George Bush photo

Remarks to the Future Farmers of America in Kansas City, Missouri

November 13, 1991

Thank you, Mark, FFA's outstanding President. You know, when Mark and the other national officers came to the White House a year ago and again this summer, they asked me to come to Kansas City. And after a welcome like this, there's no place I'd rather be. And there is also no place better than sitting up here with Miss America, Carolyn Sapp. [Laughter] I'd like to be the one sitting right there, but it seems my friend and assistant Fred McClure switched the placecards. [Laughter] So I have a question for him. Fred, how did you used to like working at the White House? [Laughter]

And I heard Mark talking about leadership and commitment in that very generous introduction. And I will say that also here are Missouri's two great Senators, Jack Danforth and Kit Bond. And what a job they're doing for this country. And as for Fred McClure, I'm proud to have him with me, an Assistant for Legislative Affairs. That's the top person in the White House working with Kit, Jack Danforth, and all the other Senators and House Members. And Fred learned his leadership skills in the FFA, as the Texas State president and then the national FFA secretary.

It gives me a surge of hope to be with so many thousands of bright and motivated young people. And it's another reminder that America has the best young people in the world. And I want to salute the FFA for bringing so many of you together to exchange ideas and forge friendships that will brighten our country for many years to come.

I understand that your business session got off to a good start -- Danny telling me. And I also want to send my warmest greetings to members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, who also are meeting in Kansas City this week. American agriculture depends upon the free and robust flow of news and views that our broadcasters provide. And they do a first-class job of it.

Now, I know that some of you signed up to come here believing that one of the speakers would be Arnold Schwarzenegger. But if he didn't cancel an agreement now and then, I guess we wouldn't call him "The Terminator." [Laughter] But I've worked out a deal with this guy, and he's agreed to fill in for me at the White House conference that I have next, the next news conference. [Laughter] You see I can't wait to see the kind and gentle way that he handles some of those tough questions. [Laughter] It's going to be wonderful. He couldn't be here because he's at work filming another movie. And next year, I myself might make an abbreviated sequel to "Terminator 2." We're going to call it "Term 2." [Laughter]

Let me just, because I want to tie it in, let me just say a word about Arnold Schwarzenegger as an athlete and actor. Yes, but he's also a very creative businessman and a citizen who I can tell you firsthand, exemplifies what you talk about when you talk about leadership. He takes public service seriously. And he's doing an outstanding job for the country as Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

And I won't lead you through the workout that Arnold had planned, but I do want to impress upon you the essence of his message and that is: Get going with good exercise and fitness habits now, while you're young, and don't ever give them up.

Each one of you is already a leader in your school, a leader in FFA or you probably would not be here, a leader among your peers. And I don't want any of you to fall short of a single thing you dream of. And that's why I hope you will equip yourself with the physical stamina that comes from exercise. Cultivating a sound mind in a sound body is a key to good health, long life, and performance at your best for the many responsibilities you will face in your families and your careers.

And speaking of that, your president looks very fit, and I would suggest to you that he got to be the great orator that he is -- you heard the introduction -- because he stays fit. And I might say, speaking of politics, I'm glad he's not running for President next year. He'd be very, very tough to beat. Mark, you keep doing your thing; I'll keep doing mine. [Laughter]

Look at it this way, your FFA experience is giving you powerful skills and drive to help this country compete in the decades ahead. And as you follow your dreams and lead others, as I know you're destined to do, I'd like your special help in pursuing two national goals, goals to help America be all that it should be.

First, I'd like you to work for excellence in American education. If you attend a school in a rural community, and many of you do, there's a good chance your school enjoys the strong involvement of parents, strong involvement of your community, and places a high value on responsibility and achievement.

There are success stories, of course, across the range of our communities, even in the tougher, poorer, inner-city neighborhoods. And some are public schools; others are private or parochial schools. But each has in common the intense involvement of parents, a commitment to discipline, a commitment to values, a rigorous curriculum, and a large degree of freedom from bureaucratic control.

Our America 2000 strategy shows communities how to develop schools that work. We want our schools held to high standards, world-class standards. We want parents to have real financial opportunity to choose schools, including parochial or private schools. We're inviting parents and educators and businessmen and civic leaders to reinvent, literally, reinvent American schools. To replace institutions that fail, fail to work, fail to get the job done, with new schools empowered with freedom and flexibility and innovative strategies.

Here's where you come in on all of this: It's up to you and your generation to make this happen. You will inherit this long-term mission as leaders in agriculture, business, or government in your counties, your cities, and your States. And I've put forward a strategy for reforming our schools, and I hope to see as much as possible accomplished during my Presidency. But before this vision can become a full reality, I foresee years of political trench warfare, pitting the reformers against dug-in interest groups.

The challenge of reforming American education will take plenty of patience, grit, and determination, exactly the types of virtues that FFA represents. And I am very pleased that the national FFA organization's plans for its future leadership in agricultural education mesh so well with our America 2000 philosophy. So, the first goal: education.

The second goal I'd like you to pursue is keeping America competitive. We could all take a lesson from the Kansas City Chiefs about competitiveness. They're having a great season. Of course, later this afternoon I'll be in St. Louis saying the same thing about the Cardinals -- [laughter] -- until I'm back home in the home of the Redskins. I had to apologize to the Redskins' coach, Joe Gibbs, the other day for rooting for my home team, the Houston Oilers. But I hope those big -- -- [applause]. Hey, I might have been right all along. [Laughter]

But look, your country is counting on you, and I'm counting on you, to find new uses for traditional and nontraditional crops, your field, things you know something about. We want you to outfox our competitors with your marketing skills. We expect you to draw on rural America's tradition of conservation and lead all Americans to use our natural resources, our precious natural resources, wisely. We're looking to you to create attractive new products, including clean fuels.

I really believe that if the Soviet Union had been blessed with an organization like the FFA that their problems in agriculture wouldn't be nearly as big, nearly as horrible as they are today. You are involved in important work.

We've got to keep opportunity alive in this country. Federal income tax rates are lower, flatter, and fairer than they were a decade ago, but they still seem to reward debt and punish saving and investment. And that's why we're long overdue for a capital gains tax cut, something I've asked Congress for every year since I became President. But Congress isn't getting the message. These Senators are, but most of the leaders up there are not. In the farming, ranching, and agriculture business, in those communities I'm sure you can appreciate how a capital gains tax cut would improve property values. But more than that, it would boost investment and jobs in every sector and every industry in this Nation. And I wish you'd help me get that message to the United States Congress.

You see, I know you guys have the clout. Seventy-seven Congressmen wrote letters asking me to come speak to this FFA convention. That's not bad, 77. So, it seems only fair you let 'em know what I said and ask them to consider it. [Laughter]

You know, we need to take the shackles off our banks and financial services companies. I've sent to Congress a comprehensive banking reform package, but again, Congress isn't getting that message. Would you want to start out in business with outmoded banking laws that won't allow American firms to compete on equal terms with the Japanese and Europeans?

We need to seize new opportunities and tackle new challenges in world trade. This is an important aspect of the FFA convention theme, "Leadership for a Growing Planet." In the GATT talks, these Uruguay round GATT talks on trade that we're now engaged in, we're engaged in what I hope will be the final battle against agricultural protectionism around the world. As many of you know, I met face-to-face just last Saturday with the European Community leaders. That was in The Netherlands last week. And I made it plain that American agriculture and American agribusiness stand for free and fair trade. We want to complete a good GATT deal that opens more markets for American exports and launches a booming new generation of trade. American farmers can compete with anybody, anywhere in the world.

We're on our way toward achieving an excellent bargain for more trade and more jobs through our efforts with Mexico and Canada. The North American free trade area will present your generation some fantastic, some exciting opportunities. And so will the free-market transformation of the former Soviet empire. Economic growth and stability in the former Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe ultimately will make them better trading partners with the United States. And now that the good people of those lands have thrown off the chains of communism, we intend to help them in their economic transition.

Let me say something else about my efforts to promote our exports. I am not going to apologize for a single moment that I devote to promoting America's interests abroad. Some of my critics act as if the global marketplace is off somewhere in Asia or in Europe. But you and I know it is right here in Kansas City and in Birmingham and Bakersfield and the Silicon Valley.

Every additional billion dollars in new exports -- listen to this one -- every one means 20,000 new American jobs. And when I fight for free and fair trade in Latin America or East Asia or Europe, some will carp and claim that I'm pursuing foreign instead of domestic policy. Well, to borrow a word you all understand: that -- and I'll try to clean it up for you -- that is hogwash. The whole line of argument is misleading. But I don't think the American people are misled, and I don't believe you're misled. I'm sure you understand that what I'm working at is a real-world approach to creating more jobs and more wealth for Americans in America.

And it's a life of challenge ahead. It's a life of challenge ahead for you and your generation. We're looking to you for fresh ideals and energy to renew our schools, our businesses, and our government institutions. We're counting on you to become the Schwarzeneggers of a tough global marketplace. You'll need training, discipline, creativity, and alert minds to seize new ideas and opportunities.

Is this a tall order? Well, sure it is. But looking at you, I know that you'll achieve everything we expect of you: more.

As all of you know there's been some recent developments on the peace front that I think are terribly important to all of you. As we convened an historic conference in Madrid to get those talks started on a Middle East peace and when I worked with President Gorbachev and President Yeltsin or the leaders of Eastern Europe as they struggled to build societies founded upon freedom and the rule of law or when we move to repel a brutal dictator's invasion of Kuwait, in all of these ways we are assuring a more peaceful world for your generation and the next.

And so, let the isolationists turn their backs on the historic opportunities that are before us. I cannot give up on the quest for peace on Earth. I owe it to your generation and the next generation to continue to lead, to use America's moral leadership towards that end. And I will not change my ways. I'll continue to work for world peace, and that's good for everybody in this room and all across the United States.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to speak. And let me put it in perspective. What you're doing is important: your concept of leadership is important; your commitment to agricultural America is important. So, have some fun while you're here in Kansas City, but remember you are engaged in the future of the United States of America. And God bless you and may God bless our great country. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:10 p.m. to the national convention meeting in the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium. In his remarks, he referred to Mark Timm, President of the Future Farmers of America.

George Bush, Remarks to the Future Farmers of America in Kansas City, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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