Remarks at the Annual Ambassadors Ball To Benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society

September 22, 1981

Well, ladies and gentlemen here on the dais, and you ladies and gentlemen out there, first of all, let me apologize for not being properly dressed for the occasion. But the way this day has been going, I would have had to dress to fit the occasion this morning. [Laughter]

Anyway, it's a pleasure for Nancy and me to be with you here tonight and to honor and assist the Multiple Sclerosis Society. It's also a pleasure to welcome Washington's new Ambassadors.

Much attention has been focused on our budget proposals as of late. I don't know why; it's just something that happens every year. [Laughter] But this event and similar efforts to directly involve the private sector in solving problems are the flip side of reducing the growth of government.

We advocate more than budget cuts. We advocate personal commitment and a tapping of a vast under-used resource -- human compassion. For too long the American people have been told that they are relieved of responsibility for helping their fellow man because government's taken over the job. Now, we don't believe in totally eliminating government's role in humanitarian efforts, but we are trying to recapture that spirit of generosity that suffocates under heavy taxation and bureaucratic redtape.

Over our history, Americans have always been willing to lend a hand. In the aftermath of earthquakes, floods, plagues, typhoons and other natural disasters, Americans were there to help. Helping one another is a part of our heritage: The government was so far away, our earlier settlers depended on each other. And often people forget that the religious convictions of our forefathers went a little beyond puritanism. The Bible talks of faith, hope, and charity, and the greatest of these is charity.

Americans took this admonition seriously, just as they did the parable of the Good Samaritan. If you remember, the Samaritan walking along on the other side of the road from the beaten pilgrim didn't take a look and then hurry on to the nearest town where he could find a local official and tell him there was someone out there that needed help. He crossed the road and went to the aid of the fallen traveler. The real meaning of the parable has always been not so much the benefit that was done to the beaten man, but the good that accrued to the Samaritan.

Well, tonight we're gathered together to help those afflicted by multiple sclerosis -- another of those brutal diseases that has yet to be conquered. Support by private companies and corporations for fighting this disease is in the finest tradition of which I just spoke. The Multiple Sclerosis Society has been collecting voluntary contributions to support research and patient services since 1945. Eighty clinics and 134 multiple sclerosis chapters throughout the United States are helping those who have contracted the disease as well as their families.

I'm especially proud of the involvement of Ursula Meese in this effort. She's a woman of tremendous energy and dedication. And far too often, people with such talent think the only way to better their country is to immerse themselves in politics. Some even delude themselves into thinking that political contributions are gifts of charity. [Laughter] In fact, some of the politicians think that. [Laughter]

But this degrades the meaning of charity and is counterproductive to efforts to help those in need. And today, as I've said, we seek to re-ignite that spirit of direct involvement, to recapture the energy that comes when people are helping because that's what they want to do, and to encourage people to care about each other.

This banquet is a fine example of what can be done. And although many people can't afford to give money, everyone has a role to play, even if it's a contribution of time instead of dollars.

Thanks to the diplomatic community for what you've done tonight to help fight this dreaded disease. And a very great ``thank you'' to those who organized this event for letting Nancy and me, at least for a few minutes, come here and play a part.

We've just been to one place where they hadn't had dinner yet; we've now interrupted you in the middle of dinner; and now we'll move on. [Laughter] It's quite a switch for a fellow that's been on the mashed-potato circuit as an afterdinner speaker for so many years.

But again, God bless you, and thank you all for what you're doing.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 9 p.m. in the International Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel.