September 20, 1984

The President. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Audience. 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!

The President. All right. Thank you. As long as you feel that way, well, it's okay, it's all right with me.

Well, thank you, Governor Branstad. And thank all of you for a very warm welcome.

Before I begin the remarks today, let me say a few words about the cowardly act of terrorism that we learned of early this morning. The suicide attack against our Embassy annex in East Beirut has saddened us all, of course. It's another painful reminder of the persistent threat of terrorism in the world. I have talked with our Ambassador, Reg Bartholomew, on the way out here, who, although injured himself, expressed pride on behalf of the dedicated Americans who are serving with him.

In this moment of anger and sorrow, our prayers are with those who are bereaved, while our commitment to the cause of peace remains firm. I'm proud, as all Americans should be proud, of the brave Americans who are serving our nation throughout the world in the cause of peace for people everywhere, and even more proud after talking to our Ambassador there, who emphasized that we must continue, we can't just withdraw in the face of this kind of terrorism.

But now, it's good to be back in Iowa, in the very heart of our nation. And it's good to be in the proud and thriving town of Cedar Rapids. And I was most pleased to be accompanied on the way out here with the fine Members of the Congress from your State, Tom Tauke and Cooper Evans and Jim Leach and, too, our superb Senators, Chuck Grassley and Roger Jepsen. Believe me, we couldn't have accomplished what we have without our majority in the Senate, and Chuck and Roger are in the front rank of that Senate majority.

And I had another greeting that really touched my heart here today, and that was a special greeting from 6-year-old Katie Beckett. Three years ago, Katie was trapped in a hospital. Her doctors agreed that Katie, who had trouble breathing, could safely go home but it seemed there were regulations that forced her to stay, even though home care for Katie would have cost only a fifth of the cost of her hospital bills.

Well, Congressman Tauke told Vice President Bush about Katie, and the Vice President told me. And I engaged in what is one of my favorite hobbies -- cutting a little redtape. And today, Katie is living where she should -- at home with her parents.

But like all America, Cedar Rapids has a story to tell. Not so many decades ago, this land around here was open prairie -- rugged and unproductive. And while I mention prairie, I have to say you've got a school named Prairie. And many years ago, the students of that school, when President Eisenhower was coming here, formed out on the athletic field a greeting to him. And a young lady who's a member of our staff, Jan Duvall -- now her married name -- was a part of the "I'' in that greeting. [Laughter] And I think she must have had something to do with it, because just a few minutes ago coming past that school, out there the full length of the athletic field was a greeting to me by all the students, forming the letters -- [applause] -- --

Well, as I say, this was open prairie. And then the pioneers began to settle here: Yankees, Germans, Swedes, Norwegians, and immigrants from many other nations -- men and women as hardy as the land. They plowed the sod, they planted crops, they dotted the land with farmhouses and built lovely towns like Cedar Rapids. And soon, Iowa contained some of the richest farmland in history, feeding tens of millions in America and around the world.

Cedar Rapids itself became a dynamic city, making breakthroughs in agricultural marketing and management, and helping develop the radio and electronics industries, and establishing fine high schools like Washington, Jefferson, and Kennedy, and Prairie, and great colleges like Coe, Mount Mercy, Kirkwood Community College. And you've shown the world that with opportunity there's no limit to what Americans can accomplish.

Yet in recent years, we must remember, the light of opportunity in our country almost went out. In just 5 years, taxes nearly doubled, average monthly mortgage payments more than doubled, and the real, after-tax income of the average American began to decline. In foreign policy we saw strength replaced with weakness, and America lost the respect of friend and foe alike. They imposed a grain embargo that made you farmers pay for their mistakes. How do you show that you're strong by punching yourself in the breadbasket? You'll forgive me for this one, but their foreign policy went against the grain. [Laughter]

Our opponents preach a great deal about fairness. Well, it's true that they were fair in one respect: Their policies didn't discriminate; they made everybody miserable. [Laughter]

We could go on and on, but we don't want to talk about the failures of the past. Believe me, neither do our opponents. So let's talk about something that Americans are good at, and that's success.

After years of drift and decline, this great nation is moving forward again. And during the past 4 years, we've knocked inflation down from 12.4 to 4.1 percent. And since then, in the most recent months -- that's for the whole previous years -- it's down as low, on a monthly basis, now, as 2.9 percent. During the past 20 months, we've created 6 million jobs and brought unemployment down at the fastest rate in the last 30 years. Our progress won't be complete until every State and every American can feel all the warm sunshine of America's economic expansion.

There's one way that we could bring this economic expansion to a halt, a sudden halt. And, yes, our opponents have found that one way -- raise taxes. Now, I know it's hard to believe, but after decades of a rising tax burden they've actually proposed a massive, new tax increase. That's to pay for the promises they've made in this campaign. All told, their tax increase would be the equivalent of more than $1,800 increased tax per household. Their tax increase is a giant stop sign that would bring our entire economy and your opportunities for the future screeching to a halt. Are you prepared to sit back and let them do that to America?

Audience. No!

The President. You know, we all watched the Olympics this summer, and we cheered to see American athletes go for the gold. Well, making our economy bear the burden of their tax hike would be like having a coach tell an Olympic swimmer to do the laps carrying an anvil or a runner to sprint with a ball and chain. Come November, the American people are going to get to vote on our coaches. And come November, the American people are going to tell Coach Tax Hike to go find another team someplace else.

Our pledge is for tax simplification, to make the system more fair and easier to understand, so that we can bring yours and everybody's income tax rates further down, not up. Tax simplification can provide powerful new incentives for economic growth. We'll fight for enterprise zones to help Americans in disadvantaged areas get off unemployment and welfare and start climbing the economic ladder. And if we can keep government under control, we can do it by enacting a line-item veto and a constitutional amendment mandating that the Government stop spending more than the Government takes in.

You might have noticed that our opponents are trying to appeal to traditional Democrats by comparing themselves to Harry Truman. Well, President Truman kept a sign on his desk that said, "The Buck Stops Here.'' If our opponents are elected, their sign will say, "Your Bucks Stop Here.'' [Laughter] And forgive me, but Harry Truman believed -- with F.D.R. before him and John Kennedy after him -- in strength abroad and self-reliance at home. To all those Democrats -- and I hope there are many here -- who feel that under its present leadership the Democratic Party no longer stands behind America's responsibilities in the world, that it no longer represents working men and women, we say to you: ``Join us.''

Before this decade is out we must raise scholastic aptitude tests -- but I'm getting ahead of myself here in shuffling my notes. What I intend to say before I get to aptitude tests is, to those that I have termed -- or probably are still Democrats, as I once was for most of my life, come walk with us down the new path of hope and opportunity that we have. As our economy grows, we'll need to go forward with the bedrock values that sustained the first Iowa settlers and that nourish us today. And they're the simple values of faith, family, neighborhood, and good, hard work. And we're already making a good start.

In the past 4 years we've helped lead a grassroots revolution to recommit our schools to an agenda for excellence that will reach every land -- or schoolchild in this land. And yesterday, we learned that the average scholastic aptitude test scores have gone up a full four points. That doesn't sound like very much, but that's after a nearly 20-year decline that's totaled around 100 points or more. It is the second increase in 3 years, and it's the biggest increase in 21 years.

But I believe we can do better. So, I'm asking you to help America lift her sights. Before this decade is out, we must raise the scholastic aptitude test scores nationwide, make up half of all the ground that was lost over the last 20 years, and reduce the dropout rate from almost 28 percent to 10 percent or less.

We must continue cracking down on crime. We say with no hesitation, yes, there are such things as right and wrong. And yes, for hardened criminals preying on our society, punishment must be swift and sure. In 1980 the crime rate was rising. Last year reported crime dropped 7 percent. That's the steepest decline since 1960. And I'm pleased to learn that Iowans have made a particular effort to seize the initiative in combating crime. You've established a crime prevention Citizen's Watch program in every one of your counties. That's an accomplishment that few States can match.

May I just interject something on that subject here? There've been two tragedies in Iowa that have saddened us all. In 1982, young Johnny Gosch disappeared while delivering newspapers on his morning route in Des Moines. Then, just 6 weeks ago, another newspaper boy, Eugene Martin, also disappeared.

Well, I want you to know that I've spoken with Jim Gannon, the editor of the Des Moines Register. We've pledged our full support in the search for these two boys. And this past June, we established the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington to help locate missing children across America. So far, the Center has received thousands of telephone calls and helped hundreds of parents. Nancy and I join all of you, I'm sure, in praying for the safe return of Johnny and Eugene. And I pledge to you that none of us will rest until the streets in Iowa and throughout this nation are once again safe, particularly for our children.

Now, let me just conclude by saying that we're rebuilding America's defenses, our nation is stronger, America is at peace. And since 1980, not a single nation has fallen to Communist aggression. And the people of one nation, Grenada, have been set free. As I will tell Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko when I meet with him in a few days, we seek no territorial expansion and are making no effort to impose our will on anyone. But we will never again allow the United States of America to let down its guard.

And if I could leave you with one last thought from my heart, it's that the American dream is a living thing -- it's always growing, always presenting new challenges, new vistas, and new dreams. And throughout Cedar Rapids and throughout Iowa, there are young couples today saving to buy homes of their own, mothers and fathers who want to give their children a better education, men and women with dreams of making the good earth of Iowa still more fruitful, the good town of Cedar Rapids still healthier and more prosperous, and America herself stronger and better still. My vision of America, and I know it's one you share, is of a land where all have the opportunity to work hard and to make these dreams come true.

And if you don't mind, I have to tell you a little personal experience that came to my mind as I was looking down at those green fields in those last few minutes before we arrived. Back in 1948, in that other life of mine -- [laughter] -- I was sent to England to be in a movie called ``The Hasty Heart.'' And on the weekends, never having been there before, I would rent a car and driver and have him take me out to see the countryside. And particularly, I happened to have mentioned that I'd heard about pubs out there in the countryside that were 700 years old. Well, one day he pulled up in front of one and apologized because it was only 400 years old. [Laughter]

Well, we went in, and we sat there. And we were being served by a nice, matronly woman. And there was an elderly man down at the other end of the room serving other people. And pretty soon -- she probably heard us talking -- and she said, "You're Americans, aren't you?'' And we said, "Yes, we are.'' `"Oh,'' she says, "during the war, there were a bunch of your lads, a great bunch of them, stationed just down the road.'' And she said, ``They would come in here in the evenin', and we'd have a songfest.'' And she said, "They began calling me `Mom' and called the old man `Pop.'

"And then,'' she said, "one Christmas Eve we were in here all alone, and the door burst open and there they was.'' She said, "They came in, and they had presents for us.'' And by this time she's looking beyond us, and there's a tear on her cheek. And she's really looking back into memory in telling this. And then she looked down and she said, ``Big strapping lads they was, from a place called Iowa.'' [Laughter] When she said this, I could just picture those big strapping lads, and then I had a tear on my cheek. [Laughter]

My friends, together we can make America that shining land of opportunity and hope. And with you by our side, I know we will. Thank you all for coming out here, and God bless you.

Audience. 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!

The President. All right. I have to move on. But just one promise before I go: that you will send these Congressmen back there, and you'll send Roger Jepsen back to do what he's been doing.

Okay. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:03 a.m. at the Cedar Rapids Municipal Airport. He then traveled to Norway, IA.