Remarks at a Reception for Members of the Associated General Contractors of America

March 16, 1981

The President. Well, thank you very much. Now I have an Oscar. [Laughter]

Well, President Cianchette, members of the Associated General Contractors, this is indeed an honor. An award from you is much more than a recognition from the business community; it's a tribute from the people who literally built America. Your hard work and the hard work of builders before you took an American wilderness and turned it into a citadel of productivity and commerce. And I don't have to tell you that our country somehow then went astray somewhere along the line. But I pledge to you tonight, together we can get this country going again, and we're going to do that.

President Cianchette spoke of regulations. A fellow in my neighborhood, building his own home not too long ago, gave me a line for my campaign speeches. He got so fed up finally with the paperwork that he pasted them all together to just to build his house; strung them up on two poles. And he had a strip of paper 250 feet long. [Laughter] We're going to do something about that. We have a task force that's assigned to it.

We can bring inflation down, and we can get America building again. You know, if that sounds like we're asking for miracles, well, on this eve of St. Patrick's Day, someone with the name of Reagan I think is entitled to think in terms of miracles. [Laughter]

You know, there was a little tad that was in court in New York, bandaged from his toes to his chin, suing for $4 million as the result of an accident, and he won the suit. The lawyers for the insurance company went over to him, and they said, ``You're never going to enjoy a penny of this. We're going to follow you 24 hours a day. We know you're faking, and the first time you move, we'll have you.'' He said, ``Will you now? Well,'' he said, ``Let me tell you what's going to happen to me.'' He said, ``They're coming in here with a stretcher. They're taking me out, and downstairs they're putting me in an ambulance. They're driving me straight to Kennedy Airport, and they're putting me on the airplane on that stretcher. We're flying direct to Paris, France, and there they're taking me on the stretcher off the plane, putting me in another ambulance. We're going direct to the shrine of Lourdes, and there you're going to see the damndest miracle you ever saw.'' [Laughter]

Well, your endorsement of our economic recovery package is even more meaningful, because I'm aware that some of the proposed spending reductions affect your members directly. By thinking of the nation as a whole rather than monetary, financial interests, you're demonstrating the kind of spirit that made this country great. And it's the kind of spirit that will make it great once again.

But it's going to be a tough fight. There are those who would rather get theirs now than cure inflation. They're going to do everything they can to preserve the status quo. And I ask you, after 2 years of double-digit inflation and economic stagnation, do you really want to keep the status quo?

Audience. No!

The President. I didn't think so. Status quo, you know, that is Latin for ``the mess we're in.'' [Laughter]

I appreciate your support, and I'm looking forward to a close working relationship with the Association of General Contractors. Americans are still a people with true grit, and your support suggests to me this kind of spirit is still out there.

Thank you again for the honor you've paid me tonight. And don't worry, we're going to get the job done. And let me just tell you something, an example of the spirit that's alive out there in America matching yours.

I got a check from a retiree the other day -- I mean a letter from a retiree. I gave the punchline away. [Laughter] In there was his check for civil service retirement, a full month's retirement endorsed over to the Treasury Department, because he said he just wanted to help us get the job done. So, we can't lose.

Thank you again. Thanks very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:30 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Prior to his remarks, president Ival Cianchette of the Associated General Contractors of America presented the President with the organization's Man of the Year Award for skill, integrity, and responsibility.