Remarks at a White House Briefing for Republican Student Interns on Soviet-United States Relations
you all very much, and welcome to the White House complex. I'm delighted to
have this chance to speak with you today. I know most of you are interns who've
want to talk today about a serious subject, one of those serious subjects that
can often seem dry and academic, but which can be so important to all of our
lives. In the swirl of issues and events that is Washington, there remains one
overriding purpose, the purpose toward which everything else we do in this town
is -- or should be -- aimed. I guess I would define it this way: creating a
peaceful and safe world in which we can all securely enjoy the rights and
freedoms that have been given to us by God. Being free and
prosperous in a world at peace -- that's our ultimate goal. That is, as
you might say, the business at hand here in
that end, few issues cut deeper than our relations with the
I have now sent a letter to General Secretary Gorbachev that underlines my determination to keep the momentum going. Now, unfortunately I can't satisfy what I know must be your curiosity about the specifics of that letter. In the past we've criticized the Soviets for making their proposals public, because serious exchanges usually take place in private. Negotiations are sensitive plants that can wither up and die in the glare of publicity. But even though I can't get specific about these negotiations, I can tell you of my renewed hopes for their success. I am hopeful that we have reached a stage where misunderstanding or suspicion in themselves will no longer keep us from our goal.
Each side has a candid, realistic view of the other's positions and intentions. This candor has assisted the negotiating process, and I believe if the Soviets sincerely want equitable and verifiable nuclear arms reductions, there will be such nuclear arms reductions. While I can't discuss the specific proposals in my letter, I can say that they are responsive to Soviet concerns. They seek out areas of convergence, they address the ultimate goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons while identifying practical steps that can move us in that direction. I also agreed to the Soviets' suggestion of a work plan involving a series of preparatory meetings that could lead to a productive summit later this year.
me add that our program for the reduction of nuclear weapons rests on two
pillars. The first is good-faith negotiations with the
know, this came into being -- it was called the MAD policy, because that's MAD
-- you know, everything in
do not seek the Strategic Defense Initiative to enable us to be safe from their
weapons while we still have our offensive weapons to shoot at them -- not in
any way. We look at the Strategic Defense Initiative -- if our research
develops that there is such a practical system, then
we look at that as the means of getting everybody in the world, including
ourselves, to get rid of their nuclear missiles. And we're doing our share.
We've responded constructively. We've made clear our serious desire for a
better relationship with the
arms reduction negotiations with the
I'm finished with the serious part, but I do just want to tell you a little something. I know you must wonder sometimes -- sounds so lofty, a summit conference -- what happens when the General Secretary of the other great superpower and the President of this one get together in a room by themselves and talk to each other. Well, you might be interested to know that the General Secretary has a good sense of humor. [Laughter] I've been collecting jokes -- [laughter] -- that I know are told by the Russian people among themselves, which kind of shows a little cynicism about government. We're aware of that in our own country. [Laughter] So, I told him one of those jokes, and I got a big laugh. [Laughter] I told him the joke about the American and the Russian who were arguing about how much freedom they had. And the American finally said to the Russian, ``Look,'' he said, ``I can walk into the Oval Office. I can pound the President's desk, and I can say, `Mr. President, I don't like the way you're running our country.''' And the Russian said, ``I can do that.'' And the American said, ``You can?'' He says, ``I can go into the Kremlin. I can walk into the General Secretary's office. I can pound the desk and say, `Mr. General Secretary, I don't like the way President Reagan's running his country.''' [Laughter]
Well, listen, thank you all, and I hope this has been and is being a valuable experience for all of you -- to see behind the front and where the wheels are going around. Sometimes, I know it looks a little unwashed -- [laughter] -- but all in all, as Churchill once said about democracy: With all its faults, it's better than any other system anyone else has ever devised. But it depends on all of us and all of you. It can't work without the people.
I have another hobby. I've been reading a lot of constitutions of other nations, including the Soviet -- and amazed at how many things I found in the Soviet Constitution that are similar to things in ours, like freedom of speech and things. Of course, they don't allow that, but it's there. [Laughter] And then I thought well, what -- and then the difference came to me, the difference is so simple that you can almost miss it, and yet it explains the entire situation between all our countries. Theirs all say, their constitutions, that the Government permits the people the following privileges, rights, and so forth. Ours says: We the people will allow the Government to do the following things, and it can't do anything other than what we have specifically given it the right to do. And as long as we keep that kind of a system in this country, we will be a superpower.
Thank you all very much. God bless you.
The President spoke at in Room 450 of the