Toasts at a Dinner Honoring the Nation's Governors

February 24, 1981

The President. Well, let me just say Nancy and I are both delighted that the first state dinner that we've had here should be this dinner on this occasion, to have you here in this room which traditionally is reserved for chiefs of state. It's been a nostalgic thing, as I said to some of you -- ladies, to your husbands -- the other day, because present are faces of men that I served with when we came here and sat as guests at the White House in the Governors' Conference and, of course, many new friends here also.

We've discussed in less pleasant surroundings some of the problems that confront us today. I'm sure that the Governors, whether they all agree or not, do realize that what we're trying to do is alter the economic situation in our country by changing one simple two-letter word, economic control by government to economic control on government. And I look forward to collaboration and cooperation with all of you because of my belief that our Constitution calls for the 50 sovereign States being the basis of our freedom here in this land.

You know, it isn't so different. I find sometimes that just in the short time that we've been here that I feel a little like I did many times and as you feel as Governor. Sometimes it's as Lincoln described the man that was being ridden out of town on a rail, tarred and feathered. He said, ``If it wasn't for the honor I would really have preferred to walk.'' [Laughter]

But Bob Ray's State, the Des Moines Register and Tribune invited grade school children to write letters to the paper, which they guaranteed would be printed, as to what they would advise the President to do if they had the opportunity. And I was amazed at these letters from 9-, 10-, 11-, 12-year-old children, their grasp of the economic problems, the world situation, the things they recommended. But one letter that really moved me was from an 11-year-old boy who wrote and said, ``When you get there, don't look to the past; look to the future. You won't have time to look to the past.'' And he said, ``Make up your mind that when you leave there you will be older, and tired, and there will be a few more gray hairs in your wise old head.'' [Laughter] And then he said, ``Just get to the office, go to work, and be happy that you're only President, you don't have to be God.'' [Laughter] Out of the mouths of children.

Well, anyway, it's a great pleasure to have you here, and I look forward to contact as we've talked about in our previous meetings in the days ahead with all of you.

And now, I would like to propose a toast to the Right Honorable George Busbee, Governor of Georgia and chairman of the National Governors' Association.

And so that all can drink, including George, to the days ahead when between us we are going to see America solve its problems and have the cooperation that I think should properly exist between you, the chief executives of your States, and this Federal Government which was created by the States. So, a toast.

Thank you.

Governor Busbee. Thank you, Mr. President.

On behalf of the Governors of this Nation and their ladies, we would first like to express our appreciation to you and to Mrs. Reagan for your kind and your generous hospitality this evening. Listening to your remarks I reflect back to our meeting in Denver this past August when we looked at all the problems of our States, the problems of this Nation, formed by our States, and we said, ``We need one priority to address the problems of all, and that is to relook at this question of federalism. And we adopted this as our number one priority. About that time we had a former Governor that was making speeches about the country espousing the same thoughts. Now, he's here with us. And those words have become acts and deeds.

You've asked, Mr. President, that the Governors of this Nation join with you in a partnership as you look at this great economic crisis that we as a nation face that demands immediate action, which you've taken. You have stated that you feel that we need to look at this system of government that we have, the levels of government we have that deliver the services to our people, and we need some realignment. You've asked for our imput, and you've provided access by meeting with the executive committee, with the standing committee chairmen, now with all of the Governors on yesterday. And I just would like to say to you, Mr. President, that we accept your invitation.

At this time, Mr. President, I would like to ask that we raise our glasses to the President of the United States.

The President. Now, if we'll all make our way to the Blue Room, the Green Room, and the Red Room for coffee and liqueurs, and then on to the East Room for entertainment, where a cast of 26 of the great Broadway musical, ``A Chorus Line,'' are going to entertain. I think it is very fitting for them to entertain, because I have found out that the cast of 26 come from 18 separate States.

[The President spoke at 9:36 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Following the entertainment in the East Room, the President spoke at 10:38 p.m., directing most of his remarks to the performers, as follows.]

I think you can tell by the happy faces how much you've done for -- well, if a bomb should fall in this room right now, there'd be an awful strain on the country because here are most of the Governors of all the 50 States. [Laughter] And I understand you come from a spread of about 18 States, and show business would certainly have a terrific loss if something should happen to this room right now. [Laughter]

We want to thank you, and I'm sure you realize how happy you've made everyone here. And thank you very much for this, you've honored us greatly by being here. We appreciate it very much. Thank you.

And now I'm sure you almost feel like dancing yourselves, and out in the foyer there'll be an orchestra and there will be dancing. And thank you to the musicians who are here for all of this. Thank you very much.

I wish I'd started in show business. [Laughter]