Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks to Participants in the Republican Women's Leadership Forum

June 03, 1983

It's a pleasure to take this opportunity to speak with you today. I want to thank you for all you've done for our causes and our party, and encourage you to do still more. I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but Secretary Heckler, Faith Whittlesey, Bay Buchanan, and my other representatives with you will bring me a full report.

When that great philosopher and commentator de Tocqueville came to America from France, he took a long look at our country and wrote: "If anyone asks me what I think the chief cause of the extraordinary prosperity and growing power of this nation is due to, I should answer, it is due to the superiority of their women." Well, his words are still true today, only I would add, especially our Republican women.

America needs your wisdom, your inner strength, and your compassion in every phase of our national life—in our families, communities, businesses, politics, and government. We must work together to ensure women can participate in the manner they choose and that they are treated equally. We, in this administration, are committed to eliminating, once and for all, all traces of unjust discrimination against women. At the same time we're doing our best to restore respect for the family and the homemakers who hold our society together.

We're making progress, but there's so much to be done. Now, more than ever, we need women like yourselves—Republican women—to become involved in politics, run for office, or offer to serve in a local, State, or Federal appointment. You share a commitment to basic values and our system of democratic capitalism, and we need your leadership.

I'm proud to say that this administration is drawing on the talents and leadership of women in a more significant way than any other before it. For the first time in history, three women are serving in the Cabinet at the same time: Secretary Elizabeth Dole of the Department of Transportation, Secretary Margaret Heckler of Health and Human Services, and, of course, Jeane Kirkpatrick, United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Also, as you know, we appointed the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court—Sandra Day O'Connor.

All told, there are more than a thousand women in this administration holding policy-making posts, and we're adding to the list all the time. Just to give you a perspective, we appointed more women to top policy positions in 2 years than did any previous administration.

But our commitment to women and appreciation for their perspectives and problems does not stop there. Many provisions of the law which discriminated against women have been reformed by our policies and initiatives. The so-called marriage penalty has been greatly reduced, estate taxes for a surviving spouse have been virtually eliminated, the tax credit for child care for working mothers was nearly doubled, child support enforcement has been toughened, and rules about Individual Retirement Accounts now allow larger contributions by wives who work both in and out of the home. But that's not all we're doing.

In the last 2 1/2 years, with your help, we also have made some important changes in America's economy, undoing the damage done by the proponents of big government. For example, the prime rate, which had reached a crippling high of 21 ½ percent, is now as low as 10 1/2. Mortgage rates, which at nearly 18 percent had once priced 90 percent of our families out of the home market, are now down as low as 11 1/2 percent, and I think we can get them lower still. And inflation, which was at 12.4 percent when we took office, has been only eight-tenths of 1 percent for the last 6 months.

We need your help in telling other Americans just how significant our victory over inflation has been. A loaf of bread, for example, costs 2 cents more now than it did in 1980. But if we'd continued with the old rate of inflation, it would have cost 12 cents more. A half gallon of milk is about 16 cents cheaper than it would have been, hamburger about 17 cents cheaper per pound. And the savings on a dozen eggs is as much as 49 cents. Those savings can really add up. We estimate that a family of four on a fixed income of $20,000 has $1,600 more in purchasing power this year than they would have had under the old inflation rate.

So, you can see we've been bringing substantial relief to America's financially strapped families. Our policies are designed to combat the inflation that stole from family budgets, expand opportunity for all our people through a renewed economy, and hasten the return of values and principles that made America both great and good.

An important part of that effort is our determination to restore the quality of America's education system. It was once the finest in the world, and we will not rest until it is so again. We will set a national agenda for excellence in education—an agenda that will reach every child in our land.

We intend to put the basics back in school and the parents back in charge. We believe teachers should be paid and promoted on the basis of their merit and competence, and that competition will promote better schools—that's why we've proposed tuition tax credits and vouchers to restore parental choice. We need you to join with us in a national campaign for excellence in American education. At home, in school, in State government, and at the Federal level, we must make sure we have put our children first and that their education is a top priority.

Our struggle is only beginning, and I need your continued help if we're to reach our goals. When you return to your neighborhoods and communities, help us get the message out. Tell people of the progress we've made. Use what you've learned at this forum and act on your ideas. Let me hear how you're doing, what your neighbors are saying, and what kind of help you need. Remember, we've set out to renew America, and it will take every one of us working together to make things right.

Once again, thank you for what you've done in the past, and I hope I can continue to count on you. The Republican Party needs you, and America needs you.

Good luck, and God bless you.

Note: The President's remarks were videotaped at the White House on June 1 for use at the forum at the Airport Hilton Hotel in Indianapolis, Ind., on the evening of June 3.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks to Participants in the Republican Women's Leadership Forum Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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