Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Republican Campaign Rally in Long Beach, California

November 07, 1988

The President. Thank you all very much for that welcome, and thank you, George, for that great introduction. Thank you all very much. It is great—and I do mean great—to be here in Long Beach. It feels good to come home.

Now, I came here to talk about a very good friend of mine, but I know he'd agree that there's one important thing that has to be done first. Can you let me hear, loud and clear, what Long Beach has to say about those world champion Dodgers? [Applause] I'll bet they heard you back in Washington. In fact, what I tell them back East is that to listen to Long Beach is to listen to the future. Your great—anybody got a Stinger? [Laughter] No, he's one of ours. [The President referred to a helicopter flying overhead.] Your great port is a symbol of our growing prosperity through trade, and the Long Beach Naval Shipyard is home of the U.S.S. New Jersey, one of our great battleships.

You know, I was in the horse cavalry, but I love battleships. [Laughter] I shouldn't have gotten started because I'm reminded-it's a funny thing, when you get to be my age, everything reminds you of a story. [Laughter] This one has to do one night with a battleship that was out there on the ocean in the night and the fog. And an admiral in command. And then suddenly, ahead of them, they saw a light, and it seemed to be right on their course. And the admiral told his signalman to signal them and tell them to turn 12 degrees to starboard. And so, the man signaled, and then he got a message back. The message back was that "you turn 12 degrees to starboard." And the admiral signaled back and says, "No, you turn to starboard. I'm a battleship." The reply came back, "Well, you turn. I'm a lighthouse." [Laughter]

Audience members. Reagan! Reagan! Reagan!

The President. I'm not going to take credit for that. [Laughter] But that story was one worth remembering in a political campaign. The candidates can send out their messages and try to move the voters, but in the end the great American public does not move. Instead, the public decides; the people choose the candidate who has steered the truest course and most closely followed the beacon of light that represents our fundamental values and the truths that we hold dear. And that's what we mean when we say that in America there are no rulers; it's the people who rule.

You know, I get a great deal of pressure many times when I have an opportunity to speak to young people. But almost every nation has a Constitution. And then, what is so remarkable about ours? Well, all those other Constitutions are documents containing many of the same things ours does, except that it's the Government that is telling the people what they're permitted to do. Ours is the only one that says "We, the people" tell the Government what it can do.

Well, today, of course, is the last day of this, my last campaign as President. But tomorrow launches a new beginning for America. For me, Long Beach is about beginnings. That was where I had my first meeting with George Deukmejian, and from here, he became one of the greatest Governors in the history of California. Now, this is also the home of Dan Lungren, an outstanding Congressman, who's leaving office this year, but who I expect to see serving the people of California again in the future.

And in my first campaign for Governor 22 years ago, the Los Angeles County head of Youth for Reagan was a kid from Long Beach. He played an important role in the campaigns that followed. He came to the White House and served with distinction. And tomorrow, I expect to see Dana Rohrabacher elected to the United States Congress. And another dedicated and talented young man I was also able to count on in the White House should be elected to Congress as well: Chris Cox. And I want you to help reelect U.S. Senator Pete Wilson. We need his leadership in Washington. Also my friend, [Representative] Bob Dornan, who's here today and who just educated me when I came on deck—because I rode in that thing in 1949 across the ocean. I didn't know it had been built in Ireland. [Laughter] I'm going to have to go back and take another trip and enjoy it. Well, and give our great Governor—give him Don Knabe for the State senate and State Senators Bob Beverly and Bill Campbell; and Assemblymen Paul Zeltner and Wayne Grisham and Gerry Felando.

I want to ask you something. Your votes tomorrow may be the most important ones cast in America. They will determine how California goes, and California may send the next President to the White House. So, tell me—I'm going to ask a question you've been asked before: Can I count on each one of you tomorrow to help turn out the vote for the man at the top of the ticket? [Applause] He's my personal choice and my good friend, George Bush.
Audience members. Bush! Bush! Bush! The President. All right.

This is my last campaign trip as your President. And its been my privilege to have served you these past 8 years. But today, above all, I'm excited about the future. This is the advent of a new beginning of continued change, clear direction, and experienced leadership—a new beginning for America.

For the past 8 years, George Bush and I have worked together to rebuild our economy, to get America on the move again, to make the United States once again the great arsenal of democracy, a light unto the nations, the champion of freedom around the world. During the 8 years that we've worked side by side in the White House, I've come to know George Bush very well. And I also know what is required to be President of the United States. I know who should be the man at the desk, and ladies and gentlemen, George Bush is that man. Audience members. Bush! Bush! Bush!

The President. When Vice President Bush and I took office 8 years ago, America was in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But today America is in the longest peacetime expansion ever recorded. We're going into our 72d month. Since the expansion began, we've created 18.4 million new jobs. They're good jobs. And the unemployment rate in this area has fallen by about a half. And statewide, real personal income is up by more than 25 percent. And today in America a greater proportion of our population is employed than ever before in the history of the United States. And let me put a number with that. I had to go to Washington to find out that the statisticians consider the potential employment pool in America is everybody, male and female, from 16 years of age and up-all of those thousands that are getting their education yet, all of those people that are retired. And so, all are considered in that pool. Well, 62.7 percent of that population pool today is employed.

Now, what Vice President Bush and I have done with the economy is very important, and it must continue. But what we believe in is much more than that. Our greatest treasure as a nation is our precious moral heritage: the basic values of faith and family that makes ours a great nation. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the family is the bedrock of America.

George Bush believes that public school children should be allowed to open their day with a voluntary prayer. That's something the courts won't allow.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. I don't think they should have expelled Him from the classroom to begin with. Now, he believes that we must have—George, I mean, believes that we must have judges who interpret the law, not rewrite it, and who care not just for rights of criminals but have compassion for the decent citizens who are the victims of crime. And the Vice President knows the importance to our nation and to our children of the values expressed in the simple words: "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

And besides restoring our economy and defending our values, we want to also work on our nation's defenses. We're once again respected in the world. Our Armed Forces are strong, and America is at peace. We and our NATO allies stood firm in the face of Soviet missiles pointing at the heart of Europe and Asia. And Mr. Gorbachev got the message. He did business because we meant business. And we still mean business.

Now, tomorrow, I feel confident that the people of the United States are going to do exactly what I did 8 years ago: They're going to choose George Bush. This year one of the best qualified men—yes, as you were told by the Governor—to ever seek the Office of President is on the ballot. I think you know his record of service in Congress, at the United Nations, in China as de facto Ambassador, and as Director of the CIA. And for the past 8 years, George Bush has served with the greatest distinction of any Vice President in the history of the United States.

I have worked more closely with him in these two terms than with any other member of the administration. Let me tell you about the man that I have come to know. He is strong, decent, loyal, wise, capable, and compassionate. And there is one man who has the experience to be President.

Audience members. Bush! Bush! Bush!

The President. Yes, that man is George Bush. And on November 8th, if you make it possible for him to carry California, California will help make him the next President of the United States.

In this, as in every campaign, two men have stood before the people. One, George Bush, has served this nation at the highest levels for nearly a quarter of a century. As for his opponent, we only really began to learn about him during the last few months. He's been as vague as to what he would do in office. Yet when we focus on his record, he objects. At the outset, our opponent announced that the issue this year was competence. In fact, that was the same thing another Democratic Governor said in his 1976 Presidential campaign. [Laughter] I don't think the American people want to take that risk again.

Audience members. No!

The President. They remember that the last time they took a chance on a blind date and went out with a stranger and they came home with "malaise." [Laughter]

But we can cut through the evasion and the rhetoric, and reach down to the record. And we find that the pieces of the puzzle fit together very clearly. I'd better not say what they show, because I'm not supposed to use the "L" word. [Laughter]

But here are the pieces. Our opponent boasts of his membership in the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union]

Audience members. Booo!

The President. He is against voluntary prayer in school.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. And he vetoed a bill to require Massachusetts teachers to lead the class in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. He's appointed judges to his State's supreme court who have voted to strike down a ban on child pornography—

Audience members. Booo!

The President.—and have opposed mandatory sentences for drug dealers.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. He had the only prison furlough program in the country that gave weekend passes to first-degree murderers serving life sentences without parole.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. And he had vetoed a bill to change that. And in every case, even for the most brutal crimes, he opposes the death penalty.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. Well, he's free to have these views, but is this the man we want choosing the Justices to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States?

Audience members. No!

The President. I think you know what I mean when I say that kind of radical judicial policy would be strictly for the birds. [Laughter]

On economics, he objects to being called a liberal. But what do you call someone who since 1983 has increased State spending at double the rate of increasing Federal spending? Never mind the snowblower- [laughter] —the special interests and bureaucrats in Massachusetts call him Santa Claus. [Laughter] And in the last 2 years, while we cut the Federal deficit by a third, his budget gap ballooned. And what about taxes? He opposed his State's version of our Proposition 13.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. He's raised taxes seven times—

Audience members. Booo!

The President.—and he refuses to pledge not to raise Federal taxes.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. He does say he wants to hire more IRS agents.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. Let's just say that if raising taxes becomes an Olympic event, he's going for a gold medal.

And when we look at defense, again the pieces fit. Our opponent's on the advisory board of a left-wing group that wanted to slash the defense budget by 25 percent.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. He opposes the B-1 bomber, the mobile MX, and the Midgetman missile, and would eliminate two carrier battle groups from the Navy.

Audience members. Booo!

The President. In fact, what he plans for the Navy is so bad that by the time he's through Michael may have to row the boat ashore. [Laughter]

Now, from top to bottom, the election this year is a referendum on liberalism. Yes, the choice before the American people this year is just as clear as it was in 1980 and 1984: a choice between, on the one hand, liberal policies of tax and spend; economic stagnation; international weakness; and always, always "blame America first"—

Audience members. Booo!

The President.—and on the other hand, what we believe: the policies of limited government, economic growth, a strong defense, and always "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America."

You know, standing here, as I've already told you, I was once a passenger on this ship, the Queen Mary, back when folks crossed the Atlantic by ship—you know, Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan— [laughter] —we all traveled that way. [Laughter] But I'd been in England filming a movie, "The Hasty Heart." It had finished, and I was returning to America. And one foggy morning, I got up early. And there, from the deck of that ship, looking through the mist, I saw, for the first time in my life that I'd ever seen it, the Statue of Liberty. She's become the other woman in my life. [Laughter] She was such a beautiful sight; how could I not say "God bless America."

Many years later, in 1980, after receiving the Republican nomination for President, once again I stood before Lady Liberty, this time at the event to kick off my run for the White House. And that year, as in each race, just like today, I've come back to California for the final day on the trail. And there is no place on Earth I would rather be right now. This is my last campaign, and seeing all of you, and people like George Deukmejian and Dana Rohrabacher, and seeing the Queen Mary again, it's like closing a circle, like sailing into the harbor after a long and wonderful voyage to be greeted by old and beloved friends.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight, as the Sun sets into the Pacific, one chapter will come to an end. But as the Sun rises tomorrow, a great new chapter for America will begin when we elect George Bush.

Audience members. Bush! Bush! Bush!

The President. But let me tell you one last story. And it's about that trip to England 40 years ago. When I was over there—it was my first visit—we were in that country and stopped at an old pub. I wanted to see one of those hundreds-and-hundreds-of-years-old pubs. And there we were, a few friends and myself. And really, over here, we would have called it a morn-and-pop place. This quite elderly lady was waiting on us. And finally, hearing us talking to one another, she said, "You're Americans, aren't you?" And we said we were. And then she said, "Oh, there were a lot of your chaps stationed just down the road here during the war." And she said, "They used to come in here every evening, and they'd have a songfest." And she said, "They called me more, and they called the old man pop."

And then suddenly, she's no longer looking at us. She's looking beyond us into memory. And there are a couple of tears appearing. And she said, "It was Christmas Eve, and you know, we were all alone and feeling a bit let down. And suddenly, the door opened, and they burst into the place." She said, "They had presents for me and pop." And this time, as I say, the tears were really coming down. And she said, "Yes, big strapping lads they was, from a place called Ioway." [Laughter]

Well, one of the "big strapping lads" who served in that war was a man named George Bush. He flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific. He was the Navy's youngest pilot and was decorated for his heroism. Many years later, in 1980, he earned my lasting respect when he won a Presidential caucus in the place where the race for the White House began, a place called Ioway. And, ladies and gentlemen, America needs the strength, the vision, and the true grit of George Bush.

Some say that it's time for a change. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are the change. It began 8 years ago.

Now, let's remember that Yogi Berra said: "It isn't over till it's over"—no complacency, no overconfidence. We need you to vote and to get others out to vote. And getting out the vote could be the difference between victory and defeat. Tomorrow's the day. It's the final game of the World Series; it's the Olympics; it's the Super Bowl, all rolled into one. And if you would, I hope you'll just win one more for the Gipper.

Audience members. Reagan! Reagan! Reagan!

The President. Let's all do this together for America. And from the bottom of my heart, thank you, and God bless you all.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. You've all been so kind, and I've heard you say 4 and 8 and so forth, and the number of years. May I just say one thing to you? When I get out of the job, so nobody can think I'm doing it for myself, I'm going to do everything I can to see if we can't rise up and get rid of that amendment because it's an infringement on your democratic rights.

Note: The President spoke at 12:17 p.m. on the pier adjacent to the "Queen Mary." He was introduced by Gov. George Deukmejian.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Republican Campaign Rally in Long Beach, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives