Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks to Members of the American Legion's Boys Nation

July 25, 1988

Good afternoon, and welcome to the White House. My warmest greetings to the director of Boys Nation, Marty Justis; executive director, Mylio Kraja; David Barlow, who is—I think I have it right, don't I? Yes, that's you. [Laughter] That's president pro tem—and Joshua Griffin, the secretary of the senate. And, well, to a man I've always made it a point to recognize when Boys Nation visited the White House, that Boys Nation institution, Casey Cason [American Legion counselor]. Is Casey still playing reveille in the morning on his trombone? [Applause] He is? I don't know which is worse, having to get up early, or listening to Casey on that horn. [Laughter]

Well, now, I know that each of you went through a long selection process to come to Boys Nation. And I want to tell you that, just like your family, friends, and communities, I'm mighty proud of you. Your vitality, intelligence, and promise represent the very best in America's youth. In welcoming young men so gifted, I'm reminded of a saying in the Bible: "Of him to whom much has been given, much is expected."

Everyone who's been blessed with talent has the responsibility to put it to good use. And in America, I've always believed that each of us has a special responsibility because we have the freedom to use our talents to the fullest. So, as you pursue your studies and begin your life's work, remember your rich gifts and your high calling. To those of you who go into business, do everything you can to help meet the needs of your fellow men. Use your intelligence to keep American business efficient, your imaginations to keep it innovative and expanding, and your hearts to keep it ethical and fair. To those who go into the arts, work hard to create beauty and joy. If you choose education, put your whole heart into the training of young minds. And if you go into government, put every ounce of your energy into the service for the people.

You're all interested in government to some extent, of course, or you wouldn't be here as a part of Boys Nation. And in thinking about what I might tell you regarding politics, I decided the most important message would be about the importance of ideals. Political life is taxing: long hours, a great many pressures, the need to be flexible in order to accomplish your goals. And one way to get a feel for it all will be to put yourself in the places right now of George Bush and his opponent in the coming months. And imagine all that travel, the speeches, the interviews that both those candidates will go through.

If a candidate is in politics just for the power of excitement—or excitement, I should say—he's bound to be disappointed. The power never lasts forever. And as for excitement, well, there's a lot less of excitement in government than there is in just plain work. But if someone enters politics in the name of ideals and principles, then it's all worthwhile. Every campaign, every interview takes on meaning as part of a larger plan, as part of a vision for America's future. Yes, it's even worth putting up with the questions I get from Sam Donaldson [ABC News]. [Laughter]

To quote the novelist John Buchan: "Public life is the crown of a career, and politics is still the greatest and most honorable adventure." A wise man once said: "Life begins when you begin to serve." But whatever your calling in life, just remember America. In all the long history of mankind, no nation has ever afforded its people greater liberty or depended more for its very survival upon their diligence and faithful loyalty. I urge each of you to help protect our peace, defend our freedom, and to live each moment so that at the end of the day it might be said of you—in the words of another favorite saying of mine which is from the Scriptures—"Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

It's just so great to see and have you here and to know what you all represent. And it makes somebody feel good who's kind of coming to the end of the job to see a lineup of the kind of people that will be taking over as these years go by. And I can assure you, I have a great faith from what I've seen in how our country is going to do in the years to come.

So, God bless you. Thank all of you. God bless you all.

Guess who that is? [Laughter] You see, Nancy can keep an eye on me even when I'm down here. [Laughter]

Reporter. Mr. President, are you going to talk to Iran about the hostages? Is it time?

The President. If they're willing and ready to talk, it's time.

Note: The President spoke at 1:45 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the While House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks to Members of the American Legion's Boys Nation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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