Remarks to Community Leaders in Danville, Indiana

July 13, 1987

Well, thank you all very much, Governor Orr. And I know that some place here is Secretary Bowen. I figured it was right to have a doctor -- there he is -- proper to have a doctor as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. I brought him along not because I'm sick or anything but -- [laughter] -- because we were coming to Indiana. But I thank you all -- all of the public officials who are here and your Congressman John Myers. And I thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to spend a few moments with a fellow midwesterner.

Driving into Danville today felt like coming home, so much does Hendricks County feel -- or remind me of growing up in Illinois. There are the beautiful homes so well cared for, the American flag on display everywhere, and of course this wonderful county courthouse.

I was especially struck when, on the way in, someone mentioned that Hendricks County was also the home of the famous Van Buren Elm, a magnificent tree named for President Van Buren when he visited nearby Plainfield. I thought that naming a tree in honor of a President was a fine thing to do, and I even daydreamed for a moment about having a tree named after myself. [Laughter] And then I found out a little more about the Van Buren Elm. [Laughter] It turns out that Van Buren was riding in a carriage when the driver took a sharp turn around the elm, throwing Van Buren out of the carriage and into the mud. [Laughter] And in case you're wondering, the answer is, yes, I've warned the Secret Service to be on the lookout for elms. [Laughter] And I'm wondering how I ever got through my own college, Eureka College. The alma mater is ``Neath the Elms upon the Campus.'' [Laughter]

But some of you may remember the last time I spoke here. It was back in 1985, and I was campaigning throughout the country for an historic tax reform that would make the tax code fairer and simpler, and that would reduce tax rates for most individuals. The pundits thought it could never be done, but today tax reform is the law of the land and will go into effect in the coming year. Indeed, the Washington Post ran a headline about tax reform that says: ``The Impossible Became the Inevitable.''

Now, I'm campaigning throughout the country again -- last month to community leaders and business people in Florida, then to the people of a Connecticut city that has come back to economic life during this expansion, and still elsewhere later this July. And this time I'm stumping for something I believe even more important, even more historic than tax reform. It's an Economic Bill of Rights. I first announced this campaign on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial during the Fourth of July weekend, outlining four essential guarantees for all Americans: The freedom to work -- and that means eliminating government barriers to opportunity; the freedom to enjoy the fruits of your own labor -- and that means bringing to an end, once and for all, excessive government borrowing, spending, and taxation; and the freedom to own and control your own property, including intellectual property like technological innovations; the freedom to participate in a free market -- and that means government must work to foster, not hinder, economic growth.

Now, I'll be speaking about all of this in more detail downtown later this morning. In particular, I'll present our specific proposals for ensuring these four basic economic freedoms. But I asked to have you come here today because I wanted to be able to talk with local people like yourselves.

You see, 200 and more years ago, when our Constitution and Bill of Rights were being debated, the debates took place in towns like Danville, in farming communities like the towns in rural Indiana, in virtually every community in America. The people themselves -- the farmers, the craftsmen, and local officials -- were directly involved. It's this kind of involvement on the part of the people themselves that I'd like to see take place again. And so, I'm asking you to help me start a national discussion by taking up the issue of economic rights in your own communities.

I just have to believe that if we get away from the lawyers and the lobbyists of Washington and away from the special interests that seem to dominate things so back there on the banks of the Potomac, if we get away from all of that and ask the people whether it isn't time at last to do things like pass a balanced budget amendment, the people will say yes. There's such a thing as common sense in America, and if you can't always find it in the Capitol building in Washington, isn't it good to know that you can still find it in places like the Hendricks County Courthouse?

Looking around this magnificent building, one final thought. The aim of our Economic Bill of Rights is the same as that of the political Bill of Rights in the Constitution: freedom. And seeing those names on the wall, these names of everyday Americans who served in our Armed Forces for that great cause, well, it just reminds you how deep the love of freedom goes out here in the heartland.

I suppose that, as they did with tax reform, the pundits are going to say of our Economic Bill of Rights: It can never be done. Well, I just happen to have an answer for those critics. Let them do what I've done. Just let them for awhile travel here. In short, my friends, if anybody back in Washington wants to know what can and can't be done, let them spend one day among the good people of Indiana. If I could enlarge, this isn't about Indiana, but just let me tell you a little incident in my life -- has to do with a Midwestern State. We're all here in the heartland of the country -- Indiana, Illinois, Iowa. This has to do with Iowa.

I was in England -- the first time I'd ever been there -- and I wanted to see some of those English things like pubs that were 700 years old and so forth. Well, a driver took me and a couple of people with me -- we were over there -- that was back long before Governor days. That was back when I was making a picture. And we were in there, and it was a mom and pop place. This quite elderly lady was waiting on us, and finally, hearing us talk to each other, she said, ``You're Americans, aren't you?'' And we said, ``Yes.'' ``Oh,'' she says, ``there were quite a lot of your young chaps down the road during the war, based down there.'' And she said, ``They used to come in here of an evening, and they'd have songfests.'' And she said, ``And they called me Mom, and they called the old man Pop.'' And she said, ``It was Christmas Eve, and we were all alone.'' And she said, ``In they came, burst through the door, and they had presents for me and Pop.'' And then by this time she wasn't looking at us. She was kind of looking off into the distance, and there was a tear beginning to form in her eye. And she said, ``Big strapping lads they was, from a place called Ioway.'' [Laughter] Well, by that time I had a tear -- [laughter] -- forming right there also.

Well, I know I've got to get downtown and talk in a little more detail on these, so I'll spare you any more. But thank you all. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:52 a.m. at the Hendricks County Courthouse. In his opening remarks, he referred to Gov. Robert Orr and Secretary of Health and Human Services Otis R. Bowen. Prior to his remarks, the President met with Indiana State, county, and city officials at the courthouse.