Remarks at a Luncheon for Members of Vote America

 

April 15, 1988

 

I'm delighted that all of you could be here today. And as Joe Rogers knows, I'm an enthusiastic admirer of the work that you're doing.

 

You know, one of the things I've continually talked about during the past few years was how impressive this young generation of Americans really is. And everywhere I've gone in this country, I've been moved to see their interest in our nation and in the issues before us. In fact, I'd like to tell a story about when one of our Ambassadors visited an American armored cavalry regiment stationed on the NATO line in Germany.

 

He returned to his helicopter, and as he did so, he was followed by a young, 19-year-old soldier. The soldier asked him if he could get a message to the President, and the Ambassador said, well, sometimes getting messages to the President was part of his job. And the soldier then said, ``Well, will you tell him we're proud to be here, and we ain't scared of nothin.'''

 

Well, a while ago, the Ambassador was in Washington, and he told me the sequel to that incident. I'd repeated the story in a talk program, and there on that base in -- it was on the Voice of America -- and there on that base in Germany, the young soldier heard that broadcast and knew that I'd received the message. His commanding officer said that he ran down the company street yelling, ``The system works! The system works!'' [Laughter]

 

And that's why all of you are here today and giving so generously of your time. You want all young Americans to know what the young soldier knew: that the system does work. But you also want them to know something else that soldier knew, and that is that democracy takes time and personal effort. And that's why we're dedicated to the goals of Vote America.

 

This generation is a generation that's bright with hope, filled with energy, and ready to make a difference. They're talented and optimistic. But for all of that, they also have the lowest percentage of voters. So, it's up to us to remind young Americans that the first step in democratic involvement is voting. With Vote America, you're doing tremendous work. The commercials, the partnership programs, the curriculum materials, the votemobiles, and the mobilization of corporate America are all part of your extraordinary effort to get Americans out to vote. This private sector initiative is bearing fruit, and I'm hopeful we'll see abundant evidence of that in the voting percentages for 1988.

 

So, all I can say is keep up the great work. And believe me, I hope this project is put on the front burner. The future of our young leaders represents the future of America. And again, because this is a priority of mine, I want to express my personal thanks to each of you. However, beyond this personal interest, our country also owes you a debt of gratitude for your dedication to our young citizens.

 

You know, I have opportunities every once in a while now to go to a school or college and appear on the campus and speak there. And having been Governor for 4 years at a time when if I went to a campus I would have started a riot and been hung in effigy -- [laughter] -- it's quite a change. And believe me, to stand there and say something that normally might be responded to by an ordinary audience with applause, and then the many times I've heard instead them chanting, ``U.S.A.! U.S.A.!'' it really sends you out of the room about 3 inches taller than when you came in.

 

Well, speaking of getting out of the room, I'm going to see each of you in the Blue Room down the line here for a handshake, which I wasn't able to do at the beginning of our lunch here. So, I'm going to thank you here, and God bless you. And I'm going around, and I'll meet you there in the Blue Room. Thank you all.

 

Note: The President spoke at 1 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.