George Bush photo

Remarks at a Luncheon Hosted by the Chamber of Commerce in Kennebunkport, Maine

August 30, 1989

Well, what a magnificent picture! I'm looking around at this crowd, and I see a few faces old enough to remember that boardwalk that went along -- [laughter] -- all the way along Ocean Avenue there. And this is a very special occasion for Barbara and me, and we're delighted to be here. And I'm very pleased to be honored by the chamber.

I was afraid you might be feeling I had dishonored the community with some of the excesses that have taken place out here, but I want the record to show that when the bottom fell off of the starboard engine on our boat the other day -- [laughter] -- it was not an encounter with a lobster trap. [Laughter]

The Coast Guard guy went out and took a look at the reef off the point there and started to tell me that he thought maybe, accidentally, I had hit a rock. And I told him, "Look, rocks do not grow in these waters. I've been here for 65 years running around in a boat -- find some other answer. Even if there is metal on the rock out there, I did not hit that rock." [Laughter] And as Commander in Chief of the Coast Guard, he changed his mind as I was talking to him, and -- [laughter] -- we now think it was a submerged board. [Laughter]

Barbara -- this Barbara -- thank you very much, Barbara Aiello, for this honor and for welcoming us to the community that we do love so much. I'm delighted to be back at the Shawmut, where many of our press are staying and other friends that are traveling with us, and this hospitality -- a few of them greeting us over here -- the people working at the Shawmut. But it's a wonderfully warm feeling that we get from all of you, our neighbors in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk Beach and, of course, Kennebunk.

And it's a special time for me being here. We are doing some work, but I have confessed at the very outset that this is a pure, total vacation. And I'm not going to look busy in order to convince people in America that it's something other than a vacation. [Laughter] I mean, it's the way it is, and there are some hazards out there. Some of you have been on the golf course when I play, and that's -- [laughter] -- and other challenges.

One of them now is, we have a fleet of plastic toys that Barbara bought at some -- I hope it was at a sale. There are many cars and little scooters and all out there, and it's a hazard to get out the front door, get into the car or into the boat, just to escape all these kids' playthings. But one of the great joys for us has been having our grandchildren here, and I expect that those in Kennebunkport will recognize a familiar scene as we prepare this year's Christmas card.

I'm not going to comment on the fishing -- a vicious assault on my -- [laughter] -- vicious assault on my ability. I'm going to call the editor of the Portland paper, however, and present this to him: How would he call it? This morning, we got up and, through what was a rather heavy fog, went down to Whistler off Cape Porpoise and then down off of Woods Island. And here's my position: I was driving the boat, placing the boat so that Sandy Boardman, who was with me, could catch a bluefish -- and she did. And I think they should knock off that advertisement on the front of the Portland paper that shows a bluefish with a big X through it -- [laughter] -- telling me that, yet a 13th day, I haven't caught one. I'm going to appeal to them on that one.

It's been a joy to be here. Barbara put it pretty well: that this is a place where we really enjoy ourselves -- but more than that, kind of refurbish our souls and get our batteries all charged up and enjoy life really to the fullest. It's a point of view. You can feel it in the land and in the water here. And I know that people that are members of this chamber and other visitors that we have here with us understand exactly what I'm talking about. Barbara has told you that I've been coming here every summer since 19 -- well, I was born in '24. And the only one I missed was the summer of 1944 when, like many of you, I was in the service. That's the only time that we missed being here. And there is a certain magic about the place.

Our kids live in five different States -- one in Cape Elizabeth and the others, four different States -- and for them, this is an anchor to windward because not far from where this picture was painted my mother was born in a house still standing right there -- not too far from St. Ann's Church.

So, enough of the reminiscence, but it means renewal to us, a moment to reflect. And as Barbara said, some of my colleagues in the Government have had an opportunity to come here for substantive meetings. Today I can't wait to show off this heaven to the Prime Minister of Canada, his wife, and his four kids, who will be visiting us around the corner. And the other day it was the Prime Minister of Denmark and his charming wife. And as some of you all remember -- in May, I believe it was -- we had the President of the French Republic here.

And it is more than just inviting them to a lovely place, because I've found, as I will with Mulroney, that with both the Danish Prime Minister, Mr. Schluter, and Mr. Mitterrand, you could converse and you could relax and you could really get to know each other in a wonderful setting. And though I don't believe foreign policy is determined on whether a foreign leader likes you or not, I do think it makes a difference if you can develop a good personal relationship. And you, our neighbors, have helped us in that regard, as we've had some distinguished foreign visitors here.

I appreciate the Outstanding Citizen Award. I don't know what the vote was on this one -- [laughter] -- but I want to tell you a true story. This came as a little bit of -- well, it was good for my ego, that tends to mount when you get into this job from time to time. But they decided to name a public school after me. I think it was a junior high school, or maybe an elementary school, in Midland, Texas, where we lived for 12 years. And this is God's honest truth: The vote was either 4 - 3 or 3 - 2 in favor of naming the school for me. [Laughter] So, Barbara, I hope it was a little more one-sided than that in this -- giving me this significant honor. But I really am pleased to accept it.

I know that the chamber of the Kennebunks is made up of a lot of entrepreneurs, and I would be remiss at a meeting like this if I didn't ask you to give me strong support as I go back to Washington to fight for a capital gains tax differential. I believe that small business -- providing jobs to those who don't have jobs -- small business entrepreneurs really are the backbone of this country in many ways.

And I am absolutely convinced that John Kennedy was right years ago -- 25 years ago or more -- when he talked about the need to have a differential in the capital gains and, indeed, to call for a reduction in the capital gains tax because it stimulates the economy. It encourages risktaking; it rewards those who go out and employ others and start new businesses. And I am just convinced that it is good; I am convinced that it will help with our deficit, not inhibit the efforts I am making to get this budget deficit down in accord with the Gramm-Rudman targets. And so, I would ask your strong support to your very able congressional delegation as we now go back to battle for what I think is a good incentive for business people, men and women, small business entrepreneurs -- those who have the courage to go off on their own and start new businesses wherever they may be. And I ask for your help.

Incidentally, I do believe we're going to get a good agreement on the budget deficit reduction package. I think it will be accomplished without raising the taxes on the American working man in this country. The problem still is this: It isn't that the working man is paying too little in taxes; it is that the Government continues to, for a lot of reasons, to spend too much. And I am going to continue to try to hold the line on taxes. And, again, I need your support there.

Right here in Kennebunk you've had some -- Kennebunkport -- you've had some examples of people that have been successful. The owner at the White Barn Inn may be with us today. Is Laurie here? Laurie Bongiorno -- over here -- quoting him, perhaps to his embarrassment, but he said: "We have an opportunity to create value in our businesses by taking a longer view. This would be easier without the burdensome weight of the capital gains tax." And I think he's absolutely right.

George Bergeron -- he runs a landscaping operation with a very unusual name. It is called George's Bush and Tree Service. [Laughter] I loved it when I saw that. [Laughter] But let me tell you about this guy. I don't know whether he's here or not, but -- back here? Fantastic! Planning for his retirement, he says, "I left my work to go into business for myself. I took the risks and went the American way for the sake of my retirement. Wouldn't it be ironic," he continues, "if just as I was ready to cash in, the Government took such a big piece of the profit from me?" He's absolutely right. The backbone of our recovery -- in October it'll be the longest in the history of the United States -- comes from the small business man or woman, who then makes it work and goes out and gives jobs to other people. The best answer to poverty in this country is a job, and I want to keep this economic expansion going.

I was told to say just a few words, but let me end with just a little reference to the times we're living in, regarding our foreign policy and the challenges we face as a country. And you see the kids here, and it reminds me that just before I went on a fascinating trip to Eastern Europe, including Hungary and Poland, and then to Paris, the Polish journalists came into that beautiful, majestic Oval Office, and they asked me: "What would you tell a young kid in Poland today?" And I had in my mind as he asked me the question the numbers of people in Chicago and in Detroit, and indeed some in Maine, who have come to this country from Poland -- the arms of the Statue of Liberty outstretched, then in the past as it is, thank God, still today.

And I thought about it, and then I thought about the change, the political change that's taking place in Eastern Europe -- change far more dramatic than I could have conceived when I was in the Congress, say, 20 years ago. And I said, "If I were a kid in Poland, I'd always want to see the United States" -- I'm thinking on this -- "to see the United States as a beacon." But I told him: "If I were a kid in Poland, I'd want to stay there. I'd want to participate in the change because we are living in a fascinating time." And you look at what's happening in the Soviet Union, the changes of perestroika -- reform, glasnost -- openness. It's dramatic. It's new. The aspirations for freedom are there. And you see the changes again in Poland, where you have a Communist government change through free elections to a government that contains people mainly out of the Solidarnosc movement, the labor union movement.

So, the point I want to make to you is: We're living in exciting times. And I can say with confidence to these kids: If we do our job right, if we handle the relationship with the Soviet Union properly, and if we then are smart enough and intelligent enough to delicately have the role of the United States be one of helpfulness in Eastern Europe, I think we can see a world where the peace is much more enhanced, or the threat of war -- nuclear war, conventional war -- greatly reduced. And it is an exciting time to be growing up in the United States, and it certainly is an exciting time to be the President of the United States of America. I like my job. I'm going to work hard for you. And thank you very, very much for this honor. Thank you so much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:24 p.m. at the Shawmut Inn. In his opening remarks, he referred to Barbara Aiello, president of the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport Chamber of Commerce.

George Bush, Remarks at a Luncheon Hosted by the Chamber of Commerce in Kennebunkport, Maine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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