Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Minority Enterprise Development Week Awards

October 07, 1987

Thank you very much, and welcome to the White House. As you well know, this week, in a celebration called "We the People," America is honoring minority business owners and recognizing their contributions to our country.

And I'm pleased that you could join me here as part of this celebration. I can't help thinking what a portrait of American imagination, industry, and enterprise it would make if all of America's more than 840,000 minority entrepreneurs were here today. Of course, if we requisitioned that many folding chairs we might be accused of promoting big government. [Laughter]

Actually, that reminds me of an old story. There was a small businessman who had been doing business with the Government for many years. I think a lot of you know what sort of paperwork that can entail. So, with the files and records really piling up, he wrote the Government and asked for permission, and if it was necessary to keep all of the old documents or could he get rid of some of them? And a letter came back saying, yes, you can throw away any papers more than 8 years old. Of course, be sure to make copies of each one before you do it. [Laughter]

But in all seriousness, in this bicentennial of our Constitution we should reflect upon how blessed we truly are. Under our system, government is strong enough to defend justice, but limited enough to guarantee freedom. Our Founding Fathers saw economic rights as an essential part of freedom. Alexander Hamilton observed that "Power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will." Well, by protecting life, liberty, and property, and assuring the civil rights of all Americans, our Constitution has made our country free and prosperous and produced on this continent the greatest nation on Earth.

As you know, I recently nominated to the Supreme Court, Judge Robert Bork, a distinguished member of the U.S. Court of Appeals whose deference to law and precedent is so clear and whose scholarship is so exemplary that no decision rendered by him has ever been overturned by the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Judge Bork would join our eight sitting Justices in their dedication to preserving the rights of every American under the Constitution. I have no doubt that Judge Bork would be a widely respected force for justice and civil rights on our highest court. But unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me on that.

Free enterprise and equal opportunity have given America the most dynamic economy in the world. In the last 5 years, the United States has created nearly 14 million new jobs—that's more jobs than all of Western Europe and Japan combined have created in more than a decade. And over 4 million jobs have gone to black and Hispanic workers. It's not the Government that created that explosion of jobs, but private businesses like yours.

Actually, we did do one thing here in Washington to help in that—we got out of the way. We did that by cutting taxes, eliminating excessive regulations, and reducing the growth of government spending. And the result is America is heading toward a new record for the longest peacetime economic expansion in our history. And unlike the expansion of '75 to '79, when black family income actually declined, during this expansion the incomes of black American families have grown by 14 percent. Moreover, the decline in the poverty rate over the past 4 years has been the fastest among the minorities.

I think we all understand that our economy is not statistics, but people. And when we hear good news like that we have to appreciate what that means for people's lives. I believe that when it comes to making sure that all Americans—from every walk of life, every color, every religion have the chance to make it big, there's no better way than that to keep the economy sparkling and the opportunities expanding for all our citizens. But we all know that misguided government policies can reduce opportunity.

For example, raising the minimum wage laws, most economists agree, reduces employment. And it's minorities, young people, and the poor that are hit the hardest. But some in Congress, under pressure from special interests, are pushing legislation to hike the minimum wage. Our Labor Department has estimated that every 10-percent increase in the minimum wage will mean 100,000 to 200,000 fewer jobs. Now, some in Congress want to raise the minimum wage more than 38 percent over the next 3 years. That could mean 800,000 jobs down the drain—jobs that already exist, or jobs, hope, and opportunity that will never be created.

This administration wants no part of a bill that will put people out of work or keep teenagers and young adults from getting their first job. We want to help people move up the economic ladder, not hoist the lower rungs out of their reach. You and all the rest of America's entrepreneurs make a vital contribution in bringing people into the work force and, through training and job experience, helping them to advance and grow.

In 1982 I made a commitment to greater opportunity for economic progress and independence for all Americans. And part of this commitment was establishing MED Week, and I think we can all be proud of what the record shows. From loans to grants to procurement contracts, we have set the stage for the expanded development of minority business. In fiscal year '86 we exceeded our goal for procurement contracts awarded to minority firms, but by far the most important steps were taken by entrepreneurs like you.

Peter Drucker has said that whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision. Those words ring particularly true during Minority Enterprise Development Week, when we honor courageous people who overcame difficult odds and achieved success through hard work, vision, and prayer. By working so hard to realize your dreams, you also help other people's dreams to come true: the employees you hire, the suppliers you give business to, the charities you support, and all those inspired by the example of accomplishment, dignity, and self-reliance that you set in your economy—or community, I should say.

Minority business is an important force in the economy and a vital part of our communities. If the dream of America is to be strengthened, we must not waste the genius of one mind or the strength of one body or the spirit of one soul. As entrepreneurs you are creators. You help create for the future in America and that will be even greater than it is today. You give life to the American dream.

So, I thank you. God bless you all. And now it's my pleasure to help with the awards.

Note: The President spoke at 11:48 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The recipients included Orlino C. Baldonado, of Oak Ridge, TN, Federal Minority Contractor of the Year; Lewis B. Ketchum, of Tulsa, OK, National Minority Entrepreneur of the Year; and Liborio and Ruben Hinojosa, of Mercedes, TX, National 8(a) Graduates of the Year.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Minority Enterprise Development Week Awards Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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