Radio Address to the Nation on the President's Recovery From Surgery

July 20, 1985

My fellow Americans:

I'm talking to you today from a little makeshift studio just outside my room in Bethesda Naval Hospital. And at the moment, I'm remembering the little boy who wrote me a letter back in 1981 after I was shot and said, ``Mr. President, you'd better get well quick, or you'll have to make your speech to Congress in your pajamas.'' Well, today I'm in street clothes again so I can go home this afternoon. I'm feeling fine, and there's a lot I want to share with you. So, here goes.

First off, I'm feeling great, but I'm getting a little restless. A lot of you know how it is when you have to endure some enforced bed rest. You get this feeling that life's out there, and it's a big, shiny apple, and you just can't wait to get out and take a bite of it. I'm eager to get back to work. I've been keeping close track of things that are going on, especially the budget process in Congress.

I'll tell you what I think of the House budget proposal so far: I hope it gets well soon. In fact, I told one of the fine surgeons who operated on me that if Congress can't make the spending cuts we need, I'm going to send him up to Capitol Hill to do some real cutting. I know some are saying that we can just keep going with business as usual in the Federal spending department. But, well, forgive me, I don't have as much stomach for that kind of talk as I used to. But that's for another day.

Today I just wanted to say some thank-you's to some very special people. First, the doctors and nurses who helped me and healed me. Now I know why nearly everyone comes to America for a major operation. It's because we have the best doctors and nurses in the world. If you have to be sick, you're better off if you're sick right here in these United States of America.

I want to thank everyone -- heads of state, leaders, so many friends and citizens who have written and called and included me in their prayers. There were the balloons and flowers and what seemed like millions of cards. One of the nicest was the one I got from the nurses down the hall who sent me a card from the new babies in Pediatrics. It was signed with their little patients' tiny footprints.

I also want to mention a sort of cautionary note. We all tend to ignore the signs that something may be wrong with us. But may I say, speaking from personal experience, it's important to go and get a checkup if you think something isn't right. So, if you're listening to this right now, and it reminds you of something that you've been putting out of your mind, well, pick up the phone, call your doctor or local hospital, and talk to someone. Just tell them Dr. Reagan sent you.

I'd also like to indulge myself for a moment here. There's something I wanted to say, and I wanted to say it with Nancy at my side, as she is right now, as she always has been. First Ladies aren't elected, and they don't receive a salary. They've mostly been private persons forced to live public lives. And in my book, they've all been heroes. Abigail Adams helped invent America. Dolly Madison helped protect it. Eleanor Roosevelt was F.D.R.'s eyes and ears. And Nancy Reagan is my everything. When I look back on these days, Nancy, I'll remember your radiance and your strength, your support, and for taking part in the business in this nation. I say for myself, but also on behalf of the Nation, thank you, partner, thanks for everything. By the way, are you doing anything this evening?

Just one more thing I wanted to say, and I want to address it to my supporters and opponents, Republicans and Democrats, friends and foes. So many of you have sent gracious notes and messages, and you've made me think of something that I've been pondering the past few days. There are a number of things that keep our country united: a shared reverence for certain ideals, for instance, and certain memories and traditions, but there's something more. We're a country of 230 million very different souls, and yet here we are -- liberals and conservatives, fundamentalists and agnostics, southerners and northerners, recent immigrants and Mayflower descendants -- arguing often enough and disagreeing with each other, but at the same time held together, always held together by a tie that can't be seen, yet can't be broken. It is, I think, the great unknowing love of Americans for Americans, the great unknowing love that keeps us together and for which, this day, I'm more thankful than ever.

In the next few minutes, I'll be leaving to go home to get on with the job you gave me. There are no words to express my appreciation for the great honor you've bestowed on me.

Until next week, thank you -- all of you -- and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, MD.