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Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Gubernatorial Candidate Jim Edgar in Chicago, Illinois

June 07, 1990

Thank you, Jim Edgar, for that very generous introduction. Please, you all be seated, will you? [Laughter] I like this kind of event, though. No broccoli, no head table. It's wonderful. [Laughter] Please don't send it. [Laughter] First, let me just be a little emotional as I pay my respects to Governor Jim Thompson and Jayne, who are with us tonight. What a magnificent service this man has rendered this State over all these years. A good friend, and a great -- really, in the best sense, public servant. I also want to say a word -- this is Jim Edgar's evening, and I'll tell you what I think about him in a minute. But I have a friend in Washington who I want to see stay there. And I'm talking about Lynn Martin -- Barbara's and my great friend who is running for the U.S. Senate over here. Really, as I look at the problems in my trying to fulfill the agenda upon which I was elected, it really is significant and important that Illinois have a Republican in that seat and have a capable one like Lynn Martin. So, please, do your best.

I want to pay my respect to other Republicans here tonight -- George Ryan, an old friend; Pate Philip, the same; Lee Daniels, Jim Ryan, Greg Baise, Susan Suter, Bob Kustra. And of course, we have two congressional candidates. Maybe more, but I saw these guys out at the helicopter -- Manny Hoffman and Wally Dudycz. We need your support for them as well. A plug for a local Illinois boy that's making good in Washington -- Sam Skinner, our able Secretary of Transportation -- flew out here with me. And what a job he's doing for his country.

I'm glad to be back here. Last time I was here, people started -- there was a handful of people in the front, started yelling to me about Nicaragua. And I said, Nicaragua will someday be democratic. Two months later, it was. So I hope we have a few -- they were protesting something or other. But it made me feel at home.

Let me just say a word about those -- [Laughter] -- let me say a word in great seriousness about the people outside. These are decent, honorable people who feel strongly about the freedom of Lithuania. And I feel strongly about the self-determination and the freedom of Lithuania. So, there's no difference between us at all on that. And if our policy is successful, let's hope that they will have the same self-determination and freedom that Poland and Hungary and Czechoslovakia and other countries now enjoy, thanks to the changes in the Soviet Union and thanks to the foreign policy of the United States of America over the years. Let me say about -- I love Illinois. It's lively. It's wonderful and it's lively.

Voice. What about AIDS?

The President. Hey, listen -- not only are we -- let me just address myself to that subject. Last time it was Nicaragua; this time it's AIDS. The Federal Government is doing far more in terms of research on AIDS to help this horrible national crisis than it's ever done in the past. And it will continue to. And with compassion and caring, that problem, too, someday must be solved.

Now, back to where we were -- [laughter] -- the man of the hour, Jim Edgar. Let me say this -- he takes every aspect of his job seriously. He takes an activist approach, one that makes government work for the people of Illinois, work for the good of this State.

So, I want to talk this evening a little bit about what he's done, all he can do. But let me just share with you a couple of more developments in the world, if I might -- to say a few comments about the recently completed summit with President Gorbachev, because it does affect not only the lives of the Lithuanians and other Baltic States but so much else in terms of the United States itself and our European allies. Every superpower summit is shaped by history. I believe that last week's summit can alter history. Our many hours of talk led to, frankly, much better understanding. I've dealt with the Soviets since I was Ambassador to the United Nations in 1971. And others here have -- in business and perhaps in government as well. But there's all the difference in the world today in terms of candor and frankness. No longer the hostility and the outrage and the banging of the shoe, but reason. When you have differences, at least you can get them out on the table. And I think that is a good thing -- a good reason for itself to have a meeting with President Gorbachev.

We had a breakthrough agreement on chemical weapons. I don't know why, but Barbara and I talk about these issues when we go home. And one that's always concerned me is the goal of trying to eliminate chemical weapons -- to ban them from the face of the Earth. We signed a good agreement with the Soviet Union. They're meeting our proposal that I made at the United Nations just last fall. We agreed on a joint statement on strategic arms limitation -- these, the most destabilizing of weapons, cutting those SS - 18's in half; and that's good. We agreed to go forward and pursue negotiations on nuclear and space arms. We signed protocols allowing unprecedented improvements for on-site verification in limiting nuclear testing. Who would have thought years ago with that closed society that we would now have an agreement on on-site verification to be sure both sides keep their words. That is progress in this relationship. We agreed to increase our cooperation in atomic energy testing and civilian nuclear safety.

But most important to Illinois, I think, we signed a long-term grain agreement, one that will bring grain to Soviet consumers and business to the farmers of Illinois. And I am not going to let food be used as a political weapon. I remember the failed Carter embargo, and we're not going to have that kind of foreign policy anymore. We negotiated a trade deal with the Soviets, an agreement that depends on the passage of key emigration laws within the Soviet Union. Certainly, I believe that's in the best interest of the United States, and it will mean an improved trade relationship between our two countries, expanded markets for American goods and services, expanded markets for Illinois workers and farmers. And it will mean, through economic interaction, a continuation of this perestroika, this reform and openness inside the Soviet Union itself.

So, I'm delighted that we did it. There is a danger -- Mike Ditka might want to trade a couple of Bears for Soviet weightlifters, but we'll see how all that works out.

No, but I am very pleased with this. I realize we've got a long way to go, but we've made progress. With a safer world come other challenges -- many of them right here at home. Challenges like a better environment, better schools, safer streets. You need someone now to continue in Jim Thompson's footsteps. Someone who will continue to move this state on those key issues in the right direction. That's why I am convinced Jim Edgar will be your Governor. I like this sign. I like this sign that -- and a philosophy that is summed up by this sign -- let the future begin. And he has been a dynamic Secretary of State, creatively using his position to begin that future today.

For example, he's been a leader in the fight against drunk driving, initiating tough new laws and heightening public awareness. His persistence has paid off. Traffic deaths in Illinois have been reduced by one-fifth. Jim Edgar and I can also work together to make a better future for America. For example, we can work together to preserve wetlands, to clean up toxic wastes. And just as he will work for a cleaner Illinois, I will continue to work with Congress in Washington to bring about a cleaner environment for all Americans. That is why I have proposed the first major revisions in the Clean Air Act in more than a decade. I want Congress to pass a bill that will sharply cut acid rain, smog, toxic pollutants. But Congress has to respect another kind of delicate ecology -- that of jobs and opportunity. We can do both: have a cleaner environment and still keep this state and other states growing.

So, I really would like to take this opportunity with this many present to call on the United States Congress not to keep America waiting any longer for clean air. We've made a compromise. It's a good one. It is a sound one. And now, the Congress ought to act so I can put my John Hancock on a good clean air bill. I get so frustrated at times.

And Jim and I talk about these other issues. And I believe the future should begin with safer streets, an America free of crime. Look, as Secretary, he has shut down sixty auto theft operations and illegal security operations that prey on the unsuspecting. And as Governor, he will work in Springfield for tougher laws against those who sell the drugs and those who commit violent crimes. So, you see, we share a simple philosophy. If dealing drugs is dealing death, then let's get those big dealers to have what they deserve, and I mean the ultimate penalty. We cannot condone and coddle these drug criminals.

We need the tougher laws and the stiffer penalties and more prosecutorial powers proposed in our Violent Crime Control Act. And again, I call on the United States Congress to pass the major parts of our Violent Crime Act, new laws that are fair, fast and final. Fair: an exclusionary rule designed to punish the guilty and not to punish good cops who have acted in good faith. We owe a lot to the men on the street, men in blue, and women as well. And fast: We need reforms to stop the often repetitive appeals that are choking our courts. And final: fair, constitutionally sound provisions for the death penalty, for the ultimate penalty. And we want Congress to enact the steps needed to expand the death penalty -- not sometime, not some other place, but now. And the U.S. Senate fortunately has begun debate on these measures. But now is the time for them to take the next step and protect Americans. And we can protect Americans by passing laws that are at least as tough as the criminals we convict.

A cleaner environment, a crackdown on crime -- they're important issues. But Jim and I also believe -- and we had a marvelous experience today at one of your wonderful schools -- also believe that education really is the paramount issue; for the state, the classroom today is the state of the union tomorrow. And so, as chief executives, we will also work to make American education second to none.

We visited this school, this Farnsworth Elementary today. And I met some of the top principals -- the school principals in the entire area here -- listened to their concerns and ideas about quality education. An impressive group of people saving the lives and helping our kids every single day. And then, just a little later, I sat down -- did Barbara's bit -- I sat down with the first, second, and third graders. And you know, when their principal told them that the most important man in the world was coming to their class, one little boy looked around and said: "Oh yeah? So where's Michael Jordan?" Well, I finally got around to telling them about my responsibilities, and what I'm doing now that Congress is on recess. You should have seen their eyes light up at the word "recess". But, nevertheless, some things never change. [Laughter] And then I read them a story -- a story about reading, actually. And I saw the bright faces, and I heard the laughter, and I answered the question of curious third-grade minds. And one thought stays with me from that experience: these kids really do deserve the best education that America can offer. And we must not let these children down.

That's why last September -- and I want to again thank Jim Thompson for his key role in this -- we asked the Nation's Governors to join us at an education summit, the first ever held with Governors of any kind of a summit, at Charlottesville in Virginia. And it was there that we agreed to set national education goals for our students, our teachers and ourselves. And in my State of the Union address, I announced these goals: To improve students' academic performance, increase our graduation rate, produce a nation of literate adults, and make our schools drug-free, ensure that all children start school ready to learn -- and that means more vigorous Head Start, more fully-funded Head Start programs, too -- and ensure that by the year 2000 our students are first in the world in math and science achievement.

And you know what? Just after that speech, that State of the Union, I received a telegram from our candidate, your friend and mine, Jim Edgar. And he was first to make a commitment, pledging to lead Illinois into a new era on education -- at the foremost of moving the nation to reach these education goals. He committed himself and now he's ready to move into that Governor's office and follow up on what Jim has done. And he's leading another effort that is related -- one which is very close to my heart, and one in which Barbara Bush has been such an outstanding leader -- and I'm talking about our national campaign against illiteracy.

And so what Jim is doing is living up to the highest ideals, the Republican ideals of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt -- to imaginatively use the limited resources of government to share opportunity, to bring enlightenment. And when a leader truly cares, and gives a darn, and truly wants to make a difference, people can tell that. American people aren't dumb. They can sense it immediately if somebody cares. And that's why Jim does so well downstate. And that's why he is the one Republican who does so very well right here in Chicago.

And so I've come here today not just to thank you for your support for Jim Edgar -- I've come here to say something to Chicago as well. For too long, too many have felt as if they live outside of the American political process. For too long, they have believed elections are irrelevant to their own futures, their very lives. And I'm here today to throw open the doors of the two-party system. I am asking this city to take a good hard look at the Republican Party and all of its candidates. And I'm inviting Chicago to return to the party of Lincoln where it belongs.

I was a minute late coming down because I was on the phone to tomorrow's birthday girl, the one who did so well at Wellesley, if I might take some pride in Barbara Bush. And she asked me -- you know, you can put the hook on me, but let me just make one comment about that. I was calling some of the world leaders after the Gorbachev summit. And I talked to the Prime Minister of Japan and Germany's Chancellor, you know, and the President of Brazil and others. And I called Margaret Thatcher, and she didn't want to talk about the Gorbachev summit; she wanted to talk, because she had seen live on television over there -- she'd seen Barbara Bush speaking at Wellesley. So, I was very proud of her assessment of what went on.

When I was on the phone to Bar a few minutes ago, she asked me to give Brenda a hug. That was easy -- I did that upstairs -- and to wish the Edgars the very, very best. Because you see, she, like me, considers them close friends. And we know a great opportunity for a great State when we see one. Thank you for your support. Now, go out and work hard for Jim Edgar. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. Good to see you.

Note: The President spoke at 6:39 p.m. in the Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Lieutenant Governor George Ryan; Pate Philip and Lee Daniels, Illinois Senate and House minority leaders; Jim Ryan, State's attorney for DuPage County; Greg Baise and Susan Suter, candidates for treasurer and State comptroller; Robert Kustra and Wally Dudycz, Illinois State senators; State representative Manny Hoffman; Mike Ditka, coach of the Chicago Bears; and Michael Jordan, a member of the Chicago Bulls basketball team.

George Bush, Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Gubernatorial Candidate Jim Edgar in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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