Remarks at Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri

March 26, 1987

The President. Thank you very much. Just don't mind me -- I'm just passing through. I saw a band and they were playing wonderful music and I just followed them and here I am. Now, they tell me that this is the home of the Kewpies. And from the look of the trophy cases in the hall, one time or another, the Kewpies have been champs in just about everything including all-around -- particularly academic, you've had championships. And that's why Secretary Bennett and I are here today.

If America is to be what it should be in the 21st century, then it's going to need a lot of schools, good schools. And Hickman, I'm pleased and proud to tell you, is one of the best. I appreciate your principal, Kenneth Clark, inviting us here, and the faculty and all of you and the citizens that have made us so welcome here in Columbia. But it is true, the schools in Columbia are renowned and have been chosen and awarded honors for the progress that has been made in academic quality. And so, I'm delighted to congratulate all of you on that.

I think when I said that I followed the band here, I ought to tell you that I was once drum major of a band like that. But I'm not sure anyone should have followed us, because we were in a neighboring town up there in Illinois where I grew up, and we were asked to come over and lead the parade on Decoration Day in this other town. And then there was a fellow on a white horse, the grand marshal of the parade, who was out in front of us to make sure we went in the right direction. And he turned and rode back down the parade line to make sure everything was coming along right. And I'm out in front there with the baton and the band following and playing, and I didn't know that he rode up just in time to catch the band, not me, that were supposed to turn a corner. And I thought the music was beginning to sound fainter. [Laughter] But I was walking on down the street all by myself -- the band had turned the corner. [Laughter]

Well, again, I know that I'm supposed to move on. We've got this great conference that's waiting, and I think we've been behind schedule for quite some time.

Students. Awww!

The President. I feel that way, too. [Laughter]

Student. I have a present for you. Mr. President, on behalf of Hickman High School, we'd like to make you an honorary Kewpie, which is our school mascot, and present you with this sweatshirt.

The President. Well, thank you. I'll tell you another bad thing about my youth, too. When I was playing football, the cheerleaders were boys. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 1:41 p.m. in the school auditorium.