Remarks at the White House News Photographers Association Annual Dinner

 

May 19, 1988

 

Well, thank you, Ken, and thank all of you. And my congratulations again to the award winners. I'm delighted to be at this 1988 White House News Photographers Dinner, the last one that Nancy and I will be attending.

 

I've always considered photographers, the cameramen, and the crew, my favorites among the press. [Laughter] So, I knew that, being friends, you wouldn't mind if I got a few things off my chest tonight. [Laughter] There's been a lot in the papers in recent weeks about insiders' views of the White House. Well, I've had it with all that. So, tonight I'm going to give you the view from the ultimate insider -- me. [Laughter] I'm going to tell the real story of this administration. It's been a wonderful two terms, with lots of accomplishments. And I've even brought the slides to prove it. So, Marlin, hit the lights. [Laughter]

 

Now, one of the most interesting episodes was General Secretary Gorbachev's visit to the United States. I tried to help him understand our culture. In this photo, I'm saying: ``This is the way it works, Mikhail. If Domino's doesn't get the pizza here in 35 seconds -- [laughter] -- we get it free.'' [Laughter] I like Mikhail personally, but you have to watch the Soviets every minute. Someone accidentally noticed that several weeks after they left -- noticed they planted bugs all over the place. [Laughter] And by the way, on the matter of the INF treaty, I told the Senate not to worry about verification. I told them I'd take care of it. [Laughter] And while Gorbachev was here, I even made him write 100 times, ``I will not cheat. I will not cheat.'' [Laughter]

 

[Showing a slide of Mrs. Reagan and Don Regan] --  -- Oops! Oops! [Laughter]

 

Well, now, during my Presidency I've always emphasized diplomacy. But sometimes it comes to the point you have to use force in foreign affairs. [Laughter] And here I am, arm wrestling General Noriega for Panama. [Laughter]

 

We really enjoyed our trip to China and were amazed that the population was over a billion people. And as you can see here, the lines are terrible. [Laughter]

 

On another trip, the Government of Indonesia gave us these gifts -- and they're our friends. [Laughter] Actually, I love this shirt. I finally found something louder than Sam Donaldson. [Laughter]

 

And speaking of the press, remember during the contra aid vote when the networks wouldn't let me on the air? I bet you wondered how I finally got my message out. [Laughter] It's no secret that the press and I sometimes don't get along. In addition to my standard ploy of using helicopter noise to avoid reporters' questions, I've now added a new method to avoid questions -- tear gas. [Laughter]

 

 

I've loved almost every minute I've been in office, although there were a couple of trips to the hospital. In case you're wondering what happened here, I had just said: ``So, Don, you say you're going to write a book.'' [Laughter] But while I was recuperating the congressional leadership came to see me. And here I am asking for a colon donor. [Laughter]

 

One of my greatest enjoyments is talking to the young men and women who defend us from attack. Here I am on top of the White House -- [laughter] -- and the soldier is explaining where he thinks the next book will come from. [Laughter] It's fortunate that not everything has been spilled in these books, however. [Laughter] I mean, I hope the environmentalists never find out about this one. [Laughter] We used to fly Air Force One over Wyoming low and shoot buffalo from the window. [Laughter]

 

But I'll tell you someone I trust totally -- George Bush. He's been a wonderful Vice President, and he'll make an excellent President. And that's why I endorsed him and why I'll work hard for him this fall. Here we are listening to one of his speeches. [Laughter]

 

You do get to meet lots of wonderful people as President, and they're always bringing me things to try on. [Laughter] What struck me about this photo is that this hat fit Don Regan fine. [Laughter]

 

Now, this is an interesting photo. This young man down front there in the picture later told me he had a vision of Michael Dukakis in the Oval Office. [Laughter]

 

And I like this one of Lucky sitting on my lap. Unfortunately, my raincoat was on the seat just behind me. [Laughter]

 

Now, this is a sight I've seen many times. And you do sometimes get in the way, and you do sometimes cause a commotion. But your work has produced a permanent historical record of my two terms as President. You've been there with me. You've captured me in moments of hope and excitement during the campaign; moments of disappointment, like when General Secretary Gorbachev and I parted there in Iceland; moments of grief, such as when we were with the families of the Challenger crew; many, many moments of joy and optimism, and of course, moments of love whenever I look in Nancy's direction. You've captured what life has meant for Nancy and me over these past 8 years. And for that, I genuinely thank you.

 

And you know, there's one picture you've taken time and time again: that of me saluting the troops. I do that out of respect. You here tonight do good, hard, creative work; and I respect that, too. So, as we say our farewells here tonight, this salute's for you. And now, tonight, good night, and God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 9:28 p.m. in the main ballroom at the Sheraton Washington Hotel. He was introduced by Kenneth L. Blaylock, president of the White House News Photographers Association. Marlin Fitzwater was Assistant to the President for Press Relations.