George Bush photo

Remarks at a Fundraising Luncheon for Governor Tommy Thompson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

June 07, 1990

Thank you all very much. Thank you, Tommy, very, very much -- and all of you -- for that warm welcome. I'm pleased to be joined today by several illustrious people -- one, my very able chief of the Small Business Administration, Wisconsin's own Susan Engeleiter, who is with me here today. And also, one of our most able and effective Cabinet Secretaries, Sam Skinner, the Secretary of Transportation, is here. I want to recognize some of Wisconsin's own. Here today is the man who led the Bucks for so many years, the fellow with that soft-shooting touch and the size 19 shoes, Bob Lanier somewhere out there. [Laughter] And Pat Richter, who recently brought the national champs to the White House -- he's here with us today, and John McLaughlin and Pete Vukovich and so many others -- so many of Wisconsin Republicans' leading lights. I would be remiss -- I won't single out any of them, except for my friend John MacIver, my patron in the world of Wisconsin politics. And of course, I want to salute our ticket with a special welcome to your next secretary of state, Bob Thompson, who made the switch to the GOP just last week, and we are going to support him 100 percent.

I'm proud, of course, to show my support for the hardest working man in Wisconsin, Governor Tommy Thompson -- hardest working and, if my polling data is right, best known, because I understand there's a poll out that shows that Tommy's better known than anyone in the State, even the American League MVP on the Brewers, Robin Yount. I guess that puts him all in a league by himself.

We've seen a world of change this past year, and Tommy alluded to it -- unforgettable images of what I call the Revolution of '89. And now, in 1990, we've entered a new period of democracy-building, a renaissance, if you will -- a renaissance of freedom. Let me share a story with you -- and there are so many emotional stories coming out of Eastern Europe -- but a story about an American visitor on a recent trip to Romania who asked the people she met what they needed most. Listen to a surprising answer: In a country where food is in short supply, where the streets are dark at night and the homes lack heat, one Romanian woman pulled from her purse a worn copy of an American magazine, a 3-year-old issue, with a special bicentennial copy of the U.S. Constitution. And she told the American, "What we need now is more of these." You've got to think about that answer and what it means for America, for the moral example we owe the world, for the material help we must provide -- not just American aid but expertise -- to people the world over who seek only to have for themselves and their families the freedoms that we enjoy and sometimes take for granted.

And we're entering a new era -- Tommy alluded to it here -- in U.S.-Soviet relations as well. Just this past Sunday, President Gorbachev paid a visit to your neighbors in Minnesota. I'm pleased to be here today in the great State of Wisconsin, pleased to share with you my thoughts on what I believe was a very productive Washington summit.

We signed a number of agreements: deep reductions in our chemical weapons arsenals; agreement on reaching rapid closure on major outstanding issues governing a strategic arms treaty, a START treaty; protocols on nuclear testing; agreements on trade and grain sales. But perhaps even more important than the agreements we signed is the progress we made in understanding the great political challenges that we face. A united Germany in NATO, the future of the Baltics, regional problems -- these aren't questions that can be solved simply or in one single summit meeting. But we make progress on these difficult issues whenever we speak with candor, without animosity, about our aims and interests. I am grateful to Mr. Gorbachev for the forthright spirit in which he addressed every issue on the table, and I take it as proof that we have indeed entered a new era in our relations with the Soviet Union.

Of course, we have differences. You're reading now, post-summit, a lot of analysis of what I might have done different or what they should have done. Of course, we have differences. I want to see Lithuania have its freedom. We are committed to self-determination for the Baltic States. And although I take great pleasure and joy and am pleased that the emigration of Soviet Jews is at an all-time high, I want to see unfettered emigration. We differ on Cuba and, for now, on a united Germany in NATO and on many other issues as well. But as I chatted informally with President Gorbachev up there at Camp David, I kept thinking that this new Soviet leader, committed to reform and openness, is indeed a remarkable man. It was a good summit.

Today I want to focus on the new era that we're entering here at home, on the challenges that will command our attention in the decade ahead. You all know the three R's. Well, today I want to talk about the three E's: the economy, education, and the environment -- three areas that Governor Thompson and I agree are crucial to the citizens of this State and every State.

Let me start with the economy, America's great engine of progress. And let's start right here in Wisconsin. Think about the turnaround since Tommy Thompson's been in office. You heard some of the statistics: unemployment down, income up -- rising faster than the national average. Two hundred thousand new jobs in the first Thompson term -- and he's pledged to 200,000 more the second time around.

We're working to do the same nationally: to maintain a business climate conducive to growth, one that opens the door to entrepreneurs, the small business men and women who are America's great jobs machine. And I am committed to taking decisive action against the Federal budget deficit, to keep our record 91-month economic recovery going strong.

We're also working to strengthen America's competitive edge abroad. My administration's top trade priority is to lower barriers to free and fair trade the world over, to bring the Uruguay round trade talks to a successful completion by the end of this year. And let me tell you, any trade agreement we sign will be an agreement that is good for the American farmer, for American agriculture. It has to be that way.

Every State and city and town in America is going to feel the impact of the global market. Governor Thompson knows this; he knows it well. And that's why he's worked to open Wisconsin industry to the world, to expand business-to-business contacts with Japan and South Korea and establish export markets. This guy doesn't miss an opportunity for the farmers of this State, either. He was the only Governor at last week's state dinner at the White House for President Gorbachev. He tried out his Russian -- I think he was saying, "Eat more cheese." [Laughter] No, actually, the star of this one is Sue Ann. She sat right there next to President Gorbachev, and we Bushes took great pride in that. He was looking at one of our very best first ladies, I'll tell you. Tommy had to settle for a seat next to Secretary of State Baker. [Laughter] So, I guess if the Soviets start importing Wisconsin cheddar you have a right to thank -- maybe Tommy -- probably Sue Ann. [Laughter]

But when it comes to long-term economic opportunity, education is the key. Among the agreements that we signed at the summit was one expanding U.S.-Soviet education exchanges, exchanges that will allow that American and Soviet students to live and learn in one another's lands so that the foreign becomes familiar.

Those education exchanges are in keeping with the crusade for excellence in education now gaining momentum across this country. It's no surprise to me that Wisconsin is the scene of one of the most interesting experiments in education reform or that Tommy Thompson's the catalyst for change. Tommy's told me about the Milwaukee Choice Program. Starting next school year, nearly 1,000 underprivileged kids from Milwaukee's inner-city schools are going to have a chance to attend the private, nonsectarian school of their choice, with the State supplying their share of tax dollars for tuition. And I think we all see that when schools compete to attract students that can't help but raise the overall level of education.

Tommy found an ally in his fight for Milwaukee Choice in a former welfare mother and Democrat named Polly Williams, a woman who had heard a lifetime's worth of wornout excuses on what's wrong with our schools. And now some might say that's an unlikely alliance. Not if they know Tommy Thompson. What matters to him is what works -- forging consensus with people who share his burning desire to get the job done. In education reform, that means parents, parents who are tired of waiting for the system to work for them, parents who are ready to reform the system, ready to make it work.

I'm counting on my friend Tommy to spread the word that the Federal Government will also do its part to help make our schools better. Over a year ago, I sent Congress an education bill, a seven-point plan for school reform, built on the bedrock concepts of parental choice, flexibility, innovation -- initiatives aimed in encouraging excellence by rewarding our teachers, our students, our schools for what works. It's been over a year, and I am still waiting for a bill to sign into law. So, where is the Congress when our schools need help? It's time to get serious about our schools and take some commonsense steps to make them better. I want your support for that Education Excellence Act.

Well, we mentioned the economy and education, and now there's a third E, the environment -- and here again, an issue with what I would call international dimensions. Last week at the summit, we established a U.S.-Soviet Bering Sea Park to preserve the unique natural environment in that string of islands that mark the border between our two nations.

Right here in Wisconsin, I know the environmental ethic is strong. And Tommy's pledge to plant 110 million trees by the year 2000 -- that fits right into our America the Beautiful Initiative: to plant a billion trees a year for the next 10 years. And I support all that Wisconsin is doing to preserve our precious natural heritage, and I ask your help: Work with me to keep the pressure on in Washington. Send Congress a signal to pass a sound and sensible clean air package -- and pass it soon. It's been 13 long years since we last strengthened the Clean Air Act, and let's make 1990 the year that we take action on the environment.

And let me say I believe we can have a sound national environmental policy without throwing a lot of working men and women out of work. I'm convinced that we can find a proper balance on these important questions.

It's been my pleasure to come out here today to this beautiful State on a typical Wisconsin day. [Laughter] I remember the last time I was here. It didn't seem quite like this somehow. But I'll take his word for it if this is the way it is all the time. But nevertheless, it's been a pleasure to come here and speak with all of you.

You know, right here in the auditorium, almost 80 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt came to meet with the citizens of Milwaukee. His speech that day saved his life -- literally. He was shot by a deranged assassin while on his way here. And TR had his draft speech folded up in his jacket pocket, where it helped blunt the bullet. Tough guy. He delivered the speech anyway. But the moral is: It's not whether a speech is long or short; what matters most is how thick it is. [Laughter]

So, let me thank all of you for this warm welcome back to your wonderful State of Wisconsin and commend you on all that Wisconsin has to be proud of. As other States search for solutions to today's challenges, you can say: Take a look at what works. Take a look at Wisconsin.

And to the citizens of this great State, who will go to the polls in November to choose a Governor, I say: Take a look at Tommy Thompson, at all he's done to turn this State around and all he'll do the next 4 years working hard for Wisconsin. I am proud that he is my friend, and I am proud to enthusiastically endorse him for another term as Governor of the State of Wisconsin.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:30 p.m. at Mecca Auditorium. In his remarks, he referred to Bob Lanier and John McLaughlin, former members of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team; Pat Richter, athletic director at the University of Wisconsin; Pete Vukovich and Robin Yount, former member and current member of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team; John MacIver, chairman of the Wisconsin Bush/Quayle 1988 campaign committee and the Committee to Reelect Governor Thompson; and Sue Ann Thompson, wife of the Governor.

George Bush, Remarks at a Fundraising Luncheon for Governor Tommy Thompson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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