Remarks to Students From Southern Regional
The President. Playing hooky?
[Laughter] No, I know you aren't. Well, this was kind of a new thing that came
along, and I'm certainly -- a great pleasure for me to have this chance to
speak with you in this historic location -- all of you from Southern Regional
High School in
during the Second World War, General Marshall, who later became Secretary of
State and was the creator of the
is a fitting location to speak about our country's security and my recent talks
with General Secretary Gorbachev. The British had already burned Washington by
the time their fleet arrived at Fort McHenry back in 1814, and they would have
continued their drive capturing and possibly destroying the metropolitan
centers of our young country had they not been stopped. And what saved the day
was the skill and bravery of those who fought here; some, undoubtedly, were no
older than you are. The defenders of
I understand you're here today as part of your study in American history. And I have to tell you, I'm delighted that that is so, because there has been a period, not too long ago, when history sort of fell out of fashion in many of our schools and people like yourselves were allowed to grow up without too much knowledge of the past.
such a defensive system wouldn't threaten anyone; it would protect our country.
And this is what our research program, our modern-day
met with General Secretary Gorbachev over the weekend, as I'm sure you know, in
my sincere hope that Mr. Gorbachev will review the great strides we made in
is our policy, our insurance policy, to protect against a madman in the world
or an attack by the
right now I know I have to go, and I'm taking up too much of your time, but I'd
just like to mention something else to you as history students. You know, I've
read a lot of constitutions. I guess every country in the world has got a
Now what is the difference? Why is ours a document so great that one of the greatest of English statesmen many, many years ago said that this probably represented the greatest single achievement of mankind -- the creation of our Constitution. Why was it that Daniel Webster said, ``Protect the Constitution, preserve it''? Because if the American Constitution is ever allowed to fall, there will be chaos, anarchy, throughout the world.
Well, there's a difference that is so little, tiny, that you hardly notice it, and yet it is so great it tells the whole story. All those other constitutions are written by governments that in their constitutions say to their people: Here are the privileges, and here are the rights which we guarantee to you. Our Constitution says: Here are the rights and the privileges that we the people grant to government, and government can have no other rights or privileges that are not mentioned unless they are mentioned specifically in this Constitution. When our Revolution took place, a few years before this fort was built, other revolutions had taken place in the world, time immemorial and up to today. All those other revolutions simply exchanged one set of rulers for another set of rulers. Ours was the first philosophical revolution. Ours said governments are not the masters of the people; they are the servants of the people. And government can do nothing unless the people tell government specifically that government can do that.
And I don't know whether you'd thought about that, but in the very near future we're going to be recognizing and celebrating in this country the 200th birthday of the United States Constitution. And I just couldn't resist, in case you hadn't gotten to it in history, making sure that you knew about it.
Well, listen, it's good to see all of you here, and I know I've got to -- incidentally, in addition to that history and everything else, you keep up with your studies; but also those of you who are 18 and those of you who are approaching 18, remember that this government of, by, and for the people won't work unless the people perform their duty, which is to vote every time there's an election. And try to make up your minds as to what the issues are and what your feeling is about them. And don't just get bothered by labels and think you've got to vote one way because you belong to a certain party or something. Vote on the basis of what you think and what you feel. There was a man, a great humorist, named Will Rogers some years ago -- he's dead now -- but Will Rogers said that the people that we elect to office -- public office -- are no better and no worse than the rest of us, but they're all better than those who don't vote at all. So, keep in mind that that's the privilege you've got. Use that privilege.
God bless you all, and thank you very much. Have fun looking at the fort. I've got to go over and get somebody elected to office now. Thank you all.
Reporter. Mr. President, did the Soviets sandbag you by offering that broad arms control that you didn't come to discuss?
The President. No, I didn't feel there was any sandbagging at all.
Do you think you are winning the propaganda war with Gorbachev after
The President. Well, he's trying propaganda. I'm just telling the truth, Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News].
Q. When do you think you'll have an agreement, Mr. President?
The President. I don't know. I don't know.
Q. Do you think that you'll actually go back to the table again with him?
The President. I have to believe we will, yes.
The President. Ask him. I did, and he didn't answer.
Mr. President, are Republican candidates going to be helped by how you did in
The President. I don't know of any
hostages that are being held in
No, Republican candidates -- are Republican candidates going to be helped by
how you did in
The President. Oh, I thought you said ``held.'' I don't know. I'm going to find out between now and November 4th.
Q. Do you think it's good politics?
Q. Are you going to write Gorbachev a personal note?
Note: The President spoke at at