February 5, 1981
The President. Is Charlie Gould here? Where's Charlie? Hey Charlie, how are you? Well, now you'll make me all homesick again. [Laughter] I know you've been welcomed and probably several times since you've been here. I'll just add mine to it.
You're now in the famous Rose Garden. Now, I have to confess something to you. When I came here to live a couple of weeks ago, I had always thought that the Rose Garden, the whole thing, was roses. [Laughter] I didn't know that it was a grass garden with a few roses along one side. I better not say that to Nancy or she'll get busy with a spade -- [laughter] -- and we'll have them.
Anyway, you are welcome, and I am so proud, first of all, of the Hearst Foundation doing this, the Senate sponsoring also at this end a visit of this kind. You've been chosen -- very obviously have leadership qualities or you wouldn't be here -- two from each State in our Union, and I know you must be very proud of having been selected for this. We're very proud of you.
For how many of you is this the first visit to Washington? If you haven't already, I know you will see all of the historic monuments and the places here that should be seen. Have you been to Lincoln's Monument yet -- Lincoln's Memorial? You have. Then it won't do me any good to tip you off. [Laughter] I was going to tell you that I learned the first time I was here, someone told me that if you stand on one side of that massive statue and look up at his face, you see the compassion of Lincoln. If you go around to the other side and look -- and the artist must have intended this -- you see the strength of the man, a difference in his face depending on which side you're standing. But you've been there now, and I know they won't want to interrupt the schedule for you to go back. Just take my word for it -- it's there.
But seriously, I think you all know, or you wouldn't be here, the importance of leadership in our country -- what you represent. Many years before your time there was -- I know you've heard of him -- there was a great cowboy philosopher and wit. Many people remember him more as a comedian than as a philosopher, but Will Rogers -- and it's so easy to be cynical these days; you're bombarded with so many words every day -- and Will Rogers responded once about the people who hold elective office. He said, ``They are no better and no worse than the people who send them there. But they are all better than those who don't vote at all.'' So, use that leadership in the future. Use it to get your peers, your generation involved in public life. Ours is a government truly by the people, and we've tended many times in the past just through apathy on the part of our people to forget that and turn it over to someone else. You're going to run your lives, or politicians are going to run them for you. The choice is up to you. They are -- and we -- I forget every once in a while -- [laughter] -- we are your servants to make that system work.
I'm going to quit running off here now, because you'll all get cold from standing there.
The President. For a Californian it's cold.
But I had a copy of the Soviet Constitution, and I read it with great interest. And I saw all kinds of terms in there that sound just exactly like our own: ``freedom of assembly'' and ``freedom of speech'' and so forth. Of course, they don't allow them to have those things, but they're in there in the constitution. But I began to wonder about the other constitutions -- everyone has one -- and our own and why so much emphasis on ours. And then I found out, and the answer was very simple. That's why you don't notice it at first, but it is so great that it tells the entire difference. All those other constitutions are documents that say that ``We, the government, allow the people the following rights,'' and our Constitution says ``We, the people, allow the government the following privileges and rights.''
We give our permission to government to do the things that it does. And that's the whole story of the difference -- why we're unique in the world and why no matter what our troubles may be, we're going to overcome all of those troubles -- and with your help and support, because it's an ongoing process.
God bless you all for being here, and thank you for being here.
Note: The President spoke at 11:20 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening remarks, he greeted Charles L. Gould, vice president of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, which sponsored the program.