Remarks at the Annual Senate Republican Dinner

 

November 21, 1986

 

Thank you very much. [Applause] You don't know how heartwarming that is to just come back from Iran and be greeted like that. [Laughter] Bob and Elizabeth Dole, Mr. Vice President, members of the Cabinet, and honored guests and my dear friends: First, I'd like to congratulate the new Republican leaders who will be on the point for the GOP in the upcoming 100th Congress. Republican Leader Dole will again have a solid team to back him up: Alan Simpson, John Chafee, Bill Armstrong, Thad Cochran, Rudy Boschwitz, and of course, our honorary President pro tem Strom Thurmond, who will keep an eye on all of you. We salute all of you and are proud of the qualities of leadership that you bring to the Senate. And also a heartfelt welcome to Senators-elect Bond and McCain, new Members of the Senate, but both battle-hardened political veterans. Kit and John, we're happy to have you aboard.

 

And it was so good to have with us tonight Howard and Joy Baker [Former Senate majority leader and Mrs. Baker]. I think they had to depart early to catch either a train or a plane; I didn't quite get which one it was going to be. But this is one of those occasions when it is easy, as Bob hinted, to get a little misty. We've been a team -- men and women who've shared a vision and who've developed bonds of friendship while working to turn our goals for America into reality.

 

Tonight we honor, in particular, Senators Laxalt, Goldwater, and Mathias and all those who will not be returning for the battles in the years ahead. Paul Laxalt, as is no secret, has been close to me these last 6 years and long before that. I've managed to stay his friend even if it meant having to eat those special dishes at his Basque barbecues -- [laughter] -- some of you'll have to explain to others. Paul, Nancy and I are grateful for all you've meant to us, and we'll miss you and Carol.

 

Senator Goldwater, who is not able to be with us this evening, has been our inspiration, indeed, the conscience of Conservatives. And 6 years ago at this very dinner, I saluted Barry, saying then what remains true today: His principal stand in 1964, the ideals he expressed, the courage he displayed, captured our imaginations. He was a pathfinder, a point man, and in these last 6 years his guidance and grit and wisdom has strengthened our resolve and kept us going.

 

And then, there's Senator Mathias, who also couldn't be with us this evening. Mac is the kind of individual who's made Washington a fun place to work. We worked together when he was the chairman of my second inaugural committee. And whatever the issue of the day, no matter how hotly contested, he was always a gentleman. His good will, thoughtfulness, and sense of humor have been appreciated. Mac and I didn't always agree, but I always had the deepest respect for him. He will be missed.

 

Those of us in the class of 1980 came here 6 years ago, dedicated to strengthening our country's economy, rebuilding our defenses, and restoring our confidence. To those of you who will leave the Senate next year, we can be proud of what we've accomplished, individually and collectively. Mark Andrews has stood by and fought for the farmer through difficult times. And thanks to the efforts of Jim Abdnor, this week I was able to sign a landmark water resources bill into law which will benefit Americans of present and future generations. Jim Broyhill has had a long and dedicated career in Congress. A keen parliamentarian -- he brought the leadership in the area of energy and commerce. Jerry Denton, an American hero, is a hero still. In the Senate he fought against terrorism and held up traditional family values. Slade Gorton played a key role as a member of the Budget Committee and helped to give us a stronger America. Paula Hawkins mobilized our country against drugs and child abuse. Mack Mattingly championed the line-item veto and was indispensable this year to our success in aiding the freedom fighters in Nicaragua. Each of you has my thanks, and I know that of your colleagues. But more important, you have the gratitude of the Nation.

 

None of us came to Washington simply to have a job. We came here to get a job done, and that's what we did. America is a more prosperous land, a more secure land, and, yes, a happier land because of what we've done. And let no one doubt the fundamental beliefs that guided our decisions, the principles which we hold so dear, have not been rejected. On the contrary, they are still unquestionably in the ascendant. Our opponents in this campaign in so many instances paid us the ultimate compliment -- they refused to discuss issues. Seeding that turf, knowing that the American people still hold allegiance to our ideas -- yet no two ways about it, the outcome of the Senate race was a disappointment. We're a minority again in the United States Senate, but we've been there before and know what must be done. As Everett Dirksen, a great Republican leader, said, ``We must stand up and be counted in our generation.''

 

Yes, the election results in the Senate may make our task more difficult. Many of you'll be playing new roles in the struggle to direct the course of our country's future. But let us not forget -- I'm going to change that around. I was raised in an era in which -- the first major employer I had said you should never use a negative. Let's say, let us remember that the underlying long-term message of the election was positive. Governorships were won that will redirect State government and grassroots politics throughout our country.

 

The Senate vote itself, contrary to what our opponents have been saying, reflected a continued evolution in our direction. With a change of 29,000 votes, control of the Senate would still be in our hands, and this in the face of historical trends that work against the party in power. There's ample reason for optimism. At every rally across our country young people in great numbers could be seen and heard. Their youthful idealism, their energy, their zest for life made those rallies joyous occasions, especially for someone who used to cause a hostile riot just by showing up on a campus -- a certain Governor I remember.

 

I remember back in the days when, well, when I'd first become a Republican, because I was in the other party. Then, as the Bible says, I put aside childish things. [Laughter] When I was new as a Republican and I would go and appear at a fundraiser or something for the party and I would come home to Nancy and I would say that the only young people there looked like they couldn't be invited anywhere else. [Laughter] Well, that's all changed now. America's young people have responded to our message of opportunity, growth, and strength. And in all the age groups, those between 18 and 24 today have the highest percentage of any age group of people supporting what we represent and what we stand for.

 

That's all changed now. They've responded to our message of opportunity, as I say, growth, and strength. And they don't want to be told to lower their expectations. They don't want to give their lives over to central planners in Washington. They want the same kind of freedom that we had and the same challenge to go as far and as high as their hard work and talents will carry them. And as long as we keep faith with them, this generation of Americans will keep faith with us. What we've been doing these last 6 years, of course, has been for them. And when today's young people have grown a bit older, when we see them with families and children of their own, living in their own homes with productive jobs, we can all feel pride in the job that we've done in these last 6 years. Our young people have been spared the ravages of war and have enjoyed the same sweet liberty we possessed as young adults in the United States. Our reward is knowing that we did our best for them, for our country, and for the cause of human freedom.

 

In a word, the challenge now before us is simply this: to complete the revolution that we have so well begun. Of course, I'll be talking about this in detail in the days to come. But you know of our commitments to the American people on the balanced budget amendment and the line-item veto. You know the importance of keeping tax rates low and spending under control and of appointing Federal judges who will interpret law, not make it. And, yes, you know of the freedom fighters around the world who need our help and with whom we're determined to stand. In these last 6 years we have left the days of retreat and apology behind. We've again made America the engine of enterprise, the bastion of freedom, the hope for a beleaguered mankind that God intended her to be.

 

In tackling our agenda, I want to assure you of one important thing: Now, more than ever, we'll need to depend on one another to achieve our goals for this country. No, I've never served on a legislature before, that's true, but after 6 years down the avenue here, I think I understand your problems pretty well. And I know that your problems are my problems, too. We're one team. We've got to stick together, even more effectively in the Congress to come. So, in the years ahead, no matter where we are, we can be proud that we were members of the class of 1980 and that, together, we changed history.

 

God bless all of you. You'll always have a place in my heart. Thank you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 9:23 p.m. in the Great Hall at the Library of Congress.