May 27, 1985

Please all be seated, and I want to thank all of you, Senator Paula Hawkins, Congressman Ireland, Congressman Connie Mack -- McCollum, the distinguished people here, and Mr. and Mrs. Eisner, all of you ladies and gentlemen, and these wonderful young people.

We have come here -- our first stop this morning on this Decoration Day was at Arlington Cemetery -- and I just wonder if because of the special character of this day, Memorial Day, if we couldn't perhaps bow our heads for a few seconds in silent prayer for those who have given their lives that we might live in liberty. [A silent prayer was observed.] Amen.

Well, indeed it is an honor for me to be here today to receive a magnificent gift that I received on a second and very much warmer Inauguration Day. I understand that in preparing for this event more than 2,500 young people worked with sponsors in the private sector who donated food, transportation, and lodging. And each of you who helped to make this private sector initiative possible has my heartfelt thanks.

Tomorrow evening I will address the Nation about a dramatic proposal to reform our tax system. It's a proposal intended to launch a new American revolution and to give to you young people, as you come of age, a nation of ever-greater freedom and vitality and strength.

You know, today we're enjoying a standard of living that, when I was your age, could not even have been imagined. Buoyed by medical breakthroughs and rising standards of living, the life expectancy of Americans has been increasing steadily for 50 years. I've already surpassed my own life expectancy at my birth by 20 years. Now, there are a lot of people that find that a source of annoyance, but I appreciate it very much.

Today we take for granted so many inventions that inspired wonder not long ago -- the polio vaccines of Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin; television, first in black and white and now in vivid color; drought-resistant seeds and cold-resistant grains; computers in the workplace and the home; spacecraft that can orbit the Earth for days and then land gently on a desert runway. Despite the predictions so many made during the Great Depression when I was a young man, life in America today is not worse -- it's far better. And let us ask, then, what made it so? Was it government directing our daily lives?

During these past five decades the Government has indeed provided vital services and helped improve life for many people. No one doubts the necessity of a strong national defense or the role our military has played in keeping us free. Likewise no one doubts the importance of the government safety net for those in genuine need.

Yet our national experience shows that when government grows beyond these two limited duties, when government lays claim to more and more of our resources and begins, through massive regulation and high taxation, to impinge on our individual freedoms, then our economy grows not more prosperous but less so.

Throughout the 1970's, for example, government's growth was unbridled, yet our economy stagnated. By 1980 the gross national product registered zero growth. If it was not the Government that spurred our economic growth was it perhaps our natural resources? Our vast land has always been blessed by a mighty multitude of resources -- broad plains, powerful rivers, and rich deposits of minerals. Yet in a sense, the primary reality of a resource exists not in the earth but in the minds of the men and women who give it usefulness and value.

Consider oil. A century ago oil was nothing but a thick, foul, and useless liquid. It was the invention of the internal combustion engine that gave oil its function. Or think of sand, sand that used to be nothing but the stuff that deserts are made of. The development of the silicon microchip has given sand a vital function. And today we use it to make chips that give home computers their intelligence, monitor functions on aircraft, and guide our satellites through the dark reaches of space. No, it's not been so much our resources or our government that have given us our enduring vibrancy and growth but the initiative and enterprise of individual Americans.

Air travel, for example, has become commonplace because test pilots like Lindbergh had daring, and engineers like Boeing and Douglas had the wits and determination. The Government might have wished it could simply decree a polio vaccine, but it took years of unremitting effort and dedication by Doctors Salk and Sabin to make the vaccines a reality.

In this setting, one story of a private initiative is particularly appropriate. Back in Missouri in the early 1900's there lived a farmboy who discovered that he had a knack for drawing barnyard animals. As an adult, he began to put his animals into cartoons, and he became convinced that he could entertain people by telling stories about a little creature with a high voice, red trousers, and yellow shoes and white gloves.

Professionals in the field made fun of the idea, and to produce his first cartoons the young man had to sell or pawn virtually everything he owned. But today, 57 years later, this man and his creation have become permanently fixed in the history of our popular culture. His name was Walt Disney; his little creature was Mickey Mouse.

The determination that each of these heroes of progress demonstrated came from within. Yet in each case it was crucial to the success of their efforts that they were operating in a climate of economic liberty -- in a free market where they could make use of pooled resources, experiment with new techniques and products, and submit their plans and hypotheses to the test of practical experience.

This aspect of freedom, economic freedom, is one of the distinctive characteristics of life in our nation, as interwoven into the American legacy as freedom of speech and press. It has enabled our people to make our nation into a marvel of economic progress, and, as with all the freedoms that we enjoy, it's our duty to cherish and protect it.

Just as the American people rebelled against oppressive taxation some two centuries ago, the reform that I will announce tomorrow will represent a dramatic effort to make our tax code more simple, efficient, and fair and place more resources into the hands of your families and, ultimately, you yourselves. It'll expand our economic freedom and clear the way for even greater economic vitality than that which we enjoy today.

Nor will the benefits be economic alone. With more resources at their disposal, the American people will be able to provide greater support to the institutions that they themselves value -- our schools, universities, the arts, our churches and synagogues. As our economy grows they, too, will flourish.

John Marshall said, ``The power to tax involves the power to destroy.'' If so, then the power to cut taxes must surely be the power to create -- the power to force government to stand back and let the people themselves give expression to the spirit of enterprise -- building and imagining; giving to you, our sons and daughters, a nation of ever-greater prosperity and freedom.

My friends, thank you again for the gift of this magnificent inaugural parade. May you enjoy all the blessings of a free and bountiful nation, and on this, the eve of the second American revolution, may you always remember the enduring truth that our tax plan seeks to embody and that Americans have cherished through the ages -- God made man for liberty.

Thank you all, God bless you, and now, let the parade begin.

Note: The President spoke at 12:41 p.m. from a reviewing stand near the American Adventure Showcase. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Mr. and Mrs. Michael Eisner. Mr. Eisner was chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Walt Disney Productions. Participating in the parade were the bands scheduled to perform in the 1985 Inaugural Parade, which was cancelled due to extremely cold weather. Following his remarks, the President traveled to Miami.