Radio Address to the Nation on the Summer Olympic Games

 

September 17, 1988

 

My fellow Americans:

 

Let me begin this talk with a special message to the people of Texas. Last night many of you endured the ravages of Hurricane Gilbert. Today, as you wait for the waters to recede and the cleanup to begin, Nancy and I and all Americans hold you in our prayers. We all have one blessing to count: warning came early. You were ready; so are we. The Federal Government has spent the last week preparing to help during and after the storm. We've offered help, as well, to our international friends who felt Gilbert's full force. As I told Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga, we're ready to play an active role in helping them rebuild.

 

Now, on a happier note, if you're like me, you look forward every 4 years to a very special event: the summer Olympics. As you know, this week and next, the Olympics are being held in Seoul, South Korea. Last night athletes from all over the world marched around the Olympic stadium there and stood and watched as a single torchbearer climbed the steps and lit the Olympic flame, marking the start of the games.

 

I'm sure that like me, you'll be proud of all of these young men and women, and particularly of our own American athletes. Our athletes are a remarkable group, not only for their achievements but for how they represent so much of what is good and beautiful and splendid about this sweet and promised land. As Vice President Bush said, when, representing all of us, he saw them off 2 weeks ago: they stand for ``the country of the little guy, the country where, no matter what the circumstances of your birth or background, you can go anywhere and do anything; where the millionaire has no more vote than the pauper; where the sense of possibilities is so palpable you can almost breathe it in the air.''

 

The Vice President was right, and I've always thought you could see the spirit of which he spoke in all our Olympic athletes. You can see it in the way so many of them will pause in their daily training in Seoul, as our athletes have at past Olympics, to help competitors from countries where good coaching is hard, if not impossible, to find. You can see it in stories that have been told about American Olympians over the years, like the one about a boyhood hero of mine, Jim Thorpe. In the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Thorpe took the gold in both the pentathlon and the decathlon. He was the most talked-about competitor at those games. With his medals won, Thorpe was presented to the King of Sweden, who said, ``You, sir, are the world's greatest athlete.'' And what was Thorpe's reply to this august European monarch? It was simple, straightforward, and American. He said, ``Thanks, King.''

 

And you can see the American spirit in the lives of every one of our team members at these games. This team comes from all over our nation, from the rough and tumble streets of our brawny cities to the quiet lanes of our vast countryside, from the suburban hills of southern California to riverfront towns in the Midwest. They represent every aspect of our country's life and a shining hope, too, a crystalline beacon of opportunity that we know is the heart of America. One athlete, raised in very modest circumstances, recalled recently that, ``We were rich as a family.'' And that wealth of love has given her the strength to achieve her dream, just as throughout our history the wealth of family love has given countless millions of Americans the strength to pursue their dreams in our land of opportunity.

 

There's so much we have to be proud of in our Olympic team this year. In all teams from all over the world, no group of young men and women is quite like them. They're filled with optimism for the future, with faith in the boundless possibilities of humanity, with zest for a life pursuing excellence, pursuing achievement, pursuing the limits of their God-given abilities, and piercing beyond what they thought were those limits. As an Olympic athlete from another nation recently marveled about our nation and its people, he said: ``In America, they appreciate achievement and faith in the future. In fact,'' he said, ``it's a prerequisite for getting around.'' And he concluded, contrasting the energy of the United States to other countries he had known: ``For everybody in the street in America, every day is a competition.''

 

Yes, our athletes have a love, a happiness, and an exuberance in being American. They're as patriotic as the Pledge of Allegiance; as red, white, and blue as the flag. They're filled with the spirit of our land in all of its magnificent diversity, a diversity you can see even in their faces. When you look at most other teams, it's easy to tell what continent or region they're from. But we Americans come from every continent and region. Ours are the faces of all humanity, just as our nation was built by the hopes of all humanity. So, as you watch these Olympics, remember -- win, lose, or draw -- how much we have to be proud and thankful for. After all, we're Americans.

 

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.