Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Republican Party Rally in Miami, Florida

July 23, 1986

The President. Well, thank you, Paula, and thank all of you very much. A few weeks ago our country celebrated Liberty Weekend, and that was quite a party. Well, it's terrific to be here in Miami with people who never stop celebrating American freedom. America is proud that our citizens came here from every corner of the world to better themselves and to live in freedom. And nowhere is that spirit, the American spirit, more alive and kicking than right here in Miami. And I want to thank Jeb Bush, in particular, for his efforts to bring more and more of our new citizens into the Republican fold.

But if freedom is to work, we've got to work together. You know, there's a story that I told our allies overseas. It was about two fellows that were out hiking in the woods. And they suddenly looked up, and a grizzly bear was coming over the hill toward them. And one of them sat down on the ground immediately, reached into his pack, took off a pair of sneakers, took off his boots, and started to put on the sneakers. And his friend standing there says, "Well, you don't mean to tell me you think you can outrun that bear?" He said, "I don't have to outrun the bear; I just have to outrun you." [Laughter] Well, I told our allies a bear may or may not be coming over the hill, but today the free people of the world can count on America to stick by her friends. We're on our feet, and we're standing together, and we're not running away from anyone.

In these last 5 1/2 years we've rebuilt America's defensive strength and reinvigorated our alliances with other free nations. One of the changes that we've helped bring about makes me particularly happy: Today the brave men and women who defend this country are receiving the praise and gratitude they so rightfully deserve. We've restored the pride in wearing the uniform of the military services of the United States of America.

Only a decade ago there were those who were counting America out, and freedom was in retreat. Countries in Africa and Central America seemed on the verge of succumbing to Communist totalitarianism. When I was first inaugurated, the question being asked then was: Could El Salvador be saved? And many thought the answer to the question was no, and they objected to our trying to help El Salvador become a democracy. And many of those who opposed our help to El Salvador are now opposed to our helping the freedom fighters in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

This is Captive Nations Week. It's a time set aside to remember our brothers and sisters who languish under Communist tyranny. During our ceremony this year, which was held on Monday, I mentioned a fact of which I'm very proud. Under this administration, no new countries have been added to the list of captive nations; and in fact, one small country, Grenada, has had its freedom restored.

And reflecting the change that has taken place over these last 5 1/2 years, the question heard today is not whether El Salvador will fall to Communist dictatorship—El Salvador is now a solid democracy—but whether democracy will prevail in Nicaragua. And the world should note that Americans, Democrats and Republicans, are again standing together to meet any threat to our national security and any challenge to the cause of human freedom. Now, symbolic of this new solidarity and resolve was the bipartisan support that was given in the House of Representatives to a bill that provided aid to the Nicaraguan freedom fighters. That wasn't a victory for any political party. It was a victory for freedom and democracy.

When that bill passed, it sent a clear message to the enemies of freedom: No dictatorial power will be permitted, through the inaction of the United States, to arm a clique of its followers and hijack any country in this hemisphere. It's the birthright of every American—and that includes everyone from the North Slope of Alaska to the tip of Tierra del Fuego—to live in freedom. Dictatorships of right and left take notice: We, the people of the United States, will provide our fellow Americans, from every country, the means to protect their birthright from aggression.

Today freedom is on the offensive, and young idealists are no longer being taken in by Castro as they once were. You know, he's been a great illusionist, but only for a time. Today the continued harshness of his rule, the political prisoners who fill the jails of Castro's gulag, even his own long demagogic harangues of the Cuban people, reveal the true nature of communism. It is a cruel system that doesn't work. It produces misery, tyranny, and deprivation—and little else.

You know, I've been collecting stories that I know are told in Russia by the Russian people, and I can confirm that. The stories show their cynicism now about their government. And this happens to be the little incident of two Russians walking down a street in Moscow. And one said to the other, "Tell me, have we now really completed the whole thing of communism? Do we now have the full force of communism at work?" And the other one says, "Oh, no. Things are going to get a lot worse."
You know

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

The President. Thank you. I have to tell you something. You know that that's in the Constitution that it can't be, but I have to tell you something. [Applause] Now, wait a minute. [Applause] But I'm going to tell you what I think. I think that any President who will try to get the Constitution changed should not be doing it for himself. He should be doing it for those who will follow him. Well, I have to tell you I think it should be changed, because I think it's only democratic for the people to be able to vote for someone as many times as they want.

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

The President. Well, listen. Well, I want to talk about Nicaragua again. The Communist regime—which even the New York Times compares to Stalin's—has thrown labor leaders in jail and brutally beaten down any attempt to maintain an independent union movement. And that's totally consistent with what Castro did when he captured power. Now, I understand that we have with us someplace here today a lady who was a respected Cuban labor leader in the days before Castro, Mercedes Chirino. Mercedes, many people forget that I, too, was a union leader. And let me say to you: History is on the side of the free, and someday the working people of Cuba will again work and prosper in the warm sunshine of liberty and justice. All of you who have been so supportive over these last 5 1/2 years—the Cuban-American Foundation, Concerned Citizens for Democracy, and so many others—can be proud that you are writing the history of freedom. So much depends on us.

Now, I'm also here in Miami in support of another lady, a gutsy individual who has played a unique and irreplaceable role putting America back on the right track. The progress that we've talked about here today could not have happened without her. I hope each and every one of you will do everything you can to see that Paula Hawkins is reelected to the United States Senate.
Audience. Paula! Paula! Paula!

The President. Now, it's not good enough just to vote for her. I'm asking you to get your friends to vote for her, to walk your precincts, to organize the phone banks. It's a lot to ask, but do it for your families, for Florida, for your country, and—if I might be presumptuous a bit—do it for the Gipper. Paula deserves your support. It's as simple as that. The big taxers and the big spenders gave this country double-digit inflation, economic decline, sky-high interest rates, and unprecedented national pessimism. Paula threw herself, heart and soul, into some of the hardest fought economic policy battles in the history of this Republic. And with the help of the people and the skill and dedication of elected officials like Paula, we turned the economy around. We crushed inflation. We ushered in economic growth that has surprised even our own critics. Let me ask you: Does anyone here want to go back to those bad old days? Audience. No!

The President. Well, Paula has been more than a teamplayer. She's been out in front of the pack, leading the way. Paula, for example, has a deep understanding of the ideological battle this country must win. She saw a need. She made an enormous effort. Roadblocks were put in our path all along the way. And yet she persevered. And thanks to her commitment—and let there be no doubt, it wouldn't have happened without her—today Radio Marti is broadcasting the truth to the people of Cuba.

On another front, Paula recognized the magnitude of the threat that vicious drug smugglers pose to this State. And again she played an essential role in activating the Federal Government to cope in Florida's assistance. And today the fight is far from won, but thanks to Paula we've launched what can only be described as a war on drugs. And 11 percent of the Federal drug enforcement budget is spent in your State. So, let no one doubt our resolve. The drugpushers and the merchants of death who supply them are on notice: The time is right to retire from the trade for health reasons. [Laughter] We mean business, and—to paraphrase John Paul Jones—we have just begun to fight.

Paula is one of the hardest working and bravest elected officials I've ever met. She's earned the admiration of all Washington with the courageous way that she has overcome two back operations and is stronger than ever. This lady may be recovering, but she still knows how to twist arms. [Laughter] And every time I see her she hands me something to do. [Laughter] She was over at the White House last week. And before she left, she'd gotten the decision she wanted and was outside announcing that-even though the inflation rate has remained below the trigger level—all Social Security recipients will be getting a full cost-of-living increase.

Now, Paula, some people call that clout; I call it style. And just wait until she gets up to full steam. But as important as what she's done is what she will do. We've got some serious issues coming up. The big taxers are going to keep trying to get their hands on your wallet, especially if they can regain control of the Senate. During the last decade the Federal tax take more than doubled. Ordinary working people ended up paying taxes at rates that had once been reserved for the affluent and the rich. I think Floridians want someone representing them who believes that people deserve to keep the money they earn, someone who prefers to ask the Federal Government rather than the American family to tighten its belt. Paula Hawkins is a low taxer. She's for more take-home pay and less government. And that's the kind of person we need in, and in control of, the United States Senate.

She's also the kind of Senator that we want and can count on to back up our efforts to put tough law and order judges on the bench. As a matter of fact, let me just tell you a little something. There was a very important thing going on in the Senate today, and there was—I didn't know—I have come here by way of Texas—whether Paula was going to be with us here. She just arrived at the airport here from Washington on her own just a few minutes ahead of me. She stayed because the judge that I had nominated, that had to be ratified by the Senate—and a little lynch mob had organized resistance against his appointment. We won by one vote. She knows we don't need sociology majors as judges. We need individuals who feel a heavy responsibility to protect the innocent and put the criminals where they belong—behind bars. Now, does it matter who controls the Senate on issues like this? You bet it does. And it was proven there today, because we don't have all that big a lead in the Senate.

And finally, we don't want to return control of the United States Senate to people whose only idea for reducing Federal deficit spending is gutting the United States military and weakening our defenses. If we ask our military personnel to put their lives on the line for us, we're not going to give them anything less than the top quality equipment they need to do their job and come home safely.

As one of the fastest growing States, Florida needs leaders with vision. Paula certainly fits that bill. And it's clear, by those seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, we have quality and experience there on our side. Florida has a Republican team that's worthy of its future. There's no reason that Florida should not lead our country into the 21st century. And what kind of country do we want? We want a strong, prosperous, and secure America—an America that remains true to the promise of liberty and opportunity that we celebrated on Liberty Weekend. Together, we can and will keep this the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 6:43 p.m. in the West Mezzanine Lobby at the Hotel Intercontinental. He was introduced by Senator Paula Hawkins. In his opening remarks, he referred to Jeb Bush, chairman of the Dade County Republican Party.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Republican Party Rally in Miami, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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