Gerald R. Ford photo

Toast at a Dinner Honoring the Nation's Governors

February 23, 1976

Governors and your delightful wives and guests:

It is a very great pleasure for Betty and myself to have all of you here on the second annual dinner where we have honored all of you who have come to the National Governors' Conference.

As I was sitting here talking to Reubin and Jim and Bill and Cal,1 I thought to myself how many times I have been in three States. Of course, coming from Michigan, I have been there a couple of times, but I thought to myself how many times I have, over a period of some 25 years or more, visited every one of the 50 States. And I have cherished in many, many ways the warm welcome that I have gotten from chief executives of every State, whether they were Democratic or Republican.

1Governors Reubin Askew of Florida, James Longley of Maine, William G. Milliken of Michigan, and Calvin L. Rampton of Utah.

And as I met all of you in the receiving line tonight, every one of you, whenever I have come to your State, have been most generous and very kind. And for that, I thank you, and Betty joins me in that expression of appreciation.

But as I had the opportunity this morning to speak to all of you, I thought of the high degree of unanimity that we appear to have--those of us who are in the executive branch of the government, whether we are at the Federal or at the State level--and I thought of my conflicts with my old friends in the Congress, who are still my friends, but with whom I disagree quite violently on some occasions--not all.

I think it is a totally different experience to be in the executive branch than it is in the legislative branch, and you get a different perspective. And all of you have shared that with each other, and I have had the privilege of sharing it with you.

Somebody has to be in charge, at least as far as the day-to-day operations are concerned. We respect, we seek to work with the legislative branch, and it is vitally important in our system that we do. It is better if we can, but until you have had the experience of being in the executive branch of the government you really don't understand the day-to-day trials and tribulations. So I congratulate all of you who have done your job of responsibility in the executive branch in your respective States. Let me say, I appreciate it far better today than I did for 25 years when I was on the other side of the fence.

But let me say very deeply and very sincerely, that I am immensely appreciative of the cooperation that I have found in your organization and with each of you individually. I don't mean to be so Pollyannish that we agree on every issue. We have had some pretty stormy meetings in the Cabinet Room where there were some rather strident differences expressed between some of you and myself, or you and some of my associates. But at least there was an understanding that we had a job to do at the Federal, State, and local levels.

The net result in most instances--whether we agreed or disagreed--there was an understanding that I think has pushed us as a country further forward to have a better relationship between the Federal executive and the State executive. And I thank you for all of you going more than halfway, and I can assure you we will seek to go halfway or better, as well. And the net result is, I think, your States and our country are both better off.

So, as we deal with the day-to-day problems of general revenue sharing or block grants or welfare or food stamps, whatever the issues might be, I am grateful for your input and your cooperation.

I am especially appreciative of the warmth of your welcome when either Betty or myself have come to your States. We have enjoyed your hospitality, and we are most grateful for your understanding and cooperation.

With that, I think it is quite appropriate that I offer a toast to all of you and to our joint constituents and to a better America.

Note: The President spoke at 10:11 p.m. m the State Dining Room at the White House.

Governor Robert D. Ray of Iowa, chairman of the National Governors' Conference, responded to the President's toast. His remarks are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol.12, p. 276).

Gerald R. Ford, Toast at a Dinner Honoring the Nation's Governors Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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