Remarks and a
Question-and-Answer Session With
The President. You know, this is a real treat for me -- having you here and to have, in a little while, the chance to answer some of your questions. Let me also offer a special hello to those of you who are watching on C-SPAN and -- or the Instructional Television Network. Thank you for inviting us into your home or your school today.
This marks the beginning of American Education Week, and I'm particularly pleased to be talking to American students in this, the first in a series of speeches that I'll be giving before I leave office. But before we begin here, I have a special message from my roommate. She says to please -- for your families, for your friends, for your country, and most of all for yourselves -- just say no to drugs.
last week the
That vision of self-government was the basis for the American Revolution, the first revolution of its kind and one of the most important historic events not just for our own nation but for all humanity. Because most revolutions have always just been a case of replacing one set of rulers for another set of rulers. Ours was that kind of a constitution where, for the first time, it was announced -- what I've told you before already -- that the people were in charge of the Government, not the other way around.
the Revolution may seem like something they say happened a long time ago -- to
me 200 years seems just like yesterday -- but I think it'll prove to be
these 200 years, country after country has followed our path, and I believe
that ultimately all nations will do so. It's no exaggeration to say that the
political vision of our Founding Fathers has become the model for the world.
This is true not just in the many countries that have turned from despotism to
democracy these last years, it's also true even where
it's least apparent. It's remarkable to realize that in this century even
brutal totalitarian dictatorships kneel at the feet of our Founding Fathers
when they try to counterfeit the practices and institutions of democracy in
order to claim legitimacy for their ruling their people. Dictators today from
a wise Frenchman one wrote: ``Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.''
But when dictators, even in this fraudulent way, acknowledge the basic truth
that the right to rule comes from the consent of the governed, the door to
freedom begins to crack open, and it can't very easily be closed again. John
Adams said that long before the opening shots of America's war for independence
-- he was one of our Founding Fathers, as you know -- our revolution had
already occurred ``in the hearts and minds of the people.'' And today from
the beginning, the American vision was that our country would be the cradle of
freedom for all mankind. Two hundred and thirteen years ago, in
But beyond politics and economics, we find that American culture has also spread around the world. Whether it's young people in Europe or Africa going to an Eddie Murphy movie or Japanese children visiting Mickey Mouse at the new Disneyland in Tokyo or the international jazz festivals or the American soft drinks and rock music and blue jeans that are the choice of young people from Berlin to Beijing, from Managua to Moscow, the fact is that an entire planet is watching and following us.
same thing is true with science and technology. We lead the world in Nobel
Prizes for science, and virtually all of the most important developments in
computers, communications, and biotechnology have been made in the
know, I've seen remarkable technological change in my lifetime. Maybe I'm just
going to date myself as belonging back with the dinosaurs or something when I
tell you this, but just think, I can still remember my first ride in an
automobile. Before cars, we went by horse and buggy. The horse was very
fuel-efficient but kind of slow. And if you wanted to supercharge one, you fed
him an extra bag of oats. But in pursuing your education, there is one thing I
would like to pass along to you. We should always remember that there are the
things that change and the things that don't change. The machines will change
-- the horse and buggy to the automobile and so forth -- but the people don't.
The permanent truths which give meaning to our lives don't change; they are, as
I say, permanent. The basic values of faith and family will be just as true
when people are living on distant planets as they are today. So, for
And, again, I would say that the most important thing you can do is to ground yourself in the ideas and values of the American Revolution. And that is a vision that goes beyond economics and politics. It's also a moral vision, grounded in the reverence and faith of those who believed that with God's help they could create a free and democratic nation. They designed a system of limited government that, in John Adams' words, was suited only to a religious people such as ours. Our Founding Fathers were the descendents of the Pilgrims -- men and women who came to America seeking freedom of worship -- who prospered here and offered a prayer of thanksgiving, something we've continued to do each year, and so that we'll do it again on Thursday of next week.
renewing our commitment to the original values of the American Revolution and
to the principles of ``We the People,'' we can best
preserve our liberty and expand the progress of freedom in the world, which is
the purpose for which
in the White House there's a famous painting of the signing of the Declaration
of Independence. And it shows many of the great men of that time assembled in
Independence Hall in
we're entering one of the most exciting times in history, a time of unlimited
possibilities, bounded only by the size of your imagination, the depth of your
heart, and the character of your courage. More than two centuries of American
history -- the contributions of the millions of people who have come before us
have been given to us as our birthright. All we can do to earn what we've received
is to dream large dreams, to live lives of kindness, and to keep faith with the
unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of
it's time for me to ask you for your questions, but first I'd like to ask you
one: What are some of the things that you're proudest of and some of the things
that are best about
Okay. My name is Yolanda Coleman. And I'm from
The President. Young man, you had your hand up. Didn't you have your hand up?
My name is Jason Mills. I'm from
The President. Can you speak a little louder? I -- --
Okay. One thing that I'm glad about in
The President. Yes. Anyone else with another comment? Well then, we'll get down to the questions. And what you were talking about in your freedom is something that, for example, in one country, as I have been told, the Soviet Union -- when it comes time to graduate, government representatives come in and point out to the individuals where they will report to work after they have graduated. The Government tells you what you're going to do, not like ours, where we decide, each one of us, what we want to do and then set out to do it.
Well, tell me now, let's have some of your questions. Yes, again?
War on Drugs
Q. Again, my name is Yolanda. Mr. President, do you plan to work with your wife, Nancy Reagan, in the say no to drug program?
The President. Well, yes, I am already. And we have appropriated quite a sum of money for the drug battle. And we have actually gotten more convictions of drug peddlers and longer sentences for them than any other administration. And we have intercepted more drugs and planes and boats and trucks and cars that carry them than has ever been done before. But that isn't the answer to the drugs. They'll still -- with the borders we have and the coastlines -- they can still get drugs into our country. It has to begin with you, the young people. You have to decide no to drugs. In other words, if we can't keep all the drugs from reaching the customers, let's have the customers turn against the drugs. And that is really the answer. And there is some success in that. A few years ago, 1 out of 9 high school seniors had tried drugs. Today it's less than 1 out of 30. So, we're gaining on it.
My name is Yvette Ross,
The President. No -- I'm having a little trouble -- --
Q. Do you feel that in your two terms as President that you and your administration have carried out the ideas of the Founding Fathers?
The President. Have we carried out the
plan set by the Founding Fathers? I think we have subscribed to that. When we
came into office, there were some things that we thought were very wrong,
including the fact that there were more people unemployed, inflation was
robbing the people of their earnings and their money, interest rates were high
and all. And in these last several years, we have not only restored prosperity,
but we have created almost 18\1/2\ million new jobs, added to those jobs that
were already there so that unemployment is so far down that today of all the
Americans, 16 years of age and up, to whatever age, that pool of people -- 62.7
percent of those people have jobs, are employed today. But also, more important
than that, I think we have restored the belief in
I have to move to this side pretty quick.
Federal Deficit and Line-Item Veto
Q. My name is Casey Lee, and I'm from St. Stephen's School. And I was wondering what was the most important thing that you wanted to accomplish, but that you weren't able to accomplish as President?
The President. I could sum that up very briefly: the Federal deficit -- the fact that for over a half a century our government has been spending more money than it takes in. And we have a plan working now that is aimed at 1993, of bringing us down each year. Last year we reduced the deficit by around $70 billion, and this year we're aiming at about another 30 so forth. But that is the thing.
And I think that what we're going to have to have -- and what I want to strive for -- is an amendment to our Constitution that requires the Government every year to balance the budget. And in doing that -- also a tool for the President, and it's called line-item veto.
Now, you probably don't know what that means, but I'll explain very quickly if I can. The line-item veto -- the Congress when they have ways of putting in bills a number of things instead of just a bill to get one thing accomplished. And then with all these hidden things -- and some of them are appropriations, spending bills and so forth -- the President either has to veto the whole bill or let it become law. And sometimes they attach them to a bill that you just can't veto. Line-item veto is what I had as a Governor. Forty-three Governors in the States have line-item veto. It means that you can go into that bill and pick out that single item that has nothing to do with the whole bill and veto that. And I think the President should have it, like the Governors do.
Federal Budget Deficit
Hi. My name is Ben Allnutt. I go to
The President. No, I don't believe that it is that big a problem. You mean our Federal deficit? No, I think that with this thing we have going along -- yes, there will be a time when in the future, when government bonds come due and so forth -- whether it be the taxpayers at that time that are paying them off. But if we can get this plan we're working on into effect, that will come along gradually as those bonds come due. And that, I don't think, will be a great threat to our economy. Truth of the matter is, bad as our Federal debt is, it is much milder than many other countries as a percentage of our gross national product.
My name is Cameron Fitzhugh, and I'm from
The President. I do. That's a big argument that's going on in government. And I definitely believe it is because one of the principal reasons that we were able to get the economy back on track and create those new jobs and all was we cut the taxes. We reduced them because, you see, the taxes can be such a penalty on people that there's no incentive for them to prosper and earn more and so forth because they have to give so much to the Government. And what we have found is that at the lower rates the Government gets more revenue. There are more people paying taxes because there are more people with jobs. And there are more people willing to earn more money because they get to keep a bigger share of it.
today, we're getting more revenue at the lower rates than we were at the
higher. And you know something, I studied economics in college when I was
young, and I learned there about a man named ibn-Khaldun,
who lived 1,200 years ago in
Minority Educational Opportunities
My name is Crystal Adair, and I'm an eighth grader attending
The President. Well, we have vastly increased the amount of Federal money that is going into education, although remember that education has always been in the province of the State and the local communities. So, the share of cost of education is not as great for the Federal Government, but we have increased it. We've increased the money that is available for scholarships and for workfare programs for students that have to work their way through, as I did, and also for loan funds for students.
I can assure you that, with regard to any hint of discrimination, we have done more than any other generation -- or administration, I should say, to punish those who attempt to discriminate and to make sure that the opportunities are equal for all. And one of the great things that our administration did when we came in here was immediately turn on to helping something that I think is historically wonderful in our country, and that is the Negro private colleges and universities. And in fact, we helped one of them out that was facing bankruptcy, and bailed it out so that now they are proceeding in a better situation than they've had in the past. But those opportunities are there.
Back there, the young man in the back row, and then I'll take you in the sweater.
Q. Stuart Washington from
The President. Yes, I think the new frontier in the whole world is out there in space. And we've made such progress in it, and it has proved so rewarding. This isn't talked about much, and many of you probably don't realize that experiments conducted on the shuttle when they're up there in space -- on all kinds of things that had nothing to do with space -- have brought benefits to us back here. Firemen, for example -- a fireproof fabric has changed and made their fireproof garments that they have to wear in battling a fire much lighter -- and that they can do that. Medicines -- certain medicines in which only up in the gravity-free space can they achieve certain mixtures. And they've come up with things that have been beneficial in that way. So, this is very important that we continue to do this. We were set back by the Challenger tragedy, but we must continue.
My name is Chris Allen. I'm from
The President. What we feel about the new -- --
Q. Gun ban law.
The President. The gun -- --
The President. Gun
ban? Well, I think there has to be some control. But I thought that in
if I could, I know we're running out of time, but let me just tell you
something that -- I got the strangest letter when I was Governor. There was
talk about having a gun ban in
I thought he made kind of some common sense. And I don't know why to this day he ever chose to send the letter to me.
All right, this gentleman.
Anil Artis from
The President. The what?
Q. Do you think the ``Saturday night special'' should be banned?
The President. Well, I don't have very
much of a quarrel with the very cheap weapon and so forth that makes it so easy
for the wrong people to have a gun. I would like to see us concentrate on what
I described in
Ms. White. Mr. President, thank you very much on behalf of the students. Students, we now have time for one more question.
Women Political Leaders
Mr. President, my name is Nora Taylor, from
The President. I don't know, but believe me, I'm certainly not against it. I have a feeling, though, that probably the first thing that'll happen is there will be a woman Vice President; and then that will kind of open a door to that. But I have no quarrel with women being President at all.
a matter of fact, the statesman in the world that I have met that I respect the
most is the Prime Minister of England, Margaret Thatcher; and she's done a
remarkable job for
I have to quit. I'm sorry about so many hands that didn't reach me. Maybe you'd have to write and leave them with me -- your questions.
just want to tell you one little added thing about our country, and then I
leave. This, again, is a letter I received not too long ago from a man, who
wrote and told me this: He said, ``You can go to
Thank you all. It's been a treat.
Note: The President spoke at in the State Dining Room at the White House. Vera M. White was the principal of Jefferson Junior High School.