Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks to High School Students and Citizens in Sterling Heights, Michigan

October 07, 1988

The President. Before I begin my remarks today, I have a very pleasant announcement to make. This morning the unemployment figures for September came out. And once again, unemployment is down to 5.3 percent. That is close to the lowest that it has been in nearly a decade and a half. And last month, America created 255,000 new jobs. America's economy is a Grand Prix racer, and the way to keep it on track is to give George Bush and Dan Quayle a checkered flag in their race in November.

Well, now, I want to thank you, Utica Community Schools and Stevenson High School. And a special greeting to Congressmen Bill Broomfield, Carl Pursell, Bill Schuette, Fred Upton, and Guy Vander Jagt, who are all standing right over there-your Congressmen. And I'd also like to thank Brooks and Pete for their participation this morning. And thanks for that great music—thanks to the Stevenson Marching Band, the Utica Marching Band, the Ford Marching Band, and the Eisenhower Marching Band. Now, in case you're wondering why I've dropped in, I like great teams, and I've heard that for great teams you can't do better than the Titans or the Chieftains or the Falcons or the Eagles.

And now, before I go any further, I have a request I brought with me from my roommate. She wants me to remind you that, please, for your family, for your friends, for your country, but most of all, for yourselves, just say no to drugs and alcohol.

Audience members. Just say no! Just say no! Just say no!

The President. All right. Okay. I'll tell her. Now, you may not know it, but I've heard a lot about the Utica schools, and I like what I've heard. For example, I've heard that schools here are a family affair, that 2,000 of your parents volunteer their time to help out in your schools. And you know, I can't help wondering: Are any parents here? Raise your hands. Well, I'm sure I speak for your sons and daughters and for the Nation, too, in saying that for all you're doing to make sure that America's next generation is ready to make the most of the magnificent opportunities America's future has to offer—we all say thank you.

Now, I've also heard that you who are students here care about your community, and that in one of your most popular clubs you visit hospitals and help the sick and those with handicaps, as well as giving of yourselves in many other services to your community. Yes, I've heard that when we talk about that old tradition—old as our country—of Americans volunteering to help neighbors, when we talk about—certain good friend of mine has called a Thousand Points of Light that shine in America's sky, one of the brightest of those lights is the S.O.S. Club of Stevenson High School.

And I've heard something else—about the future—about your future, about America's future—and that you're preparing for it. I've heard, for example, that all four high schools have sent student ambassadors to the Soviet Union, that your schools on all levels have outstanding records for academic achievement, and that in the trade programs you were world class champions in the 1988 Skills Olympics.

Well, I'm here today because I believe you're right to care about the future. I believe America's future and your future hold promises bigger than the sky and more vast than the galaxies—if we have faith and if we're true to the values of family, work, and community that have always been America's guiding stars on the path of history. In the last 8 years we've set our sights once again on these enduring values, and you know the results: more than 18 million new jobs since our expansion began, more new jobs than Europe and Japan combined; an unemployment rate the lowest it's been in 14 years; the greatest flowering of new businesses and new technologies in the history of the world; the longest peacetime economic expansion ever recorded; and more people are at work today than ever before in the history of the United States.

And there's something else, something you don't often read in the papers. Today the highest proportion of our labor force is employed than ever before in the history of our nation. And job for job, the jobs we've created in our expansion pay better than the jobs that existed before our expansion began. How did we do it? By getting government out of the way and letting the American people do their thing.

You know, in my job I visit many schools and factories, farms and communities around our country, and I get to see why our nation is so strong. Again and again I find myself remembering what General George C. Marshall said when he was asked why he was so confident that we would win the Second World War. General Marshall said, "We have a secret weapon: the best blankety-blank kids in the whole world." Well, in our economy, we too have a secret weapon: the best blankety-blank men and women in the whole world.

The growth that our expansion has brought America can be just the beginning. America is entering a new age that will open opportunities for you, opportunities that we in the older generation could not even have dreamed of when we were your age. Here in Michigan, you can see that future in new industries, like the robotics industry, that are springing up; and in old industries, like automobiles, that are coming back strong and getting stronger. That's the future. And you know something—you, with the education in both academics and the trades that you're getting here, will lead America and the world into this future. The only limits will be your imagination and your courage. And are there any limits to those?
Audience members. No!

The President. Well, yes, the last 8 years have been great, but I've got a hunch that when you get in the saddle, as someone said in an old movie: Well, we ain't seen nothing yet! But I hope, as you study and work to build America's future and your own, you never forget that prosperity has a purpose. It gives you the opportunity to raise a healthy family in the right way, to reach out to those who need help in your community, to dream, and to make your dreams come true.

Now, I don't want to be too partisan here today. I know this is a bipartisan crowd. Some of you will root for Michigan this Saturday and others for Michigan State. But I am dedicating myself this year to making sure that this future of hope remains open to you. I believe that the decisions we Americans make at the polls this year will determine whether or not the future will be bright. And you may have heard that I kind of like what George Bush said about this election: "When you have to change horses in midstream, doesn't it make good sense to switch to a horse that's going the same way you are?'

Michigan has voted twice for what we stand for, in 1980 and 1984, an honor for which Nancy and I will be forever deeply grateful. But the liberals are now saying that, come January, they will wipe away all that we have been working for. Well, from top to bottom, the election this year is a referendum on liberalism. Will not only the White House but the Congress and the State legislatures be filled with people whose only pledge of allegiance is to more government spending and who have never let taxpayers' dollars out on furlough? Or will we continue on the rising road of peace, opportunity, community, faith, family, and freedom? [Applause]

Now, those of you who can vote, and your parents and friends, will decide that question. And think of what that means. You hold history in your hands if, as I say, you vote. Earlier this year I had the privilege of doing something I had never thought an American President would be able to do.

I spoke to students in Moscow about the glories of freedom. Think of those students. Only if they're very lucky and rise high in the Communist Party will any one of them ever have the influence on the course of their country's history and world history that each of you can have just by going into the voting booth. It's very disturbing to me that America's young people, who with so many years ahead of them have a bigger stake in the future than anyone else—our young people, I have to tell you, vote in lower numbers than everyone else. The comedian Will Rogers once said that the people who are elected are no better and no worse than the people who elected them. But they're all better than people who don't vote at all. Well, I know that you're better than that. And so, I want to continue talking about that particular trouble, if I can find my note here and get it uncovered.

Let me, before I go, ask you something. Those of you who are eligible to vote this year—I'm asking for a commitment now, and if you say yes, I'll take it as a promise: This November, will you show up at the polls and vote?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. All right. Now, those of you who aren't old enough to vote—you can talk to family and friends you know and make sure they cast their ballots. That can be your way of voting—by getting someone to vote who wasn't so sure that he or she would. So, let me ask you something. And again, I'm asking for a promise, so if you say yes, mean it. Will you make sure that your parents and your friends who can vote will vote? [Applause] All right.

One last thing—next Tuesday, this coming Tuesday, is the deadline for registering to vote. And I'll bet there are some here who are eligible to vote that haven't yet registered. And you know that if you aren't registered on election day, you can't vote. It's like making the team and then not showing up for the big game. So, let me ask one last thing. Will all of you make sure that any friends who aren't registered get registered by Tuesday? [Applause] Well, that's what I was hoping you'd say. Now, I'm supposed to join some folks in town for lunch. And I bet you're getting hungry, too. So, I'll have to just stop right here. But I just want to tell you, you have inspired me, and this is so wonderful to see all of you out here. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you.

[At this point, the President was given a football jersey.]

The President. For those of you too far away, it says "Win one for the Gipper." Thank you very much. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. on the Adlai Stevenson High School football field. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Brooks Patterson, Oakland County prosecutor, and Peter Secchia, Republican national committeeman. Later in his remarks, the President referred to the S.O.S. Club, a student organization offering community services.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks to High School Students and Citizens in Sterling Heights, Michigan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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