Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a White House Luncheon for Elected Republican Women Officials and Candidates

July 13, 1984

Good afternoon, and welcome to all of you. I'm delighted to see you. And before I get into my remarks, I have to share some news with you.

You probably got this news in the briefings that have taken place already. But just in case you didn't—and if you did, it's worth repeating—our goal for the American people is a strong, growth economy with stable prices. And this morning it looks like we hit the jackpot, made a triple play. Industrial production in June was up. Retail sales in June were up. And producer prices were unchanged for the third month in a row, 0.0.

So, now I can go on that it's good to see so many old friends and also to meet some new ones, and to be joined by two of the favorite women in my life, Nancy and Maureen. I want to begin by giving each of you my heartfelt thanks for all that you've done for the Republican cause.

Politics is often fun and sometimes glamorous, but in the end it's the hard work of people like you that makes it possible for us to put our beliefs into practice. Your role is especially important because you demonstrate a Republican commitment to American women. And that's a commitment that runs deep.

It is kind of appropriate today I should be saying this— [laughter] —because, you know, some people have tried to keep this very fact I've just mentioned a secret. Well, first it was the Grand Old Party that gave its backing to women's suffrage. And then it became the first to elect a woman to the United States Congress and the first to elect women to the United States Senate who are not just filling out unexpired terms.

Today the two women in the Senate, my friends Nancy Kassebaum and Paula Hawkins, are Republicans, the only two women in the Senate. And we have nine outstanding Republican women in the House of Representatives. And I really bring this up because I think it's time that they have more company there.

Now, all of us are aware of the events that transpired yesterday among the Democrats. They have their ticket, and I'm looking forward to campaigning against it on the issues. As I said yesterday, their choice of a Vice-Presidential nominee [Geraldine A. Ferraro] is historic. And so was appointing Sandra Day O'Connor to the United States Supreme Court. And I have to tell you that the day I appointed her was one of the happier days of my life.

But what about that foolishness that it's the other major party that represents the interests of women? The truth is the Republican Party represents those interests best and in a serious and a long-term manner. We Republicans think women should change America. And that's why we have Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick as an eloquent and courageous voice at the United Nations. And she is changing America, as are Elizabeth Dole at Transportation and Margaret Heckler at the Department of Health and Human Services, and as are Katherine Ortega, the Treasurer of the United States, and Martha Seger at the Federal Reserve Board.

Then there's Carol Dinkins at the Justice Department and Ann Dore McLaughlin at the Department of Labor—who briefed me for my trip to Chesapeake Bay on Tuesday-Patricia Goldman at the National Transportation Safety Board, Faith Ryan Whittlesey and Margaret Tutwiler here at the White House, and so many others, like Lenora Cole-Alexander at the Department of Labor, Mary Jarratt at Agriculture, Donna Tuttle at the Commerce Department, Barbara McConnell at the CAB, and Nancy Harvey Steorts at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And I could go on, but we'd run out of time. All are changing America, and they're changing it for the better.

Now, I know that he who lives by the crystal ball sometimes winds up eating glass. [Laughter] But I've said this before, and I'll say it again: There is going to be a woman President of the United States one of these days soon, and she's going to be a Republican. Why? Because we have the great talent. The women who have advanced in our party and who are coming up through the ranks today are doing it by merit. And the American people, recognizing this, will support such a woman when she runs.

The Conservative Party of Great Britain chose Margaret Thatcher as their leader not because she was a woman, but because she was the best person for the job. There was no tokenism or cynical symbolism in what they did. She became leader of her party and Prime Minister of Great Britain because she was judged by her peers to be a superior leader. And that's how the first Republican woman President will do it.

I have to tell this—I probably shouldn't-but there was a little argument and someone, I thought, got out of line at the summit meeting in England. And I was, because it was a male, I sought her out afterwards-she was presiding—and said, "Margaret, I think that was out of line, and he shouldn't have said this." And Margaret very quietly said, "We women understand when men are being childish." [Laughter]

But look around you at the great talent that is in this room. The advancement of women in this party is more evidence of the growing fact that increasingly the Republican Party is the party of ideas. We're the new thing in politics these days. We are taking creative steps to free up the economy. We have the new and vital economic ideas. We're taking a new look at the family and its pivotal place in society. And we're the ones with fresh new insights on tax structure. And we're the one with the courage, conviction, and the compassion to increase personal incentives for every working American. Our party fairly crackles with ideas and dynamism, with the bustle of pioneers looking into the future and trying to make it better than the present or the past.

The past 3 1/2 years—if you noticed—we have, all of us together, changed our country. We've led the way in helping the public understand that the great contention between the free world and the totalitarians is the preeminent struggle of our times. We've led the way in helping our country appreciate anew the fact that economic justice comes from economic freedom and that big government does not liberate men and women; it holds them down. What we've accomplished is the most exciting domestic political development since the New Deal.

And all of you in this room are an integral part of that new revolution. You're the incredible talent that's lighting our party with tremendous energy. The Republican Party is the party of the future, and it is up to all of us to reach out to all of the people in this country, to go to the union halls and the fire stations and the street corners and get the word out and let people know that the party with a vision wants their support, needs their support, and deserves their support.

It all comes down to you. Scores of gifted Republican women like you are serving in public office outside Washington. In the 23 State primaries that have been held this year to select candidates for State and Federal offices, in addition to incumbents, our party fielded over 200 women, and more than 150 of you came out of your primaries victorious.

Now, I know you're having briefings all day, but if you'd allow me, I'd like to take a moment to give you an overview of some of the other things we've been trying to do-and I'll be brief, because maybe you've already heard them. I may be plowing some ground that's already been plowed, but there are some specific proposals that we're making, working on, that directly affect women in America.

On the legislative front, we've made proposals to really toughen child support enforcement: to improve State collection of child support payments and require the adoption of proven and effective enforcement techniques. Bills containing these measures have passed both the House and the Senate, and we hope they'll emerge from a conference committee ironing out the differences between them within the next few weeks.

In pension reform, we have proposed legislation to increase protection for widowed and divorced spouses and to help women earn their own pension credits. That bill is also well on its way to enactment.

Tax equity for women is another vital field. Many of our tax equity proposals are contained in the deficit reduction act—the thing we call a down payment—which I expect to sign very soon. The Congress, for example, adopted our proposal to permit contributions to nonprofit dependent care organizations, such as day-care centers, to be treated as tax exempt. We are more than disappointed that the Congress dropped our proposal to raise the spousal IRA limit from $2,250 to $4,000, but we're going to keep on pushing for that one, and we'll get it.

These, as well as other measures that have been passed, represent a significant advance for American women. But there's one achievement that's done more to give American women opportunity and independence than all the others combined, and it's called economic expansion.

When I took the oath of office, inflation was in double digits, the prime interest rate had hit its highest peak since the Civil War, and economic growth had just about disappeared.

The economic crisis struck women especially hard. Most elderly Americans living on fixed incomes are women, and their purchasing power was eaten up by inflation. Women saw jobs become more and more scarce, and a 12.4-percent inflation rate made buying groceries and paying bills a nightmare. The thousands of women who wanted to start their own businesses saw a 21 ½-percent prime interest rate slam the doors of opportunity.

Well, last year there were some 600,000 new businesses that started up, and the greater proportion of them were started by women. But the interest rates weren't 21 1/2 percent anymore.

Now, we made the economy priority number one. We reduced the growth of Federal spending. We eliminated needless regulation, reduced personal income tax rates. And we passed an historic reform called tax indexing, that means the Government can never again use inflation as a tax increase to profit at the people's expense. We reduced the marriage tax penalty, almost doubled the maximum child-care credit, increased the limits for IRA and Keogh contributions, and eliminated estate taxes on family farms and businesses for surviving spouses.

And our greatest triumph is in the area of employment. Right now more people are employed in the United States than at any other time in our history. And we've beaten back unemployment to 7 percent. But if you just take women's unemployment, it's less than 7 percent.

Today, from Maine to California, there's a powerful economic expansion that is taking place. As a matter of fact, I had an angry, scholarly economist write me to tell me to stop calling it economic recovery. He said, "We're past that—it is now economic expansion." [Laughter] And I believed him. But inflation has plummeted by more than two-thirds since we took office. It's been running at 3.6 percent for the last 3-month period.

And, as I mentioned, the Producer Price Index in June was announced this morning as unchanged—that's the third month in a row. And if we want to take it for 12 months, that's the one that precedes and predicts what the inflation rate is going to be—the Producer Price Index—it's been 2.2 percent for the last 12 months.

Retail sales, as I said, are up. The American worker's real wage is rising. Investment by U.S.. business and new plants and equipment has risen at its fastest rate for any recovery in the last 30 years.

We Republicans have more than a good record. Together we've changed and will continue to change our country. For the last 30-odd years or more, the political debate in Washington was all having to do with how much they were going to spend and the new spending proposals. And nobody's stopped to notice that for the last few years, the debate in Washington has been all entirely on how much are we going to cut. And we've never cut as much as I think we should, but we're going to keep on doing that, too.

We know that our nation's best days are still ahead of us. We can build a country where all women and men have the chance to go forward just as far as their dreams and talents will take them—an open society led by new ideas. It's all very exciting, and we're doing it, all of us together. And if we succeed in getting the word about—out about who we are and what we're accomplishing-then I feel sure the Nation will follow us.

So, thank you, God bless you, and let's have dessert. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 12:51 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

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

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