So, she supports our Educational Excellence Act of 1989, which can help achieve, by the year 2000, the education goals that I announced in that State of the Union speech last Wednesday -- goals, incidentally, that were developed with almost the unanimous support of the Governors -- certainly, Kay in the forefront of helping us develop these national goals. And let me be clear: They're not trying to dictate to the local school systems or get into the curriculum or to the pay level for teachers; we're talking about broad national goals that respect the concept of federalism that properly has guided our education system for a long time.

We must ensure that every student in America starts school ready to learn. There is a Federal role here. And that's why I've proposed a record increase in funds, an extra half a billion dollars, for a program which has and continues to work: Head Start. And we must see that each school has an environment where kids can learn. That means making every school drug-free. Our graduation rate must be no -- these are goals by 2000 -- no less than 90 percent, and we've got to make these diplomas mean something. So we want U.S. students to be first in the world in math and science achievement. And we've got to guarantee that each American is a skilled, literate worker and citizen. Together, I believe that we can make this idea called America mean a decent education for all.

The idea called America also means that working parents should have increased child care options. Our legislation will achieve that goal. I don't want to see the Federal Government dictate where a kid has to be looked after in a child care program. I want to give the parents the choice to be able to take care of those kids as best they can, give them the ability to provide the day care; and that's what our approach is all about.

It also means a cleaner America. Kay touched on this. And we have sent up the first rewrite of the Clean Air Act in over 10 years. We also want to make a more abundant rural America, where Americans work, invest, and save. In the late 1980's, farm income hit near-record levels. Now we want to build on that good news, make it even better, and keep Nebraska strong by keeping agriculture thriving in the 1990's. And Kay was in there now discussing with me some new ideas she has on crop insurance, expressing, incidentally, her -- hope this won't betray the confidence of our talk -- her confidence in our great Nebraskan who is the Secretary of Agriculture, Clayton Yeutter. I depend on him. He's good. He knows agriculture, and I'm proud he's at my side.

But speaking of agriculture, first, I hope to negotiate a new trade agreement with the Soviet Union by the time of our 1990 summit, not too many months away. This will relax trade barriers between East and West, expanding markets for American exports. I feel strongly that selling our grain to the Soviet Union is in America's interest as well as in the interest of the Soviet Union. And next, we are going to write a new farm bill this year. It must emphasize market-oriented farm policies giving producers more flexibility to decide what crops to grow. And we need the investment created by passing our capital gains tax cut proposal, which would apply to the sale of farmland and, in my view, will create jobs all across the economic spectrum in this country. Together, these decisions will show what's good for agriculture is good for America.

What's good for all of us, naturally, is that I not talk too long here, with you all having to get to work. [Laughter] So, let me tell you one of my favorite fishing stories. It concerns Mark Twain, who, like all fishermen, loved to brag about his exploits.

Twain once spent 3 weeks fishing in the Maine woods, ignoring the fact that the State's fishing season had closed. On the way home, aboard the train, he sat next to a stranger and immediately started telling about all the fish he'd caught. Finally, Mark Twain asked, "By the way, who are you, sir?" The stranger said, "Well, I'm the State game warden. Who are you?" With that, America's greatest writer nearly swallowed his cigar. And after a long pause he answered, "Well, to be perfectly truthful, warden, I'm the biggest damn liar in the whole United States of America." [Laughter]

Twain loved to brag. But then, he had much to brag about. And so does Nebraska when it comes to your first elected woman Governor. And let me conclude simply by saying she has my full confidence. She's made tough decisions, right decisions. And their results have enriched Nebraskans from the banks of the Missouri to the Wyoming line.

So, let's ensure "Four More for Governor Orr" and pledge to support one of our truly great Governors. Thank you very much for this occasion. Thanks for your support for Kay. And God bless you all. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 8:35 a.m. in Peony Park Ballroom. In his remarks, he referred to P.J. Morgan, mayor of Omaha; Norm Riffle, Nebraska Republican Party chairman; Duane Acklie and Sallie Folsom, members of the Republican National Committee; and Cindy Daub, wife of senatorial candidate Hal Daub.

George Bush, Remarks at a Fundraising Breakfast for Governor Kay Orr in Omaha, Nebraska Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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