Public Papers - 1991
Remarks to Peavey Electronics Employees in Meridian, Mississippi
Thank you all very, very much for this welcome. I'll tell you, this is a great day for me, a wonderful day for me. And I just can't tell you how much I appreciate your warm welcome. I have only one regret, and that is that Barbara's not here to join in this. Frankly, I think she's doing a great job for our country, and this would be wonderful for her morale. But I'll tell you -- -- [applause].
The other day, we presented the Medal of Freedom to one of the great athletes of our time, Ted Williams, former slugger, you know, for the Boston Red Sox. And he did something he's never done before. He wore a necktie. And, Hartley -- [laughter] -- I understand that. Regardless of what you had to wear and how uncomfortable you might be, you and Melia have got this wonderful way of making me feel at home. And everybody that's worked on this visit and to all of those here who are responsible for the arrangements and the advance and the communications and all of that, I promise you we will leave on time and not hang out here so to burden you further. But for us it's been a wonderful visit, and all of our people have enjoyed working with you all.
I want to salute, of course, my closest friend in the United States Congress, Sonny Montgomery, who represents Meridian here, and just say how pleased I am to be with him. And I want to tell you how proud I am of your new Governor-elect, Kirk Fordice, who is with us today sitting right over here. You do a great job for our State. Mayor Jimmy Kemp, thank you, sir, for greeting us at the airport and being with us. And I want to thank Meridian's High School Marching Band, single out, of course, the Restless Heart. They're good anyway, but when you give them a good sound system, look what they can do. I mean, it's fantastic.
I also want to thank Reverend Followell for his invocation and Gil Carmichael, who is serving in Washington, DC, a longtime Meridian who flew down with me today on Air Force One, and all the rest of you.
I think best of all for me on this day, though, it is to see the people behind the power of Peavey. I sensed it when I walked in here, the feeling of this company, the pride in what you have accomplished. It is a true American story, and each and every one of you is a part of it.
Someone once told me that Hartley Peavey wanted to be a rock star but found out he was better at making amplifiers. That's okay. I always wanted to be number one at the White House, but you know Barbara. [Laughter] So, you all have got to do what you do, you know.
But it is great to be back in your Magnolia State, in the birthplace of so much great American music. And it's great to meet the people who've made Peavey the largest amplifier manufacturer in the world. Looking around, I'm beginning to understand this motto, ``People Growing Together.''
Whether it's employees like Sallie Weathers, still part of the Peavey family at 71; or like Susan Roddy, with achievements in lifelong learning; or people like Belinda Bates, David McCarty, and other Peavey heroes who helped win the Gulf war: We're grateful to them. I think you've really clearly demonstrated -- and I hope this visit amplifies this around the country -- that quality people do mean quality products.
Hartley once remarked that ``Fat cats don't hunt.'' Well, Peavey's been prowling the global marketplace with a hunger that won't quit. You export, I'm told, to 103 countries, accounting for more than 40 percent of your sales. Two amplifiers are top sellers in Japan. Peavey proves that more foreign exports means more American jobs. Ask the man, ask Hartley; by playing a critical role in our Secretary of Commerce's Japan Corporate Program, he knows what I'm talking about. Cracking foreign markets, that means creating more economic growth and more American jobs.
Some in the Congress have tried to set up a false division between foreign policy and domestic priorities. But I think they're wrong. Anyone who's on the front lines of foreign competition knows that fighting the battles against foreign protectionism means a winning war on the homefront. These things are related. And with a level playing field, I am absolutely convinced that American workers can outinnovate, outperform, and outproduce any competition on Earth.
You're doing your part, and I'm going to keep on trying to do mine. I'll soon be going over to Asia, where Hartley has just been, pushing to open the markets of South Korea and Japan to American products and services. Asia is one of the fastest growing export markets, and exports are the strongest sector, in tough times, the strongest sector of our economy. Right here in this great State, more than 43,000 jobs are export-driven, and overall, every billion dollars in manufacturers' exports means 20,000 jobs.
As a Nation, we must address today's problems and tomorrow's promise in a world united in strong economic competition, not frozen, thank God, anymore in nuclear conflict. Over the years we have built a foundation in this new, revitalized world. And there are some tough things out there but some encouraging things. Inflation is down. Interest rates have fallen to the lowest level in years. Our exports have skyrocketed, as I said, 80 percent in the last 5 years. And again, that does mean good jobs across the country for men and women.
But this is no time -- I'm not here to sing some Pollyanna-ish view -- this is no time to sit back and hope for the best. Too many Americans are having a tough time making ends meet. And many people wonder, and I can understand this, how a President in that magnificent White House that I'm honored to live in, wonder how a President understands what goes on outside Washington, living there. Especially the people that are struggling across our country to make ends meet. Well, here's how, at least part of it: I've traveled to 48 States since I've been President, talking and meeting with people, and listening and learning. And then, of course, you do still get mail. I can't say I get it all. Don't write in necessarily, but -- [laughter] -- no, but do because we learn from that. And I see the mail and I'm concerned and I want to help. I do know that for a person out of a job, that for him or her, that unemployment rate is 100 percent.
So over in Bradenton today, I was over there, and earlier I received a letter from someone who lived there, Bradenton, Florida, who told me that he was concerned with what was happening in our country. And sadly, he told me about being out of work for almost 3 years. Well, you know, these are touching things; reading letters like this are disheartening. But a President needs to know that people out there are feeling the pinch of hard times, who aren't looking for just another handout, but who need a hand up. And I'm determined to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to get this national economy on the move.
I think, and I think Congressman Montgomery would agree with this, I think the Governor-elect would agree that this new transportation bill that has just passed is good. I intend to sign it soon. It means growth, and again, for those out of work, it does mean jobs, getting some of this construction underway. There's something the Federal Government has a responsibility for. Congress lived up to that responsibility. And I think that will help soon.
I've also asked Congress to pass an important series of initiatives that would help put Americans back to work and set us on a long-term economic growth track: Tax incentives, for example, to unleash investment; reforms to reform the banking system. It hasn't been reformed at all since the mid-thirties. So, we've got to compete: Our banks are uncompetitive; reforms to strengthen our educational system; initiatives to keep the health care costs that are driving families into real trouble, keep those down. And together, I believe that these measures would help the American economy.
I didn't come down here to talk politics, but unfortunately -- I will say this -- the Congress did not act on the economic growth program that I sent to the Hill 9 months ago, nor did they send me its own package of growth measures.
So I know, I'm well aware of this, and I expect everybody around here is, you've just been through an election cycle. And now we're fixin' to go into another, a national one, and I know we're about to enter that. And I know that both parties will spend a lot of time shooting at each other. That's already started. You can see it every night on television. And I haven't gotten warmed up yet, incidentally, on that. [Laughter] But this is where we are. And in our system of government, it's understandable that the opposition will attack the President aggressively. There's nothing new about this.
But when people are hurting -- here's the point I wanted to make to you all and, through you, by word of mouth to your neighbors and friends; maybe some who aren't lucky enough to have a job here -- I think when people are hurting, a President has got to find ways to set this aside and to get the job done. And Congress now has left town. It was a tough and bitter session up there, as Sonny knows very well. And while many people, including me, would have liked to see some of the action taken, constructive action on the economy, we now have a few weeks, very few, in which elected officials can cool off, hear from their constituents, and hopefully come back in January ready to act on an effective plan of action that I'm going to send out there to the American people in the State of the Union Message.
And when I give that address, I'm going to ask Congress to do what I'm talking about here: Set aside briefly, and it can only be briefly because of the year, '92, set aside election-year politics at least long enough to enact a commonsense set of economic reforms. And then afterward, as the election season unfolds, let the partisan politics flair up again. But every once in a while, it is a President's responsibility to try to get the political climate set aside and get something done to help the American people. And I want you to know, I'm going to try to do just that.
Sonny and I had a colleague -- I don't think he ever voted with me when he was alive, side by side on some of the issues, but he was a good man -- Claude Pepper from Florida, a venerable Democrat, kind of a legend in his time. And he said, ``If more politicians in this country were thinking about the next generation instead of the next election, it might be better for the United States and the world.'' Well, the guy was talking some real truth there.
And if we can come together now as a country, as legislators and as the President -- I'll take my share -- long enough to put principle and programs before partisanship and pride, it is my belief that America, as Faulkner might have put it, ``will not merely endure; it will prevail.''
And I will go back to Washington, reinvigorated by what I've seen here, this kind of ``can-do'' spirit. I will go back with my renewed sense of pride. I wish some of you could have seen the wonderful reception at the airport, some of the kids that served us so admirably in Desert Storm out there to say hello when this marvelous Air Force One taxied up. And I might say to those here that were involved in it, it is my firm belief that what our young men and women did in Desert Storm has given the United States of America a new found respect and credibility all around the world. There is no question about that.
So, what I want to do as we work for peace and work to handle the changes that are happening in the Soviet Union and bring parties together for peace in the Middle East, what I also want to do is to take that new found credibility, use it to hammer our way into these markets of Europe, these markets of Asia, so we will have more access. We will have more ready access to those markets, and that means more products like the ones you make, other products being made for export across this country, going into these foreign markets.
The world is small. Foreign policy and domestic, they interact today. And this is an exciting and wonderful time to be President of the United States. I can't tell you how emotional and strong I feel about what I've seen right here today. This is the American dream in action.
Thank you all and may God bless our country. Thank you very, very much.
Note: The President spoke at 2:45 p.m. In his remarks, the President referred to Hartley D. Peavey, chairman and chief executive officer, and Melia Peavey, president, Peavey Electronics; Restless Heart, a country and western group who performed the national anthem; Reverend Bob Followell, pastor of Carmel Baptist Church in Meridian; and Gilbert E. Carmichael, Federal Railroad Administrator.