Remarks at a Fundraising Luncheon for Senator Slade Gorton in Seattle, Washington
December 2, 1985
Thank you all very much, and I was delighted to see these young people here, because that's what these elections for the next few times are all about -- them and the America that they are going to grow up in. Well, I thank you, Senator Gorton, for your very kind words about party duties. I think I should confess: I'm doing penance for all those wasted years before I -- [laughter]. Senator Evans, Congressmen Miller, Morrison, and Chandler, Bill Ruckelshaus, and you ladies and gentlemen, it's an honor for me to be here today in support of a courageous champion of good government and fiscal responsibility, your Senator, Slade Gorton.
Slade has been a powerful voice for the State of Washington, and an ally of mine on the major issues of the day. And if I have one message for you, it is: Please send Slade Gorton back to the United States Senate. I was going to ask if I could count on you to do that, but I think you've already answered that. I didn't think you paid this much for lunch just to hear me talk. [Laughter] It's a pleasure to be here to keep Slade in a job in which he has so distinguished himself.
There's a story -- you knew I'd have a story -- about a fellow who had a different kind of job in mind, but he was out there working for the job. And then he saw an ad in the help wanted ads, where the zoo wanted a worker at the zoo, and he immediately applied because he had always wanted to work and loved to work with animals. And when he got there, though, he found that the job was to put on a gorilla suit, sit in the cage, and be the gorilla for the people who came to visit the zoo. Their old gorilla had died, and they had not yet received delivery of his successor. Well, he was a little upset by that, but then they explained that it would only be temporary and then he would have a legitimate job in the zoo. So, he took the job. And pretty soon he got a little bored just sitting there in that cage and people coming by, so he began doing tricks, particularly for the children that had come by to see the gorilla. And there was a rope in there and he'd get on the rope, and he'd swing around, and he was kind of getting into the act pretty good. And one day, very rambunctious, he swung so far on the rope that he landed in the lion's cage. And the lion started for him, and he stood up, and he started screaming, ``Get me out of here! Get me out of here!'' And the lion jumped on him and said, ``Shut up, or you'll get both of us fired!'' [Laughter]
Well, seriously though, Slade and I were both elected in 1980 because there was a critical job to do. And thanks to the policies of tax and tax and spend and spend, our country was heading toward an economic catastrophe. We were suffering the ravages of both double-digit inflation and stagnation. Our military strength had been permitted to erode, and our confidence as a people was shaken. Turning around that situation was no easy job, but with the leadership of Senate Republicans like Senator Gorton, we went to work. It took some doing to reverse the decades of more and more government as the answer to every problem and to put our program in place, and even more to stand firm until it had time to produce results. There was enormous pressure to go back to the policies that we'd left behind. Let me just ask you: Were we right to stick to our guns? [Applause] You just made my day. [Laughter] I think most Americans feel the way you do.
We've now had 3 years of growth. Last quarter the gross national product grew at a healthy 4.3-percent rate. Now, that was higher than had been projected by a great many of the critics and the naysayers in Washington. The economic resurgence has opened new opportunities and a chance for a better life for all people. We have created nearly 9 million new jobs since the recovery began. Almost 2 million businesses, most of them small, independent businesses, have been incorporated in the last 3 years. And during this same time, we've reduced inflation -- it's been 3.2 percent for the last 12 months. And there are still some diehards who refuse to acknowledge that the changes we've made have had anything to do with America's dramatic progress in these last few years. They sort of remind me of the fellow who was asked which was worse, ignorance or apathy, and he said, ``I don't know, and I don't care.'' [Laughter]
We can all be proud that there's a new spirit alive in America today. We've left cynicism and pessimism behind and recaptured that confidence and optimism that has been a hallmark of our people. We have it within our power to lay the foundation for a generation of prosperity and peace. With the leadership of responsible, hard-working, future-oriented elected officials like Senator Slade Gorton, we'll do just that. We can be proud that since he arrived in our Nation's Capital, Senator Gorton has remained immune to the Potomac disease, which causes too many elected officials to give up a better tomorrow for America in order to placate special interests today. I think that reflects well on you, the people he represents.
For the people of Seattle and the State of Washington, like the people of my home State of California, have always been able to see a great future just beyond the horizon and understand that it is not beyond our power to get there. You are America's doorway to the Pacific rim, the most dynamic region of the planet. We have to keep leading the great advances that are being made there, or we'll be left behind by people who are waiting for no one. While others are overwhelmed by fear and apprehension, you are excited by the vista of new challenges and opportunities. Underscoring this, Senator Gorton has been a timeless defender of free trade. He knows that free trade is a cornerstone of America's prosperity.
I know that there's been much talk of late about America's trade challenges. But we've been leading the way out of a global recession and pulling the world into better times with us. As foreign economies strengthen, their currencies are strengthening, too. As this happens, other nations will buy more from us, and pressure on the trade balance will ease. Short-term protectionist measures now will undermine the chances of economic growth, not only in friendly countries but here as well. Protecting an industry here by imposing these restrictions will inevitably result in countermeasures that will cost the jobs of Americans in other industries. Those who claim to be concerned about the American farmer, for example, should realize that protectionism is the greatest single threat to the well-being of American agriculture, which is one of our main exports.
Instead of shooting ourselves in the foot with job-killing protectionism, what we can, should, and will do is demand that free trade be a two-way street. And I can assure you our representatives are doing just that. The markets must be open on both sides of the ocean. The solution we seek is not decreasing what others send us, but increasing what we send them. Balancing the trade deficit up means a better life for all. Balancing it down through protectionism and weaker economic growth means stagnation and decline. I firmly believe that if the deck is not stacked against us, the American people can outproduce and outcompete anyone in the world. The genius, creative talents, and hard work of our people have always been our greatest assets. With freedom and the profit motive, there's nothing we can't do.
Seattle has a man who exemplifies this spirit: Mr. T. Wilson, a giant of American enterprise. And thanks to the business sense, foresight, and everyday effort of individuals like Mr. Wilson, America is today on the edge of vast new frontiers. The world already marvels at American aircraft and space technology. Our latest aircraft are doing more and using less fuel than ever before. The common man now jets across continents and it's no big thing. Our space shuttle missions now are all but routine, and we're just beginning to touch the commercial use of space, something which, in the not too distant future, will be a tremendous asset to our country. I know that Senator Gorton is one of the Senate's leading advocates of putting space to use to benefit all mankind.
Our technology can also help us leave behind the threat of nuclear holocaust, which has hung over our heads like the sword of Damocles for four decades. Our leading minds have been mobilized to see if it's possible to build a defense system, not to kill people, but to protect them. If successful, our research could usher in a new era of security. A space shield could make arms reduction more feasible by rendering nuclear missiles obsolete, and so they would become more negotiable. I expressed these sentiments to General Secretary Gorbachev during our recent meetings in Geneva. I went to Geneva as a first step. I didn't expect miracles; I did expect progress, an opening, a crack in the door, for improved relations. General Secretary Gorbachev and I spoke frankly, over many hours, about our differences, about a wide range of issues including Soviet expansionism.
As I reported to a joint session of Congress and to you, the American people, when I returned, I was pleased with the results of our sessions. It was the fresh start we wanted. We're not claiming any great breakthroughs and so forth, but -- start. As a matter of fact, we had thought before we left that if we could even get agreement from them to continued meetings in the next few years to come that that would make the trip worthwhile. Well, we got that promise from them on a parking lot on the first day we were there. [Laughter] It was, as I say, the fresh start that we wanted.
And Geneva let loose a lot of hopes, mine among them; but there've been hopeful times before. We have to understand which policies work and which ones don't. Blurring the issues and ignoring the areas of friction between the Soviet Union and the United States is no way to create a more peaceful world. In fact, the progress we made at Geneva was possible only because in the last 5 years we've been determined to make America stronger. That's how the meeting came about. Because we've spoken out clearly about Soviet policies that threaten peace, that policy is working. I'm confident that if we remain firm in our convictions, realistic in our approach, and strong enough to defend our interests, the competition that we have with the Soviets can remain peaceful. Jefferson is quoted as saying, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.'' Well, it's as true today as it was two centuries ago.
But just as in Jefferson's day, Americans are preparing themselves for great strides forward. Our technological advances of the last four decades are only the foundation for a new era that is almost beyond imagination. We have just given thanks as a nation to God for all our many blessings, but we should be also grateful for this bright future that lies just over the horizon.
And, again, I have to say to you we have a representative government that represents the will and the desires of the people. And I think it is high time that we not only dwelt on sending someone in charge of the executive branch of government but send those people, as you have sent your two Senators there, to represent the interests of your State and of the people of this country in seeing that we can put forth the policies that apparently the people of this country have approved. So, 1986 -- there'll be a November day, and you send Slade Gorton back there to join your junior Senator. And just think, you won't have a situation in which one Senator is canceling out the other Senator's vote for the things that you want done in Washington. There'll be two votes there for all those right things. Send us people back there in the Congress to help with the things that we have started so far, and I think maybe you'll be very pleased with the result.
Thank you all. God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke at 12:54 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Westin Hotel. Prior to his remarks, he attended a reception at the hotel for major contributors to Senator Gorton's reelection campaign. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.