Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Orion Township, Michigan

July 05, 1984

Thank you, Roger. Governor Blanchard, Senators Levin and Riegle, Congressman Bill Broomfield, the State and local officials, Jim McDonald, Les Richards, 2 ladies and gentlemen:

2 President of General Motors Corp. and manager of the assembly plant, respectively.

I have seen so much that I told Roger just a little while ago, I can't wait for the next summit conference, I've got so much to tell some of our friends from around the world.

But, also, I had the privilege of driving a prototype car just a little while ago. And Roger was brave enough to get in the other seat. And I reminded him that for 3 1/2 years I've been sitting in the back seat. [Laughter] But fortunately, I have to tell you, it literally drove itself.

Well, yesterday we celebrated Independence Day, when all Americans come together and with good cheer and revelry commemorate our freedom. Today, we herald another step forward that will ensure that America remains the free and prosperous land that God intended it to be. I've always believed that with freedom, hard work, and the profit motive, there's nothing that Americans can't do. Well, this plant represents the "can do" spirit for which your industry and America have always been known.

It took great courage for all of you to make this kind of an investment. In a time of great uncertainty, General Motors proved that they had faith in our country and faith in our country's economy. Since 1979 more than $50 billion has been spent by your industry—scrapping old plants, building new ones, developing technology, and retraining employees—and over $23 billion of that $50 was spent by General Motors right here in America.

President Dwight Eisenhower, who dedicated the GM High Tech Center, which I just visited, once said, "The future will belong, not to the faint-hearted, but to those who believe in it and prepare for it." Well, you're preparing for our future, for a better future. So, let our competitors take note today: The American automobile industry is back—back with pride, back with teamwork, and back with performance that can and will make us number one.

This plant is a result of the bold leadership of your industry and an admirable commitment to the future of America. And I think your plant symbolizes a new spirit of cooperation between management and labor. That cooperation reflects the determination of this industry not just to survive but to triumph. And we know that the UAW put its full support behind this endeavor.

Keeping faith with that good will, I understand that General Motors chose this site over three less costly locations, permitting them to put laid-off General Motors employees back to work. You're showing just how much can be accomplished when management and labor speak with each other, instead of at each other; when management and labor work together, instead of against each other.

I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate the UAW and the entire American labor movement. During these last few years of severe economic stress, organized labor has played a responsible and constructive role in rebuilding American industry.

You've demonstrated, when the chips are down, what people can do working together freely, rather than at the dictates of some central planner or bureaucratic mandate of government. I happen to believe the last thing your industry needs is the Federal Government bringing in outsiders to tell you how to run your business and how much to pay your workers.

And let me just share with you a conviction that I feel deep in my bones. If we Americans keep working together to improve quality, keep investing in America's technology to become more productive and hold down costs, then, yes, we can outcompete, outperform, and outsell the pants off anybody, anywhere in the world.

Earlier today, I was at the Tech Center taking a look at your Saturn project. The energy and creativity out there confirmed my belief that mankind is on the edge of a new era of opportunity and progress. Putting technology to work for us, which is what your Saturn project is all about, will ensure that when the future gets here, Americans will be leading the way. Space-age technology is being put to use to make certain America remains on the cutting edge of progress, new products, and new jobs. The confidence and positive outlook experienced here today—or evidenced here today is the kind of optimism and pride in our way of life cropping up in cities and towns in every part of our country.

It's a far cry from the gloom and doom of just 4 years ago. Sometimes it's hard to remember that only a short time ago people were counting America out. They were claiming that we were a nation in decline, that our best days were behind us. Inflation was running in double digits, robbing working people and the elderly of the value of their savings. Economic stagnation was throwing more and more people out of work and destroying any chance for the poor to better their lot.

The auto industry, like the rest of the country, was on the edge of catastrophe. In 1980 alone, the Big Three 3 lost $4 billion. And then came the recession, the culmination of years of too much taxing, spending, and regulating by those who claimed they could spend your earnings better than you could.

3 Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Corp., and General Motors Corp.

Well, we've been determined to chart a new beginning for America. And I know that it hasn't been easy. That recession was deeper and longer than predicted. But these problems had been building up for 20 years.

We were determined to find a real economic cure, not just resort, as they had so often in the past, to another political quick fix. There've been eight recessions since World War II, and seven of those were treated with quick fixes. There's no compassion in snake oil cures. We weathered that storm together, and now the Sun is shining on a strong economy and on an American automobile industry that is moving forward again.

We went to work to get control of Federal spending that had been increasing 17 percent a year. We've cut that in half.

Taxes had more than doubled just between 1975 and 1981, leaving working people paying taxes at a rate that only a short time before had been reserved for the extremely well-to-do. This ever-increasing tax lead was driving money away from the private sector that could have been spent buying new cars or investing in new plants and equipment. With a 25-percent across-the-board tax cut, we've prevented the people from being mauled by tax increases, and we've indexed the rates so that ordinary people won't be pushed by inflation into higher and higher tax brackets.

We immediately moved to reduce the regulatory burden which bound the hands of our most productive citizens with Federal red tape. And I'm proud to say, we made a special effort on behalf of the auto industry, saving you hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when every dollar counted.

It took time to put our program in place and time to take effect. And the same was true for all the auto industry. And I salute all of you who kept your faith when things were especially tough. And I know they were tough. But by working together, by believing in each other, we've turned the situation around.

In the last 19 months, we've enjoyed economic expansion even beyond our own expectations. In the first quarter of this year, the economy grew at the astonishing rate of 9.7 percent. Second quarter growth appears to have been solid not quite 9.7, but still higher than anyone had expected. And inflation ran at only 3.6 percent in the first 3 months of the year. For the first time in over a decade, we're enjoying a strong economy, falling unemployment, and low inflation all at the same time. And we're determined to keep it that way.

You know, those selling the old no-win notion that you can't have growth without high inflation have been proven wrong. Having a degree in economics myself, I feel free to talk about too many economists have a watch chain with a Phi Beta Kappa key at one end of the chain and no watch on the other end. [Laughter] They were wrong when they said that inflation and interest rates couldn't come down. They were wrong when they said recovery wouldn't come, wrong when they said expansion couldn't last. And I think if they keep running down America, they're going to be wrong again.

What we're seeing is that things are getting better. Across America, businesses are showing a profit, laid-off workers are being rehired, and new employees are being brought on board. Over 6 million new jobs have been created in the last 18 months. Now, Europe calls this—in fact, to my face at the last summit meeting—the American miracle.

Well, last year the auto industry had a good year. General Motors has been reopening plants and putting on second shifts all over the country. And I'm told that in the last 18 months you've brought 90,000 men and women back onto the payroll.

And this expansion isn't just confined to big business. Over 600,000 new businesses were incorporated last year. And most of these were small businesses—the Morn and Pop store, the entrepreneur kind of business. John Naisbitt, futurist and author of "Megatrends," said earlier this year that: "1984 has arrived just in time to witness an explosion of bottom-up entrepreneurialism and the dawn of an era that may offer our best hope yet .... "

Well, we have every reason to be confident. Our country has recaptured the pride and community spirit that was for so long an essential part of our national character. You folks here at GM have much of which to be proud in this account. You not only build cars; you're making this country the decent place that we want it to be.

Orion employees alone donated almost $86,000 to the United Way last year. You also gave your wholehearted support these last 2 years to the GM/UAW Christmas Care and Share Program, feeding the needy through donations of canned foodstuffs and cash. Orion employees serve on the boards of many community organizations, including the YMCA, the Pontiac Urban League, and the United Way.

I especially want to congratulate Michelle Roberts, production technician in taillight assembly. She works tirelessly for the United Way and also recruits volunteers from your ranks for worthy community projects. Mr. Roberts'—or Miss Roberts', I should say, citizenship is an example to all of us. And Herman LaFayette—he's helped over a thousand young adults in the Junior Achievement program. He's also worked as a counselor at a local halfway house for former prisoners.

Your company deserves some recognition on this count. General Motors' annual award for excellence in community activities is the kind of program of which any corporation should be proud. It highlights the public service of employees like Kenneth Mehl, who's a city councilman of Westland, and Wallace Holland, a former GM employee who is now the mayor of Pontiac.

I think Americans—all of us—have come to a better appreciation of the values that bind us together. We're seeing a new respect for family and neighborhood. Remember when it was fashionable to claim that God is dead? Well, today I think we're seeing that He's alive and well in the hearts of our people. And we're grateful to Him for the many blessings that He's showered upon us.

We're rededicating ourselves to the values that define our character, that make us a good and worthy people, and that can and will keep America strong and secure and free. Our forefathers left us a wondrous land of liberty. And now it's up to us. This dedication today, the cooperation and the hard work behind it, the community spirit and the heartfelt patriotism of everyone who works here, are part of a rebirth of freedom. This generation of Americans is meeting the test. We intend to pass on a country as prosperous and free as the one that was given to us.

And I can't tell you how much I appreciate your letting me join you here today. Thank you. Good luck, God bless you, and God bless America.

Note: The President spoke at 3:10 p.m. at the dedication ceremonies inside the plant. He was introduced by Roger B. Smith, chairman of General Motors Corp.

Prior to his remarks, the President met with members of the executive committee of General Motors and Orion workers at the assembly plant.

Following his visit to the plant, the President traveled to San Antonio, TX, and the San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk Hotel, where he remained overnight.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Orion Township, Michigan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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