Remarks at the Ford Claycomo Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Missouri

April 11, 1984

Thank you, Phil Caldwell, Mr. Nolan, Governor Bond, Congressman Coleman, and you ladies and gentlemen. And thank you all for welcoming me here today and showing me Kansas City's Claycomo plant.

I've heard enough since I've been here to know something that Mr. Caldwell was talking about, and that is the relationship -- the communication that takes place here. And you know, I've always believed that a lot of the troubles in the world would disappear if we were talking to each other instead of about each other. And communication really means people having something to say and then the manner in which it's done.

And a favorite story of mine about communication was told to me by Danny Villanueva. You younger ones won't remember, but he once was the placekicker for the Los Angeles Rams and then he became a sports announcer. And Danny told me that one night he was over having dinner at the home of one of the ballplayers with the Dodgers. The young wife was bustling about getting dinner ready. They were talking sports, and the baby started to cry. And over her shoulder, she said to her husband, ``Change the baby.'' And he was embarrassed, being a young fellow, in front of Danny. And he said, ``What do you mean, change the baby? I'm a ballplayer. That's not my line of work.'' She turned around, put her hands on her hips, and she communicated. [Laughter]

She said, ``Look, buster, you lay the diamond out like a diaper, you put second base on home plate, put the baby's bottom on the pitcher's mound, hook up first and third, slide home underneath. And if it starts to rain, the game ain't called. You start all over again.'' [Laughter]

Well, you communicated since I've been here. You've shown me an exciting success story and given me a glimpse of America's future. And it looks mighty good. In this place, in one of our country's basic industries, we can see where America's headed and what lies in store for all our people. Each of you can rightly take pride in helping make us all that we are and all that we can be.

You've also made me remember how far we've come. And speaking for myself, that's a long way, because when I think back to my first car -- I bet it isn't the same as yours, a Model-T. Well, as I toured part of your assembly plant just for a short time here and watched how busy the assemblers and the other workers are, I couldn't help but think back to the days when America's economy had sputtered and stalled. Only a few years ago this industry and all America were in the worst economic mess in decades.

It didn't matter who you were or where you came from, double-digit inflation was slamming shut the doors of opportunity. And if you dreamed of owning a home or buying a new car, 21\1/2\-percent interest rates were closing the doors on those dreams, too. And that's what we faced in January of 1981.

An industry which burst onto the scene in the early days of the 20th century and became a vital part of our existence found itself crippled by too much regulation, too much government interference, and too much backseat driving by Washington. In 1980 alone, the Big Three lost $4.2 billion. Plant closings across the country plunged businesses and families into desperate financial straits. Many of those families were uprooted, as workers set out across the country looking for jobs.

1980 -- I happened for a particular reason to be in a number of cities at that time and a number of them where automobiles were assembled and made. And in city after city, I was told when I arrived that the inflation rate was 20 percent -- or I mean inflation -- I mean the unemployment rate was 20 percent or more.

It was time for a change. So, we charted a new course to rebuild America from the bottom up. And we knew that to do that, government had to get its own house in order. And at the same time we knew that government needed to get out of the way of the people and the spirit of enterprise that encourages risk taking and rewards innovation. And we knew it wouldn't be easy.

Both the economy and the auto industry were in recession, the culmination of years of overtaxing, overspending, and overpromising by those who claimed they could spend your earnings better than you could. We knew that progress would come in inches, not miles, but we knew that if we worked together, progress would come.

It hasn't been easy. Times have been rough and, yes, the recession was much deeper and longer than anyone had predicted. But these problems had been building up for 20 years, and we were determined to find a real economic cure, not just resort, as they had so often in the past, to another political quick fix. There have been eight recessions since World War II, and seven of those were the political quick fix. There's no compassion in snake oil cures.

We weathered the storm together, and now the sun is shining on a strong economy and an American automobile industry that's moving forward again. Inflation, once out of control, has plummeted by nearly two-thirds. For 2 years it's been under 4 percent. Right now it's in the neighborhood of 4 percent or a little above, probably because of some weather conditions that changed food prices and so forth. The prime rate is down by nearly half from when we came to office. And a few weeks ago, we learned that last quarter's gross national product grew at a healthy 7.2 percent.

At the same time -- and this is the greatest figure of all -- 5.1 million more Americans have jobs today than had jobs just 16 months ago. We've had the steepest drop in unemployment in over 30 years. Factory orders, housing starts, and retail sales are up, and -- listen closely to this one -- auto sales are up dramatically. More than 100,000 of you auto workers went back to work in 1983, with more expected back this year. And right now there are 85,000 more people working in the automobile industry in general than were working there in 1980 in that period I was telling you about. The unemployment rate, we know, in America across the country, the average is 7.7 percent. I think you'd be happy to know that in the automobile industry, the unemployment rate is down to 5.5 percent. And I hope it's going down lower than that.

Here at Ford, because of your determination, dedication, and hard work, you sold more cars last year than any time since 1979. All of us, working together and ignoring the gloom criers and the pundits who said it couldn't be done, all of us have hung tough. And today, as we see the auto industry and the economy humming with activity, aren't we glad we did?

There was a time when Claycomo nearly had to shut down. But today almost 5,000 people -- 4,500 or more -- are working two 10-hour shifts, producing 86 cars and trucks an hour, 1,600 a day. You're continuing a Ford tradition that began here in Kansas City, as Chairman Caldwell told you, in 1906 with nearly 7 million cars built in all. And whatever you may have heard about my age, I wasn't here at that time. [Laughter] But you're not getting older, you're getting better.

Your industry and many others have begun to shape up. You're getting lean and mean and ready to face the challenge of the future. By the end of this year, some $50 billion will have been invested in the 1980's by American automobile companies to modernize plants and design and produce attractive, fuel-efficient cars. At this plant, Ford has invested almost $200 million to modernize and refurbish for the future.

And best of all, the quality of American automobiles has never been better, reflecting the pride and determination of employees at every level. Your success story is so widespread that industry leaders from Europe, China and, yes, even Japan, have come halfway around the world to see for themselves. Everyone can see these Tempo/Topaz cars rolling off the line with that sticker on the front window: ``Jointly Dedicated to Quality -- Built with Missouri Pride.''

Now, we all know that government and management and labor had a role to play in the industry's problems that developed during the seventies. And all three have played a role in its resurgence.

I think government did its part by reducing regulations and getting the economy rolling again. Shortly after we came into office, our administration discussed the auto industry's problems with the Japanese. They offered to voluntarily restrain auto exports to the United States. And this gave the domestic auto industry the breathing room it needed to build new plants and products, improve quality, increase productivity, and participate in the economic recovery.

Now, some advocate far harsher methods. They believe we should run up the flag in defense of our markets, embrace protectionism, and insulate ourselves from world competition. But we'll never meet the challenge of the eighties with that kind of defeatist mentality.

In there having lunch, I told just a few of you my own experience when I entered the job market back in the early thirties at the very depths of the Great Depression. Twenty-six percent unemployment; the government putting radio ads on -- don't leave home looking for work, there is none -- and a great deal of that was due to what somebody thought might be an answer to our Depression problems, the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill, which literally destroyed free trade worldwide and perpetuated the Depression at that time -- which, incidentally, was only cured then by World War II.

I believe if Americans work together to improve quality, become more productive, hold down costs, and invest in tomorrow's technology, then we can out-compete, out-perform, and out-sell the pants off anybody. And echoing Mr. Caldwell, I believe in America being first, because America is best.

You know, if the dream of America is to be preserved, we mustn't waste the genius of one mind, the strength of one body, or the spirit of one soul. We need all our people, men and women, young and old, individuals of every race to be healthy, happy, and whole. This is our goal. And we won't rest until all Americans can reach as high as their vision and God-given talents take them.

I thank you again for inviting me, and God bless all of you.

Don't worry, I'm not going to do an encore, but one of the things that I enjoy most in this job is the opportunity to get out of Washington and to meet people from every walk of life and from every corner of the world. But I have to tell you that no matter where I go, there are no more finer people than those men and women who raise our food and patrol our streets and man our mines and factories and teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we're sick. These people are everyday Americans, but they're heroes in their own right. They're the unsung heroes of America.

And today I'd like to honor one such hero. Barney Maxon, could you and your wife, Jewell -- I thought your daughter, Carol, was with you. Carol, come on up here. Today I'd like to honor one of those heroes I was talking about, Barney Maxon. Barney's someone who's always been there, given above and beyond what was required of him. And, Barney, Chairman Caldwell and I would like to present you with a plaque in honor of the 50 years of loyal and dedicated service you've given to the Ford Motor Company.

Congratulations, Barney, and thank you, again.

Well, again, God bless you, and thank you all. It's good to be here.

Note: The President spoke at 12:21 p.m. in the finished product auto assembly line area of the plant. He was introduced by Phillip Caldwell, chairman of the board of the Ford Motor Co. In his opening remarks, the President also referred to Paul Nolan, manager of the plant.

Prior to his remarks, the President had lunch in the cafeteria with plant workers and executives and then toured the assembly line. Following his remarks, the President went to a conference room at the plant for a meeting with labor and managment leaders.

At the conclusion of his visit to the plant, the President left Kansas City and went to the AM-FAC Hotel in Dallas, TX, where he remained overnight.