January 2, 1988

My fellow Americans:

This is the first time I will have spoken to you in 1988, so let me begin by saying very simply what your friends and neighbors will have said to you already: Happy New Year! And as Americans, we do indeed have much to be happy about as this New Year commences. Our nation is at peace. Our economy is growing with new jobs being created at the rate of more than 200,000 a month. But of course, there is still much to be done. Join me then in considering some of the issues that we'll be facing as 1988 gets under way.

The first matter I want to mention is one already before the Congress: the confirmation of Judge Anthony Kennedy to a seat on the Supreme Court. The Senate hearings on Judge Kennedy have already taken place. You may have seen portions of the hearings on television. He made clear his belief that it's a judge's job to interpret the law, not make it. And on an issue that affects every American -- crime -- Judge Kennedy's testimony and record are clear. Judges must respect the rights of the accused, but they must also keep firmly in mind the rights of crime victims and of society itself. The Supreme Court has been one Justice short for many months now. So, I urge the Senate to confirm Judge Kennedy with all due speed.

The next item I want to discuss with you is one that touches on my recent summit meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. You will remember that Mr. Gorbachev and I signed a treaty on the first day of that summit, and now our administration will forward that treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent. You will hear me speak more about this treaty, the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty, in the days ahead.

For now, let me just say this: Under this treaty, for the first time in history, an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles will be eliminated. The Soviets will be forced to destroy four times as many deployed warheads as will we. And the verification procedures in the treaty are the most stringent in the history of arms control negotiations. What does this add up to? A good deal for the United States and our allies and a step toward a more secure peace for all the world. I welcome the hearings the Senate will hold on this treaty. Yet here again, I urge the Senate to move forward on ratification.

Next, the economy -- I don't want to delve into ancient history as this New Year begins, but it's important to keep in mind what the economy our administration inherited some 7 years ago was like: double-digit inflation, the highest interest rates since the Civil War, rising unemployment. Our economic program changed all that and changed it so dramatically that today America has completed its 61st month of economic growth with low inflation. And just what was our economic program? We cut the number of government regulations and slowed the rate of growth of government itself. But most important, we reformed the tax code and cut individual income tax rates, restoring incentives for hard work, risktaking, and innovation.

In an hour, I will be signing the U.S.-Canada free trade agreement, a truly historic pact that will create more jobs and lower prices for consumers on both sides of the border. It is a win-win situation for both countries. Even more importantly, the agreement is an example of the market-opening steps the entire world should be pursuing and which the United States will push in the new Uruguay round of the GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations]. Protectionist measures, some of which are in the trade bills passed by the House and Senate, are backward looking, not forward looking.

Finally, of course, 1988 is an election year, a year in which we will choose new officials at all levels and, yes, a new President. To tell you the truth, I've always loved election years -- the rallies, the excitement, all of it so American. But more than the excitement, something of immense importance will be taking place, for this year we will be taking stock of ourselves as a nation and deciding in a free and peaceful democratic election -- that is still the marvel of much of the world -- where our highest hopes and dreams will lead us. Yes, in 1988, the 212th year of our independence and the 201st of our Constitution, ours remains a free nation truly ruled by we the people.

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

Note: The President's address was recorded at 12:05 p.m. on December 23, 1987, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House for broadcast at 12:06 p.m. on January 2.