Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies for the U.S. Pavilion at the Knoxville International Energy Exposition (World's Fair) in Tennessee

May 1, 1982

Governor Alexander, our Senators, our Congressmen, members of the Cabinet, Joe Rodgers, [Former chairman of the Republican National Finance Committee] and a very special greeting not only to you all but to this remarkable young man here who's on the platform.

Mac, I hope you won't be wronged if I tell something about -- Mac stands up here as a businessman and a Cabinet member now, handling that great Department of Commerce. But one of my fondest memories after I was elected was when I called to ask him to take that position. And his wife answered the phone and told me he couldn't come to the phone, because he was out in a calf-roping contest. [Laughter] And I said, ``He's in. He belongs.'' [Laughter]

Well, Omar, we thanked you just up here, where no one could hear, but Nancy and I are honored that you would work so that we could visit your hometown and this magnificent World's Fair. [Eleven-year-old Omar Baldonado had collected $120 in pennies to buy two season tickets to the exposition for the President and Mrs. Reagan.]

You know, that book that we were handed contains the names of the 12,000 people who contributed a penny. Now, it must have taken a long time to collect so many. And I understand that Omar said, oh, a couple of times it kind of got uphill going because he also asked for those signatures at the same time. Well, it must have taken a long time, and 12,000 people is a lot to have contributed to any effort. I'm glad that so many people wanted us here in Knoxville. I hope they weren't just trying to get us out of Washington. [Laughter]

But I'm proud that America is still bringing up young children like Omar, boys and girls who care about their community, their town, and their country. Omar, when I think of what you did and the extent of that job, we might call on you pretty soon. There's a fellow in Washington that we have to negotiate with with regard to the budget. [Laughter]

But isn't it wonderful to see young people still understand that growing up American means they can reach as high, accomplish as much, and go as far as their talent and effort will take them? This beautiful pavilion is proof that other generations of Americans believed in dreams. It's wonderful to see that these young people believe they can see their dreams come true.

Earlier today, awestruck by just the glimpses that I've been able to get of some of the technology here, I referred to ``Gulliver's Travels.'' That's a book that Omar may be familiar with. There's a character in that book who's trying to find a way to extract sunbeams from cucumbers. And I remarked that not long ago the technology exhibited here seemed every bit as fanciful as cucumber power. Now, I'm not suggesting that America devote much time or money to researching cucumbers. But we are a people known for dreaming with our eyes wide open.

We live our dreams. We make them come true. Our ideas and energies combine in a dynamic force -- the kind of force that made the developments and breakthroughs and discoveries in this building possible. And that force has always enabled America to overcome great odds, and it always will. We just refer to it as the American spirit. That's the spirit Omar has, and that spirit is why I'm sure this country is going to do just fine.

There are other patriotic speeches being made in other parts of the world today. This is May Day -- May Day in the Soviet Union, whose citizens are being forced into an unnatural observance. We'll see, as we always do every May Day, the rockets on their carriages go by and the troops and the bayonets and so forth. They celebrate a government that promises a freedom it systematically denies; that proclaims justice while practicing tyranny; and that uses what it calls law as little more than a thin veneer for the edicts of a totalitarian edict [government]. {White House correction}

I think the greatest description of the difference between the two countries is simply that one has to put up fences and walls to keep its people in, and there's nothing like that that has to keep anyone in America. And thanks be to God. We're free just as we have been. Omar and his generation are free to dream and then turn those dreams into reality.

As you walk through these exhibits today, just imagine what wonders his generation will bring us. Our task is to ensure that children and their children's children have their same chance to grow up in liberty. So, Omar, once again, bless you, and thank you for your gift. Thank you for the inspiration. And I can assure you that every time we'll look at this, we'll be more and more sure that the impossible can be done. It just takes a little longer.

I wish all of you a good time and hope that as you stroll around these grounds, you're as grateful and proud to be an American as I am and Nancy is. God bless you, and thank you all again.

I just have to say one other thing. Maybe some of you haven't looked up in the balcony here. There are some young men in uniform, and I think all of us can be very, very proud of them and their kind -- young men and women.

Note: The President spoke at 1:57 p.m. in the U.S. Pavilion.

Following his appearance at the Pavilion, the President left Knoxville and traveled to Huntsville, Tenn., where Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker, Jr., maintains his Tennessee residence. The President remained with the Bakers overnight and then returned to Washington, D.C., the following day.