Remarks at a White House Reception for Members of the Davis Cup Tennis Team and the United States Ski Team

July 19, 1982

Well, we were worried about you, perhaps, catching cold, so we moved this in from the East Lawn out here. I know that you'll be pleased to know about that.

Nancy and I are especially pleased to welcome you to the White House, our national home, this afternoon. I realize that many of you have broken training to be here, and we appreciate that. We ask, however, that, if you feel a sudden urge to run windsprints, just avoid the Rose Garden. [Laughter] We just had it replanted.

No one belongs on these grounds or in these halls more than you. Someone once said that youth was America's oldest tradition, but I would amend that to be youth striving for excellence. You live that tradition. You've worn your country's colors in contests around the globe. Setting world records and winning world championships, you've made your countrymen proud. And in you, we've looked for courage, excellence, and honor. And in you, we have found it.

Each of you has had moments of glory in your career. But one recent moment typifies the inspiration all of you've given to our people. I'm sure you can guess that moment in tennis that I'm thinking of. After 6\1/2\ hours of play, the largest indoor crowd in Davis Cup history had been whipped to a frenzy and were stomping and shouting, ``U.S.A.! U.S.A.!'' And they say the crowd couldn't sit down. The players could barely stand up. [Laughter]

It'd been the longest match that John McEnroe had ever played, 79 games in 5 sets of grueling but exquisite tennis. ``In the fifth set, I was feeling it,'' John said, ``but I hung in there.'' Well, that was John's moment. As physically, emotionally, and mentally drained as he was, he reached within himself for the talent and tenacity to persevere.

You know, someone once said about heroism that ``a hero is no braver than anyone else; he's just brave 5 minutes longer.'' Well, we had 6\1/2\ hours of that. We won the game, and we will go on to face Australia in September. But at least one newspaper reported that ``by the time it was over, the game didn't seem as important,'' the reporter wrote. ``It seemed they were fighting for excellence.''

Well, on behalf of all Americans, I want to thank John and each of these athletes here for the inspiration that they've given us, on snow as well as on the courts. If every American strives for individual excellence, we can find it together as a nation. Watching you, we renew our faith in ourselves and our country.

It's a thrill to have the Davis Cup here at the White House and to celebrate with your tennis and skiing accomplishments. Your country's very proud of you. And we thank you for the honor you bring us, wish you luck in the future, and leave you with a very American challenge, that you continue to live up to the best and the highest standards that you know.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:15 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.