Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs

August 3, 1983

Thank you very much. Maxine Hays, I thank you for, let me say, a very graceful and gracious introduction. [Laughter] If I wore a hat, I would have thrown it in first before I came in. [Laughter]

But before I say what I came here to say, may I just tell you how very proud all of us in our land are of your president, Maxine Hays, and these 3 years that she has served you and, in serving you, has served the Nation and the world. And she has proven many of the things that most people need to understand about women, because not only is she the very epitome of our free enterprise system as a small businesswoman, as the president of your worldwide organization; but, also, her State of Oregon has chosen her Mother of the Year.

And now to the business at hand. [Laughter] I know how hard Polly Madenwald [President of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs] worked to set up the tour of the White House -- the people's house. And when I found out yesterday what had happened I picked up the telephone, and she very graciously answered -- [laughter] -- and I told her that I was standing on the third floor window ledge of the White House, prepared to jump.\2\ (FOOTNOTE) [Laughter] And when I asked if I couldn't come here and apologize to all of you, and she said that I could, I have now decided -- of course, I didn't jump -- [laughter] -- I'm going back to the White House, find out who was responsible, put them on the window ledge, and shove. [Laughter]

(FOOTNOTE) \2\Because of a scheduling error, members of the federation were precluded from attending a White House tour on the previous day.

As Maxine said a little earlier coming in here, yesterday was one of those examples -- to those of you from all the other countries of the world, welcome here to the United States and, honestly, we don't act that way all the time. [Laughter] We hope we'll have another opportunity to make good on what should have happened yesterday. But we have an old saying in America; it's called Murphy's Law. [Laughter] And Murphy's Law is, ``If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.'' And Murphy's Law was very much in effect yesterday at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So please just know how very sorry we all are. Evidently, it only confirms some of the criticisms I've made over past years about what can happen at certain bureaucratic levels of government.

And let me just say, also, that I believe it's not enough just to say ``I'm sorry,'' so I intend to do penance. And we have been doing a number of things here with regard to the thing of great interest to you, and that is the recognition of women's place. I want you to know I've always recognized it, because I happen to be one who believes if it wasn't for women, us men would still be walking around in skin suits carrying clubs.

But we have been doing a number of things in this administration, and some things that are carrying on where I began as Governor of California. And we now have -- I won't go into great detail; I know that your leadership has been briefed by Faith Whittlesey [Assistant to the President for Public Liaison] of my staff on some of the things that we are doing here to being about more equality -- and I will just mention this one, and this is where I'll do penance. We have, since we've been here, been having our Justice Department comb all the laws and all the regulations -- and they're vast in number -- here at our national level.

And I say this, that perhaps many of you from other lands might, if it is necessary in your land, take this as a suggestion for future activity there. They have been combing them to find any law or regulation in our land that has a vestige of discrimination in it on the basis of sex. And they have just delivered the results of that study. It is a packet of computer readouts about that thick. And we are now combing through this to find out what can we do administratively, simply by Executive order, to eliminate these matters of discrimination that might be embodied in these laws and those that will require legislation, and then to frame the legislation and send it to Congress to have those laws and those regulations changed.

And in view of what happened yesterday, my penance is going to be that I think that I, personally, am going to read that stack of readouts. I'm not going to take a chance on bureaucracy. [Laughter]

But I know I've taken too much of your time already. I know that you've very kindly let me come into the midst of your business meeting here, so I will make my departure now. And incidentally, to show you contact with the opposite sex, a letter that I've referred to a number of times here in our own country that I received shortly after I got here was from an 11-year-old girl. And this 11-year-old girl told me in some detail in the letter about the matters that I would have to deal with. And I must say, I was greatly impressed. I don't think at 11 years old I could have written someone and told them about the international affairs that I would be faced with, the economic situation that I would be faced with. But she told me, and gave me some solid suggestions as to what to do, and then wound up with a P.S., a postscript, at the end of her letter. She said, ``Now, get over to the Oval Office and go to work.'' [Laughter]

So, I'll go over to the Oval Office and get to work, beginning with ``How did yesterday happen?''

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:08 a.m. in the main ballroom at the Sheraton Washington Hotel.