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Remarks Upon Receiving a Farewell Gift From the Cabinet and an Informal Exchange With Reporters

January 11, 1989

Secretary Shultz. Mr. President, you have heard from all of us how honored we are to have served in your Cabinet and to be associated in some way with all of the things that have happened that have done so much for our country and for stability throughout the world. And we thought you probably were tired of hearing us say that. And you're wondering, could there be something a little more tangible connected with it? [Laughter] So, we all got together and chipped in and purchased this chair that has on the back of it "The President." And so, I now want to ask the person with the most continuous seniority in office to do the honors. Sam?

Secretary Pierce. Yes, indeed. Well, Mr. President, as the last of the Mohicans- [laughter] —the last of the original Cabinet members, I have the privilege and pleasure of presenting you with this chair on behalf of each and every member of your Cabinet. And when you're out in California, relaxing in this chair, you should be very happy because as American history is written, it will certainly say that this administration was one of the greatest in the history of this country and you, indeed, one of its greatest Presidents. Your chair, sir.

The President. Thank you. Well, thank you, and thank you all very much. But look, let me state for the record, all of the things that you spoke about couldn't have happened if all of you hadn't been here making them happen. And I'm grateful to all of you. And with regard to relaxing in California in this chair, isn't that what they said I did in the Cabinet Room? [Laughter]

Secretary Shultz. Well, my advice, Mr. President—when you get out to California, don't take a chair; insist on a couch. [Laughter]

The President. No, a saddle. [Laughter] Well, I thank you very much. I have a feeling this might find its way into a certain library.

Q. Did you ever doze off in that chair, sir? [Laughter]

The President. No.

Q. Just thought I'd ask. [Laughter] I heard these stories, you know.

Q. Maybe we should ask the other people. [Laughter]

Q. Of course, no comment.

The President. As a matter of fact

Q. Isn't this the big government you were going to eliminate when you came into office?

The President. What?

Q. You were going to eliminate half this government when you came into office.

The President. Well, there are some things that are no longer there. And there have been some tightening up in the line of adopting modern business practices that I think have made quite considerable changes that are not usually seen because they're in the form of kind of administrative changes.

Q. Do you still think government is the problem?

The President. Yes, always has been.

Q. Not the solution?

The President. No. This country was meant to be—well, "We the people." The people told the Government what it could do in the Constitution. It's the only—well, there's one other constitution which is something like that in the world, I've found out. It's the only one that really says that. All those other constitutions are documents in which the Governments tell the people what they can do.

Q. Sir, if you had the chance to have 4 more years, would you take it? And what would you have done with it? [Laughter]

The President. Took 4 more? I might have been willing if it took 4 more years to get line-item veto. [Laughter] But no, I'll continue to work for that. The law is very explicit about this. And so, it's a bittersweet parting because saying good-bye to all these people—we've worked together, side by side, that's the bitter part. The sweet part is hearing "California, here I come."

Q. What are you going to miss least about this place, Mr. President?

The President. What?

Q. What will you miss least about this place?

Q. This is your chance. [Laughter]

Q. Go ahead.

Q. Don't name names.

The President. Not being able to do certain things because of the security necessities.

Q. Like what?

The President. Well, maybe I'm the first President that's never been able to go to an Army-Navy game. Nobody wants to run 75,000 people through a magnetometer.

Q. What are you going to do when you go back to California? What are you going to be doing.

The President. What?

Q.—when you go back to California, what will you be doing—right off the bat?

The President. I'm not retiring. I think there are things to do and things in which as a citizen you can be helpful in arousing the attention of the people to impress some needs on Congress to get done. But now, to show you—I don't know, it could have been another answer to your question there, but the Chief of Staff has just told me I've got another appointment. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 2:12 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. George P. Shultz was Secretary of State, and Samuel R. Pierce, Jr., was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks Upon Receiving a Farewell Gift From the Cabinet and an Informal Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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