Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Small Business Person of the Year Awards

May 09, 1988

Well, I'd like to welcome Senator Abdnor and the State Small Business Persons of the Year, whom we're honoring today. And I think you recognize my bodyguard here- [laughter] —the Vice President.

Now, as some of you know, my admiration for President Calvin Coolidge has often been remarked. "Silent Cal" didn't say much, but when he did, his observations were simple and quietly eloquent. And he is perhaps best remembered for his statement that "the business of America is business." I'm reluctant to tamper with President Coolidge's remarks, but a brief and important addition might be this: "The business of America is small business."

All of us can be very proud of the contributions of this nation's 18 million small businesses. The record, quite simply, is incredible. Small business provides well over twothirds of all new jobs; about 40 percent of our aggregate national output; the bulk of new products and technologies; most of the jobs generated for younger, older, and female workers; and over 66 percent of all first jobs, and, consequently, the initial onthe-job training in basic work skills. And just to take one area, almost every energyrelated innovation of this century has come from small business, including the air conditioner, the gasoline engine, and the electric light.

Today about 13 million Americans are engaged in some entrepreneurial activity, either full-time or part-time. The number of part-time entrepreneurs has increased fivefold in recent years. We've seen in the past 5 years the longest unbroken period of peacetime growth on record. The climate necessary to nurture small business development has never been better.

Clearly the economic policies of the 1980's, which have led to an unprecedented turnaround in inflation, from 12 percent to about 4 percent, coupled with commercial interest rates coming down by more than half since we took office, have made it immensely easier to start up a small business and keep it going.

And the 7th annual report on small business, which I am sending to the Congress this week, shows the unparalleled growth of small business not only in the past year but in each year since 1980. Small business has driven this country ahead with over 4.4 million new business starts. And I'm especially pleased that small business has been the first path of economic success for unprecedented numbers of women and minorities, people who started small businesses and became a part of America's economic mainstream. And you can be sure small business had a large role in Friday's economic news. Unemployment was down by two-tenths of 1 percent to 5.4 percent—the lowest rate since August of 1974.

During the next 25 years small business will provide nearly three-fourths of the 43 million new jobs this country will require. Small business will meet this challenge by virtue of its quicker response time, its flexibility, its willingness to take risk, and its willingness to face the very real possibility of failure. In the United States, we have the freedom to fail as well as to win. It is this readiness to risk, this suspension of disbelief as some call it, that sets us apart and drives us to new heights of accomplishment.

Let me leave you with this thought: Small business is about hopes and dreams. It's about making dreams come true—the dreams of men and women who lie awake at night and consider how they can improve their lot in life. Those dreams, those hopes, are a singular and great natural resource.

Today I have the happy duty to announce the Small Business Persons of the Year. This process, culminating in this selection, has been difficult and competitive. There are many fine contestants, and they're to be heartily commended. As in any event—in business, in sports, in politics—someone must be declared the winner. Now, it doesn't mean necessarily that the other contestants have lost, because all of them are winners in their own right and well worthy of being finalists in this event. And that includes many of you who are here today.

And this 1988 Small Business Persons of the Year are Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield truly stand out as an example of what American free enterprise is all about. Just 10 years ago, they gave up working for others and founded Ben and Jerry's Homemade, Inc. Beginning with 2 employees in 1978, the company now employs 200, and the $8,000 in startup money now generates annual sales of $30 million, selling in grocery stores in 35 States and in 45 ice cream parlors around the country. And now, I'm going to quit talking and present the awards. Thank you, and God bless you.

Reporter. Mr. President, will you continue to allow astrology to play a part in the makeup of your daily schedule, sir?

The President. You asked for it. I can't, because I never did.

Note: The President spoke at 1:50 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Small Business Person of the Year Awards Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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