Remarks and an Informal Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting With David Jacobsen

 

November 7, 1986

 

The President. Ladies and gentlemen, you know who our guest is today, and I know that he has a few words for you. And I think a great many prayers have been answered by his presence here in our country.

 

Mr. Jacobsen. I certainly have some words, and I would like to read them. I usually like to speak extemporaneously. But we have our people being held prisoners, and I'd like to just preface my remarks by one simple statement. And what I say today, what you report, what you speculate upon is heard throughout the entire world within 24 hours. A simple speculation on your part could cause the death of my dear friend Tom Sutherland or Terry Anderson or Joe Cicippio or any other of the other hostages. And I would ask that you would be responsible and please do not engage in unreasonable and unrealistic speculations. Be intellectually honest. I ask of you, I plead for you: I am worried about what you might say, or someone else, might result in a death of somebody that I love. I don't want that on my conscience, and I don't think you want it on yours. So I have a brief statement that I've written, and I'm happy to read it. And it's a thrill to be here.

 

Mr. President, you can't really imagine -- and Mrs. President -- can't imagine my joy of being here with you on this very special day. For 17 long months, I never lost hope of being a free man again. I prayed long and hard. And my dear family -- my six wonderful children are here, are with me here today -- and my friends -- they kept the faith, and they never lost hope despite many, many frustrations. And that knowledge kept me going.

 

And freedom is a very precious gift, and I really learned it in a very personal manner. Freedom is a very precious gift, and one that we Americans sometimes take for granted. When freedom is taken away, the loss is immense. But that same hope and that faith and that optimism that sustained the founders of our country, of this great land, during the periods of our adversity as a nation also kept my spirits high during my long captivity. And, Mr. President, I know that you and many others in and out of the administration of this government have worked long and hard on my behalf and on the behalf of the other captives and you continue to do so for the others that are still being held hostage. And in particular, there are a number of independent people, religious leaders and others, that deserve special praise for their independent efforts.

 

Terry Waite, who is one of those great humanitarians, who has given so much of himself so that I may be free -- Terry Waite did it as a free man, free of all governments and any type of deals. Terry did it as a humanitarian. The families of Terry Anderson, Tom Sutherland, Joe Cicippio, and the other innocent people still being held hostage, should not give up hope. Contact by you, Mr. President, and others in the administration and especially those very special people in the State Department, who have maintained frequent contact with our families, help our dear ones sustain their hope. And I know, Mr. President, that you have sought our freedom from the day that the first American was taken hostage, and I know that you have not rested, nor will you rest, until every American is home free.

 

And, Mr. President, you really have my eternal gratitude. You're the leader of a truly great country, and I'm proud to be an American. And I really want to thank you very, very much. You're quite a man.

 

The President. Thank you.

 

Mr. Jacobsen. Thank you. And please, please, in your comments and evaluations, be responsible. Thank you.

 

Q. Mr. President, the Iranians are saying that if you'll release some of those weapons, they'll intercede to free the rest of the hostages. Will you?

 

The President. Bill [Bill Plante, CBS News], I think in view of this statement, this is just exactly what I tried to say last night. There's no way that we can answer questions having anything to do with this without endangering the people we're trying to rescue.

 

Q. Could you just tell us whether Secretary of State Shultz agrees with your policy or disagrees and has protested as has been reported?

 

The President. We have all been working together.

 

Q. And Secretary Shultz supports the policy, and so does Cap Weinberger?

 

The President. Yes.

 

Q. Why not dispel the speculation by telling us exactly what happened, sir?

 

The President. Because it has to happen again and again and again until we have them all back. And anything that we tell about all the things that have been going on in trying to effect his rescue endangers the possibility of further rescue.

 

Q. Your own party's majority leader says you're rewarding terrorists.

 

Mr. Jacobsen. Please, you didn't hear what I said at the beginning. Unreasonable speculation on your part can endanger their lives. I would like to take some time now and talk. But this is a day of joy for me. I have my children inside. I want to share it with them. And I want Terry Anderson to share the same joy with his family. And I want Tom Sutherland to share the joy with his family. And, in the name of God, would you please just be responsible and back off? Thank you.

 

Q. Mr. Jacobsen, how are we to know what is responsible and what is not?

 

Q. How about your TV address?

 

Note: The President spoke at 1:38 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Following the remarks and the exchange with reporters, the President met privately with Mr. Jacobsen and his family in the Oval Office. Mr. Jacobsen, who was abducted on May 29, 1985, had been a hospital administrator in Beirut. Terry Waite, an employee of the Archbishop of Canterbury, negotiated Mr. Jacobsen's release.