Radio Address to the Nation on the Summer Olympic Games

July 28, 1984

My fellow Americans:

There are many serious things that will occupy our attention in the coming weeks and in the fall, but today I find my thoughts turning away from politics to something equally important, but happy, too.

Eleven weeks ago, I greeted the Olympic torch when it was carried to the White House by a young man, a fine young athlete who had carried it high for almost a mile. Today the torch arrives in Los Angeles, and I'm thinking of what a journey it knew, and what a country it traveled through.

The journey started in the East, in Manhattan, in front of the United Nations. From there it arced South and West, and passed from person to person in a marvelous relay. It was carried by former Olympians and handicapped kids, by elderly women and young athletes bright with the speed of youth.

They held the torch high and passed the flame on to one another. They took it up hills and through lonely towns in the darkness, along gray highways at twilight and through bright towns at noon. They carried it past the malls and the airports, through the suburbs and cities, up the hills of steel towns, and along the flat routes of America's heartland. They carried it through the gathering heat of the West in early summer, and they took it to Los Angeles, where today the torch lights the Olympic flame and the games begin.

Everywhere the torch went people came out of their homes and poured into the streets to cheer and wave the flag and urge the runners on. This outpouring reflected, I think, the new patriotism that has swept our land.

So much of that new spirit involves our young people. It's seemed to me for some time now that there's a spirit of renewal among the young. It's as if they understand the future is great and huge and waiting for them. They seem to know once again that America is worth loving, worth caring about. They seem to take a quiet pride in all this nation was and is; they show a happiness with our country that's wonderful to see.

I think we can hear and discern in their music these days, certainly more than in the past, an optimism and a feeling of affection for our nation.

And there are the young people who will represent America in the games themselves. They, too, show a marvelous spirit. They represent our country not in some kind of narrow, nationalist sense, but in a wider sense: They reflect the things we taught them about human conduct and human effort -- all the good things they learned on the playing fields and at the gym, on the city streets and in the playgrounds of America. In those places they learned that the pursuit of excellence is a fine thing in and of itself, and the elusive pursuit of perfection is one of the things that makes man human. They learned that you play by the rules, with a sense of fairness and generosity, that you don't cheat, and that you take both victory and defeat with the same kind of grace and dignity.

Our young athletes deserve great credit. They were born with great gifts -- God blessed them with the physical talent that made it possible for them to compete in sports. But after that -- after the original gift -- after that it was all effort.

To become champions they had to work hard, with discipline and desire and no small amount of tenacity. What they are and what they've done gives us a lift. It's always inspiring when we see young men and women try to resist gravity, to fight fatigue, to, in the words of the first astronauts, push out the edge of the envelope -- push out of the things that hold us down and push on to new possibilities, new records.

Today it begins, and our athletes are ready. They will stand there, over the next few days; they'll poise themselves on the blocks, stand at the edge of the diving board, or stand with their toes on the line and wait for the shot to go -- and they'll know they're not alone. They'll hear the roar of the crowds, the great substantial cheer of the crowds, and -- who knows? -- if they listen close, maybe they'll hear the sound of Jesse Owens cheering, Babe Didrikson and Jim Thorpe, maybe they'll hear the cheers of all the young American athletes who once stood on the blocks waiting for the race to begin. Our young people are running for their country, running for greatness, for achievement, for that moving thing in man that makes him push on to the impossible.

The torch is passed; the games begin; the 23d Olympiad of the modern era commences. And as it does, just for a moment, we think of the words of the psalms: ``This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad. . . .''

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President recorded his remarks in the Map Room at the White House for broadcast at 12:06 p.m.