Remarks at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Dinner Honoring Secretary of Agriculture Block

March 17, 1981

The President. I learned in public speaking you're never supposed to open with an apology, but my schedule has kind of gotten jammed up with two things happening almost simultaneously, so I only have a few minutes. But I did want to come here and, first of all, thank you and commend you for you who selected to honor tonight, Secretary of Agriculture John Block and his lovely lady.

You know, I have to tell you that it's been quite a day. I had lunch at the Irish Embassy. It happened to be an appropriate occasion for that today. [Laughter] It's the most infectious brogue in the world. Before I left, I was talking just like, well, you know. [Laughter]

But we changed gears here, and I've tried to warn John about some of the things -- I remember when Ezra Taft Benson was Secretary of Agriculture. And he was out in the country and hearing reports from people in the farm areas and talking to them, and at one place there was a fellow that was giving him a really bad time, really complaining. And Ezra turned around and looked at some notes that someone handed him and then back and said, ``Now, wait a minute.'' He said, ``You didn't have it so bad.'' He said, ``You had 26 inches of rain this last year.'' And the fellow said, ``Yes, I remember the night it happened.'' [Laughter]

All of you are engaged in what is really the energy industry that is the most important of all, because the energy you produce or that you have to do with that is produced -- if it isn't, we are out of business.

And I know once when I was out on the mashed potato circuit before I -- well, that was when I was unemployed -- [laughter] -- I was speaking to a farm group in Las Vegas. And on the way in to where I was to speak, there was one of those fellows that was there for the action, and he recognized me. And he said, ``What are you doing here?'' And I told him why. He said, ``What are a bunch of farmers doing in Las Vegas?''And I just couldn't help it. I said, ``Buster, ther're in a business that makes a Las Vegas crap table look like a guaranteed annual income.'' [Laughter]

I am so happy at the kind words that you were saying about our selection for Secretary of Agriculture on the way through the room. It gladdened my heart, because I can tell you, already you've heard that we have a kind of Cabinet system of government; we do. And they don't just come in, or one at a time speak on their particular problem and no one else does this. We really debate all the issues around the table, everybody's department, and get a consensus and find out all the various opinions, and we don't take a vote. Then I know the monkey gets on my back, and I have to make a decision. But I can assure you, farming and agriculture in America is darn well represented in this administration by John Block.

So, I am pleased to be here and to just add my voice to yours in honoring him tonight, to thank all of you for being here. And naturally, we know that you're all going to be in total support of our economic package. [Laughter] With that, thank you all.

And I -- yes. Is he all right?

Mrs. Dole. He's doing fine. Thank you.

The President. Mrs. Bob Dole. She and I have been conspiring to try and keep him from doing too much -- [laughter] -- after his operation.

Well, it's good to see all of you. And thank you for letting me join you for even just this few minutes.

Note: The President spoke at 6:40 p.m. in the ballroom at the Hotel Washington.

In his remarks, the President referred to Senator Robert Dole of Kansas, who was recuperating from surgery.