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Remarks at a Fundraising Breakfast for Senator Bob Packwood in Portland, Oregon

September 19, 1991

Senator Packwood, thank you for that warm and personal introduction. May I salute Bill Packwood down here on the end lest some of you don't recognize this recent graduate of Penn State who flew out with us today. I was just delighted to see him. Also pleased that our Secretary of Transportation, Sam Skinner, seated over here, is with us. And he's doing a superb job. We're going off to Los Angeles right after this breakfast to do a little more in the transportation front.

I understand that Senator Seymour is here. I haven't seen him, but Senator Seymour of California is with us. John, why don't you stand up if you are, because I've -- well, so he's not. Where is he? Oh, way back there. He'll be flying down with us to his State of California.

And may I salute Craig Berkman, my friend of long, long standing, who the Senator and everyone else tells me is doing a superb job for this party. And Tim Lee, the event chairman, he's done a mighty good job also, and I salute him. Don't let him rest up too much. We're going to need him for more of these events before this is over, I'm sure.

I also thank the band, the Wilson High School Band over there; the Waverly Children's Home, who led the Pledge of Allegiance; and of course, the choir that put great life into our complicated but wonderfully moving National Anthem. All of them did a first-class job.

Portland, Oregon, the "City of Roses." Portland is a very special place. But I was thinking if you had to borrow a name from the State of Maine, how about Kennebunkport? Nice ring to it.

But let me say it's been an amazing month or so in our world. I focus going back to Maine this summer in the month of August. Before Congress went on recess, a few remnants of the cold war remained intact. By the time it had returned, that Congress had come back, a coup tried to unseat Mikhail Gorbachev, and instead of that, the coup de grace was given to communism itself.

And I couldn't help note, Reverend, your special appeal about the Baltic States. It's most appropriate as these countries, once considered satellites, never by the United States, but considered satellites in the Soviet Union are now free, independent countries, their flags flying at the United Nations as well as over their own capitals. And that is historic. It's long overdue. And I take great pleasure, as I know all Americans do, in their independence. So, I'm pleased you mentioned them in your fitting and lovely invocation.

The changes in the world are indeed staggering and, for the most part, positive. I am very proud of the fact that it is the United States of America that is leading the way. You travel abroad, and many of you have, and you see clearly that it is our country which is out front, helping many new fledgling democracies find their way in Africa, in South America, and Eastern Europe and, yes, in what used to be an iron Marxist State called the Soviet Union. It is mind-boggling to think of the changes that have taken place just in the last 6 or 7 weeks.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to build a new era of peace and prosperity here and abroad, to build a new world order where the rule of law prevails over the use of force. None of these changes would have taken place if the United States had not remained firmly committed to the cause of freedom. Over the years we stood firm. And in this year's tense debates about the Gulf, these changes couldn't have taken place if Congress hadn't authorized the use of force to stop a brutal dictator.

Bob Packwood was one of those who, against those public opinion polls of the moment, stood with me in that historic debate. And that's just one reason, one of many, that I'm happy to join him here today because he is a force for positive good on Capitol Hill.

You know his accomplishments as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, where he's now the ranking Republican, his influence on tax reform and employee benefits. You know the impact he's had on free enterprise, on trade, and on deregulation, especially when he was chairman of Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. But I want to tell you this and tell you urgently, and yes, this is a political gathering to honor him, but you must return Bob Packwood to the United States Senate. His 23 years, it will be 24 at election time, of seniority make him a solid leader of strength and experience. So, we need him. The party needs him as a spokesman, as a leader.

And Bob effectively works behind the scenes sometimes to make sure that our message is heard. And it's not easy when you're up against an automatic moving majority that wants to do things just the opposite from the way I was elected to perform. And so, I'm delighted he's up there doing that. And one other point: He has a sound record. He hasn't forgotten the human equation. The fact that people need jobs and must not be thrown out of work by extreme environmental positions is known to him. And I don't believe we need extremes to solve the problem.

If that overall message of his is not listened to, we do face trouble. I spoke to Congress 197 days ago, and I issued a simple challenge, and here, if I might, repeat it, "If America can defeat a brutal dictator in a matter of weeks, then surely its legislative body can manage to pass two bills, the administration's crime and transportation bills, within 100 days." That was in the State of the Union message 197 days ago.

Well, almost twice that time, that 100 days, has elapsed, and we still do not have those two bills. And it's clear that the Democrats have no desire to help us advance what is a sound and strong domestic agenda. Their alternative is not a domestic agenda. It's a political one: to block our agenda. And we cannot let that succeed.

Occasionally, we have been able to break the logjam. We're proud of the Clean Air Act that was passed. I think it's good environmental policy. I think it's just good plain national policy. I'm proud of the Americans with Disabilities Act that we managed to pass last year, the most forward -- looking piece of civil rights legislation in years. And I'm proud with our success in child care. But we can succeed only with the help of the American people. To continue the fight, we need you to elect and reelect leaders who care deeply about this country, who care about the approach that I've outlined here, strong, competent, principled men like Bob Packwood.

And to continue this Nation's victories, the American people must rediscover their own genius. That's the heart of our domestic philosophy that overlies our domestic agenda, the concept that the true power and potential in this land must rest in the hands of the people. Our domestic policy begins by trusting you.

Let me elaborate. Our domestic agenda tries to carry that faith forward into the future. Our housing proposals, for example, would turn housing residents into homeowners, would emphasize tenant management, letting people in the area itself manage their own affairs. It relies on the belief that our public housing citizens can care for themselves and contribute to our society. Our energy package attempts to conserve energy while encouraging innovation. The transportation package that Sam Skinner has been so inventive in gives more power to local authorities, who know their own needs. The national drug strategy is all encompassing, with lots of the most effective work being done by the private sector and at the local level. And our crime package, the most comprehensive in American history, tries to give our streets back to the people.

In each case, we want Washington to give power back to the people and give them a chance to shape their own destinies rather than having to answer to distant bureaucrats. And this philosophy serves as the foundation for an issue I'd like to just touch on in a little more detail. I'm talking, of course, about education. Our democracy can remain vital only if we continue to grow in knowledge and wisdom, understanding the increasingly complex and competitive world in which we live. We Americans can and must revitalize our education system for our children, for our future. We don't want just a good education system. We want the best. We deserve a system that will give every citizen the power to throw open his or her own door of opportunity.

I came to this job believing that education is our most enduring legacy, vital to everything that we are and everything we can become. I believe it with even more conviction now. Five months ago we issued a challenge that we call America 2000, a call to reinvent, revolutionize if you will, American education. This initiative sketched out the framework for a national education strategy made up of four elements: accountable schools for today, and I emphasize that word "accountable"; a new generation of schools for tomorrow, not do it the same old way; each community find a new way to approach the education challenges in that community, that State; a Nation of students committed to a lifetime of education -- I'm floundering around trying to learn how to use that computer a little better, and I'm getting up there in years, nobody is too old to learn -- and a community where learning can happen. And by that I mean an environment in which education can take place, in which kids feel free from fear, and they can go on about the business of learning.

Now, you play the critical role in making that strategy work. You must ensure that each of your communities as a whole engages in this commitment to education. People who want Washington to solve all problems are simply missing the point. What happens there doesn't matter half as much as what happens in each hometown. Remember, on the total figures for education, 6 percent is Federal Government spending, 94 percent by local and State private entities. Every person, every school, every town must join this special national army, an army undertaking the most important crusade of all: the crusade to prepare our children and ourselves for our country's future. You can, you must make our communities places where learning can happen.

Let me give you just a handful of examples of what Oregonians are doing to help improve education around them. The National Guard, a Willamette University fraternity, Kiwanians, and individuals joined together to "adopt" Salem's Richmond Elementary School, which serves a large migrant population. This community so enriches the lives of the students and the school that they won this year's Governor's Volunteerism Award and the district award for outstanding business school partnership.

In Albany, more than 2,000 residents have come together to focus on the district's 22 schools through a remarkable business partnership program begun, in this case, by the Chamber of Commerce. In West Linn, not only do parents assist teachers in classrooms but over 50 percent of middle school science students have been given the chance to strengthen lessons learned in schools through local internships as a part of a program called "Future Makers."

And then there's my favorite place, I like the name at least, Salem's Bush Elementary School. [Laughter] Everyone there in that community has joined to give this school new life and make it a centerpiece of community life. In this school, where 75 percent of the families live below the poverty level and one-third speak no English, residents set up an "Even Start" literacy program for kids and parents. Local college students provide tutoring, mentoring, and help with therapy groups. Volunteers from businesses, hospitals, and the community contribute to weekly tutoring programs. Anyone can join: 85-year-old Esther Wilson has been working with at-risk kids in Salem for 9 years. Members of a local church help students with languages, but they're also building a playground. In Salem, you see, people understand that you must help kids be students without forgetting that they're kids. That's because kids ought to experience education as one of life's great joys. The community also encourages parents to volunteer at the school; this enriches the school and makes citizens feel more a part of their children's education.

There are thousands of stories like this, tens of thousands across this country. This could never happen if somebody tried to design a program in a subcommittee on education in the House of Representatives or in the United States Senate. It couldn't happen. You cannot generate that kind of love and that kind of concern by some Federal legislation back in Washington, DC.

There are thousands of stories like these. And you can write your own versions in your own neighborhoods. America cannot afford to wait or to waste an entire generation. As we look ahead to the year 2000 we must answer the call: Let tomorrow begin today.

I will stay personally involved. Our new Secretary of Education, Governor Lamar Alexander, is taking a crucial leadership role in advocating and promoting our program called Education 2000. I don't want to turn what is an upbeat, enthusiastic rally for Bob Packwood into a lecture on education. But I feel so strongly about this, I urge you: Take a hard look at it. If it's not partisan. It gets all across partisan lines. And it really answers the future challenge and says that these kids sitting right over here are going to have a better shot if we get this program fully implemented and fully into effect.

Here in Oregon, you can do something about it also because it is part of the philosophical underpinning of our administration, and that is to reelect Bob Packwood to the Senate.

You know, I am delighted to be back here in Portland. I'll remember this day next spring when I welcome the Trailblazers to the White House after they win the NBA title. But I reserve the right to change these remarks when I get to Los Angeles. [Laughter] And then tomorrow I'm going to be in Chicago, so -- [laughter].

But listen, let me just say this. I am very privileged to be President of the United States at this historic time. The change around the world is so rapid, the ferment and turmoil and change in our country so challenging. I am blessed. And Barbara feels exactly the same way as First Lady. And if I might say a word about her, I think she is doing a superb job as she travels around teaching literacy in this country.

But the longer I'm in this job, the more convinced I am that to get the job done, to finish what so many of you helped me begin, I need good people that look at these broad views philosophically the way we do. Sure, there are going to be differences on one issue or another. But the big thing is Bob Packwood and I share this philosophical underpinning that the best answer is to keep government as close as possible to home. That's education, that's fighting drugs, whatever it is. And so, let me just say: Please, go all out in '92 and return this good man to the United States Senate.

Thank you all very, very much. Well, again, thanks for your welcome and your support. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 8:25 a.m. in the Oregon Ballroom of the Oregon Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to William H. Packwood, son of Senator Packwood; Secretary of Transportation Samuel K. Skinner; Senator John Seymour; Craig L. Berkman, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party; Timothy H. Lee, event chairman for the Packwood committee; Reverend Edgars Petrevics of the Oregon Latvian Lutheran Church; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander; and the Portland Trailblazers, a professional basketball team. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George Bush, Remarks at a Fundraising Breakfast for Senator Bob Packwood in Portland, Oregon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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