Remarks to Members of the United States Winter Olympic Team

 

March 8, 1988

 

The President. Thank you all very much, and welcome to the White House. Somebody once stopped Louis Armstrong on a street in New York City and asked him how to get to Carnegie Hall. ``Practice,'' he said, ``practice, practice, practice.'' Well, that's how each of you got to the Olympics. And I must tell you, we have hundreds of groups here each year, but I can't think of any that I'm prouder of than you. Years of practice and years of dedication, years of dreaming and working for your dreams have made each one of you -- medal or no medal -- an American champion and an American success story.

 

America cheered when Bonnie Blair won her gold and bronze medals, setting a world record in the 500 meters. And when she was asked how she did it, Bonnie said, ``I think I just got it on guts.'' Well, one thing I noticed on TV when Bonnie won: that ``Blair Bunch,'' Bonnie's family as well as her friends from the Champaign, Illinois, Police Department, cheering her on. I have a hunch that love and support of both family and community helped Bonnie find those guts.

 

And while we're on gold, Brian Boitano, is there anyone who's soared the way you did in your gold medal-winning long program? Eric Flaim flew as he captured 1 silver in the 1500 meters and just missed 3 bronzes. And Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard, you were a thrill to watch as you captured your bronze medal. And like Bonnie, each of you has had that backing of family and community over the years, and that backing has given you the strength to compete with grace and sportsmanship. And Debi Thomas, sometimes when I look at everything you've done and are doing -- Olympic skater, pre-med student -- I wonder if your name should be Debi or Superwoman. I know that you draw a lot of your strength from the strength and love and example of your mother. Yes, you were disappointed with your bronze, but the grace with which you accepted your disappointment won you a gold medal in the heart of every American.

 

Talking about gold medals from America's heart, there's one that goes to Dan Jansen for his courage, and one that goes to his family, too. Their devotion to each other captured the heart and earned the admiration of our entire land. Dan, you received the United States Olympic Committee's Olympic Spirit Award, and everyone here and around the country applauds the committee's choice. You dedicated that honor to your sister, her memory, and your entire family. And now you're back in competition and number one in World Cup points. Yes, your family is very precious in your life, and if recently a cause of great sadness, it is also a source of great strength. And that strength is an inspiration to the entire world.

 

Now, I won't forget the demonstration events: freestyle skiing -- gold in the aerials. Melanie Palanik, in my book anyone who even tries freestyle aerial skiing deserves a medal. [Laughter] And silvers in men's and women's ballet -- Lane Spina and Jan Bucher. Finally, in disabled skiing, we had a sweep in the women's modified giant slalom: Diana Golden, Cathy Gentile, silver -- that was gold for Diana Golden. I left out one of the golds, didn't I? [Laughter] Cathy Gentile, silver, Martha Hill, bronze, while Greg Mannino won a silver in the men's. Your performances inspired us all.

 

Now, there's been a lot of talk -- too much talk in my opinion -- about the number of medals that weren't won. The heart of the Olympics is the sport and the competition. It's the exuberance of the hockey team. It's Bonny Warner breaking new ground in American women's luge. It's the pride of Marion, Indiana, at the performance of Wayne and Natalie Seybold in pairs skating. And, yes, it's the spirit of Pam Fletcher, who returned to the slopes 2 hours after breaking her leg in a practice run to cheer for her teammates. It's striving with the support and love of family and community to be the best you possibly can be, because you love your sport and -- win, lose, or draw -- you love the competition. And for that, all of you get gold medals. There's one thing you can remember above all. Just being here in those uniforms and being where you were puts you a world apart from just literally millions of other people, and every one of you has a right to be proud.

 

Thank you all for being here, and God bless you.

 

Mr. Boitano. I think winning medals is one thing, but I think the thing that I'll, and we'll, most remember about Calgary is the outstanding support that not only all of our teammates gave us but that we got from our own country. It filled me personally with so much patriotism. And I think, speaking on behalf of all of the athletes, that we're very appreciative to be a part of this country, and we really respect it a lot. Bonnie Blair would like to make a presentation to make President Reagan a part of our team.

 

[At this point, the President was given a Winter Olympic uniform.]

 

The President. Thank you. Well, thank you all very much.

 

Ms. Blair. Thank you for everything.

 

Mr. Helmick. Mr. President, as president of the United States Olympic Committee, I'd like to thank you. And I want to tell you, the President of the United States, that I think that we had 165 heroes representing the United States up in Calgary. Men and women who won their regionals, their nationals, their trials, and since then have gone on to win world championships and world cups. And each one of them -- there's 165 stories of personal struggles, personal sacrifices, not only sacrifice of their time but economic sacrifice. And the Congress of the United States and you, Mr. President, have done something to really help the economic sacrifice, and that is the passage of the Coin Act, which is going to bring new resources to help support these athletes in their Olympic challenges. And on behalf of the United States Olympic Committee and this team and the summer team going to Seoul, I want to thank the Congress and the President for the Coin Act. Thank you very much.

 

The President. Thank you all very much.

 

Note: The President spoke at 2:01 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.