February 15, 1984
I'm delighted to be here and see so many good friends, and it's always a pleasure for me to be joined by two of the most important women in my life, Nancy and Maureen.
And warm greetings to those joining us by satellite across the country. At the Susan B. Anthony birthday party in Los Angeles the celebrations are being led by former First Lady Betty Ford, by the First Lady of California Gloria Deukmejian, and by Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole. And also present is a longtime friend, Carol Burnett.
In Washington State, Republican women are hosting a party at the Governor's mansion, and among the distinguished guests are Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler and a very active Republican woman, Jill Ruckelshaus. Thousands more are joining us by way of the C-Span television network, and I want to welcome all of you to this special party.
And now before I say anything else, let me give each of you my heartfelt thanks for all the time and labor that you've given to the Republican cause. In the end, it's not gloss and glitter but your determination and hard work that's made it possible for us to put our beliefs into practice -- and will again in November. And all of you are especially important, because you demonstrate the Republican commitment to American women.
Tonight we mark the birthday, as we've been told, of a great American. Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820 in an America where women were virtually excluded from public life. In many States it was difficult for women to get a public education. Women were denied the right to control their own property and, worst of all, across the country women were denied the most fundamental democratic right, the right to vote.
Throughout her life Susan Anthony struggled to correct these injustices. She traveled the land, organizing women's groups, writing pamphlets, and speaking at conventions. To dramatize her cause in 1872 she registered and voted, and for that simple act she was arrested, tried, and fined. But her trial helped awaken our country's conscience.
By the turn of the century, the women's suffrage movement that Susan Anthony helped to create had begun making progress. Year by year States granted women improved legal status. Susan B. Anthony died in 1906, but the movement lived on. And in 1920 the 19th amendment finally gave women the right to vote.
We can all be proud that as women have taken on new roles in American society, the Grand Old Party has given them firm support. First, Republicans gave their backing to women's suffrage. Then our party became the first to elect a woman to the United States Congress. And we're the only party ever to elect women to the United States Senate who were not first filling unexpired terms.
Today the two women in the Senate, my friends Nancy Kassebaum and Paula Hawkins, are Republicans. We have nine outstanding Republican women in the House, and we're pleased to have three with us here tonight -- Congressmen Nancy Johnson, Claudine Schneider, and Olympia Snowe. And this year our party faces no task more important than reelecting Senator Kassebaum and her colleagues in the House and sending still more skilled women to the Congress. To give an old phrase a new twist, ``A woman's place is in the House -- and the Senate.'' As a matter of fact, Republican women ought to increase their numbers at every level of elective office.
In the executive branch we've appointed women to positions of top responsibility, as you've been told here tonight, women like our U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, our Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler, and our Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole. And I'm honored to have loyal and talented women like Ambassador Faith Whittlesey in the White House. And one of my proudest days in office was when I appointed Sandra Day O'Connor to be the first woman in history on the United States Supreme Court.
Together, we Republicans are working to reshape America's destiny. And when historians write the story of these years, they'll find that skilled and talented women played vital roles.
Think back to the mess that our country was in just 3 years ago. Big taxing and big spending had led to soaring inflation, and interest rates and government redtape had smothered productivity. You know, I have to -- I just have to pause here and say that we've heard about some of the issues that the Gang of Eight are bringing up. [Laughter] Fairness is one. Well, I have to say this about our opponents: They didn't discriminate; they have been fair; they made everyone miserable. [Laughter]
But the broken economy hit women especially hard. The majority of elderly Americans are women, and they found their purchasing power eaten up by inflation. Working women saw taxes eat more of their paychecks. Homemakers found that double-digit inflation made it harder and harder to buy groceries and pay the bills. And the thousands of women who wanted to start their own businesses saw 21-percent prime interest rates slam shut the doors of opportunity.
And then our administration took office. And with Republicans in control of the Senate, we went to work to make a new beginning. We reduced the growth of Federal spending, pruned needless regulations, reduced personal income tax rates, and passed an historic reform called tax indexing that means government can never again use inflation to profit at the people's expense.
To help all Americans achieve economic equality we reduced the marriage tax penalty, almost doubled the maximum child care credit, increased the limits for IRA and Keogh contributions, and eliminated estate taxes on family farms and businesses for surviving spouses. But our job is not complete.
We've asked the Congress to enact legislation designed to provide women with more equitable treatment in pension benefits and IRAs, to further increase child and dependent care tax credits for low- and middle-income workers, and to enforce delinquent parent support payments.
Today, less than 3 years since we set our policies in place, our nation has one big program to help every American man, woman, and child. It's called economic recovery.
The prime rate is only about half what it was when we took office. Inflation plummeted by three-fourths, to only about 3 percent last year. Auto sales were up 15 percent in 1983 to the highest level since 1979. Housing starts rose by a healthy 60 percent. Factory orders are up, and last month retail sales jumped 2.2 percent, the fifth straight monthly gain. And tomorrow morning, if you're out around 8:30 -- and I can't tell you any more than that -- you're going to hear some good economic news in a couple of areas.
American workers' real wages are rising, and last year 4 million Americans found jobs. With this recovery, you'll be glad to hear that the unemployment rate among adult women has dropped from 9.1 to 7.1 percent, and today more women have jobs than ever before in our nation's history. Just as important, the jobs women hold are getting better and better. In 1983, women filled almost three-quarters of all the new jobs in managerial, professional, and technical fields. And the number of women-owned businesses is growing four times faster than those owned by men.
I believe that we must also move boldly to develop the potential of space, while preserving our resources here on Earth -- our land, water, and air. And let us preserve our other resources which are just as precious -- our values of faith, family, work, neighborhood, peace, and freedom, which make us a good and loving people.
Just as we're regaining our confidence at home, we're bringing a new sense of purpose and direction to American foreign policy. Today the world knows once again that America stands for freedom for humankind. Around the world we're working hard to support democracy and to build peace.
And that brings me to our relationship with the Soviet Union. We know it isn't what we want it to be. Time and again in public statements and in private communications to the Soviet leadership I've stressed our commitment to a serious and intensive dialog, one aimed at building a more constructive relationship, avoiding war, and reducing arms as a starting point. But we want to accomplish much more, and for that we need a good-faith effort on both sides. That's the message Vice President Bush carried to Moscow earlier this week.
In his meeting with General Secretary Chernenko, Vice President Bush emphasized once again America's desire for greater mutual understanding and genuine cooperation between our two countries. He also made clear our concerns over issues such as human rights and regional conflicts.
Let me share with you the Vice President's impressions of the new Soviet leadership that he passed to me following his meeting in the Kremlin. The atmosphere was positive. Although Secretary Chernenko did not depart from standard Soviet positions, he did appear ready to put our relationship on a more constructive basis. Vice President Bush and I have the impression that the new Soviet leadership is making an effort to downplay rhetoric and to explore ways to promote a more useful dialog.
America has always been willing to meet the Soviets halfway to find solutions to the many problems that divide us and to reach fair arms reduction agreements. If the new Soviet leadership decides to join us in a good faith effort we can accomplish much good together, and there's no better time to start than right now. If the Soviet Government wants peace, then there will be peace.
And finally, let me say a few words about recent events in Lebanon. We all know the peace process has been painfully slow, but we must continue to search for peace and stability in that deeply troubled country as long as there is the slightest chance to bring it about. You need only see the pain and suffering in the eyes of the Lebanese people, and particularly the children, to understand that we have a moral obligation not to abandon those people.
In recent weeks I have become increasingly concerned about the situation there. Should the various Lebanese factions fail to establish a basis for reconciliation, it would only encourage the radicals and extremists and put the Lebanese people in even more danger. And this would be more dangerous for the whole world.
The presence of the multinational force, the MNF, must never be an excuse for the Syrians and their clients to avoid a negotiated solution and reconciliation. So to use our diplomatic and military resources to the best advantage, and after consultation with President Gemayel, we have decided to shift our forces to an offshore deployment.
The recent outbreak of violence only reaffirms the importance of the actions that we're taking. If a moderate government were overthrown because it had the courage to turn in the direction of peace, imagine the consequences for the future. We will remain steady. We will pursue every avenue in the search for peace and stability in that troubled region.
All of us share a dream of America as a great force for peace and goodwill among nations. And all of us share Susan B. Anthony's dream of America as a land where every citizen is judged not according to color or sex, but on the sole basis of individual merit; a land where every woman and man is free to become all they can be. I believe that, under God, we're making that great dream come true.
Thank you all, again, and God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke at 10:06 p.m. in the Hall of Flags at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building.