Remarks and a
Question-and-Answer Session With Members of the
National Strategy Forum in
The President. Thank you Morris Leibman, Governor Jim Thompson, Attorney General Harding [Hartigan] -- that's all right -- [laughter] -- and Michael
Galvin, and someplace in the audience here I brought with me one of the
Congressmen so you'd know that it isn't true that we're totally separated --
your Congressman here, Dennis Hastert. Well, it's just a pleasure to be in
keep my remarks brief today so that we'll have ample time for questions. I
can't help but reflect here at the opening that it can be pretty tough in this
State for a Chief Executive. In fact, let me tell you what the Illinois State
Register had to say about the occupant of the White House. They said, and I
quote, ``the craftiest and most dishonest politician that ever disgraced an
As you know, our agenda for the U.S.-Soviet relations has four main parts: regional conflicts, bilateral exchanges, arms reductions, and human rights. I've spoken elsewhere at some length about the first three, and today I'd like to take a moment to discuss with you the subject of human rights.
Americans, of course, often speak about human rights, individual liberties, fundamental freedoms. We know that the promotion of human
rights represents a central tenet of our foreign policy. We even believe that a
passionate commitment to human rights is one of the special characteristics
that helps to make
Ultimately, our view of human rights derives from our Judeo-Christian heritage and the view that each individual life is sacred. It takes more detailed form in the works of the French and English writers of the 18th century Enlightenment. It is the notion that government should derive its mandate from the consent of the governed, this consent being expressed in free, contested, regular elections. And there you have a first human right: the right to have a voice in government, the right to vote.
Elected governments would reflect the will of the majority, but the Enlightenment writers and our own Founding Fathers gave the concept of human rights still more definite, specific form. For they held that each individual has certain rights that are so basic, so fundamental to his dignity as a human being, that no government, however large the majority it represents, no government may violate them -- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press. These and other rights enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights consist in severe limitations upon the power of government. And this is another basic point: They are rights that every citizen can call upon our independent court system to uphold. They proclaim the belief -- and represent a specific means of enforcing the belief -- that the individual comes first, that the Government is the servant of the people, and not the other way around. That contrasts with those systems of government that provide no limit on the power of the Government over its people.
have in the past stressed these contrasts between the
consider, if you will, the economic conditions of the
this brings us back to the subject of the day: human rights. For I believe that
the Soviets may be coming to understand something of the connection, the
necessary and inextricable connection, between human rights and economic
growth. The connection between economic productivity and certain kinds of
freedom is obvious. Private plots of land make up only 3 percent of the arable
land in the
And yet there's a still deeper connection. For it's the individual who is always the source of economic creativity, the inquiring mind that produces a technical breakthrough, the imagination that conceives of new products and markets. And in order for the individual to create, he must have a sense of just that -- his own individuality, his own self-worth. He must sense that others respect him and, yes, that his nation respects him enough to permit him his own opinions, respects the relationship between the individual and his God enough to permit him to worship as he chooses, even respects him enough to permit him, if he chooses to do so, to leave.
Soviets should recognize basic human rights because it's the right thing to do.
They should recognize human rights because they have accepted international
obligations to do so, particularly in the Helsinki Final Act. But if they
recognize human rights for reasons of their own -- because they seek economic
growth or because they want to enter into a more normal relationship with the
these changes are limited, and the basic standards contained in the
First, freedom of religion -- despite the recent relaxation of some controls on the exercise of religion, it is still true that the churches, synagogues, mosques, or other houses of worship may not exist without government permission. Many have been imprisoned in the past for acts of worship. And yet, to quote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ``Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.'' And General Secretary Gorbachev has indicated a willingness to consider a new law on the freedom of conscience.
is freedom of speech. There are still many serving long prison sentences for
offenses that involve only the spoken or written word. Yet the clear,
internationally recognized standard, as defined, once again, in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, is that, and I quote, ``Everyone has the right to
freedom of opinion and expression.'' And today there's more such freedom in the
third, has long represented a matter of great concern to us. The Universal
Declaration states that ``Everyone has the right to
leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.'' Well,
it's true that during the past 12 months, the rate of people permitted to leave
this brings me now to the fourth and final area I want to discuss: making the
progress more permanent. As I've said a number of times now, we welcome the
human rights progress that the Soviets have made and believe there is good
reason to hope for still more. Yet it's only being realistic to point out that
we've seen progress in the
Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to emigrate, and the willingness to make new freedoms permanent -- these are our hopes, these are our prayers for the future of human rights in the Soviet Union, in the world, in our own country. In granting greater liberty, I am confident that the Soviets will discover that they've made possible economic growth. But even more important, this recognition of human rights will advance the cause of peace. For in the words of Andrei Sakharov, a man who suffered much under the Soviet system, but who has also experienced the benefits of glasnost -- he says: ``I am convinced that international confidence, mutual understanding, disarmament, and international security are inconceivable without an open society with freedom of information, freedom of conscience, the right to publish, and the right to travel and choose the country in which one wishes to live. Peace, progress, and human rights -- these three goals are insolubly linked.''
since I've been speaking today about the relationship of human rights and
economic progress, let me say a few words about the present situation in
Now in concluding, I just want to say something that I've said many times to students. I delight in having an opportunity to speak on campuses or in high schools or something. And I like to point out something about our Constitution. And you'd be surprised how new the thought is to all of them because they say all the other nations have constitutions. And I've read an awful lot of them. And many of them, most of them, contain some of the same clauses that ours do. But I said, the difference is so tiny in ours that it is overlooked, and yet it is so great it tells the entire difference. Three words: ``We the People'' -- our Constitution is a document in which we the people tell the Government what it can do, and it can do nothing that isn't contained in that document. All those other constitutions are documents in which the Government is telling the people what it will let them do. And it's wonderful to see the look on their faces and to think that, well, maybe you've established another little shingle on the roof of patriotism where they're concerned. I told this one night at a dinner table in the White House, when the person beside me was the Crown Princess of Japan. They were there on a trip to our country. And very quietly she said something to me. I was only wrong in one respect. Since World War II, the Japanese Constitution now also says, ``We the People,'' and they have copied us. And I was very happy to be corrected.
Well, thank you all, and God bless you. And now I'm very happy to take some questions.
Mr. Friedman. Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, we all thank you for your remarks, and now we come to the moment where we have a question-and-answer session. The rules of engagement, Mr. President, are these: The members have had an opportunity to write written questions -- hopefully legibly. We've had ushers pass among the tables, and the questions are now safely contained in a fishbowl.
The President. All right.
Mr. Friedman. And the reason for that is that it is very important that these questions be drawn on a random basis, which I shall do now.
first question, Mr. President, is this: What will be the continued policy for a
The President. What will be the -- --
Mr. Friedman. What will be the continued policy -- --
The President. Oh.
Friedman. -- -- for a
The President. What it has been since as far back as 1949. And that is: Those are international waters, and no nation has a right to interfere or block those international waters to the traffic of the world. And we're going to stay there as long as it takes to see that they're recognized by everyone as international waters.
Mr. Friedman. Thank you, Mr. President.
The second question is this: How will we dispose of nuclear wastes?
The President. Oh. [Laughter] Well, as you know, there were a number of target areas in States that were named for that. And then a commission is investigating everyone, and then we'll name what they believe are the correct places and the best places for the safety of the people and the disposition of that nuclear waste. I realize that somebody's going to think it's too close to them when it happens, but you've got to put it someplace. [Laughter]
Friedman. The third question, Mr. President, is this: In your judgment, what
major objectives will Secretary Gorbachev be trying to
achieve in the forthcoming
The President. Well, for one thing, we both do have, and are awaiting ratification in both countries, of the INF treaty -- because they also have a ratification process, just as we do with our Senate. And I am hopeful, and I know he is, that a part of that time could be spent with our signing, or recognizing that it has been signed, and it's in action.
START agreement, which is the desire to reduce strategic nuclear weapons, missiles,
by half, 50 percent, but down to parity -- that's something that most people --
some of those who are complaining about what we might be doing with that treaty
-- it's not just that each of us are going to come down 50 percent; we're going
to come down to an equal number between the two nations, of warheads and
missiles -- missiles to carry them. But it's far more complicated than the INF
treaty was. And it's doubtful if we are going to -- we, our people, and theirs,
are working in
I was very pleased when the Soviet Foreign Minister [Eduard Shevardnadze], on a recent visit to the United States -- he didn't say he was quoting a line of mine, but he said it -- I say that in case Larry Speakes is in the audience -- [laughter] -- but the line that he said was, ``A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.'' Well, I said that to the British House of Parliament and to the Japanese Parliament a few years ago.
we will also be discussing the things that I mentioned in my speech here. I'm
willing to give him the benefit of the doubt up to a point -- a point in which,
as I say, is -- the only thing I can say in Russian is, Dovorey
no provorey. And he's tired of hearing me say it. It
means: ``Trust but verify.'' [Laughter] But I give him the benefit of the doubt, that faced with the economic problems that he has --
glasnost with him -- he really is attempting to get that, and so I would
hope that in our discussions, that maybe we could be helpful to him in
suggestions as to how he might better bring that about. And that, I think, is
preferable to staging a kind of contest with him so that someone looks like a winner
or loser. And we very definitely will be on that subject of human rights
because we are both signatories to a
in the White House, I met with four individuals who had all been imprisoned in
Is that all of them? Let's take one more.
Mr. Friedman. The fourth question of five, Mr. President, is this -- well, there is always a good question, and this is the one: Would you autograph my book, ``I Was a Democrat for the FBI and Other Selected Short Stories''?
The President. Yes, I'd be very pleased to do that autograph.
Mr. Friedman. And also, Mr. President, I would be very happy to see the person who made that question. [Laughter]
The President. You don't see anyone volunteering.
Mr. Friedman. Sam Donaldson.
Mr. Friedman. Mr. President, the fifth and final question of this session is this: What do you consider to be the most important need in international relations?
The President. The important -- --
Mr. Friedman. What do you consider to be the most important need in international relations?
The President. Oh, my goodness. [Laughter] That is quite a question, and how to get at it? I think the need is, well, just actual frankness and a desire for a peaceful solution. I think maybe I'd answer it this way: In my frustration sometimes -- you know, actually, if you count some of the things going on in smaller countries and all, there've been about 114 wars since World War II. But I've often wondered, What if all of us in the world discovered that we were threatened by a power from outer space -- from another planet. Wouldn't we all of a sudden find that we didn't have any differences between us at all -- we were all human beings, citizens of the world -- and wouldn't we come together to fight that particular threat. Well, in a way, we have something of that kind today -- mentioning nuclear power again. We now have a weapon that can destroy the world, and why don't we recognize that threat more clearly and then come together with one aim in mind: How safely, sanely, and quickly can we rid the world of this threat to our civilization and our existence.
Note: The President
spoke at in the Grand Ballroom
at the Palmer House Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to Morris Leibman and Michael Galvin, chairman and president,
respectively, of the forum; Gov. James R. Thompson, Jr.; and State Attorney
General Neil F. Hartigan. Richard Friedman, vice
chairman of the forum, moderated the question-and-answer session. Prior to his
remarks, the President attended an