Remarks at a Gubernatorial Campaign Rally for Kay Orr in Omaha, Nebraska

 

September 24, 1986

 

Thank you, Kay, and thank you all. You know, if I'd gotten receptions like this in my former career, I never would have left Hollywood. But it's great to be here in the Cornhusker State. And greetings to your fine GOP State party chairman, John Gale; and, of course, to your outstanding candidate for Governor, Kay Orr, and Bill Nichol for Lieutenant Governor.

 

You know, before I say anything else, flying in here today and seeing that good earth and that good Nebraska land, I was reminded of a story. I find that as time goes on a lot of things remind me of stories. But, anyway, in case it's new to you, this was an old fellow that had a patch of land and it included some creek bottomland that was all scrub, brush, and rocks. And finally, he set out, and he started clearing and hauling the rocks away and clearing the brush and everything. And then he started fertilizing and cultivating and planting, until he had a real gardenspot there. And he was pretty proud of it. And one morning after the church service on a Sunday morning, he asked the preacher if he wouldn't stop by and see what he'd accomplished and what he'd done. Well, the preacher came out and he looked at this, and he said, ``Oh,'' he said, ``I've just never seen anything like it.'' He said, ``The Lord has certainly blessed this land. Look at those melons. I've never seen anything so big.'' And then, he said, ``That corn, I've never seen corn taller than that.'' Well, he went on about this and everything was, ``The Lord has been good to this place, and bless the Lord and what He has done.'' And finally, the old boy was getting a little more fidgety, and finally, he said, ``Reverend, I wish you could have seen it when the Lord was doing it by Himself.'' [Laughter]

 

But there's a moral to that. Because just as the creek bottomland required the farmer's hard work to make it flourish, so this vast and beautiful land that God has given us requires our diligence to keep it great. And I'd like you to consider with me for a moment how much better things are for America because you and I and millions of others chose to believe the simple truth, and rejected the notion that somehow our country's best days were behind her. You remember 1980: the worst economic mess since the Great Depression, foreign governments that routinely insulted our proud country and her citizens, and leadership in Washington that blamed the American people, instead of itself, for all our problems. Remember, we were told it was a malaise, and we just had to get used to doing with less. Well, the people knew different. Somebody once put it: ``Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hard-working, honest Americans.'' But then to rub it in, the quotation goes on to say: ``It's the other lousy 2 percent that get all the publicity. But then we elected them.''

 

Well, we set to work to change all that. We went to the American people and told them: The economy's gone sour. Taxes are too high. We're overregulated. And there's one simple reason for it: The Federal Government is too big, and it spends too much of your money. And we told the American people that there was one way to end the years of tax and tax and spend and spend, and that was to elect fewer liberals and a whole lot more Republicans. Well, the people heard us, they heard us, and we started moving. One example: tax brackets -- they were too high and the liberals in Washington wanted them to go higher. We not only stood fast against the liberals' demand, we actually cut taxes, enacting an across-the-board personal income tax cut of nearly 25 percent. Then we indexed taxes to the rate of inflation, thereby ending the hidden tax of bracket creep. You'll remember with that runaway inflation, and you'd get a cost-of-living pay raise -- didn't make you any better off, just tried to keep pace with the rising cost of living. But because the tax was based on the number of dollars you got, not their worth, you were worse off, not better off -- because the income tax went up.

 

Well, even then, the old habits of tax and tax and spend and spend died hard. The critics didn't like our program of low taxes and limited government and sneeringly called it Reaganomics. And they found a battle cry for their campaign in '84, shouting at the American people: ``We're going to raise your taxes!'' The American people didn't bother to shout back. Here in Nebraska, and around the country, they just went into the polling booths and pulled the Republican lever. And, ladies and gentlemen, I think we Republicans had a right to the support we got. Our policies brought down inflation, taxes, and interest rates. They created 7.2 million new jobs by 1984, and they've created 3.9 million more jobs since. Now, you know, I knew of course that our program was working because they stopped calling it Reaganomics.

 

But it's true that in the midst of this expansion, some sectors of our economy are having their troubles -- sectors like farming. And when we're talking about problems down on the farm, I believe we're talking about more than statistics like crop yields and land prices, we're talking about a way of life sustained and nurtured by the soil -- the oldest way of life that Americans know. And with this in mind, our administration has provided more support for America's farmers than did the administrations of the last five Presidents combined -- spending an amount, this year alone, totaling some $26 billion. Our economic program has resulted in lower farm production costs, and we're working hard to expand the overseas market for American farm products. And a native Nebraskan -- our special trade representative, Ambassador Clayton Yeutter, is playing a central role in this effort.

 

Yes, times are still hard for many Nebraska farmers, but they've begun to get better. World markets are expanding. In just the next 3 years, the number of people on Earth will grow more than enough to populate another America. I was beginning to think there was an echo in here -- [referring to hecklers in the audience]. [Laughter] But, as I know you agree, the main reason for hope -- the reason the family farm will not only endure but prevail -- is that American farmers can outinnovate, outproduce, and outcompete any farmers on Earth.

 

Now, I didn't come here today to talk about Washington. But I do have a good reason for bringing up these issues of low taxes and economic growth. You see, Kay Orr believes in the same things you and I do -- that the way to move Nebraska ahead isn't by inflating the Government budget at the expense of the family budget, but by keeping taxes equitable and low and fostering sound and lasting economic growth. That sounds good to me. How about to you? [Applause] Of course, the liberal Democratic leaders opposing Kay are promising the people of this great State that, honest, this time they aren't going to increase spending and taxes. Well, permit me to offer some advice from a fellow who deals with the liberals every day in Washington: When it comes to tax and tax and spend and spend, some of them mean well, but the liberals are just like Oscar Wilde -- they can resist everything but temptation. Or to make play on something the late Will Rogers once said: These liberals never met a tax they didn't hike.

 

Then there's the crucial matter of experience. As State treasurer, Kay gained the skills she'll need to lead Nebraska on to a new era of prosperity and growth. She'll be able to provide a school system that strives for excellence at every level. And as I said, she'll promote new jobs and economic growth while keeping taxes low. And she'll work to provide Nebraska farmers with expanded and more reliable markets. And although Kay and Bill are running for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, their campaign has importance that extends beyond Nebraska itself to all parts of the Nation. For by electing them the people of this State will be sending a message to the rest of the Nation, and especially to the liberal leadership of the Democratic Party. The message: Stop the taxing; stop the spending; and make government live within its means. That's a message the liberals need to hear.

 

And let me just say something else in here while I'm talking this. Well, you've noticed that I've called -- the liberal leadership. I know that across this country there are millions of good, patriotic Democrats who are way out of step with the liberal leadership of their party. They remind me of something that happened to me when I was the drum major of the YMCA Boys Band in Dixon. We were leading the Decoration Day parade. And the man on the white horse, the parade marshal who was leading all of us, galloped back down the parade line at one point to see if everything was all right. And I'm up there with my baton, and pretty soon the music begins to sound faint. And I turned around and looked. He had arrived back up in front just in time to turn the band to the right, and there I was walking down the street all by myself. [Laughter] And that's the way with the liberal leadership of the Democratic Party -- their party turned to the right years ago, and they're still going left.

 

But there's another reason why the candidacy of Kay and Bill is so important. It stands for the virtually unlimited opportunity that our nation has come to offer to men and women alike. We still have a long way to go, but today American women are finding opportunities that their forebears never dreamed of. Today over two-thirds of the women between ages 25 and 44 are employed. Half our college students are women and growing numbers of women are doctors, lawyers, police, and military officers. Today women fill almost three-quarters of all new jobs in managerial, professional, and technical fields. And the number of women-owned businesses is growing nearly three times faster than the number of businesses owned by men. As long as I've got this microphone, I'll out-sound them -- [referring to hecklers in the audience].

 

Now, what I've been saying about women is of particular importance to the Republican Party. You see, today we Republicans are demonstrating to the Nation that the GOP is the true party of opportunity, the party to all Americans -- women and men, black and white -- who believe that individual enterprise, not big government, is the true source of prosperity and freedom. For example, I happen to be Irish on my father's side, and so that makes me an ethnic American. It's interfered with a few jokes I used to tell. And when, as a young man, I spent my summers lifeguarding -- it wasn't in some posh country club, but on the banks of a river in a small town in northern Illinois. And believe me, there are plenty in the other party who find the fact that this Republican was born to ordinary working people -- they find that kind of hard to take. I've always wondered why it is the Democrats call supporters of the Republican Party ``fat cats,'' but their own contributors are called ``public-spirited philanthropists.'' [Laughter]

 

Or consider that earlier today I was in Detroit campaigning for Bill Lucas, a gubernatorial candidate who's a former FBI agent and one of the most impressive men I've ever met. Bill Lucas is a Republican, and Bill Lucas is black. Nothing could more powerfully demonstrate that in 1986, it's not the Democrats but the GOP that's become the party of progress and opportunity.

 

This brings me back to the gains women today are making and, in particular, to women in politics. The truth is, it's the GOP, not the Democrats, that has the most women in the House of Representatives -- outstanding Members of Congress like Nebraska's own Virginia Smith. There are two women in the United States Senate, Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas and Paula Hawkins of Florida, and both are Republicans. You know, now that I think of it, it was a certain Republican President who nominated Sandra Day O'Connor to be the first woman in history on the United States Supreme Court. And today our party has not one or two, but five women running for governorships -- including the next Governor of the great State of Nebraska, Kay Orr.

 

Kay, there's an experience of mine regarding women in politics that I think you and everyone here might enjoy hearing. You know, before she became Prime Minister of England, Margaret Thatcher had become, for the first time, the head of the Conservative Party in England. And it's usually expected that the head of that party, if that party wins in the next election, will become Prime Minister. Well, I was in England at a time when I was Governor of California. And an American businessman arranged a meeting between the two of us. He thought we might have a lot to talk about, and we did. And I was greatly impressed. And then, that night, at a cocktail reception, an Englishman, a Lord-somebody-or-other -- if he were in Hollywood we would have cast him as ``Colonel Blimp'' -- he came up to me, and he said, ``My dear fellow,'' he says, ``what did you think of our Miss Thatcher?'' And I said, ``Well, I was greatly impressed, and I think she would make a magnificent Prime Minister.'' And he said, ``Oh, my dear fellow, a woman? Prime Minister?'' [Laughter] And I said, ``Well, you had a Queen named Victoria once that did rather well.'' And he said, ``Jove, I'd forgotten all about that.'' [Laughter]

 

Well, I have the feeling that Kay Orr is one woman in government no one's going to forget. Kay, ladies and gentlemen, permit me to close today by telling you something of what I've seen during this campaign of 1986. As I mentioned a moment ago, earlier today we were in Detroit. Last week we were in Alabama and Louisiana, and before that in your neighboring State of Colorado. And everywhere I've gone, I've seen something that touched me, and something that gives heart to all of us who can still remember the self-doubt, the weakness at home and abroad, that marked so much of the sixties and seventies. I see it here today in Omaha. Call it confidence and self-assurance, what you will. It's a renewed understanding that, for all our faults, ours is a country of goodness and greatness; that despite our mistakes in the world, we've stood for human freedom with greater consistency and courage than any other nation in history; that if only we have faith, if only we look not to government but to ourselves we can build upon this economic expansion to create a new and lasting era of prosperity. And come to think of it, what I've seen has a name. It's love of country.

 

This new confidence and energy, this new self-assurance -- this is what Kay Orr stands for and wants to build upon here in Nebraska. So, I ask you to cast a vote for your State and for yourselves. But more than that, I ask you to cast a vote for the future of Nebraska, a vote for your children and your children's children. And I am so pleased to see so many young people here because they're what's at stake in this election. My friends, let's elect Kay Orr -- A Governor for all Nebraskans -- and Bill Nichol, a Lieutenant Governor. Send that ticket to the capitol of this great State.

 

Now it's time to go back to Washington. Congress is still in session, and somebody has to keep an eye on them. [Laughter] Kay and Bill, ladies and gentlemen, I'll always remember this day, and I'll always remember the good people of Omaha. You know, it's wonderful to get outside the District of Columbia, where the real people still are. I was only 6 feet and three-quarters of an inch when I walked in here, but I think I'm going to leave here about 6 feet 4. God bless you. Thank you all.

 

Note: The President spoke at 4:27 p.m. in the Omaha Civic Auditorium. Earlier, he attended a fundraising reception for major donors in the auditorium. Following his remarks at the rally, the President returned to Washington, DC.