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Remarks at the Dedication of Tuskegee University's General Daniel "Chappie" James Center in Alabama

May 10, 1987

The President. Thank you, Dr. Payton. It's an honor for me to dedicate this aerospace science and health education center to the memory of one of Tuskegee's finest and one of America's best, General Daniel "Chappie" James. Chappie James was a hero of three wars. He flew 101 combat missions in Korea, where at one point he force-landed behind enemy lines, and 78 combat missions over North Vietnam. Nearby, we can see—and we just came by—one of the jet planes that he flew in Vietnam. He rose through the ranks of the United States Air Force in the Military Airlift Command and the North American Air Defense Command. As Commander of 'NORAD, all America depended on his judgment and his courage for our defense and survival.

Chappie's mother told him at a young age that there was an Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not quit." He took that to heart. And Chappie James is one of the very few officers ever to attain the rank of four-star general. He had 4 stars on his shoulder and 50 stars in his heart. Chappie James was an unabashed patriot; his expressions of affection and dedication to the cause of freedom stirred the hearts of his countrymen. He loved America, and America loved Chappie James.

This unique individual began his career here at Tuskegee. This is where he earned his degree. This is where he trained young men how to fly and how to fight. And these warriors put his lessons to good use, destroying 261 enemy aircraft and wreaking destruction and havoc upon the enemy. They served their country with valor and distinction. As you may be aware, in 1944, I narrated a film about the Tuskegee Airmen. I was presently in uniform serving with the Army Air Corps at the time, but my past occupation caught up with me, and I was given the opportunity to do that narration. And I'm proud that in a small way I was able to contribute to the change in climate that gained public acceptance for black pilots.

And with us today is Air Force General Bernard Randolph, who I've nominated to receive his fourth star. His contributions to America today are possible because of men like Chappie James and the Tuskegee Airmen. The lessons Chappie taught the Tuskegee Airmen were of great service to our country. Today it's most fitting, then, that we dedicate this center to carry on that spirit. The James Center will help train young men and women in the discipline of aerospace science and health education. And we expect from the ranks of these students will come young leaders who will follow the proud traditions of this university, men and women who will be a lasting tribute to Chappie James and all that he stood for.

Chappie, who fought in war and in peace to make this a better, freer country, once said: "This is my nation. I love her. If I see Miss Liberty ill, I'll hold her hand. If she is in the hospital, I'll bring her roses." Well, now, let his spirit hold the hand of these students and guide them through the challenges of higher education and through the frustrations of life.

I am most proud to dedicate this center in honor of a darned good pilot and a revered military officer and a truly great American.

Reporter. Mr. President, [former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs] Bud McFarlane says you ordered contra aid at a time when Congress had banned such aid. What do you have to say about that?

The President. I'm not going to take any questions now on things like that. We're here for a different purpose. And let's, just for a few moments, decide that there's enough controversy, and we'll leave it in Washington for today.

Note: The President spoke at 10:42 a.m. at the center. He was introduced by Dr. Benjamin Franklin Payton, president of Tuskegee University.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Dedication of Tuskegee University's General Daniel "Chappie" James Center in Alabama Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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