Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Religious Broadcasters

February 4, 1985

The President. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Brandt Gustavson, Dr. Ben Armstrong, and all of you distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it's good to be here.

I've been coming to this annual convention since 1982, and it's always been one of the high spots of the year. This year, with the inaugural and the State of the Union and our arms control preparations and our work on reforming the tax system, I had to discipline myself and say no to a few things that I enjoy, but I didn't like -- or learn to like my decision.

So, the other day I reversed myself. [Laughter] I was so mad I almost fired myself. [Laughter] I've decided to give myself another chance, and I hope you will, too. [Laughter]

There is a real and a heartfelt reason why I'm here today. I just sent the budget to the Congress. [Laughter] And I hope that, at least in spirit, sort of figuratively, we can all from here on have our hands joined in prayer.

Audience members. Amen.

The President. The next few days, and maybe weeks, will probably be dominated, in terms of the news, by talk of economic matters -- budgets and the tax structure and so forth. But I want you to know that as we begin the great work ahead of us, I've been thinking very much about Divine Providence and turning to our Lord and asking for His guidance. I have found myself, as Abraham Lincoln did once, driven to my knees more than ever because there was no place else to go.

But I'm also aware, as never before, that what the polls show is true: In virtually every public survey, there are indications that the importance of spiritual faith has grown stronger among the people of our country. Recent Gallup surveys show 64 percent of Americans -- adults -- express a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church of organized religion. Fifty-six percent of Americans believe that religion can answer all or most of today's problems. In fact, only one in five doubts the relevance of religion in the modern world. And we'll get them, too. [Laughter]

As a resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I may have a special vantage point from which to judge these things. In December, when I looked north from the White House, I would see the huge menorah, celebrating the Passover [Hanukkah] season in Lafayette Park. And when I looked south from the Truman Balcony, I could see the Pageant of Peace and the creche symbolizing the birth of Christ. Showing the symbols of our beliefs in this way and what it is, for many of us, the holiest time of the year, is good -- good for all of us, for Christians and Jews and any others who wish to share the joy of our holidays.

The other day I was at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, and I spoke, as so many others did, of the central place of faith in our lives and how belief in something bigger than ourselves is probably a necessary precondition to peace. And I mentioned that after 4 years in this job, I know as never before that we are all God's children, that the clerk, the king, and, yes, the Communist were made in His image.

And I've often wondered about one individual there, because when I said that, a fellow in the back of the room -- and I heard him say, ``Amen.'' There were more than 3,000 people in that room, from almost every country in the globe -- African chiefs, Central American businessmen, people from Australia and Europe and the Middle East. And the room seemed to hum with agreement that faith and belief are the key to man's salvation and the only way we'll learn to live with each other in peace.

All of you, all of the people in this room are doing your part to fill the world with God's work and make more gentle man's life on Earth. Like St. Peter and his brother, St. Andrew, you've been good and faithful fishermen, and you've fought the good fight -- for prayer in the schools and against abortion and for freedom in the world. You know, perhaps better than I, that you have never let us down.

And I'm not shy today about asking you for your continued support in many areas, including our economic program. It occurs to me that the doctrine of election means one thing to some of you and quite another to those of us who hold public office. [Laughter] When I was reelected in November, I didn't figure I was being sent back to the White House to turn back to the policies of the past.

Audience members. Amen.

The President. I still believe the government is the servant of the people and not the other way around.

We're trying to get government spending down, to hold down the huge cost of government, to keep it from taking the money you deserve to keep for your family and your future and for God's work. We mean to ensure greater possibility for the production of wealth by lowering tax rates through tax reform. We mean to maintain a strong defense, because only with a strong defense can we preserve the peace we cherish.

And I found myself wanting to remind you of what Jesus said in Luke 14:31: ``Oh, what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with 10,000 men to encounter the one coming against him with 20,000. Or else, while the other is still far away, sends a delegation and asks the terms of peace.'' I don't think the Lord that blessed this country, as no other country has ever been blessed, intends for us to have to someday negotiate because of our weakness.

But all of these things I've mentioned are pretty revolutionary. All of these things -- learning to control the government, limiting the amount of money it can take from us, protecting our country through a strong defense -- all of these things revolve around one word, and that word is ``freedom.'' And as Jefferson said, ``The Lord who gave us life, the God who gave us life gave us liberty also.''

That's what we stand for here and everywhere. And that's what I need for your continued help in preserving and promoting. And every voice counts. These are crucial days ahead of us, in terms of the budget and taxes and keeping our commitment to rebuild our defenses.

I need all of you as never before. And we need Him as never before. And we mustn't doubt at all that He will give us help and support and encouragement and guidance. You've given me these things time and again. And for all of this, I am truly thankful.

And I thank all of you now for your wonderful warmth. I bask in this and will all the way back to the White House. [Laughter] God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 4:39 p.m. in the Washington Ballroom at the Sheraton Washington Hotel. In his opening remarks, the President referred to the president and executive director, respectively, of the National Religious Broadcasters.