Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks to Representatives of the United States International Youth Year Commission

June 22, 1984

It's getting a little warm out here, isn't it? [Laughter]

Well, I do thank you. And first, I want to welcome you and thank you for taking the time to come to Washington to begin the activities for our national celebration of International Youth Year, 1985. I believe you all know—or you wouldn't be here-the importance of our youth to the future peace, security, and well-being of our nation and the world. And I'm certain that by working together, the youth organizations represented here today, our government, and America's private sector, Youth Year, 1985, will be a resounding success.

There's a spark in all of us which, if struck early enough, can light up our lives, elevate our ideals, and deepen our tolerance and strengthen our determination to make this world a better place. You couldn't make a better investment in America's future.

I've always believed that a lot of the problems in the world come from people talking past each other instead of to each other. And during Youth Year, 1985, we'll be making a special effort to help our young people reach out to each other and to their counterparts all over the world. And they will be able to build new bridges of understanding.

Understanding begins with the knowledge that the most powerful force for progress in this world comes not from government bureaucracies, nor public programs, nor even valuable resources like gold or oil. True wealth, and the real hope for the future comes from the heart—from the treasure of ideas and spirit, from free people with a vision of the future, trust in their fellow men, and faith in God. The better future that we all yearn for will not be built by skeptics who spend their lives admiring the complexity of the problems. It'll be built by free men and women who believe in themselves.

History shows that progress takes its greatest strides when people are free to worship, create, and build—when they can decide their own destiny and benefit from their own risks. The dream of human progress through freedom is still the most revolutionary idea in the world today. And it's also the most successful.

Two weeks ago today, the leaders of seven major industrial democracies issued a Declaration of Democratic Values at the London Economic Summit, and it concluded with these words: Strong in our beliefs, and endowed with great diversity and creative vigor, we look forward to the future with confidence. Well, we should be confident. The summit demonstrated the enduring strength of our shared vision and values, our resolve to sustain peace with freedom, and our desire to assist those who are seeking a better life.

You, too, should be confident—confident that if you prepare for International Youth Year, 1985, with wisdom and responsibility, you can shape a future of freedom, peace, and prosperity that can be shared by the whole world.

And that's why I'm so pleased that Prime Minister Seaga of Jamaica has proposed an International Conference of Democratic Youth during 1985. We believe that his conference, the first meeting of its kind, merits strong support of freedom-loving people everywhere. It will give young people all over the world a chance to examine and share their democratic values and principles, and to speak out for human rights and the three themes of International Youth Year: participation, development, and peace.

I hope that some of the young people from other countries have a chance to visit us as well and see our spiritual and economic vitality so that they will understand America better. And we, in turn, will learn much of value from them.

I think one of the most wonderful and rewarding experiences I had in all the trip to China recently, was one day—the day before we were to leave—in Shanghai, visiting Fudan University and going into one classroom where I was assured that all of those Chinese students could speak English. So, we didn't require translation.

And I opened it up to questions and answers. And I was amazed at the questions from those young Chinese students about you, the young people who are here in this audience, and young people all over America-really a deep and sincere interest and a curiosity in what I could tell them about how you were approaching life, and what your thoughts and dreams were. And it was a great pleasure to answer to the best of my ability. Sometimes I had to call on memory, but I thought I'd spoken to enough of you here that I was pretty much speaking your views. But it was so wonderful to see their honest and sincere desire to know you—and know you better.

The U.S.. Youth Year Commission has accepted a worthy and important challenge, and you have our support. Our task force on Youth Year, under the leadership of Greg Newell, will do everything it can to help. And together, I'm certain that we will achieve great success in reaching out to America's young people and, through them, to the youth of the world.

So, I've kept you sitting out here in the sun long enough. I thank you all, and God bless you. And forward.

Yes, miss? I know this wasn't scheduled, but somebody here very appealingly says she has a question. What?

Q. President Reagan, how can we as youth help you stop the nuclear arms race—[inaudible]?

The President. How can American youth help us stop the arms race?

Well, I have to tell you that not through some of the demonstrations that are going on. And some of those things are so sincerely meant, but they don't realize that the two so-called superpowers in the world today must come to a meeting of the minds and an understanding that there is a better way than a continued arms race on down through the years. And this is why we have tried to open negotiations.

I still am optimistic that we're going to succeed. But we must sit down with the Soviet Union and make them understand that we mean them no harm. And then it is up to them to give some proof in line of some of the many statements they've made over the years that they mean no harm to us or to the rest of the peace-loving in the Western World.

But in order to do that, we have to have some tools. And when I can quote one Russian leader of a few years ago who said of detente—when we were all saying, "Well, we're pleased we have detente"—and his declaration to his own people as to what benefited them from detente was, that, he said, the most they got was our letting our strength erode and decline. They have to sit at the table and know that as far as strength is concerned we're nearly enough equal that we'd better discuss how we can go down.

Now, what can you do about that? You can evidence your support for legitimate arms reductions—not arms limitations that only regulated how fast and how far you could increase the weapons, which we've had too much of. But support us in our efforts to maintain our strength and to continue to give them a reason for wanting to sit down at the table with us. And you can be most helpful in that.

Well, thank you all very much. I know I've got some people in there that are looking at their clocks now and worrying about my schedule for the rest of the afternoon, but there was one more hand. I'll take this one more, and then I must go.

Q. Mr. President, I would just like to say the prosperity and progress of this nation depends on this youth, the ability of this youth to understand the plan for tomorrow's world. And I would just like to appreciate you for giving us this National Youth Day, because as Robert Kennedy once said, "Our future may lie beyond our vision, but not beyond our control." And if we can work to make this country better, it'll be better for everybody because the opportunities are here for us, and we just—[inaudible]

The President. Thank you very much. Well, that wasn't a question, but I thank you for that statement. And let me just say in return: If there is anything that is the real responsibility of people in public life and holding office in this country, it is to realize and recognize the obligation to, if at all possible, when the time comes, to hand over to you—to hand you over maybe a little bit better world than was handed over to us. And I pledge to you we're going to try awfully hard to do that.

All right. Thank you all.

Kelly Alexander, Jr. 1 Thank you, Mr. President. On behalf of the 173, and growing, member organizations of the U.S.. International Youth Year Commission, and over 50 million young people that we represent, I would like to express our deep appreciation for your invitation to the White House this afternoon. Before you are the leaders of the United States of tomorrow, doing what has to be done today, to assure that there will be a peaceful tomorrow.

For over 3 years, the members of our commission—reflecting the pluralistic diversity of our nation—have been discussing what we mean by the three U.N.-designated IYY themes of participation, development, and peace—subjects which we know are of particular interest to you. I am happy to say that we have reached a consensus. We believe—and I think that you would agree—that these concepts, these values, are interdependent—that true peace requires democratic participation and democratic development. And that democratic participation requires lasting peace. These objectives and their attainment serve as a cornerstone of all our IYY activities.

Mr. President, on behalf of the U.S.. IYY Commission, I'm most honored to present to you our definition of the IYY themes. We very much hope that we will have an opportunity in the coming months to discuss these themes with you in more detail and that these themes will play an important role in the development of any international conferences or domestic programs that will come out of this year.

The President. Thank you very much. [Applause]

Audience. [Chanting] Four more years! Four more years!

Reporter. Optimistic about the Russians?—can you sit down, please? Mr. President, can you tell us what makes you optimistic about the Russians?

The President. Common sense. They've got to have some concerns for the future, too.

Q. Chernenko told Mitterrand "no" to a summit, Mr. President.

The President. Well, maybe we can get that around to a "maybe" pretty soon.

Q. Do you agree with the general who says and thinks war is inevitable with the Russians—today's paper? American general—

Q. General Trainor, sir.

The President. No, I don't. And I think one of the most dangerous things in the world is for anyone to get in their—fixed in their mind the inevitability theory, because then, that very thing being in their minds, can bring about that. My theory is that there doesn't have to be a war. We're going to do everything we can to see that it doesn't.

Q. Mr. President—

Q.—speak to General Trainor about that, sir? Will you discipline this Marine Corps general?

Mr. Speakes. Sorry, no more questions.

Q. I'm not speaking to you, Mr. Speakes, I'm speaking to the President. Sir, will you discipline General Trainor?

1 President of the U.S.. International Youth Year Commission.

Note: The President spoke at 1:01 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Larry M. Speakes is Principal Deputy Press Secretary to the President.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks to Representatives of the United States International Youth Year Commission Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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