Message on the Observance of Labor Day

September 4, 1981

Samuel Gompers, one of the first labor leaders in this country, said that Labor Day was a time to pledge ourselves to an even greater effort in the coming year. Samuel Gompers knew that the key to a prosperous future is to have faith in it, and that's why for him, Labor Day stood for a celebration of tomorrow's promise and possibilities.

Today, as we set our minds to a new season of work, we begin what I hope will be a new age of the American worker, an age in which all of us again are free to prosper.

Together, we've swept away many government-created obstacles to our prosperity. In our fight against inflation and high interest rates, we enacted the largest budget cuts ever considered by the Congress. We produced the first real tax cut for working men and women in nearly 20 years. We slowed the pace of Federal rulemaking. We saw to it our money supply followed a pattern of slow, stable growth.

These dramatic changes in economic policy -- the tax and budget legislation I signed a few weeks ago -- are the dynamic result of millions of individuals coming together, committed to preserving a society where we can each seek our own goals, assured of the freedom to climb as high as our own drive, ambition, and talent can take us.

Let me make our goal in this program very clear: jobs, jobs, jobs, and more jobs. I see the creation of 3 million more jobs by 1986, in addition to the 10 million already expected. I see an era in which wage earners will be taking home more money in real dollars and an era in which fewer of us will be looking for work. Our policy has been and will continue to be: What is good for the American worker is good for America.

We built this great Nation, built it to surpass the highest standards ever imagined, through the hard work of our people. I would match the American worker against any in the world. The people whose labor fuels our industry and economy are among the most productive anywhere.

But too many Americans don't have a job, and too many Americans who do, don't have the tools they need to compete. Past, stagnated policies have made it too difficult to modernize and too risky to expand. Our people, our workers, have cried out for change, and in the last 7 months have achieved an historic reversal of the failed policies of an era gone by. We returned to the principles that made us great.

Legislation now in effect has dawned a new age for American workers, an age in which once again we are free to achieve all that we can. To cite one example: This recent legislation passed by the Congress as part of our economic recovery plan makes it possible for American workers currently participating in company pension plans to expand this coverage with their own individual retirement plans. This is only one of many new exciting possibilities opened for American workers.

All of us must take advantage of the incentives for savings, investment, and hard work that have been restored. I urge American workers who traditionally saved to make their families secure to do so again. I urge American investors who traditionally took risks to make a profit to do so again. I urge American workers to save and invest, because I believe that when our economic program takes full effect, Americans again will be rewarded for working extra hours or assuming more responsibility.

In a few short months we've accomplished much. But merely signing legislation is not going to bring about an instant cure. We're only beginning a recovery that will take many long months. We're only beginning to emerge from an economic crisis still gripping the rest of the world.

In Poland, where the grocery shelves are bare, the state ideology dictates more rationing of scarcity while workers take to the streets in protest over these restrictions. It is a stifled economy. A government official there said the crisis of depression is deepening in Poland, and they still do not have a way out.

Well, as President Eisenhower told us once: A crisis can be deadly when inert men are smothered in despair. But a crisis also can be the sharpest goad to our creative energies, particularly when we recognize it as a challenge and move to meet it in faith, in thought, and in courage. We must act today in the name of generations still to come.

As we work to solve our economic problems, let us tap that well of human spirit. We'll find more than strength of numbers and strength of resources, we'll find strength of individual determination. We will find the strength of mutual trust. For too many years now, we've trusted numbers and computers. We've trusted balance sheets, organizational charts, policies and systems. We've placed trust in rules, regulations, and government dictates. Well, I think it's about time that we placed trust in ourselves and in each other.

I'm confident in our ability to work together, to meet and surmount our problems and accomplish the goals we all seek. Now, I know that we can't make things right overnight -- but we will make them right. Our destiny is not our fate; it is our choice. I ask all Americans, in these first, crucial months of recovery, to join me with confidence as we strike out on this new path to prosperity.

Note: The message was taped on Friday, September 4, for use on radio on Sunday, September 6.