Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Senate Republican Unity Dinner

November 28, 1984

Thank you, Howard. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Vice President and Mrs. Bush, Members of the Senate, members of the Cabinet, thank you all very much. This is a wonderful evening for all of us. The Grand Old Party became the majority party of the Senate in 1980, and it was reelected the majority party in 1982 and again in 1984. This is the first back-to-back-to-back Republican majority in the Senate in over 50 years. And we're going to stay the majority party.

Now I want to say a few words about Howard Baker. We had a sort of a roast for Howard a while back when he announced that he was leaving, and you can imagine the sort of things that, at a roast, were said about him. Actually, it didn't go on very long because someone pointed out that if you can't say something nice about someone, you shouldn't say anything at all. So, we all put on our hats and went home. [Laughter]

But tonight it should be said formally by the leader of his party, who speaks, I know, for all of you, that Howard Baker has been one of the men who has kept the wheel of democracy turning. As a leader of the Senate, he has been endlessly patient and full of care and high purpose. He is a hero of the Republic. And I want to thank you, Howard, and let you know you're going to be greatly missed.

I want to mention also John Tower of Texas, one of the giants of the modern Senate who has done great work for his nation. So, too, with Chuck Percy and Roger Jepsen, who served our party and our country extremely well. We'll miss them.

Our new majority leader in the Senate, Bob Dole, is a man of wit and wisdom. And we look forward to working closely with you, Bob, and with the new leadership slate.

Last week out at the ranch—and it's not true, by the way, that we had to get people to fly over and drop more brush for me to clear— [laughter] —last week out at the ranch, I was digging some irrigation ditches. And it occurred to me that digging ditches was precisely the kind of hard labor that I ought to be doing to prepare for the next 4 years, because our great victory now of 1984 is over and to the victor belong the toils. [Laughter] That is the saying, isn't it?

We live in historic times. The great change that we began 4 years ago has been called the Reagan Revolution. Well, let me correct something. You know as well as I do, it was really the Republican Revolution, and all of you are its leaders. I truly believe that we're now the majority party not only of the Senate but of the Nation. But if we're to keep our new status and hold it, indeed, if we're to continue to restore it—or deserve it, I should say, we must, all of us, join together and seize the challenges that history has seen fit to hand us.

We have an historic opportunity in the coming session to make our national tax system more just. We can make it fair and clear. And we can make sure that all those who take risks will be able to enjoy the rewards that those risks entail. We have the Opportunity to create a tax system that will not punish all those who could and would be the most productive members of our society, and we must.

This is, as I said, an historic opportunity, and the time to seize it is now. Some of the most productive work of your political lives will be done over the next few years. And if all of us can do what we should about taxes, then history will recall us with kindness and respect. The same holds true for our obligation to continue to cut Federal spending and get the budget monster back in its cage.

We have the continued opportunity to make it clear together in the wider theater of the world that we're absolutely committed to democracy and absolutely opposed to totalitarianism of whatever stripe. We have the responsibility to stand for freedom in a world lit by lightning, and together we must.

So many challenges before us, but together we can change the world. Here we are, all of us, together on this bright and brisk November evening. And I hope we remember this time together, remember the good feeling and the shared commitment in this room.

It's always a struggle for those of us in political life to take the long view and to brave decisions without regard to personal political cost. There are times when we fail in the struggle and times when we succeed. And I suspect the next few years will test us more than usual, but I know we're up to it. And I know that we Republicans will stick together, as united as the Union our party long ago fought to preserve. We'll have our battles ahead of us, but they're good battles, and they're worth fighting for.

My friends in the other party have been saying that our 49-State sweep was not a mandate and that I personally am a lameduck. Well, if I'm so lame, I've decided to get a cast, and that'll be useful when I have to do some kicking. [Laughter] I won't finish that phrase. It's an old athletic saying. [Laughter]

I hope the loyal opposition realizes exactly how committed I am and you are to changing the status quo and improving our national life. We won't be resting on our laurels, even if we were so inclined, which we're not. History wouldn't allow it. We've been handed great opportunities and great challenges, and we intend to meet them together.

You know, I got into the habit during the campaign—understandable little political habit of milking the audience a little. I'd do the stump speech and then near the end I'd say, "I guess I've been going on too long here"—hoping that the audience would yell, "No!" And, of course, all fired up in partisan rallies, they usually would. And I found this most gratifying and allowed it to spill over to my private life until one day I said it to Nancy, and she said, "Yes, you are going on too long"— [laughter] —"and now it's time for you to rest your wonderful vocal cords." [Laughter] Now, that last part's my version of what she said. She said it in two words. [Laughter] So, that's what I'm going to do.

But let me say before I go that I've been very proud to work with you these past 4 years, and I'm very proud of the work that we've done. And now the next 4 years, let it continue.

Thanks so much to all of you. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 10:36 p.m. in the Great Hall at the Library of Congress.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Senate Republican Unity Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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