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Public Papers - 1990 - February

Remarks to the Staff of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in San Francisco, California

1990-02-07

Thank you, Mr. Nuckolls and Dr. Wood, of course, Secretary Watkins, our Secretary of Energy, in whom I have great confidence and who is my trusted adviser on matters that affect your lives on a day-to-day basis. I'm delighted to be here. And I'm told that my visit represents a milestone, a rare phenomenon: one of the very few presentations without a viewgraph. [Laughter]

But before I speak about the programs I've just seen at Livermore Labs, I want to say something about the people here, about your response, actually, in the wake of the earthquake back in October. I am told that Livermore employees raised over 0,000 in contributions for disaster relief, and you did it in just 2 days. So, I thank all of you for your strong commitment to community. I think people are beginning to understand what I mean when I talk about a Thousand Points of Light. And that is a wonderful example of how this whole concept works: one American pitching in to help another. So, you've really set a wonderful example.

It's very exciting for me to have a chance to visit this institution and the people who bring it to life. I loved that spontaneous welcome when I drove in here -- people lined up out there. I don't know how long they've been whipped into shape to be standing there, but -- [laughter] -- I can tell you, it made me feel good anyway. [Laughter] So, if you were in line out there somewhere, thank you for your heroic work.

Yours are the minds that are rarely at rest -- sometimes blessed, sometimes burdened with a flow of ideas that simply won't quit. Maybe even when you're out fishing or at 3 in the morning when you just want to get some sleep -- maybe that works differently. But like the Bells and the Edisons and the Tellers before you, your ideas, your ability to deliver on them, are America's best.

The Livermore's technical prowess is well-known, truly remarkable. And I now have a better feel for it just from kicking the tires and being here for just a few minutes. For nearly 40 years, you've been at the leading edge of scientific knowledge. And I'm delighted that one of the Lab's founders is here today, one of the great pioneers in the national security field, leading minds in science; and of course I'm talking about my friend of longstanding, Dr. Edward Teller. Glad to see you, sir. Let me thank all of you at the Lab for your role in preserving the peace and keeping the world stable and America secure.

You're aware of the tremendous changes -- Mr. Nuckolls referred to them -- that have swept the world over the past 2 years -- past year, actually. In my address to the Nation 2 weeks ago, I referred to it as the ``Revolution of '89,'' a remarkable and hopeful transition that continues even now. What I didn't mention, and what you also understand, is how the world's movement toward democracy and freedom is a direct result of our ability to stand firm in the face of threats to stability and peace.

Just over an hour from now, I'm going to be talking to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, making an address on our national security strategy at this time of change. But let me say right now that the strength of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, developed through the effort of our national labs and the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, has helped to guard the peace and freedom so precious to all of us.

Now the labs are also developing technologies to strengthen deterrence through strategic defenses. Together with strategic modernization and arms control, programs like SDI, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and one of its most promising concepts, ``Brilliant Pebbles,'' complement our ability to preserve the peace into the 1990's and beyond. If the technology I've seen today proves feasible, and I'm told it looks very promising, no war planner could be confident of the consequences of a ballistic missile attack. The technologies you are now researching, developing, and testing will strengthen deterrence.

Even as we work to reduce arsenals and reduce tensions, we understand the continuing, crucial role of strategic defenses. Beyond their contributions to deterrence, they underlie effective arms control by diminishing the advantages of cheating. They can also defend us against accidental launches or attacks from the many other countries that, regrettably, are acquiring ballistic missile capabilities. In the 1990's, strategic defense makes much more sense than ever before, in my view.

So, a vigorous research, development, and testing program at our national labs will be as crucial as ever, as we adapt both the size and shape of our nuclear deterrent. We're working on a significant reduction in arms. I think that's what the world wants. I believe in it strongly. But to protect the American people, we will settle for nothing less than the highest confidence in survivability, effectiveness, and safety of our remaining forces.

The scientific expertise of laboratories like Livermore will also serve the national interest in other areas -- problems like economic competitiveness, education, energy, space exploration, waste cleanup, sound environmental practices. These will be enormously important challenges in the future, challenges that your skills, your talents -- those flashes of insight matched with long hours of labor -- will help us meet squarely and well. I'm confident that the Livermore Laboratories will be a crucial part of our ability to meet the challenges of the new decade and the new century.

So, I came out here to learn, and I also came out here to say thank you very much. I have a funny feeling that because of the nature of the work, it is somewhat underappreciated by the average man on the street in our country. But I want to assure you of my support. I want to assure you, as President, of my gratitude for the dedication that you bring and, really, the service to country that exemplifies the best in America.

Thank you all very much for what you're doing. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:35 a.m. in the Laboratory's auditorium. In his opening remarks, he referred to John H. Nuckolls, Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Lowell L. Woods, the facility's special studies programs leader. Prior to his remarks, the President was briefed on the ``Brilliant Pebbles'' project and toured the weapons vault.

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