Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a White House Luncheon for Elected Republican Women Officials

February 03, 1984

I'm delighted to welcome you here and see so many good friends and to have a chance to make some new ones.

It's always a special occasion when I can be joined by two of the most important women in my life—Nancy, and my daughter, Maureen. And I'll let you have a little secret: Even though I go to work and come home from work in an elevator— [laughter] —this is about the only time we get to have lunch together. [Laughter] And we're also pleased to have the Vice President and Barbara Bush with us, as well as some of the women on the White House staff.

Now, before I say anything else, I want to give you my heartfelt thanks for all the time and effort that each of you has given to the cause that unites us. When all is said and done, what really counts is drive and energy and determination. And that's what makes it possible to put our beliefs into practice. It's you, officeholders in communities throughout our land, who demonstrate the deep Republican commitment to American women.

On the way over here, I remembered a story that made me think of all of you. And if you've heard it before, pretend you haven't. I know my own people have heard it before— [laughter] —because you've got to remember that when you—life not only begins at 40, but so does lumbago and the tendency to repeat the same story. [Laughter]

But this is a story about—it was an automobile accident, and there was a man stretched out there, and a woman was bending over him, trying to give some aid. And a crowd had begun to gather, and a n elbowed his way through the crowd, shoved the lady aside, and said, "Let me at him. I've had first aid training." And she meekly stepped back, and he went to work with all the things that he learned. And then at one point she tapped him on the shoulder and said, "When you come to that part about calling the doctor, I'm right here." [Laughter]

Women have increasingly taken on new roles in society, and the Republican Party has given them solid support. It was the GOP that gave its backing to women's suffrage. And then our party became the first to elect a woman to the United States Congress— and I think I'm indebted to Maureen for a little research on this—and that was before women were allowed to vote. And we're the only party ever to elect women to the United States Senate who were not first just filling out an unexpired term.

Today our party is building on that tradition. The only two women in the Senate, Nancy Kassebaum and Paula Hawkins, are Republicans. And there are nine outstanding Republican Congresswomen, including Marge Roukema, Claudine Schneider, who are with us today.

In our administration, we've appointed many women to important positions of top responsibility—women like Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler, Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole, and right here at the White House, Faith Whittlesey. And one of my proudest days was when Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman Justice on the Supreme Court. And believe me, I've had many reasons to cheer her appointment ever since.

But just as important is the fact that there are thousands of able Republican women like you serving in public office all over the country. Whether it's in the legislatures or in other State and local offices, you're on the frontlines of democracy. You're making the difference. And what I want to see is the number of Republican women officeholders grow here in Washington and in every American town, city, and State like they did in Rhode Island last year, when eight Republican women won State senate seats. The minority leader of the senate is here at my table.

And together, we Republicans are working to reshape America's destiny. When historians write the story of these years, they'll find that very skilled and very talented women played vital roles.

Three years ago this week, in my first address to the Nation, I reported on the state of our economy. I told the American people they wouldn't like the news, but that we had to face the truth if we were going to turn the economy around. The Federal budget was careening out of control, and we faced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Our economy was broken, and women were hit especially hard. The majority of elderly Americans living on fixed incomes are women, and double-digit inflation was destroying their purchasing power. Homemakers found it harder and harder to pay bills. And the thousands of women who wanted to start their own businesses saw 21 percent interest rates slam shut the doors of opportunity.

With Republicans in control of the Senate, we made a new beginning. And believe me, if we didn't control one House of the Congress, we wouldn't have been able to get the job done.

We can be proud of the results. Inflation—I know you've been told already, and I'm plowing plowed ground here—but down to 3.2 percent; the prime rate-knocked nearly in half; 4 million new jobs last year alone; personal income tax rates reduced; and indexing, beginning next year, which means government can no longer use inflation to profit at the people's expense. And thanks to the hard work of the Vice President, we've reduced the growth of government regulations by 25 percent and cut well over 300 million hours of government-required paperwork, taken it off the backs of the people. And that's 300 million hours each year.

Now, to help all Americans achieve economic equality, we reduced the marriage tax penalty. We almost doubled the maximum child care credit. We increased the limits for IRA and Keogh contributions, and we've eliminated estate taxes on family farms and businesses for surviving spouses. And our work is continuing to ensure women's rights, provide for equitable treatment in pension benefits and IRA's, to facilitate child and dependent care, and to enforce delinquent parent support payments.

From solid growth in housing to new frontiers in high technology and from a healthy recovery in real wages to the sharpest drop in unemployment in nearly 33 years, America is moving forward and getting stronger.

Have we made a new beginning? You bet we have. Today our nation has one big program to help every American man, woman, and child—it's called "economic recovery." Maybe the eight Democratic candidates still haven't heard about it— [laughter] —they're still talking doom and gloom.

Well, good news might not always make news. But today we've got more good news. I think someone has indicated that to you; I hope they haven't given all the news away. Last month, total unemployment dropped again to 7.9 percent. And among adult women, the unemployment rate is 7.1 percent. And that's down from 9 percent in the past year. And the jobs are getting better and better. Last year, women filled 73 percent of all the new jobs in managerial, professional, and technical fields.

But there's still work to be done. Unemployment is still too high, and I'm not going to be satisfied until everyone who wants a job can find one. We need basic budget and tax reforms, like the line-item veto, a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget, and tax simplification—reforms that can ensure the progress that we're enjoying will continue for our children and even our children's children.

And just as we've turned the economy around, there's a new sense of purpose and direction to American foreign policy. Back in 1981 we had an uncomfortable feeling that we'd lost respect overseas. Some questioned whether we had the will to defend peace and freedom. Well, 3 years later, the world knows once more what America stands for: freedom for mankind. From Central America to Africa to the Middle East, we're working hard to support democracy and to build peace.

In Lebanon, the peaceful process has been painfully slow, but we have made genuine progress. In Europe, the NATO alliance has remained united and strong. Our relations in the Far East have never been better. In our relations with the Soviet Union, by strengthening our defenses and making clear our determination to negotiate, we have laid the foundation for meaningful agreements and a safer, more peaceful world. On an island in the Caribbean, we rescued Americans and set a nation free.

All of us share a dream. It's a dream, I think, of a world at peace, and it's a dream of a broad and open land that offers opportunity and prosperity to all. It's a dream of a land where every citizen is judged only on merit, a land where every woman and man is free to become all that she or he can. And I'm sure that one day one of you may have this job, my job. And I think the only thing we have to worry about is to be sure she's a Republican. [Laughter]

All of us are laboring in the name of that dream, and there's a lot of work yet to be done. But if we have the courage to continue the good fight, we'll get it done, and we'll achieve great good at home and throughout the world.

And I can't close for dessert here for a moment without mentioning—I don't know whether she's been introduced or you've met her or not. But we have here a visitor we're very proud to have who was closely aligned with us in the recent rescue mission in Grenada, Prime Minister Charles of Dominica.

Note: The President spoke at 12:48 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a White House Luncheon for Elected Republican Women Officials Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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