Remarks at Bob Hope's 40th Anniversary Salute to the United States Air Force in Fayetteville, North Carolina

May 10, 1987

Mr. Hope. All I want to do, Mr. President -- I just want to welcome you. And I just want to tell you that they've been waiting, you know. They publicized that you were going to be here, so they've been waiting. And they've been waiting. They started at 10 o'clock this morning, and they've been waiting for you. And I can't tell you how happy I am that you're here, but I thought with this particular crowd that you might drop in by parachute.

The President. Well, Bob, I'll leave that to the experts. If I tried that, I might have landed on your birthday cake. [Laughter]

Mr. Hope. Yes -- the seat of government would have icing all over it, huh? [Laughter] But you know, it's great to have you here. I'm just sorry Nancy isn't with you.

The President. Well, I was going to ask her, but I was afraid she'd just say no. [Laughter]

Mr. Hope. I want to tell you, Mr. President, with all the travel and all the work you've done, you look just great.

The President. Well, Bob, you look great, too.

Mr. Hope. You do -- --

The President and Mr. Hope. Well, I hope I look that good when I'm your age. [Laughter]

Mr. Hope. You know, if vaudeville comes back, we're set.

The President. Robert, I just want to say something to all these people here, and that is that I'm sure that many of them know this has been a career with you. On birthdays, on holidays of all kinds, dating clear back to the draft days before World War II, you were out entertaining our people in uniform. And then through three wars, you went wherever our fighting men and women were to bring a little touch of home to them. And you left, and you were there, and now we're at peace, and you're still doing it. And I think it's just great of you. But also, I would like to say on behalf of your audience: Nothing in the job I have has made me more proud than these young men and women in uniform. Believe me, Bob, they are the finest we've ever had.

Mr. Hope. Well, we are ready. We are ready down there with the cue. How about that? You ready?

[At this point, the band played ``Happy Birthday.'']

Want to thank you very much for coming. You've given us all a great thrill. Where are you off to now?

The President. Bob, I don't know whether I can do it to a musical background.

Mr. Hope. You got to talk and dance at the same time. [Laughter]

The President. Well, Bob, in my lapel is a button -- I have just come from Tuskegee University for their commencement over there, and where a gentleman named General Daniel ``Chappie'' James was being honored today.

Mr. Hope. No kidding?

The President. His widow was there.

Mr. Hope. Yes.

The President. This great general.

Mr. Hope. Great man. Right.

The President. And you all can't see it, but there's a button here in my lapel, and it says that I am an honorary Tuskegee Airman.

But Bob, your birthday and all -- and I know that I have to leave, because from here it's Washington. But just before I leave, I just wanted to tell a little story that I thought they might be interested in. You know, Bob does have time to have some fun other than just entertaining like this. Now, for example, out there in Los Angeles, we've got a couple of racetracks. And Bob was going to go to the races when Hollywood Park opened. And for 3 days -- or 3 nights, I should say, he dreamed of number ``5.'' So, he went to the track when it opened, and he went right down the program to the fifth race and then to the number five horse in the fifth race. And it was named Five by Five. He bet the bundle on it; the horse came in fifth. [Laughter]

Mr. Hope. I love it. I remember when you gave me a tip years ago at the Kentucky Derby. It's the first horse I ever saw make a pit stop. [Laughter] Anyway, it's a thrill to have you here. You've thrilled a lot of people here, and they've been waiting for you, as I told you, since 10 o'clock. And you're awful good to show up.

The President. Well, Bob, thank you for what you continue to do for all of these young people. And thank all of you for what you continue to do for our country.

Note: The President spoke at 4:46 p.m. at Pope Air Force Base. Following his remarks, he returned to Washington, DC.