Remarks Upon Departure From the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

 

December 16, 1988

 

I can't tell you how much I've been enjoying my visit here at Mr. Jefferson's university. It's great to be an Irishman at a place where students eat in a dining room called ``O-Hill.''

 

Now, I know that this is exam week, so I won't keep you long. [Laughter] But for those of you that are taking finals in literature, let me offer one helpful hint. If you're asked to name the single most memorable passage written by William Shakespeare, the answer is not ``Wahoo-wa!'' Everyone knows it was Chaucer who wrote that. [Laughter]

 

I must confess, when I attended Eureka College -- and let me stop here and say hello to my brother TEEK's -- I was involved with so many activities that I didn't always give my studies the time I should have. Even now, I sometimes wonder how far I might have gone had I fully applied myself -- but academic performance really matters. You know, years ago, when the news first came out that I was running for Governor of California, someone asked my boss, the great studio head, Jack Warner of Warner Brothers, what he thought of the idea. And Warner reportedly said, ``No, no. Jimmy Stewart for Governor, Reagan for best friend.'' The only way I can explain that is Warner must have seen my grades. [Laughter]

 

But you know, as I look at this remarkable university which, from its academic ideals to its magnificent grounds, is so fully the product of a single man's vision, I have to say that Thomas Jefferson would be proud of this school -- yes, proud of how far it's come, but even more for how closely it's stayed true to its traditions. In fact, I remember when Thomas Jefferson told me personally that his -- [laughter] -- that his favorite movie was ``It's a Wonderful Life.'' I know that film has become an institution here. And if it would be hard to imagine the mythical village of Bedford Falls without George Bailey, as played by my friend Jimmy Stewart, think how much harder it would be to imagine Charlottesville, much less America, if there had been no Thomas Jefferson.

 

To imagine that is almost beyond our grasp, but the underlying idea is very plain and also very exciting: that your life not only can but necessarily must make such a great difference in the lives of others, and in the world, that without you little would be the same. And that's never been more true than for your generation because today the rate of change is so remarkable that each one of you will be creating, literally inventing, a new future each step of the way.

 

This summer, when I spoke to the students at Moscow State University, I told them that the new technological or information revolution will fundamentally alter our world, shatter old assumptions, and reshape our lives. I said, we're emerging from the economy of the Industrial Revolution -- an economy confined to and limited by the Earth's physical resources -- into, as one economist titled his book, ``The Economy in Mind.'' Well, let me put it this way: I was an economics major in college, and the traditional formulation was that the three factors of production were land, labor, and capital. But in the emerging economy, land may mean little more than the limitless grains of sand used to make microchips. Labor is coming to mean the creativity of the writer of computer software. And capital has become electronic blips of credit that rocket around the globe, crossing national borders in search of opportunity at the speed of light.

 

This is a new economy being created, one that exists beyond material resources or centralized planning or government control. It's driven from the ground up by our new heroes, the entrepreneurs, the explorers of the modern era, who conceive, create, and produce, and in doing so discover the future one piece at a time. I dare say that it's a path to the future that Thomas Jefferson would have approved of. We know of his belief in the individual. One glance at his beloved Monticello is enough to tell us how much he loved technology and invention. And he was also a man who respected the hard evidence that the real world provides, and that evidence has been indeed hard and clear.

 

The fact is that in this age of entrepreneurship and innovation, our economy has been thriving as never before. Starting 8 years ago, we charted a new course that lifted America up from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We did it by cutting taxes, reducing the growth in government spending, and eliminating unnecessary regulation. We got government out of the way, and we put our faith in the people so they could work their magic. The result is more Americans working than ever before and the longest peacetime economic expansion ever recorded. And the nations of the world are following our example and initiating our policies. America is leading the world into a bright and glorious tomorrow. And today more than at any point in human history, we can truly say that the future belongs to the free. And America is the land of the free. And there have been a few voices raised here which illustrates, yes, how free America really is.

 

So, you can play a special part in this future. You'll be its author: Take full advantage of the wonderful life that lies in store for you. Rejoice in your freedom, sample the full richness of the opportunities that lie before you. Help one another, trust in yourselves, and have faith in God, and you'll find more joy and happiness than you could imagine. And always remember that you are Americans, and it is your birthright to dream great dreams in this sweet and blessed land, truly the greatest, freest, strongest nation on Earth.

 

I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed being with you here today. Actually, my only regret is that I can't stay here for Monday's Cavaliers' game. So, let me say it now: ``Hoo-ra-ray, hoo-ra-ray, hey, hey, UVA!'' And let me ask you this: On Monday night, if you think of it, could you sing the ``Good Ole Song'' just one more time for the Gipper?

 

You know, I heard a cry there or something that sounded as if it was downplaying corporations. Well, you know, I grew up in a certain age --  --

 

[At this point, the President was interrupted by hecklers in the audience.]

 

You know, I get a sneaking feeling that if they had the kind of government they want nobody would be able to do what they're doing.

 

I know you've been standing out there in the cold a bit, and I know that I'm behind schedule so far. Well, I'm always behind schedule. [Laughter] But I just -- I've got a new hobby. And I'm going to let you in on it. I love to do it when I'm winding up a speech, and this is wound up. [Laughter]

 

I have taken to collecting jokes that I can absolutely prove and establish are made up by the Russian people and told to each other, among the Russian people, which reveals they've got a great sense of humor, but also shows that they have a certain cynicism about their way of life and their way of government.

 

And, you know, in the Soviet Union, to buy an automobile -- and most of the automobiles simply are government-owned and driven by the bureaucrats. But to own an automobile you have to put your order in 10 years in advance. And you have to put up the money 10 years in advance. [Laughter] And this one fellow -- the story they've made up and they tell is about this fellow that's finally got the money, goes in, goes through all the process of signing the papers and putting down the money. And then the man behind the counter said, ``All right, come back in 10 years and take delivery.'' And the fellow said, ``Morning or afternoon?'' [Laughter] And the fellow behind the counter said, ``Well, 10 years from now, what difference does it make?'' ``Well,'' he said, ``the plumber's coming in the morning.'' [Laughter]

 

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

 

Note: The President spoke at 11:54 a.m. on the steps of the Rotunda. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.