Remarks at a White House Meeting With Republican Congressmen

January 27, 1984

Just going to say a few words in here -- that it's a pleasure for me to welcome you here this morning, as one who knows firsthand the good work that you've been doing up on the Hill. And a special thanks to Bob Michel and Trent Lott, who are two of the most skilled and articulate legislators that I've ever known.

And I want to share with you a quotation that I came across recently in my unofficial reading. It comes from a man who was a celebrated speaker, a journalist, a soldier, an historian, and a statesman. His name was -- you've maybe heard it before -- Winston Churchill. Some say that if he wanted to, he could even have been a great character actor. [Laughter] He once said that Americans did not cross the ocean, cross the mountains, and cross the prairies because we're made of sugar candy.

Well, I believe Sir Winston had a point. I think back to the opening days of this administration. Many observers predicted that we couldn't work together, that the economic and social problems that had piled up over 50 years had been insurmountable. Well, I think we've proved the critics wrong. And we did it by working together, by building coalitions, and by daring to chart a new course.

Inflation, as we said the other night, has plummeted to 3.2 percent during the last year. That's the lowest rate in over a decade. The prime interest rate is nearly half what it was when we took office. Factory orders, retail sales, and housing starts are up. The stock market has come back to life. Real wages are rising, and America's leading the world in a technological revolution that is even more far-reaching and profound, as I said the other night, than the Industrial Revolution of a century ago.

Unemployment -- dropping at the fastest rate in more than 30 years. Last year alone, more than 4 million Americans found jobs, and today 103 million Americans are at work. And that's more than ever before in our history.

In the military, morale has soared as we've begun giving the men and women in our Armed Forces good pay and good equipment and the respect they deserve.

In foreign policy, the world knows once more again what America stands for: the freedom of mankind. From Central America to Africa to the Middle East, we're working to support democracy and promote peace. In Lebanon, the peace process has been slow and painful, but we've made genuine progress.

In Europe, the NATO alliance has held firm. In our dealings with the Soviets, by strengthening our defenses and showing the world our willingness to negotiate, we've laid the foundations for a lasting world peace. And on an island in the Caribbean, we set a nation free.

There's no doubt that we're changing the course of American history, and we're doing it together. Believe me, I know how tough this has been for many of you, but you can be proud of all that we've accomplished. There's no better place to sit than the Oval Office to see how important and effective you all are.

In 1984 nothing matters more than increasing your numbers, and I pledge to do all within my power to see that we do just that.

And in the meantime, we have our work cut out for us. We have to get on with the job of bringing the budget under still better control. To contain special interest spending we must pass the line-item veto. We must bring inflation and interest rates down still further without loading new burdens on the backs of the American taxpayer. We must maintain a strong defense and face our world responsibilities squarely. And we must continue to return resources and responsibilities to the American people that will mean more savings, more freedom, more economic opportunity, and more jobs for all Americans.

I want you and your Democratic colleagues to know that I'm serious about negotiating a downpayment on the deficit. This is not a political posturing, as some have suggested. I'm not ruling anything out as beyond the bounds of legitimate debate. But I do think that we should try to concentrate on the less contentious issues. If we all focus on what's doable, we can get something done for the American people.

That'll mean more hard work, but I believe it'll be worth it for our party and, more importantly, for America. So, let us strive together to make it work.

Thank you, God bless you. And now, let's eat.

Note: The President spoke at 9 a.m. in the East Room at the White House.