Remarks at a Rally in Richmond, Virginia, for Gubernatorial Candidate Marshall Coleman
October 27, 1981
The President. I have on other occasions spoken a line that I'm going to speak again, but I've never meant it more than I do now: ``That is a hard act to follow.'' [Laughter]
Governor Dalton, Governor Godwin, Senator Warner, Congressman Bliley, Nathan Miller, Wyatt Durette, the lovely wives of these gentlemen who are up here, Helen Obenshain, our good Virginia friends, the man who brought us here tonight, of course, and his wife, Marshall Coleman -- Governor Coleman, if the people of Virginia do what I think they're going to do:
You know, I have a warm feeling about Virginia, and I feel like I'm among old friends tonight.
Audience. You are! [Applause]
The President. Thank you. I've discovered that somehow living in Washington leads to an emotional attachment to Virginia.
Audience. We love you.
The President. Thank you. I can run down to Quantico and ride horseback through your beautiful countryside. And why not? After all, according to what I read, I only work 2 or 3 hours a day. [Laughter]
Of course, I've had some experiences. Some years ago in World War II, I was a reserve officer in the Cavalry, and I was called to active duty. And I found myself assigned to Colonel Phillip Booker, 34 years Regular Army, Virginia Military Institute. A little later in the day, he passed by and says, ``Reagan, Mrs. Booker and I'd be delighted to have you for dinner tonight.'' And I'll confess that I thought, ``Oh, oh, this isn't bad.'' I was scared to death, a second ``lieuie'' first time out, and I thought, ``but here maybe Hollywood has had some effect or something.''
I didn't realize at the time that he'd had a bad experience when he first was assigned to active duty, and from that time on had always invited to dinner, on the first day, a new officer assigned to his command. But that night, in the company of a couple of admirals and a general or two, and their wives, and after a cocktail or two, there was a moment of silence. And I said, ``Colonel Booker, I think you and I have something in common.'' And he says, ``What's that, Reagan?'' And I said, ``Well, you're a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, and I was in a picture once called `Brother Rat.''' [Laughter] And he said, ``Yes, Reagan, I saw that picture. Nothing ever made me so mad in my life.'' [Laughter]
But seriously, there's much more about Virginia. It stands, as you have been told already tonight, as a hallmark of sound, responsible government. And this was demonstrated by your support during the recent budget and the tax battles. In keeping with Virginia's fine tradition of fiscal integrity, our program received the unanimous backing of your congressional delegation and of both of your fine Senators.
With the urging of Governor Dalton and Marshall Coleman, Virginia put itself on the line to get Federal spending and taxes under control, and your Commonwealth has been, as Governor Godwin told you, a shining example of the meaning of federalism -- a testament to the principles of conservatism that provide opportunities, jobs, and hope for all citizens.
When I'm talking to Virginians, I say again, I know I'm talking to friends. We have much to be thankful for in America. The most precious gift we have is our political freedom -- the legacy left us by Virginians like Jefferson, Madison, and Patrick Henry. But all of Virginia's great leaders are not found in past history. In the last two decades, you've been blessed with dynamic leadership that well represented the conservative convictions of the men and women of this Commonwealth.
Virginia's leaders, proud and independent, provided you with progress while maintaining your traditions and heritage. Seven days from now, you and your fellow Virginians will chart the future of this State. You will determine more than just who will be Virginia's next Governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, you'll reflect Virginia's commitment to preserving the tried and true concepts of shared power between the Federal and State governments.
Now, I believe that's one of the most important things that we're attempting in our economic program and all the other things in Washington. You will choose between time-honored beliefs, and an uncharted course of conduct which has led us far from the concept of sovereign states assembled together in a federation without losing their sovereignty.
Now, it would be inappropriate for me to tell the people of this State for whom they should vote, so I won't. [Laughter] However, since I just happen to be passing through town -- [laughter] -- I thought I might say a few words about a man who's been a strong supporter of our economic program, a man whom I tremendously respect -- a fellow by the name of Marshall Coleman. He certainly is qualified to be the Governor of Virginia. His roots run deep. He has the depth and background necessary to do what needs to be done to keep this State on an even keel. And as the election draws near, people should carefully examine the records of the two candidates, examine them as they were pointed out to you just a few moments ago. And I hope they would do so free of the glare of advertising, in quiet reflection, ignoring the image-building that has characterized this campaign. And if they do, then Marshall Coleman will be the next Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
You know, as an ex-Democrat myself, I never cease to be amazed at how conservative liberals can sound during election years. Well, Marshall Coleman not only sounds conservative, he is conservative in the finest meaning of that word. He understands how to deal with crime and how to keep budgets under control. He's got the experience and the qualifications to do the job. I'm looking forward to working closely with him once he's elected Governor of the State of Virginia, just as I have with Governor John Dalton.
It isn't going to do us any good to clean up the mess in Washington unless the right kind of public officials are elected at the State level, and not just our gubernatorial candidates. We need the right kind of people in the legislature. And don't send Marshall Coleman to the Capitol alone, he's going to need Nathan Miller and Wyatt Durette. He's going to need them to ensure that Virginia keeps moving in the right direction.
These men are committed to the principles in which we believe; they're conservative, independent, qualified for the jobs they seek, and willing to work hard once they're elected. They're the kind of public officials I'm counting on to make our economic program work. It'll only work if we have people in State government who believe in federalism, who believe as the Constitution says that certain powers are reserved to the States and the people, and not to an all-powerful central government.
I appreciate this chance to talk with you because nothing would make me happier than to know when I call the Governor of Virginia, I'm going to get someone on the line who believes that we should restore the tenth amendment of the Constitution.
Your election next week is important to Virginia's future and to the Nation. I'm going to talk a little of my own shop for a minute here.
I'm sure many of you are aware that there's a vote tomorrow in the United States Senate concerning the sale of radar planes to Saudi Arabia. I'm deeply concerned about this -- not about whether or not the Saudis will actually get radar planes; they'll get such aircraft, whether we provide them or not -- what concerns me is how a rejection by the Senate will affect peace in the Middle East and what it will do to our ability to provide the leadership so necessary for the security of our Nation and the free world.
We need the good will of the Saudis. They provide us with a significant amount of our oil, yes, but more than that they represent a moderate force in the Middle East. A rejection tomorrow, I'm afraid, will be a step toward closing them out of any peace initiative, and that's why I've suggested that tomorrow's vote is as important to the ultimate security of Israel as it is to our own interest.
I would never risk the security of Israel. And that security depends on a stable peace in that troubled part of the world. And peace can only come by drawing the moderate Arab nations into the peacemaking process, along with Egypt and Israel, who are already hard at work at that.
Your Senators know this. Bless them both. And they know what this vote will do to our ability to provide leadership not only in the Middle East but in the rest of the world.
Now, this is a vote that's vital -- vital to the West, vital to America, vital to Israel and the cause of peace in the Middle East. But tonight -- I just had to talk a little shop for a minute -- tonight let's get concerned about the vote Virginians are going to cast on November 3d.
You have 7 more days. Don't let down. Buttonhole your friends and neighbors, yes, and a few strangers. I agree with everything that's been said here about postcard registration. That isn't our problem with people not turning out to vote. The reason that we've declined year after year in the number of people going to the polls is because the Federal Government year after year has usurped so much power and authority that government seemed farther and farther away from the people.
When you buttonhole those people to make sure they get to the polls, remind them of the new course that's being charted for this Nation and how important it is to have Virginia involved in this crusade to restore fiscal responsibility to government, freedom to the individual, and autonomy to the Commonwealth of Virginia -- the autonomy authorized by the Constitution, which for too many decades has been usurped by Washington.
Spend these 7 days making sure that Marshall Coleman will be the next Governor of Virginia and give him the team to do what has to be done.
You know, it's been a wonderful experience, this battle that's been going on in Washington the last few months. First of all, there was putting up with the shock of those who found out that you were going to try to do what you said you were going to try to do. [Laughter] Sometimes you felt like you had to wave your hand in front of their glazed eyes to get their attention. But the biggest miracle has been hearing from the people. Oh, yes, the people like yourselves -- the floods of telephone calls when we mentioned it on television, the mail, the wires, the things that told our elected representatives what you, the people, wanted them to do.
But other calls that were so thrilling and so exciting:
-- To get a call from a union worker before Solidarity Day in Washington, to tell me that he not only wasn't going to go but to show me or send to me a copy of the letter that he had sent to the head of his union explaining why the union shouldn't go and why they should be in support of what we were trying to do. The courage of a man to do that and stick his neck out that far.
-- But then to get a letter from a 16-year-old boy who said, ``From what's going on there, I'm sure that you're going to save the country for kids like me.''
-- To get a letter from an enlisted man on a submarine that says he knows he's speaking for his 180 shipmates, and he wound up saying, ``We may not have the biggest navy in the world anymore; we've got the best.''
-- To get letters like the letter from a lady down in New Orleans who told me that she was black, told me her age -- and I won't reveal it here, but she was very elderly -- and then to tell me, ``Thanks for destroying the war on poverty.'' She said, ``Maybe now, we at last can get back to growing our own muscles and taking care of ourselves the way we should.''
-- To get a letter from a lady in Illinois who told me that she was one of three CETA employees at the time when we were changing that program. And she said, ``I just want you to know I only have -- really, there's only enough work for one of us. We don't need three.'' She said, ``As we came to the end of last year, the last fiscal year, there was money left over.'' She said, ``I was ordered to go out and buy new office furniture because we couldn't have any money left over or the grant might be reduced for the coming year.'' So, she said, ``Here I sit at my great new executive desk with nothing to do.'' And I thought that was too much. I happened to have been born in Illinois myself. So, I called in some of our people, and I read them that letter. And I said, ``I think she deserves better than what she's got.'' And you know something? She is now employed in a $25,000 a year job out in the private sector and happy with her work.
She says it beats daytime television -- [laughter] -- which gets me to the final thing that I just want to mention here that's part of all of this and part of why we need these gentlemen who are on the platform and need them in your State Capitol; and that is, I have believed for a long time that the history of America is based on voluntarism, that we have done good works.
I remember when I was a young man and the great earthquake virtually destroyed the cities of Japan -- and America came to the rescue. It wasn't a government program or foreign aid. The people of America mobilized, and a national chairman was appointed by the President, and the people raised the money and went to the rescue. And it was true with the famines in India, it was true with the floods and the storms here in our own country. The first act wasn't to declare something a state of emergency. The first act was people in the rest of the area or around got together and created funds to send help to their neighbors, even though they didn't know those neighbors that lived in some other part of the country.
Well, the biggest thrill I'm getting today is, as we have set out and appointed a national committee to encourage voluntarism, the letters I am getting from communities, from organizations, from people all over this country that are already engaged in such programs. Do you know that in five States, there is a program where with private enterprise, they go in with volunteers to the high schools and they seek out the high school students who are about to graduate who are the least likely to succeed. They don't look for the prizes; they look for the ones who will have the least chance of getting a job. And in those five States they have had a tremendous success in putting those young people into jobs. The young people stay in the jobs and progress in the jobs, and before that, their high school graduates averaged 2 years out of high school before they went on welfare.
This, all being done by Americans like yourselves who still have faith in their neighbors and faith in this system and faith in freedom. And I am so excited and thrilled by what I'm seeing of America that says, ``You bet. Just point to what you want solved, we'll do the rest.''
So, we're going to get along just fine, and you're going to get along just fine, and I'm going to get along just fine with Governor Marshall Coleman. Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 7:03 p.m. in the Virginia Room at the John Marshall Hotel, after being introduced by Senator John W. Warner.
Following the rally, the President returned to the White House.