Remarks at a Gubernatorial Campaign Fundraising Rally for William Lucas in Detroit, Michigan

 

September 24, 1986

 

Thank you, Bill, Colleen. Being here with you on this occasion, and in view of the fact that I know that you have already had closed-circuit television in here, this all reminds me of a story about an event in ancient Rome. Apparently, a group of Christians were thrown into the coliseum with a pack of hungry lions. And before the lions could attack, however, a Christian jumped up and said something and the lions immediately laid down, refusing to go anywhere near the Christians, and much less eat them. And the crowd hooted and hollered. They threw rocks at the lions, but to no avail. And finally, Nero called the Christian leader, asked him just what he had said to the lions. He said, ``I only told them there'd be speeches after the meal.'' [Laughter]

 

Seriously, though, it's a pleasure to have this chance to speak with you and to be in a State that has meant so much to the Republican Party and the success that we've enjoyed in these last 6 years. Let me just say that your GOP delegation to Congress is terrific. I owe a great debt to each and every one of them. And that's especially true for Bill Broomfield, the dean of the GOP's Michigan delegation. And one other individual I rely on, would be remiss if I didn't single him out -- Guy Vander Jagt. And I thank you for lending him to the country. These are true champions of our cause.

 

The measure of their success can be found in the change that's now taking place in the Republican Party. It wasn't that long ago when party ranks were dwindling and registrations were down. And after being over there in that rally just a short time ago, and seeing the young people that were there -- I remember right after I became a Republican, I commented to Nancy once after coming back from an affair that the only young people we saw there looked like they couldn't join anything else. [Laughter] Well, that's not so anymore.

 

As America drifted into the second half of the 1970's, liberal power reached its zenith. Our opponents gained full control of both Houses of Congress, and they'd held it for almost 30 years. The Presidency, all of the executive departments and agencies and, at the same time, they held all of those and dominated much of the State and local government throughout the Nation. The liberal agenda only had one flaw: It didn't work. High taxes, central planning, and heavyhanded Federal controls were about as good for America as Mrs. O'Leary's cow was for Chicago. [Laughter] As our country sank into decline and uncertainty, a revitalized Republican Party -- dedicated to building a free, prosperous, and secure America -- emerged to meet the challenge.

 

We met here in Detroit in 1980, as I've told you, and then we reached out to our fellow countrymen under the banner: Together, a new beginning. And it was a new beginning, for our country and for the Republican Party. In Michigan this new day began when the GOP took control of the State senate. Isn't it great that the chairman of today's event, John Engler, is the senate majority leader? Today we're the party of new ideas and open doors; we're the party of opportunity and freedom, of strength and ideals.

 

And today, as I said before, young people are joining our party as never before. And I've been meeting them all over the country -- in schools, in universities and college campuses, in shops and factories, and above all, on our military bases. This generation is the best darn group of young people we've seen in a long, long time. And I understand that we have with us a courageous young heroine, Meenu Sundareson, who risked her life to rescue an infant on board the plane in the recent hijacking in Pakistan. And, Meenu, I just want to thank you personally, and to say how proud we all are of you. There she is. God bless you.

 

Well, along with young voters, more and more people are leaving their old party affiliation behind and joining our ranks. After much soul searching, they come to the conclusion that the leadership that dominates the other party no longer reflects their interests or their concerns or their values. And this reminds me of a story maybe some of you've heard about that kid that was outside a Democratic fundraising dinner. And as those in attendance filed out, he started hawking them, and he told us he had puppies. He held them up and gave the pitch, ``Democrat puppies for sale. Anybody want a Democrat puppy?'' Two weeks later, the Republicans happened to hold a fundraiser at the same restaurant. And there was the same kid with the same batch of puppies. Only this time, his pitch was changed, ``Republican puppies for sale. Anyone want to buy a Republican puppy?'' A reporter noticed this, that had been at the other meeting, and he said, ``Wait a minute, kid. How come this same bunch of puppies were Democratic puppies 2 weeks ago, and now they're Republicans?'' The kid wasn't stopped for a minute. He said, ``Now they've got their eyes open.'' [Laughter]

 

Well, as Bill Lucas and I can both tell you, even once you've got your eyes open, making that change in registration is the most difficult hurdle to jump. And yet so many are jumping over and joining us. They know that today ours is the party of all the people, while the leadership of the other side remains paralyzed by a dependency on special interests and tied to the failed ideas of the past.

 

There is no better symbol of the realignment taking place in our country than your ticket here in Michigan. Colleen Engler has both youth and experience on her side. She knows that women are not just welcome in the Republican Party; they're welcome in the leadership of the Republican Party. The days of looking for the best man are over. What we Republicans are looking for now is the best candidate, period. And let me stress the difference between our parties is clear on this front as well. We don't choose someone based on his or her race or sex in an attempt to curry favor from this or that particular group. We're looking for leaders who share our ideals and have the talent necessary to get the job done. And again, we Republicans are looking for the best candidate, period. And the best candidate for Governor of Michigan is Bill Lucas, period.

 

Bill's a man who has gained the respect of anyone who's ever known him. Born and raised -- as I've already told you in that televised account -- he was raised in Harlem, and after his parents died, his aunt cared for him as her own child. And this honest compassion and example of family responsibility, no doubt, made a lasting impression. Early on, Bill learned what commitment and the desire to achieve are all about. There's a story that Bill's college track team was up for the championship. He was in the 3-mile race. But on the first lap around the track, he lost a shoe. Maybe other runners might have quit. Bill kept going. He finished that race with a foot that was bloody and torn, but he had come in third. And those extra points for third place added enough to the rest of the team's score -- were enough to win the championship for his school. Now, that's the kind of man we Republicans want on our team. I chose a shorter distance. I ran the quarter-mile. [Laughter]

 

But I want to thank you for having me with you here today. And I hope you'll do all you can to see to it that Bill and Colleen and the other Republican candidates are elected and reelected. And there's no way to say how rewarding all of this has been for me to come here and to see you. You know, sometimes in Washington, you kind of lose track of what the real Americans are doing across the Potomac and outside the District. But it's wonderful to be here with you, and, please, send these two people to the statehouse. We need them.

 

God bless you. Thank you very much.

 

Note: The President spoke at 12:58 p.m. in Cobo Hall. He was introduced by gubernatorial candidate William Lucas. Following the President's remarks, he attended a reception for major donors in Cobo Hall. Following the reception, the President traveled to Omaha, NE.