Remarks at a Meeting With Asian and Pacific-American Leaders

February 23, 1984

Good morning, and welcome. I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to be with you, if only for a few minutes, and I've had that kind of morning. Everything that I've been in, someone is telling me, ``You're due someplace else in x number of minutes.''

But whenever I get a chance to speak to a group like yours, I'm tempted to talk about the one program that is helping every American -- every ethnic group and every nationality across our nation -- and it's called ``economic recovery.'' But I know that you've been spoken to by others here this morning, including Don Regan, and all, and so maybe I'd be plowing ground that's already been plowed.

But for more than a year, I would like to say, if it hasn't been said already, an average of 300,000 people a month have found jobs for the last 13 months. Inflation is staying down. Factory orders are rising. All Americans can be proud, I think, of what we've accomplished together.

And last week's news about the continuing surge in housing starts and rise in personal income indicates confidence that the recovery will be strong and sustained. And did anyone this morning tell you that as of 8:30 this morning, they announced the figures for January in the sale of durable goods and they are up substantially?

But today I'd like to also talk about something else; you might call it ``the spirit of America.'' Back in the fall of 1980 I attended a rally that I will always remember. It was held in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. And there were many nationalities and ethnic groups there, all reminding us of America's rich and diverse heritage. They reminded us that we're all descendants from immigrants, most of whom came here looking for freedom and opportunity. And while our country had its flaws -- and we still have them -- the American dream was real.

Asian and Pacific Americans have helped preserve that dream by living up to the bedrock values that make us a good and a worthy people. I'm talking about principles that begin with the sacred worth of human life, religious faith, community spirit, and the responsibility of parents and schools to be teachers of tolerance, hard work, fiscal responsibility, cooperation, and love.

It's no wonder that the median income of Asian and Pacific American families is much higher than the total American average. After all, it is values, not programs and policies, that serve as our nation's compass. They hold us on course. They point the way to a promising future. And I'm pleased that Americans of Asian and Pacific ancestry are now eligible to receive business development assistance from the Commerce Department's Minority Business Development Agency.

And when we look toward that great and grand Pacific Basin, there's a promising future there, as well. You may not hear much about our Pacific and Asian foreign policy, but then there's a lot of good news that you don't seem to hear about. [Laughter] I think some of the things we've been doing here are very well-kept secrets, and we would rather they weren't.

But our relations with our Pacific and Asian friends and allies have never been better. First of all, it's not all foreign policy; America is part of the Pacific. There's Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the soon-to-be commonwealth status of the Northern Mariana Islands, and our special relationship with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republics of Palau and the Marshall Islands. These countries are America's partners.

Partnership is also the starting point for our relations in the Far East and South Asia. From Japan and the Republic of Korea in the north to the ASEAN [Association for South East Asian Nations] countries and India in the south, our partnerships are getting stronger, and mutual trust and cooperation are increasing.

I couldn't have been more pleased with the results of our trip to Japan and Korea. We're making progress on security issues and trade and financial matters. The same is true with the ASEAN countries. Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia and I had a very useful meeting here at the White House just last month. And I'm pleased to note that Indo-American relations are good.

Our ties with the People's Republic of China are positive and expanding. Premier Zhao's visit in January points the way to increased trade, greater exchanges, and cooperation in various science and technology fields. Our trip in April will help broaden this spirit of good will and friendship. And remember, friendship gives both countries the freedom to disagree, even to criticize, without fear of lessening cooperation and understanding. I remember one head of state once that was accused of there being some divisions of that kind and he said, ``Our relationship is like a happy marriage. Sometimes there are quarrels, but we're still married.'' [Laughter]

And while we're strengthening our relationship with the People's Republic, we maintain very close economic and cultural ties with the people of Taiwan. In a conversation on this subject with Premier Zhao, I told him that I thought that he would be encouraged that in making new friends, we don't discard the old. We will continue to support their needs and requirements in accordance with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

America needs our Asian and Pacific American citizens. You've enriched our national culture and our heritage. You've upheld the beliefs that account for so much of our economic and social progress. You've never stopped striving for excellence, despite times not long ago when you experienced terrible discrimination. And let me add that we will continue to fight against discrimination wherever there are any vestiges of it remaining, until we've removed such bigotry from our entire land.

We need your energy, your values, your hard work, and we need them expressed at the polls and within our political system. Those who escaped oppression have a special appreciation for America's freedom, and those who fled poverty cherish America's opportunity. So I urge you to get involved, stay involved, and run for public office. That is another way of helping in this land of ours.

On this point, I'd like to say a few words about Anna Chennault. Anna is a great leader of our Chinese American community and a greatly valued resource for this White House. Because of her long years of hard work in the American political system, she is that.

America provides many opportunities for economic, social, and political participation. Those who participate in the political process can reap the rewards of their hard work. If you follow your hopes and aspirations, all of us will benefit.

And now I know that my time is up, and I'm going to have to leave, and I don't want to. But I don't have much choice. They tell me I'm the most powerful man in the world. I don't believe that. [Laughter] Over there in that White House someplace there's a fellow that puts a piece of paper on my desk every day that tells me what I'm going to be doing every 15 minutes. He's the most powerful man -- [laughter] -- in the world.

But thank you all, and God bless you for being here. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.