Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Fundraising Reception for Senator Paula Hawkins in Miami, Florida

July 23, 1986

Thank you, and thank you, Paula. And you know, I have to tell you—because I understand that the previous speech, just a little while ago, was piped into—if not all-most of you here—I feel like I'm in an instant replay. [Laughter] But I'll try not to say the same things twice, although I will say that it's great to be in Miami and great to be with so many old friends, veterans of hard-fought campaigns and crusades. Political strategists think of Florida as a bellwether State. Well, you folks down here not only reflect national trends, you start them. I hope I can count on you to be in the forefront of a trend that will ensure that the United States Senate remains in Republican hands, and that means reelecting Senator Paula Hawkins.

And if anybody can do it, you can. Florida's got top-quality party leaders like Jeanie Austin and Alec Courtelis and Jeb Bush bringing more and more Republicans into the fold. It seems like another lifetime when the South, including Florida, was considered a stronghold of the other party. There's a story, you know, about a candidate who was running for Congress in one of the Southern States back in the 1960's. And he was out in the countryside campaigning. And when he told a farmer that he was a Republican, the old guy says, "Wait a minute till I get Ma. She's never seen a Republican." [Laughter] Well, he came back with Ma, and in the meantime, was wondering—and then they told him that wouldn't he make them a political speech. Well, he looked around and needed kind of a podium. And the only thing there was a pile of stuff that had come out of the stable. [Laughter] So, he stepped up on it and made a little short political speech-same thing I'll do is a short political speech—and afterward the farmer and his wife told him, the candidate, this was the first time they'd ever heard a Republican speak. And he says, "Well, that's all right. That's the first time I ever spoke standing on a Democratic platform." [Laughter]

But seriously though, over the years many articles have been written about a coming national realignment. And no one need wait any longer; it's here. Many Democrats are realizing that their party no longer represents those values and ideals in which they believe. That happened to me. Years ago I was a New Deal Democrat from the very beginning, and I'll bet some of you were as well. And maybe there are some among you that you may not have gotten around to switching parties, but you sort of support the party that we now belong to. And when it comes to realignment, there's every reason to be optimistic. I say that because—and this may be true for you as well—I've been meeting a lot of Democrats recently who've become Republicans. I just met one who's running for office in Louisiana. And as of today he reregistered as a Republican. But, you know, I haven't been meeting anybody who's going the other way.

And if I could just tell you something that—several years ago an organization of political scientists were interested in what might be happening to the parties—this is really true—and they did a study. And they took the two national conventions, Republican and Democrat, first, and they surveyed those as the leaders of their two parties-that's why they were the delegates to the convention. And they surveyed them on the basis of a lot of major issues, as to how they felt about those and what they would do about those issues. And they found, of course, that the Democrat and the political-or the Republican leadership as, by the delegates, was polls apart. Then, they went out and did a survey nationwide of the rank and file members of the two parties. And to their surprise, they found that the Republican rank and file were identical in their views with their leadership. They found that the rank and file Democrats across the country were totally out of step with their leadership. And then they compared the polls of the two—the rank and file members —and found that the Democrat rank and filers were almost identical with the beliefs of the Republicans. So, when you're talking to your friends, and some of them are still Democrat, you might point out that actually some of us that have changed already, and a lot that should change, is because we didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left us a long time ago. Well, Winston Churchill, in the Parliament of England, changed parties when he was a young man. And he said when people were looking a little aside at him about doing this, he said, "Some men change party for principle, and some men change principle for party." Well, that's what's happening today, and that's why it's vital that we remain the party of principle, the party of a strong, opportunity-filled America.

Perhaps the most tangible reason for optimism is that young people are supporting our cause in numbers no one could ever have predicted a decade ago. As a matter of fact, when I first became a Republican and started attending some Republican meetings some years ago, I would go home to Nancy and say, "You know, the only young people there looked like they couldn't join anything else." [Laughter] But not so today. I've been on the campuses of a number of universities. I've been in high schools very recently and talking to young people. I've seen these young people of ours in those places—in shops and factories and on military bases and out on aircraft carriers. And I saw them at the rally when I came into the hotel, where you were listening. I think this is one of the finest generations of young people this country has ever seen. They want the same things we wanted: a chance to live life to its fullest, to own a home, to have the opportunity to go as far as their talent and their hard work will take them.

And when I remember back when I was Governor—and if I went near a campus in those days, they'd hang me in effigy or for real. [Laughter] But looking at these young people today, their patriotism, the spirit that they have, I'm convinced the 21st century is going to be in good hands. They sense that the reforms we've struggled to put in place, the efforts that we've made to invigorate our economy, and the commitment we've made to the security of our country are really for them, the young people of America. And they're right.

It's getting a bit hard to remember, but it wasn't that long ago—and this is when that other party was in control of both Houses of Congress, the Presidency, and all of the executive departments and agencies—that the so-called leaders of America were telling all of us, including young people, to lower our expectations. Do you remember? We were told that the problems plaguing our society were unsolvable. The refrain was heard that America's best days were behind us. And the picture of a bleak future was being painted. Well, America's left those bad old days and the politicians who gave us those bad old days behind. And all I can say is: Ain't it great?

We may have every reason to be optimistic. Nevertheless, I hope that none of us will be complacent. This is especially true here in Florida. A tough race is coming up. Yet I can't think of an individual who has done more for the cause in which we all so firmly believe than your own Senator, Paula Hawkins. Paula Hawkins was over at the White House the other day, and I told her she just simply had to be reelected. And I just added a few words to that in the lobby. And believe me, I could have gone on forever. As I mentioned out there, Paula is one of the hardest working individuals I've met in public office. She truly is an inspiration to all of us. And while you're out working for Paula, please don't forget the other Republican candidates. You have some great individuals down here. Florida, for example, deserves a future-oriented, Republican Governor. I know that Craig Kiser is running for State comptroller, and he is an inspiration to us all.

We Republicans carry a special burden. We must keep faith with those young people I spoke about a moment ago. Instead of looking—or lowering their expectations, we want them to dream great dreams. America's best days do lie ahead. By doing what we're doing, we're making certain of that. And if any of you here are of the other party and thinking of changing, don't wait and do it as I did. I made up my mind that I could no longer support the party that I'd belonged to all my adult life, and I campaigned for Republicans. And I did Republican fund-raisers back when I was in that Hollywood world. But I hadn't gotten around to reregistering. And yet the Republicans began to take me for granted. And then one night I was making a speech at a Republican fundraiser. And right out in the middle of the audience a woman stood up, and she said, "Have you reregistered yet?" [Laughter] And I said, "No, but I'm going to." She said, "I'm a registrar." [Laughter] She came right down, up here, and I signed up. Then I said, "Now, where was I?"

So, don't let up. Get with it and send this young lady back to Washington where we need her so bad. God bless you all. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 7:41 p.m. in the Versailles Ballroom at the Hotel Intercontinental. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks. He remained at the hotel overnight. The following day, he traveled to Columbia, SC.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Fundraising Reception for Senator Paula Hawkins in Miami, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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