February 10, 1982
We've come to government at a time of economic crisis, and we've only begun to sort out the mess that had been building for 40 years. But that was before any of us were born, of course. [Laughter] But the difficulties we face today only prove the failure of the programs that came before. In the rough and tumble of political debate, as the temptations grow to waver from our course when each day brings new tests to our convictions, let us remember that our time here is very short. We're only temporary stewards of this great land, and we're not here to make our careers as bureaucrats, advocates of the status quo. We're here to make the Federal Government work for the people, to make it once more play the positive but limited role that it was intended to play.
You know, I've had the pleasure sometimes of talking to young people on campuses or in high schools, and questions come up about the Constitution and so forth. And I've read the copy of the Soviet constitution and it contains a great many terms that are in ours. They talk about a lot of things that don't happen there, like freedom of speech and right to assemble and so forth. But then I always delight in pointing out to them: Everybody has a constitution, but what makes ours different? And I just mentioned it in that last sentence. What makes ours really different is all those other constitutions tell the people what the government will do for them and let them do, and ours is a constitution that says we, the people, will allow the government to do the following things, and anything we don't allow government to do, government can't do. Government's tended to forget that lately.
Each day as you go into your offices, remember, we came to this place to pare the unmanageable size of government, to reduce its massive bulk, its powers, and its waste, to free our people and our economy from its oppressive hand. The minute that any of you start to think of government as ``we'' instead of ``they,'' we've been here too long.
I told maybe some of you the other day in a talk that I know it's hard, it's hard when you're up to your armpits in alligators to remember you came here to drain the swamp. [Laughter]
But this is our chance to restore America. And as I look at you, I'm confident we can do it. Our programs are designed to bring prosperity to all people, to start all people moving up again on the economic ladder. And reforms in our tax code, such as increased allowances for IRAs, a reduction in the marriage penalty, an easing of inheritance taxes that will allow virtually all estates to pass untaxed to surviving spouses will have particular benefit for women. And I got news for you -- [laughing] -- it ain't going to hurt the men either. [Laughter]
But we must root out discrimination wherever it exists, whether on the basis of race, religion, or sex, or any other arbitrary barrier. Together we can work to remove it from this government. And working with State and local officials, we can eliminate it at other levels.
We've launched a new task force on legal equality for women and a 50-State project that will examine State laws and regulations for discriminatory language. And incidentally -- while it's true, I confess that I don't believe in the equal rights amendment as the best way to end discrimination against women -- I do believe such discrimination must be eliminated.
While I was Governor of California, we looked at our laws and we found 14 statutes -- it was difficult to believe that anyone had ever passed such laws and that they were still on the books -- and we wiped them off the books and got rid of them. So we have to look for others and repeal them.
We must continue our progress toward the America we all dream of, the America where people are hired and promoted and rewarded on the basis of ability and willingness to work. And if all of us -- not just those of us in this room -- but all of us are committed to that goal, then together we can and will achieve it.
I said on the anniversary of our assuming office that our days of quick and sensational victories are behind us, and we have left the glamorous days of initial commitment and face the grit of the long haul. I heard somebody the other day on the air, on one of the panel shows, saying that the honeymoon is over. Well, as I remember back to last year, I want to tell you, if that was a honeymoon, romance is dead in Washington. [Laughter]
In the days ahead, I'll be relying more than ever on your commitment, your ideas, and your staying power. I believe in the course we've charted for America, and with your help we're going to stick to it.
If our priorities are clear and if we pool together, there's nothing that we can't accomplish. All we have to do is just remember why we're here.
And again, I thank all of you very much because you're here. Thank you.
Note: The President spoke at 12:39 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.