Remarks at a Luncheon With Community Leaders in Chicago, Illinois

 

September 30, 1988

 

Thank you, Jim, and thank you all very much. And I'd like to just say a word myself about the late Al Mazewski. And, yes, I did know I was sitting beside her at lunch. And you all know he was a major supporter of the Polish Solidarity union, and he made such a contribution to our beloved America. Yes, we will always remember him.

 

Now, I'm also pleased to say that Congressman Jack Davis is here with us today. He's someone who has been in the forefront of our crusade to get tough on illegal drug use. Well, now, what can I say? Mrs. Wozniak and Stan -- the food, the music -- this is all just wonderful. You know, as a boy growing up in Dixon, Illinois, this was the great city to the east that represented unimaginable levels of action, excitement, and adventure -- and that was even before I'd heard of Chicago politics. [Laughter]

 

But actually, I'm very grateful to all of you. With your help, Vice President Bush and I carried Illinois in 1980 and 1984. And as for this year, let's just say that Victory '88 is more than just a slogan. It's a plan. It's a prediction. And come November, I think they'll be saying it was a prophecy.

 

But today I have to say, it's simply a pleasure; it's a pleasure to be here. As someone who's had the chance to do more than a little traveling, I can easily say Chicago is one of the great cities in the world. What can compare with the vibrance and good humor of Chicago? Frank Sinatra is right: ``Chicago is my kind of town.'' From the sounds of the streets to the tidy homes that have passed from one generation to the next and the churches that anchor your great neighborhoods, you can sit on your front steps and see the world walk by and know that God has been good to America and that He certainly loves Chicago.

 

When His Holiness Pope John Paul II came to Chicago 9 years ago, he was met by a vast audience of some 1\1/2\ million people. I know that many of you were there that October day in Grant Park. As the wind blew off Lake Michigan, the Holy Father spoke of our ancestors, and he said: ``They came from many different countries'' and had ``thrown their destinies together and now write a common history.'' Yes, to write a common history -- and for the past 8 years we've been writing what is one of its most exciting and remarkable chapters.

 

We've brought employment to an all-time high and are now in the longest peacetime expansion ever recorded in our nation. But our strength as a nation, as you all know so well, is that we can march into the future, leading the world into a new age of growth, technology, and innovation. But we can do so without leaving behind the vital moral foundation: the basic values of faith and family that make ours a great nation and on which all that we accomplish has been built.

 

Yes, the family is the bedrock of our nation, but it is also the engine that gives our country life. And it's the reason that we produce. It's for our families that we work and labor, so that we can join together around the dinner table, bring our children up the right way, care for our parents, and reach out to those less fortunate. It is the power of the family that holds the Nation together, that gives America her conscience, and that serves as the cradle of our country's soul.

 

You know, I've said before, there really are only two things the liberals don't understand: the things that change and the things that don't. The economy, technology -- these things change, and under us for the better. But America's basic moral and spiritual values -- they don't change.

 

Now, I should be careful here because I know that this is a bipartisan gathering. Some of you favor the Cubs, and others favor the White Sox. [Laughter] But in fact, as I watched a certain debate this past Sunday, it struck me that the difference between the liberals and Wrigley Field is that the liberals are still in the dark. You know, after the debate, I had to say, Isn't that just like an ACLU member? He didn't even have a prayer when he needed one. And this is only the beginning; after the next debate, I think we'll be up 2 to nothing.

 

Well, the truth is that on issue after issue the liberals have, in the words of the writer G.K. Chesterton, submitted to ``the modern and morbid weakness of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal.'' They've turned principles at the core of our common culture and common history into partisan issues that hang in the balance as we prepare to elect a new President and Congress.

 

Now, unlike some liberal organizations, we don't believe that separation of church and state requires ending the Catholic Church's tax exemption or removing the words ``under God'' from the Pledge of Allegiance. And we don't favor the right to retail what they call nonobscene child pornography, nor do we think that the criminal penalties for selling marijuana should be repealed. We don't think tuition tax credits for children in parochial schools are unconstitutional or that prostitution should be legalized or that children should be denied the right to begin their schoolday by joining with their classmates in a voluntary prayer. No, that's not what we believe. And I think it's time for us to say that America's most basic and fundamental values are not unconstitutional.

 

Now, I'm not saying that all liberals agree with all of these views. But these issues -- and there are other examples -- raise an important question. You'll recall a few years back, political figures had to disassociate themselves from groups on the right with far-out right views. Well, isn't it now time for responsible people to do the same thing with far-out groups on the left?

 

Let me tell you what's exciting, what, in fact, is the big news of the 1988 campaign: that this campaign is developing on the issues and the American people are finding out what I said some time back -- that the politics of the opposition can be characterized as liberal, liberal, liberal! Now, I'm a former Democrat. But I think you know what I mean when I raise questions about the distinction between rank-and-file-Democrats and the liberal leadership of that party in Washington. The liberals may try to mouth some of our words, but when they talk about values and family, they mean something very different. For example, as part of their so-called profamily agenda, they have proposed a Federal child-care assistance program. But under the liberals' program, if you want assistance and wish to leave your child with his or her grandmother that day, Grandma will have to be licensed by the Federal Government.

 

Audience members. Booo!

 

The President. One of the liberal congressional staff members behind the bill was asked by a reporter if this was true -- that grandmothers would have to get Federal licenses to take care of their own grandchildren? And the reply came from that man, ``Yes, of course, it's true.'' After all, and here's the quote: ``How else can you design a program that receives funds?'' Licensing grandmothers -- can you believe that? [Laughter] Next thing you know, they'll say that grilling kielbasa is an environmental hazard. [Laughter] I don't know about you, but I enjoyed mine very much.

 

Now, there are other values that we should think about this year. I hope I'm not the only one here old enough to know that today is an important date. Today is the 50th anniversary of the Munich pact, the naive gesture of appeasement that brought us the great nightmare of this century: the Second World War. The vain boast that we had achieved ``peace in our time'' was followed 5 months later by Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia and 6 months after that of Poland. The lesson from Munich is too clear and too important to be forgotten. That sad lesson is that to be weak is to invite war. And that's why I say to you: America must never be weak; we must always be strong. And George Bush and I will not rest until freedom is restored to all the peoples of Eastern Europe.

 

But even today there are those who've forgotten the ancient principle of peace through strength. And their innocence and naivete would put in question all that we've achieved since Vice President Bush and I took office, all the progress toward ending the twin evils of totalitarianism and nuclear terror.

 

Yes, they would break faith with anticommunist freedom fighters. They oppose a strategic defense against nuclear missiles. They would cancel essential defense systems and receive nothing in return. They're against the B - 1 bomber, and they would wipe out -- their proposed budget would eliminate two carrier battle groups from the Navy. And even when they say they now favor weapons like the new Trident missile and Stealth bomber, listen closely and you hear them whisper that it's just in theory that they favor these systems. They're not prepared to deploy them.

 

And not long ago, I vetoed a defense authorization bill that Congress sent to me that embodied much of what the liberals want to do to our nation's defenses. Some liberals said I was playing politics. No, I was just defending America, which is what I shall continue to do.

 

I remember the consequences of weakness, and I know you do, too. When freedom was threatened, it was boys on this block who took off their baseball caps and put on their helmets and donned their country's uniform and went to war. Those who would deny America the means to keep the peace have forgotten their history. They have forgotten our veterans and our war heroes, and they've forgotten the boys on this block. But America must not, and will not, ever forget.

 

Well, over the last 8 years, America has begun a great enterprise of resurrection. We've worked to recover the bedrock values that you and most Americans never departed from. We have rebuilt our defenses. Our country is at peace, our economy is strong, and our future is bright. When I took office, on any given day, fully half of our military aircraft could not fly for lack of spare parts. Half of our naval vessels couldn't leave port for lack of spare parts or crew. Well, all that has changed. And incidentally, if you haven't had a chance to see some of them lately, today's young people in uniform -- of all the things I'm proud of, I'm more proud of them than anything I've seen.

 

And there's one last issue, yes, more important than even all the other crucial matters we've already discussed. Ladies and gentlemen, just a few years ago, I wonder how many of us could really have believed then, that so many of our fondest hopes and dreams for America could come true?

 

And of those things that have happened, how many of us could have imagined 8 or even 4 years ago, that one day a President of the United States would have an opportunity to stand, as I did a few months ago, there in the Lenin Hills at a podium at Moscow State University and tell the young people of the Soviet Union about the wonder and glory of human freedom? And I was talking to the ones I should have been talking to, because they couldn't get all the student body in the auditorium, so they had decided that the ones who could come to hear me were all members of the Young Communist League. [Laughter]

 

Well, what a great moment we have before us, and, oh, how future generations will dishonor us if now, in a moment of sudden folly, we throw it all away. So, let us go forth then, you and I, to tell the American people what really is at stake: the fate of generations to come, a hopeful vision of a world of freedom, and a bountiful future of reverence and peace for our children and all the children of the world.

 

So, yes, some say that it's time for a change. Well, ladies and gentlemen, let's just remember: we are the change. We started it 8 years ago, and we're going to continue it and extend it to Congress if you do the right thing at the polls on November 8th. I think George Bush had it right at the convention: If you have to change horses in midstream, doesn't it make sense to switch to the one who's going the same direction you are?

 

I can't leave you without admitting to you that I have a new hobby. I have discovered that the people of the Soviet Union make up stories, jokes, and tell them among themselves, which reveals they've got a great sense of humor, but also a little cynicism about their way of life. And just as I was coming home from the Moscow summit, I got another new one that was handed to me. This is their story, this is the way they treat it, and it shows a little difference between two systems.

 

The story has it that I and Gorbachev are in his limousine. And I had the head of our Secret Service unit, and he had his chief security man with him. And we were sightseeing. And we got out to where there was a waterfall. And we got out of the car to look at the waterfall. And the Secretary General Gorbachev said to my man, ``Go ahead, jump. Go over the fall.'' And my man said, ``I've got a wife and three kids.'' So he turned to his own man and said, ``Go on, jump. Go over the fall.'' And he did. And my man went down the rocks around the fall to see if he could be of help. And there he was down there wringing out his shirt. And he said, ``When he told you to jump and go over the falls, why did you do that?'' He said, ``I got a wife and three kids.'' [Laughter]

 

So, thank you all, and God bless you all.

 

Note: The President spoke at 12:49 p.m. at Wozniak's Casino. He was introduced by Gov. James R. Thompson. In his opening remarks, he referred to the late Aloysius Mazewski and his wife, Florence, who was seated beside the President. He also referred to Representative Jack Davis; Stanley Wozniak, owner of the casino; and Mr. Wozniak's mother, Theresa.