Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Republican Party Rally in Waco, Texas

September 22, 1988

The President. Thank you, Governor, and thank you, Dr. Reynolds, and Congressman Boulter. And I thank all of you veery much. And a special thanks for that great music to the Baylor University Golden Wave Band. It is great to be back in the Lone Star State. And it's great to come to the home of the unbeaten Baylor Bears and your big buddy, Zach. But after hearing that greeting you gave me, it just makes me want to say, "Sic 'em, Bears!"

You know, now with this reception that you've given me, I have to say that once upon a time being a Republican in this area of the country felt a little bit like being Gary Cooper in "High Noon"— [laughter] —outnumbered in a big way. Well, all that, as they say, is history—or should I say ancient history, which at my age is a subject that I'm regarded as an expert in. [Laughter]

Today Texas has a team that it can depend on to defend our basic values and keep America strong: Bill Clements, Phil Gramm, Kent Hance, and the next Senator from the State of Texas and a Baylor graduate, Beau Boulter.

And let me take just a moment to talk about the positive achievements of the past 8 years. We have a robust, growing economy, with low inflation. Young people starting out can look forward to jobs and opportunity—a secure future to start a family. And more people are at work today than ever before in the history of the United States of America. Now, you know, I hear that number being given, and then some people say, "Well, we've got a bigger population than we had before." No, that isn't the way it figures.

Everybody in the United States—male and female, from age 16 on up—are considered to be the potential employment pool. So, that means all of you—and I doubt if there are any of you that are less than 16. But today 62.7 percent, almost two-thirds of that entire pool, is employed in the United States; and it's the greatest percentage in the history of this country.

We're beginning to turn around the decades-long decline in education by returning to basics and demanding nothing less than excellence. We're restoring our judicial system by appointing serious-minded judges who respect the Constitution and America's traditional values. We've rekindled an ancient pride; a noble patriotism that loves America and would extend our blessings to the world. We've given our men and women in uniform the kind of pay, the kind of weapons, and the kind of respect they deserve. And it's a proud thing once again to wear the uniform of the United States. And because of all that, our nation is again respected in the world. Our Armed Forces are strong, and America is at peace.

What more can we say than that the parents of a child born today can look forward to the 21st century with hope and optimism that their child will know the brightest future the world has ever seen? And let me say something to each one of you here today: That bright future is also yours. It is your birthright as Americans, and what we've seen in the last 8 years is only the beginning.

America has traveled such a remarkable distance in the last 8 years that the memory has faded of the economic and foreign policy crises that we faced when Vice President Bush and I took office. This year the liberals are singing the same old tune they were singing way back then, and it sure isn't "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Now, if you want to remember how things really were just a few years back, think of the year 1979. Now, I know you were quite young in '79. But in that one year, Iran, Nicaragua, and Grenada were all lost; Iran fell to the Ayatollah; Nicaragua and Grenada were taken by the Communists. In that one year, our Embassy in Iran was seized not once but twice. Our Ambassador to Afghanistan was assassinated by gunmen, and that country invaded by Soviet troops. Add to that the economic crisis at home. That was just 9 years ago, and we're still paying for it today. That was the year 1979. Don't we have the right to ask the American people: If the liberals return to power, what happens in 1989?

Well, that's how things were abroad. At home they were just as bad. Inflation and economic stagnation gave our economy a one-two punch that had America's families on the ropes. Between 1977 and 1981, the after-inflation income of the typical American family fell by almost 7 percent. And then George Bush and I rode into town and locked up inflation. [Laughter] And since then the American family's real income has risen by more than 10 percent.

Of course, the liberals hope you'll forget why we were able to turn the economy around. Their message is: You can take prosperity for granted; it's time for a change, so take a chance on us. [Laughter] Well, that's sort of like someone telling you that you've stored up all the ice cream you could want, so now it's time to unplug the freezer. [Laughter] But whether it's a well-stocked freezer or our pro-growth economic policies, you can't unplug what's working and expect things to stay the same, and that's what they're trying to do.

I don't think I have to tell you that these days some liberals are using our words and phrases, terms like "community," "family," and "values." But while the words are the same, the meanings are different. For example, as part of their so-called profamily agenda, they propose Federal child-care assistance. Last week I told an audience in Washington that under this liberal proposal if you want assistance and you also want to leave your child with his or her grandmother that day, the grandmother will have to be licensed by the Federal Government.

Well, after I spoke, a reporter called one of the liberal congressional staff members behind that bill and asked if it was true that grandmothers would have to get Federal licenses to take care of their own grandchildren. And the reply came: Yes, of course it's true. After all—and here's the quote—"How else can you design a program that receives Federal funds?"

By the way, our party has proposed an innovative plan to help families in need of child-care assistance. For every child under 4, a working family's taxes would go down by up to $1,000—plain and simple. This will allow parents to choose among a variety of options if they need child-care assistance, including what experts as well as common sense tells us is the best option of all: by making it easier for the mother to stay home. And there's all the difference between us and them. When the liberals say "family," they mean "Big Brother in Washington." [Laughter] When we say "family," we mean "honor thy father and mother."

I don't think I have to tell you that lowering taxes rather than raising spending is not something the liberals understand. One thing they hate to do is to let tax dollars out on furlough. [Laughter] When they get their paws on the budget, government guzzles tax money faster than Zach drinks his Dr. Pepper. [Laughter]

You know, I have an example of the difference between our two philosophies. I remember when I was Governor of California. Now, I came into office—and it was the first fiscal year—and found that in violation of the constitution, the State was already carrying a great deficit. And just before the end of the first fiscal year that I was there, my finance director came to me and said, "We're going to have a surplus." And he thought and told me that he thought that since I hadn't been able to do anything in the nature of spending money because of that deficit that maybe now I had some pet program I was waiting to put into place and that I should announce that before the legislature found out. The legislature was dominated by the Democratic Party.

And I said, "I do have a plan: Let's give it back to the people." And he said, "Well, that's never been done." [Laughter] And I said, "Well, they never had an actor up here before either." Well, I went public and made the announcement that we had a plan by way of the State income tax to give this money—all of it—back to the taxpayers.

And shortly thereafter, a liberal senator from the other party stormed into my office, pounded my desk, and he said, "I consider giving that money back to the people an unnecessary expenditure of public funds." [Laughter] Well, there again is the difference, as I say, between our two philosophies. To them, everything belongs to the Government; to us, everything belongs to the people.

But, as I said, in area after area this year, the liberals have tried to hide their philosophy behind our words. When they say "opportunity," they mean subsidies. When they say "closing the deficit," they mean raising taxes. When they say "strong defense," they mean cut defense spending—no wonder their favorite machine is the snowblower.

Now long ago, I vetoed a defense authorization bill that Congress sent to me and that embodied much of what the liberals want to do to our nation's defenses. But lately, some liberal leaders have seen what was happening to them in the polls and have had a deathbed conversion. They'd have you believe that they're born-again General George Pattons. [Laughter] But if we go the way they want to go, our defenses will run out of gas in no time.

For example, the liberals are proclaiming loudly that they're for the new Trident missile and the Stealth bomber. But then they whisper that they're also for delaying deployment of both systems pending the outcome of arms talks—which could drag on for years—while the Soviets could be deploying new systems of their own.

They shout loudly that they're for maintaining the effectiveness of the land-based leg of our strategic triad. But they're against the only modern missile systems that will be available for years to come, and would like to see an end to the flight testing needed to develop new systems. And they're against the B-1 bomber; they're against our strategic defense against ballistic missiles; and they would wipe out two carrier battle groups. In fact, what they plan for the Navy is so bad that by the time they get through, Michael may have to row the boat ashore. [Laughter]

But at this time, when nightly television pictures of the destruction of U.S. and Soviet missiles under our INF treaty tell us that our policy of peace through strength is truly working, you tell me, yes or no: Is this any time to return to the liberal policies of the past?

Audience. No!

The President. You didn't surprise me a bit. [Laughter] Well, the sad truth is that when the liberals refuse even to whisper the "L" word and insist that this election is not about ideology; it's about competence-they're just acknowledging that where they want to take America, America doesn't want to go. But the one issue, the only issue, that will matter on Inauguration Day is the issue of direction. Will we reelect peace and prosperity, or will we play "Truth or Consequences" with trenchcoat liberals?

Now, you know, I have to tell you I'm a former Democrat. But I think you know what I mean when I raise questions about the distinction between the rank-and-file Democrats—many of whom I hope are here—and the liberal leadership of that party in Washington, a liberal leadership that has turned a once-proud party of hope and affirmation into one dominated by strident liberalism and negativism.

They have made the party of "yes" the party of "no"—"no" to the school prayer amendment, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the right to life; "no" to the death penalty and to judges who care not just about criminals but about the victims of crime; "no" to our raid on Qadhafi's Libya and our rescue mission in Grenada; and "no" to the foreign policy of strength and purpose that has told the truth about communism and helped bring the first signs of change to the Soviet Union in decades. And to my way of thinking, that's too many "no's," too many "no's" to you and me and the American people and what we want done in Washington.

What 1988 is about is America's future. Yes, we're proud of our record of the longest peacetime economic expansion in American history and over 17 1/2 million new jobs. And when, from the TV screen, you see and hear somebody say: Well, but all of those jobs, or most of them, were real down-at-the-bottom jobs, low income, and so forth and so on—no, almost two-thirds of the 17 1/2 million are in the pay scale above the median income.

Now, it's very good, but it still isn't good enough for us. We want more—more growth, more opportunity, more jobs. And we intend to ensure this kind of economic prosperity right through the nineties and into the next century by guaranteeing the Federal Government can never again spend and tax the American people into another economic nightmare.

Let me give you an example of what I mean: Some of you may remember that last January 1 went up to Capitol Hill for the State of the Union Address. I talked about some of the problems caused by the liberal leadership in the Congress, who were all there to hear it. I mentioned that in 7 years of 91 appropriations bills scheduled to arrive on my desk by the beginning of the fiscal year, only 9 made it on time.

Last year, of the 13 appropriations bills due by October 1st, none of them made it. Instead, we had 4 continuing resolutions lasting 41 days the first time, then 36 more days, then 2 days, and 3 days, respectively.

And then along came that behemoth, the continuing resolution containing all the appropriations. You have to sign it or close down the Government. It was 1,057 pages long. It weighed 14 pounds and was 2 months late. Even Congress didn't know what was in it. [Laughter] They passed it and sent it to me so late that I had just a few hours—yes, a few hours, not days, hours—to sign or shut down the Government. Well, this time, I did sign. But then as I said in my State of the Union Address, next time they do that, I won't.

Well, today Congress and our administration are working to keep that from happening again. I want to receive by the beginning of the next fiscal year, October 1st, all the Government's appropriation bills for the coming year—ones that I can sign. Our administration will pull out all the stops on our end to see to it that this happens. And I happen to think there's a good chance it will happen. And if so, it'll be the first time that the Nation's business has been finished on time since 1948.

Well, the next President deserves better than this. The American people deserve better. The liberals have been in control of both Houses of Congress for 46 of the last 56 years. And this is what it's come to: My friends, it's time for a change. It's time to have a Congress that stands up and pays attention to the American people and their agenda, not to the agenda of the liberal special interests in Washington. And a great way to start is by sending more Republicans to the House of Representatives and Beau Boulter to the United States Senate.

And there's one last issue, yes, more important than even all the other crucial matters we've already discussed. Ladies and gentlemen, just a few years ago, I wonder how many of us could really have believed then that so many of our fondest hopes and dreams for America could come true?

And of all those things that have happened, how many of us could have imagined 8 or even 4 years ago that one day a President of the United States would have an opportunity to stand, as I did a few months ago, there in the Lenin Hills at a podium at Moscow State University and tell the young people of the Soviet Union about the wonder and glory of human freedom? I was well-received. But I was amazed later to discover not all the student body could fit into their auditorium, so they had seen that all who did were members of the Young Communist League. And yet they seem to respond pretty good to talking about individual freedom.

But with the beginnings of change we've seen in the Eastern bloc and with the development of concepts like the SDI that destroys weapons, not people, it's just possible that we have a chance now to end the two great nightmares of this century and give our children a future free of both totalitarianism and nuclear terror. Now, we found out what works in foreign policy. We've demonstrated time and again that candid rhetoric, a strong defense, and tough diplomacy bring peace. What a great moment we have before us, and, oh, how future generations will dishonor us if now, in a moment of sudden folly, we throw it all away. And this is what is now at stake. We must hold to this moment of hope, and we must be allowed to complete that which we have begun.

And when I say "we," I mean you. You can determine the future of our nation and the world. That is what America means: a nation that is in your own hands. Think of how different you are and how much more privileged than so many of those Soviet college students that I addressed. Unless they get into and rise in the Communist party-and few ever do—they have little or no voice in how their nation is run. Not you, not if you vote; there's no more precious right in the world. So, take the world, take history in your hands this November, and join us in our crusade for a bright and shining future for this bright and shining city on a hill we call America.

I just want to point out to you one thing: All of you between the ages of 18 and 24 now constitute the biggest voting bloc in the country. But surprisingly, you have the lowest voting percentage of any age group in the country. So, what I'm asking you today is not only pledge yourselves that you're going to register if you haven't—it isn't all that difficult—and then you're going to vote, but also be missionaries. Buttonhole others that may not have thought the same as you and tell them that you in that youthful age group can determine the future of the United States by how you cast your votes and the fact that you do cast votes. The late Will Rogers many years ago said: "The people in public office are no better and no worse than the people who send them there. But they're all better than those who don't vote at all." So, get out there and register and vote.

So, yes, some say that it is time for a change. Well, let me just remind you: We are the change. We started it 8 years ago, and we're going to continue it if you do the right thing at the polls on November 8th. And I think George Bush explained it correctly at the convention when he said, people that tell you you should change horses in the middle of the stream—well, don't change to one that's going the opposite direction.

Now, I'm supposed to say a thank you and get off of here right now, but I am—my people just—they're in terror of me because I have a new hobby. I collect stories that I can prove are told by the Russian people among themselves and that kind of show the attitudes to their government. And I've been collecting them, and I'm going to leave you with one that I told to General Secretary Gorbachev.

This story, they have it, is that an American and a Russian were arguing about their two countries. And the American said, "Look, I can go into the Oval Office. I can pound the President's desk and say, 'Mr. President, I don't like the way you're running our country.'" And the Russian said, "I can do that." The American said, "You can?" He said, "Yes, I can go into the Kremlin to the General Secretary's office. I can pound his desk and say, 'Mr. General Secretary, I don't like the way President Reagan's running his country.'" [Laughter] Thank you all. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 12:07 p.m. in Paul Meyer Arena at Baylor University's Ferrell Special Events Center. In his opening remarks, he referred to Gov. William Clements and Herbert H. Reynolds, president of the university.

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

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