October 16, 1984

The President. Well, listen, I just want to tell you I think this is very exciting. And I know that you've come along in a world where maybe these things don't seem as astounding as they do to someone that's been around as long as I have. We are coming into a revolution that, I think, is every bit as great as the Industrial Revolution of the last century that shaped our world into the way we've known it. And there's just no limit to the heights that we can go and to the opportunities that are available to you. And this is so exciting to see, you having this opportunity.

I have been privileged recently to be in some industrial plants where already they are using some of what you, right here, are learning about the computerization of machinery, and former -- just assembly lines as we once knew them, with human hands doing a number of things.

And it's truly unbelievable to see the progress that we're making, both with regard to productivity -- the increase in it -- the saving of time, and the fact that it's going to be able to be done much more economically. And I think that what you're learning here is what is going to see us -- as we once did in that other Industrial Revolution -- in this one, it's going to see us out there able to compete and probably out-compete most of the world with regard to industry and our productivity and all that's going on.

Now, I'm not going to go on any longer than this because they told me that -- you see, I would be afraid to start asking you some questions because I'd reveal that I really don't know enough about this to ask the right questions -- but it was suggested to me that maybe you might have a few questions for me. I know we don't have much time, but if you do, fire away.

Q. Mr. President, my name is Gary Scanlon. And my first question I'd like to ask you is, do you feel that your age would have any effect on you upholding another term in the office if you were reelected?

The President. Upholding -- --

Q. Another term in the office if you were reelected?

The President. This must be with regard to some of the things about my health and age and so forth. No, I feel fine; matter of fact, I've never felt better in my life. And, yes, I'm looking forward to 4 more years because we've just started, I think, what is necessary to complement the type of thing that's going on here with regard to our free enterprise system. And I want to see it come closer to being finished.

So, no, I feel fine. I got a little gym there in the White House. I work out every day, except when they put me out on the road this way. And I've made my physical test scores available to everyone and to the media and all. And the doctors all say -- well, the way I put it is I'm not really this old -- they mixed up the babies in the hospital. [Laughter]

Q. Thank you.

Q. Do we have another questioner?

Q. Mr. President, my name is Jim Kyle. And I was wondering, what do you think was your big accomplishment since you've been in office?

The President. Well, I could say the economy and the recovery that we've made, and I suppose that would sum it up entirely. And yet, there is another one that I'm awfully proud of, and that is the change of spirit in this land of ours. There was an era of pessimism and a feeling that things were never going to be as good again as they had been in the past. All of that's gone, and every place I go in the country I find the American people are gung ho and going forward.

But with the economy: the interest rates were 21\1/2\ and the inflation for 2 years had been double digit -- 13 and 12.4 for 2 years in a row. Unemployment, as we know, was tremendous. And the interest rates now -- well, just the other day they took another little dip. The prime rate isn't 21\1/2\ anymore; it's now 13\1/4\. I'm trying to think whether I want to go into the unemployment yet or talk about the taxes. As long as I'm talking interest rates, maybe I'd better talk about the taxes -- the fact that we've been able to reduce the rate of increase of government spending from 17 percent a year down to around 6 percent a year.

And then we get to unemployment. We've created 6 million new jobs in the last 21 months. And there have been in the last 17 months 900,000 new business incorporations in America, which means they're going to be out looking for people to work. So, I think this kind of a turnaround -- yes, I'm very proud of it.

Q. Mr. President, we do have a lot of classrooms to visit, so maybe we could have just one more question, and then we'll go on.

The President. All right.

Q. I'm Randy Kimmel. And, Mr. President, Mr. Mondale has mentioned that you're going to stop Social Security and Medicare. Is this true?

The President. Not at all. And if there's one thing that makes me angry in this campaign it is that pure political demagoguery for whatever advantage he thinks he can get out of saying those things. And he's not alone. Others have been saying them, too.

No, we were faced, when we came into office, with a Social Security system that in spite of the biggest tax increase in -- single tax increase in history in the Social Security payroll tax -- it was passed in '77 by the previous administration and the previous Congress -- that Social Security was facing bankruptcy. And we started trying to talk to the opposition about -- that we had to head it off, as -- by November of 1982, they wouldn't, they wouldn't discuss with us anything about it. And by 1982, we had to borrow $17 billion to keep Social Security checks from bouncing. Then when the '82 election was over, finally they agreed to sit down, join with us in bipartisan commission, and find a solution to the financial problems of Social Security. And we did.

And we can look, now, ahead into the future for another half a century, and as far as we can see Social Security is on a solid footing. But all through all of that discussion I made it plain that I would never hold still for any change in Social Security that pulled the rug out from the people that were depending on it or from those who are looking forward in the next several years to going on Social Security.

So, I can make that pledge. And I've said repeatedly that the President should never say never, but I will never hold still for, as I say, pulling the rug out from those people that are dependent on that progam.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. All right.

Q. How about Medicare? The other half of the question: Will you ever stop Medicare?

The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], I'm familiar with the problem, and as yet they have not -- a problem similar, not quite as extreme yet, but similar to the Social Security problem. That fund, the Medicare fund, in the next several years, unless some adjustments are made, is going to -- well, we're going to have to do something to correct it, because that fund is being drained as the Social Security fund had been drained.

But we are talking some proposals. But right now what we're talking is leaning on the medical field -- doctors' fees, hospital costs, and so forth -- as to having a fixed rate there for medicare patients. They've been a part of -- --

Q. Otherwise, would you have to cut?

The President. What?

Q. Would you have to cut, otherwise?

The President. Well, we're certainly not going to take that medical care away from the people that are getting it.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

[The President spoke at 10:40 a.m. in the electronics classroom following a briefing on the programs taught in that class. He then went to the auto mechanics classroom for another briefing. He spoke to students again at 11:03 a.m.]

The President. Thank you very much. I just thought I should point out to you today that I didn't come here alone. Standing over here is your Governor and your United States Senator and your Congressman from this area.

But I know that I only have a couple of minutes to go. And I also know that you're not enrolled here -- [The President was referring to 3- and 4-year-olds attending the WILCO Area Career Center preschool.]. [Laughter] They're visitors like I am, I'm sure, in the school.

Well, what I've seen here in the brief time that's been allowed -- and I know I only have a minute or two now and we have to move on -- but I've seen more than just a school. It is career training, and it is opportunity. And we are having a technological revolution that is every bit as great and probably even greater, than the Industrial Revolution of more than a century ago that led to this great industrial power that we are.

It's a great promise here that you have of unlimited opportunities as you go forward with what you're learning here and what you're preparing to do at WILCO. You are looking ahead. You're getting sensible training that matches the needs of your community. And I'm very proud that our government could be, even in a limited way, a partner in what is going on here, because this is what America's all about. It is a partnership between the public sector and the private sector, and it has a record -- I know that part of this is our own job-training program, the Federal Government -- and you lead the Nation.

That program, nationwide, has an average rate of placement in jobs of 70 percent of the people that go through the training program. Well, you're topping that sizably; your job placement rate here is 85 percent. And I think you can all be proud that WILCO is a winner.

This career center proves something else, I think, also. And that is what I mentioned a moment ago: That when we all work together -- whether government, the private sector, the people themselves -- we can really get things done. And that's been the secret of this nation of ours for these more than 200 years that we've been here.

And I want to thank you, and I want to thank the instructors and the staff for letting us visit here today. And I hope that we haven't interfered too much with the progress of -- [applause] -- --

All right. Let me just say to you on behalf of these gentlemen that are with me here, and myself, today, it is such a thrill, certainly for me, to see you, of your generation, you young people, and the course that you have set yourselves on, because not too many years ago there were people in this country that were trying to tell us that, well, things would never again be as good as they once were.

Well, all I know is that -- I think I probably top anyone in age in this room -- [laughter] -- but I want you to know that I was born into an America where as you grew up, you knew that there was no limit to what you could accomplish, that there was opportunity out there for anyone that wanted to go after it. And that's the kind of America we have again today, and that's the kind of America that we're determined that you're going to have -- the same thing that we knew.

But it's up to you. The sky's the limit. There's every kind of opportunity out there for you.

And God bless all of you. And from what I've seen of you and other young people throughout this country, I'm pretty optimistic about the future of this country when it comes time for us to turn the leadership over to you. You're going to do darn well. So, aim high. [Applause]

Thank you very much. Thank you. I have to leave, but let me just say I shared some of your sorrow with regard to -- well, first, the triumph of the Cubs getting as far as they did, but then -- [applause] -- the sorrow they didn't get farther.

Audience. Boo-o-o!

The President. No, I want to tell you something. My career started out as a sports announcer. And back in 1935, I was broadcasting the Cubs when the only way they could win the pennant was to win the last 21 games of the season -- [laughter] -- and they did it! So, I'm supposed to be nonpartisan now and on everybody's side, but I was kind of upset there in front of the TV set when they didn't go all the way. But it was a great accomplishment.

All right. Thank you.