Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks on Greeting the 1988 National Collegiate Athletic Association Men's and Women's Basketball Champions

April 11, 1988

And now let's bring on the NCAA basketball champions of Louisiana Tech and the University of Kansas. [Applause] Well, thank you, and thank you all too—and welcome to the White House. I want to join with the Members of Congress from Louisiana and Kansas, your loyal fans, and the whole Nation in congratulating you.

You know, when I was a boy my nickname was "Dutch." Looking at all of you, I sort of wonder why it wasn't "Shorty." [Laughter] Come to think of it, being here with you reminds me of one of my experiences in college. It was freshman year and just after the football season ended. And after playing football, I thought I might go out for basketball, too. I went to the gym, and I saw a few people just about your size, and thought to myself, "I think swimming is the sport for me."

But to the women of Louisiana Tech, congratulations! You had a lot of great games this season, but none was greater than the last one. With the Lady Techsters trailing 33 to 19 at halftime, coach Leon Barmore found himself telling his team, "You don't quit in anything. You don't quit in life. No matter what happens, be proud of your efforts when it's over so you can live with yourselves the rest of your life." "Any other game when we'd be behind by that many points," forward Erica Westbrooks said, "we'd be all upset. This time we kept thinking that it had to be in us. We had to keep digging and finding it within ourselves." Well, Coach, Erica, and all of the Lady Techsters—you found it. And I just have a certain feeling that you're going to be able to live with yourselves pretty darned well.

Congratulations go as well to coach Larry Brown and the University of Kansas Jayhawks. Now, it's no secret that at the beginning of the NCAA tournament, you Jayhawks—well, I suppose the way to put it is to say that you weren't exactly favored to win. [Laughter] So, what happened is a testament to determination, to hard work-lots and lots of hard work, to pride, to teamwork, and the courage to dream.

And perhaps nothing exemplifies the true meaning of teamwork than the support you've all given to Archie Marshall and the untiring support Archie Marshall has given to you. In my opinion, that's just the way it should be. As the soft-spoken Danny Manning said to a jammed room of reporters after the final game: "I'd like for you guys to put this in your articles. For anyone who's ever been in a national tournament like this, keep your head up and work hard and anything can happen. To those who said it couldn't happen—well, we're number one."

And to coach Larry Brown, the man who did so much to make this a championship season, I know Jayhawk fans everywhere are rejoicing that, next year, I'm the only one moving back to California.

Well, they're both great stories, the stories of these two teams, these two fighters who happened to turn themselves into national champions. And if I could offer a thought to each of you young players, it would be this: Remember the lessons you've learned this season, the lessons about hard work and never quitting, about digging down into yourselves when you seem to be behind. Because what you've learned in basketball will be a strength to you all your lives. Especially here, in this great land of opportunity. Because it's true, if you keep your head up and work hard in America, anything can happen.

So again, congratulations on your exciting victory, and God bless you all. And have you thought about a game between- [laughter] —all right, God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:53 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks on Greeting the 1988 National Collegiate Athletic Association Men's and Women's Basketball Champions Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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