Radio Address to the Nation on New Year's Eve

December 31, 1983

My fellow Americans:

New Year's Eve is a time for looking back on the year past, and in a moment, I want to talk about all that 1983 meant to America. But first I want to mention the topic of my radio talk 2 weeks ago -- drunk driving.

A drunk or drugged person at the wheel of a car isn't a driver, that person is a machine of destruction. So, let's enjoy all the wonderful celebrations that go with New Year's Eve, but, please, when we drive, let's drive sober.

Nineteen eighty-three was the 207th year for our Grand Old Republic. Though the year had its measure of hardship and even tragedy, it was a time when we Americans acted with courage, self-confidence, and vigor.

We had reason to feel glad. America was on the mend. And as our economy regained strength, we watched the progress of a sparkling recovery -- one of the strongest recoveries in 20 years. I said from the beginning it would take time for our economic program to work. You can't cure 25 years of failed economic policies overnight. And, yes, we had some hard months at first. But 1983 saw our patience pay off as our program took hold.

On this New Year's Eve, the prime interest rate is 11 percent, about half of what it was when we took office. Inflation for 1983 is running at only 3.2 percent, about a quarter of what it was just 3 years ago. Housing starts are running 60 percent higher than on this day last year.

Nineteen eighty-three saw the stock market reach new highs as it pumped vast new funds into the economy and raised the value of pension funds where millions of working Americans have their savings. During 1982, American manufacturers sold 5.8 million new cars. This year, they've sold 6.7 million.

As our basic industries and agriculture gain new strength, American ingenuity and enterprise are creating whole new industries -- industries like robotics and bioengineering. Just a few years ago, home computers were unheard of. By the end of 1982, American companies had sold some 2\1/2\ million home computers. This year, the figure is expected to climb to 7\1/2\ million.

This is one of the seasons when we Americans fly the most, to visit family and friends, because there's nothing like being home for the holidays. Well, the deregulation of the airline industry has increased competition and helped push fares down. And deregulation of banking is helping millions.

In 1983, for the first time, everyday savers and small businesses received marked interest rates, earning 3\1/2\ billion dollars in additional income. The best news of all: On New Year's Eve 1982, 100.8 million Americans had jobs. But today, the figure has climbed by 3.6 million, an all-time high for our nation.

All this means that in 1983 it was easier to pay bills, put children through college, buy homes, or borrow the money to start a new business than it had been in many years. Once again, the American economy has begun to reward fresh ideas and good, hard work.

Just as 1983 saw our economy recovering, it saw a new sense of purpose in our Armed Forces and foreign policy. In the military, morale has soared. Some pundits used to claim we could only attract recruits when our economy was weak. But now, even with a strong economy and growing opportunities in civilian life, our Armed Forces are attracting more and better qualified recruits than ever. There's one statistic that shows just how dramatic the turnaround has been. If 1979 Air Force retention rates had continued, three out of four pilots would have left the service after their first tours. In 1983, better than three out of four stayed in.

Morale has improved partly because we've given our men and women in uniform better pay and better equipment. But I just have to believe the courage of our soldiers and marines in Lebanon and Grenada has a lot to do with it. And, as we celebrate the New Year, I wonder whether you would all join Nancy and me in setting aside a moment to remember those who, in 1983, gave their lives in the cause of freedom and to pray for those brave young men spending this day so far from home.

In foreign policy, this year we've given firm support to democratic leadership in Central America. In Grenada we set a nation free. In Asia, our trip to Japan and Korea further strengthened our partnership with those nations. In Europe, 1983 saw the NATO alliance pass through harsh trials, but the alliance has emerged more firmly united than ever -- more ardent in the cause of freedom and peace, more dedicated to the paths of deterrence and dialog.

In Lebanon, the road to peace has proven long and hard, but there has been progress that would have been impossible without our marines and the other troops in the multinational peacekeeping force. Representatives of all Lebanese factions agreed in Geneva to recognize the government of President Amin Gemayel. And talks have begun that will broaden the government's base. It isn't easy. Progress is painfully slow, but progress is being made.

Nineteen eighty-three was a good year for America. If all of us keep pulling together, we can make 1984 even better. Happy New Year and, until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you all.

Note: The President's remarks were recorded on December 28 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif., for broadcast on December 31.