Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Inaugural Anniversary Dinner of the President

January 20, 1982

Thank you all very much. I was just reminiscing to myself and thinking that I spent 30 years in the wrong party. [Laughter] If that needs explaining to anyone, it wasn't the last 30 years. [Laughter]

George and Barbara, the chairman of our party, the chairman of this dinner, our finance chairman, Nancy and I are delighted to be here with you tonight. Your efforts did much to bring this administration into being. We thank you for what you've done in the past and for the dreams that you are unafraid to live today.

This is a very impressive gathering. When I walked in I thought I was back in the studio on the set of "High Society." [Laughter]

I hope we've come here in our finest to recognize another turning point. As George said, it is a turning point—to set this evening apart, to unite behind a cause that we believe will bring prosperity to all Americans.

We have achieved a lot in this last year including historic cuts in the budget, taxes, and the size of government. I would like to think that we're here to renew our commitment for the long road that's still ahead, The days of sensational, quick victories are mostly behind us, and now we move from the glamour of initial commitment to the grit of the long haul.

A year has passed, but our goal remains the same—to restore incentive through individual tax cuts, to reduce spending as a percentage of the gross national product, and to return as much power and authority to the States and localities as is permitted by the Constitution—at the same time, to do a better job of meeting basic Federal responsibilities such as keeping America strong enough to remain free. And no one has convinced me that these goals can't be achieved together. In fact, I don't think any of them can be achieved alone.

Now, if you're saying, "Well, didn't we do that last year?"—well, the answer is yes, but we have to keep on doing it if we're to drain the swamp. There are those who've resisted us in this from the very beginning, and they'll not only keep on resisting, they'll try to push us back. The loudest cries of pain have come from the very people who, for decades, have led the raid on America's resources, from those who've had a hand in creating our present problems, and now with a cry of joy, they say today's recession is proof that our policies don't work. Well, I've been kind of interested to note that every time they refer to one of the hardships of this present recession—and of course we are in one—I've noticed that they say, "Why it's the worst since the recession of the spring of 1980." [Laughter]

Now, what this recession proves is that what they've been doing for the last few decades hasn't worked and never will. Yes, there is a recession, but it didn't start a year ago tonight. But it will go away if we get control of the budget monster, our economy, and our own lives and destinies. If we do nothing else in this administration, we're going to convince this city that the power, the money, and the responsibility of this country begins and ends with the people and not in some puzzle palace here on the Potomac.

The American people haven't lost faith in our cause. An independent poll recently asked them if the recession "hurts," and they said, "Yes." "Is the economy under control?"—and they said, "No." "In light of this, should the administration continue its economic policies based on faith, incentive, and growth?"—and the answer was a resounding, "Yes."

You know, I think the American people know what 49ers quarterback, Joe Montana, found out the hard way. When he was making the transition from college to pro football, there were those who thought he was too thin. So Joe ate pizzas and drank milk shakes at 2 o'clock in the morning, thinking the extra weight would be like extra padding. Well, as it turned out, he got the padding, but it was all in the wrong places. And being the bright fellow that he is, he went back to doing what had always worked for him before and what had gotten him into pro ball to begin with. He found out that detours are rarely the road to excellence, and excess never leads to strength.

What the American people are calling for is a return to our first sound principles—the system of self-government and free enterprise that made us great in the first place. And what do you know?—inflation has dropped to single digit for the first time in 3 years, but it isn't low enough yet. Interest rates are below their once dizzying heights, the kind we found a year ago tonight, but that's not low enough. Regulations have been cut by more than a third thanks to a task force headed by George Bush that has been going at those regulations. There are now 23,000 fewer pages in the Federal Register, that lists the regulations, than there were last year.

And there's more there to be done. Last year's tax and budget cuts were the largest in history. But to give you some idea of how much remains to be done, those largest cuts in history only reduced the rate of increase in both taxes and spending. Reducing inflation, interest rates, and unemployment by cutting taxes, budgets, and regulations is part of our dream of restoring accountability to government.

Forcing Americans to accept the dictates of a swollen government in Washington instead of dealing with elected representatives in their city hall has to be one of the more serious mistakes of this century. City halls, county seats, and State legislatures are the very laboratories of democracy, and yet in past years we've closed our eyes to their findings. By removing the possibility of resolving our problems where they occur, too many of us have turned our backs on the genius of our system. Too many of us have stopped believing in our ability to govern ourselves.

Through our program of block grants, we've returned much of the decision-making to State and local governments. And, again, it's not enough. We're going to return tax resources as well as responsibilities to the levels of government closest to the people. The American people have sent the handwringers in Washington a message. They believe in our program because they believe in themselves.

As Woodrow Wilson said, "America is not a mere body of traders. It is a body of free men and women. Our greatness is built upon our freedom. It is moral, not material. We have a great ardor for gain, but we have a deep passion for the rights of man." Well, we'll suffer no more delusions that these sentiments are found only in the mist off of the Potomac. It is the common bond of all who love freedom. In the words of Lech Walesa, "There will always be a glow within us."

You know, one of the nice things about this job is mail—the letters that come in. And I just happen to have brought one with me. [Laughter] I think maybe you might be a little inspired, as I was, to hear this:

"I am 81 years of age, born in Russia. Twice in my lifetime I had to run from the Communist regime. First in 1924 I left from Poltava, the Ukraine, and went to Cuba. Then again in 1961 I fled from Cuba and arrived in Miami, in the U.S.A. During my life I have experienced so many disasters brought about by inflation that I want to share my experiences with you, and wish you victory and courage in your crusade.

"I was present when in Russia 100 rubles was printed as a coupon almost the size of a postal stamp because the paper was worth more than the money itself. I was present when in Germany to buy a loaf of bread you had to carry a bag of money on your shoulder. I was present when in Cuba the peso was on a par with the dollar. After Castro, however, you couldn't exchange 20 pesos for i dollar. I was present when my parents were using 100- and 500-ruble bills as wallpaper to decorate their new home in New York. I was present when all the world considered the dollar bill the greatest treasure, worth more than gold or diamonds.

"Without saving and preserving the value of savings, this blessed country of plenty cannot exist, and thank God that we now have a government in Washington who understands this."

On the outskirts of Gdansk in Poland this Christmas, there appeared a sign with letters 8 feet tall, plastered on a wall near the Lenin shipyards. It read, "Countrymen, save freedom." Well, I think that's what you sent us here to do. Thank you for all that you've done, but do even more. In this celebration tonight, renew your commitment. In this decade, our country calls not alone for our sacrifice but for our resolve.

And in case you've wondered, Nancy and I are happy in our work. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 10 p.m. in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Inaugural Anniversary Dinner of the President Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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