Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Annual Awards Dinner of the White House News Photographers Association

May 18, 1983

The President. Now, I've been told that this is all off the record and that the cameras are all off. Is that right? [Laughter] I was told that, because I've been waiting years to do this. [The President placed his thumbs in his ears and wiggled his fingers.] [Laughter]

Audience members. Do it again! [Laughter]

The President. No! [Laughter] I want to tell you, though, I had a bad moment—or Nancy and I did when we came in here. You're all so beautifully dressed and dressed up, that we thought maybe we'd gotten to the wrong dinner. [Laughter] You know, usually you have a bag over your shoulder, and you look a little rumpled, sort of like a fellow that's just checking out of a motel and rather not be seen leaving. [Laughter]

But on the level, though, I like photographers. You don't ask questions. [Laughter] Can you imagine Sam Donaldson [ABC News] with a camera? [Laughter] As most of you would say, "The thought makes me shutter." [Laughter] Somebody asked me one day why we didn't put a stop to Sam's shouting out questions at us when we're out on the South Lawn. We can't. If we did, the starlings would come back. [Laughter]

That reminds me, just the other day, I saw my first robin redbreast of the spring in a tree outside the Oval Office—and six of you in the bushes. [Laughter] This is, you know, all the things that go with this job—I was worried that I'd get out of shape in this job. But thanks to Mike Deaver's diet and Jane Fonda's workout book, I feel just great. [Laughter] You wouldn't believe the muscle I've developed in my left arm. [Laughter] That took a second, didn't it? [Laughter]

I'm told that there's a feeling among photographers that journalists don't treat you well or as fairly as you'd like. Welcome to the club. [Laughter] You know, I like your White House photographers motto, though, "One picture is worth a thousand denials." [Laughter]

I have a confession to make. Those top secret satellite photos of the Grenada air base that I showed on television a few weeks ago—I think you really should know they weren't really satellite photos. We tied a balloon on Mike Evans [Personal Photographer to the President] and floated him over. [Laughter]

The other day, when all those ballplayers were out there on the South Lawn on that big baseball day that we had, Jim Watt told me out there that, when he was a boy, he dreamed of one day being out in center field at Yankee Stadium—drilling oil. [Laughter]

I know this isn't a partisan political affair. But I also know that you have wide-angle lenses that are wide enough to get all the Democratic Presidential candidates in one shot. [Laughter] You just don't have a lens that's wide enough to get all their promises. [Laughter] But you could tell me if this one that I heard is true. Is it true that young Gary Hart is having the wrinkles airbrushed in? [Laughter]

There are some things that you and I have in common in addition to being on the opposite ends of the camera. For you, the darkroom is a place to develop film. For me, it's a place where the Democrats use it as a think tank. [Laughter]

But you're a brave bunch. You storm Normandy Beach. You raise a flag on Mount Suribachi. You have breakfast with Baker and Deaver and Meese. [Laughter] But let's get serious for just a moment, and a moment is all I'm going to take.

On a newspaper or a magazine page, I always look at your work first, and so does everyone else. It's that still photo that captures the essence of the moment and sticks in our memory. If the written or broadcast media could capture the truth as consistently and accurately as you do, the American people might have a better perspective on many issues of the day.

I admire what you do. And I believe you do your job honestly and fairly. And that's the basis of our press freedoms. And so, I thank you for inviting us here this evening. I thank you for your fairness and your hospitality. And, if we'll all just remember, my best side is my right side— [laughter] —my far right side. [Laughter]

Thank you. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 9:30 p.m. in the main ballroom at the Sheraton Washington Hotel.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Annual Awards Dinner of the White House News Photographers Association Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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