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Public Papers - 1990 - January

Remarks at the Bush Administration Executive Forum

1990-01-18

Mr. Vice President and members of the Cabinet, Governor Sununu, all of you members of our team, thank you. Thank you very much for that warm reception, the pleasure of being here.

What a privilege it is to celebrate the first anniversary of an administration that you all helped make possible and that you enrich every day through your own hard work and your dreams. I wanted to stop the applause so you could get back to work. [Laughter]

I understand that every Cabinet member is here and preceded me. And I'm very proud of our Vice President, very proud of this Cabinet, very grateful to our Chief of Staff. You've done America proud, and you've made each of us proud. So, I would say to our Cabinet: Please, why don't you make me a little less lonely up here? As the noted philosopher says, ``Come on down!'' So, please, I'd like to invite the Cabinet members to come up here.

Well, thank you all. Please be seated. And again, I'm glad to be with you. I won't keep you long. Another pledge: My remarks will be on the record. After all, I'm getting tired of reading in the press that I'm too secretive. [Laughter] Let me tell you my views on that -- I'd like to, but they're classified. [Laughter]

You know, a week from Sunday, America is going to come to a stop -- the Super Bowl. And the bad news is that only one team there will triumph. But the good news is that today we salute an event in which -- with your help -- all America has triumphed: the first 12 months of this administration. And looking back, it's been quite a year.

First, there was Barbara. Americans got to know her. And I don't have to tell you how lucky I am to have her by my side and working with many of these Cabinet officers, particularly Secretary Cavazos, trying to help him and all of you make America better in education.

As far as accomplishments, minding the admonitions of my mother, I'm not going to dwell on my biggest feat of 1989. Suffice it to say that during the second year I hope to catch yet another fish. [Laughter]

One year ago this week, you and I began the work which led to even larger feats, like the lowest unemployment rate in 15 years and the 20 millionth new job since 1982; like inflation at less than 5 percent, falling interest rates, real per capita income, and investment at record levels. You have helped achieve the longest peacetime boom in our nation's history.

This prosperity, I really believe, has helped make America a kinder and gentler place. And we've nurtured it through pioneering initiatives, whether by working to solve the savings and loan crisis or to make our education system number one again, whether enhancing the quality of our environment or waging a stepped-up, all-out battle against drugs -- and I'm sorry that Bill Bennett is not here today. Our goal has been, and remains, you see, to build a better America. These great objectives have been set down in our initial quarter. And now let's use the next quarter to make still greater progress.

Woodrow Wilson could have been describing our administration when he said, ``It's always a beginning, not a consummation.'' In that spirit, let me simply observe: Just wait until the second-guessers see our second year.

You know, remember the old New England story about a man who was stuck in the mud with his car. The man was asked by this passing motorist whether he was really stuck. Finally, he responded with a shake of his head. ``You could say I was stuck,'' he said, ``if I was really going anywhere.''

Well, America is going somewhere -- toward a better future. It is not stuck. And much of the credit belongs to you, the people in this room. You are changing the way Americans view their government. Franklin had a word for it -- not Ben, Aretha. It is ``respect'' -- she and Rodney Dangerfield. And in your own way, you've helped ensure that just as millions have become free from tyranny abroad, millions more will know freedom from want, crime, and drugs at home.

Toward that end, we've sent proposals to the United States Congress to confront our most crucial issues. And while I'll listen to reasonable alternatives, I will not compromise on the principles upon which our proposals are based. And so, I call upon the Congress to work with the White House and complete the job that we were all sent here to do.

For instance -- let me just give you some examples; I can't possibly spell out every initiative -- for instance, our commitment to the environment is crystal clear. We have sent Congress legislation to reduce acid rain, air toxics, and urban smog. It is the first rewrite of the Clean Air Act in over 10 years. And I asked both Houses to preserve the careful balance in that bill -- help clean up our air and preserve jobs. We've laid down a fairminded compromise, and now let's break the stalemate. Let's protect our environment for decades to come. Let's get moving.

But that isn't all -- far, far from it. We've also made proposals to stem drug use and crime: proposals to ensure stiffer penalties for violent criminals, greater certainty in sentencing, an end to early release and easy parole. Eight months ago, I sent legislation to the Congress, and since then, more money has been provided for additional prison space and more Federal law enforcement officers. And yet Congress has left too much work undone. I see our Attorney General nodding, and he's been out in the forefront, and he understands that. And so, I call upon Congress to act now, quickly and responsibly. We need mandatory time for these firearm offenses -- no deals when criminals use a gun. And for anyone who kills a law enforcement officer, no legal penalty is too tough, and that does mean the death penalty -- not at some point, not sometime, but now.

Next is -- another example -- education. And here also we need the Congress to act. I sent legislation up to give greater choice to parents and students, reward excellence, and demand greater accountability. And so, let's ensure that every child in America grows up with a decent education.

I look at these Cabinet officers up here with me, and I see so many -- I'm thinking as my mind is running -- so many other initiatives that, with your help, they have taken in taking our program to Capitol Hill. But what it all adds up to is the future. The future is what I'm talking about, the future of our kids. And so, we've proposed child-care legislation to put choice in the hands of low-income parents and allow a grandparent to help, or a neighbor, or a local church. And when it comes to child care, let parents, not the Big Brother, decide how that job gets done.

Yes, the future, a future in which Americans are free to work, invest, save, and plan -- so, our administration does want to cut the capital gains tax to spur investment and create jobs. And Americans have shown the world that the path to a strong economy is through innovation, investment, and enterprise. Come to think of it, what they create isn't a bad definition of America -- opportunity for all.

Opportunity can come from the bipartisanship which puts America first. Perhaps Will Rogers said it best when he observed: ``I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons.'' [Laughter] Ask Millie. I'm not sure she'd agree. [Laughter]

Nevertheless, our proposals reflect America's best interests, not the interest of one faction or another. And I ask the Congress to respond in kind, spurring opportunity, not dependency, for a future free from fear.

Keep in mind -- and I know this as well as any of us -- the agenda is unfinished. The public awaits, expecting us, as I said last January, to act, not to bicker. And as we act, let's recall what we believe and who it is that we serve: not ourselves, not a party, but this nation and her people -- moreover, all those for whom America is the conscience of mankind. The working mother in San Antonio and the farmer in Nebraska and the teacher in New Jersey and the uniformed sons and daughters who keep us free -- we serve them, every single one.

Yet the essence of America, that belief in the individual, eclipses language and border. And so, we must also champion the heroes of Prague and Warsaw, Bucharest and Berlin, and the thousands of people who last July -- I saw it -- greeted me there in Budapest, tears running down their faces, waiting hours in a driving rain, cheering for the principles of liberty and democracy, cheering for the United States of America.

Dwight Eisenhower, beloved Ike, once observed that we must help the cause of democracy summon ``lightness against the dark.'' He was right. And so, we have helped Poland and Hungary, and we will help others in Eastern Europe. But let me be clear: I will not neglect this hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere. Our operation in Panama, Operation Just Cause, was a tremendous success. And I am very proud of the young men and women who served this country with such pride and courage. And, yes, there's going to be some second-guessing, Monday morning quarterbacks at work. But let's not forget: 92 percent of the people in Panama supported Operation Just Cause. And these people are our brothers and our sisters, and they deserve our help. And so do all our friends in Latin America and the Caribbean. And they'll receive it. For even as we rejoice in the changes in Eastern Europe, we've got to remember our friends in America's hemisphere.

Americans supported Operation Just Cause because democracy is a noble cause. And today it's on the move wherever people dream. Around the world, that cause endures, and the darkness lifts, and the light grows brighter by the day.

No President could have a finer group of people as part of his administration. I thank you from the bottom of a very grateful heart. No nation could have better public servants. And I thank you on behalf of every American. God bless you. God bless our beloved land, this morning star of freedom, the United States of America. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:26 a.m. at DAR Constitution Hall at the 9th annual Executive Forum for political appointees of the administration. In his remarks, he referred to singer Aretha Franklin and comedian Rodney Dangerfield.

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