Remarks at a Meeting With Disabled Climbers Following Their Ascent of Mount Rainier

July 8, 1981

The President. I thank you very much. I'm afraid to ask -- I know the flag -- but I'm afraid to ask if jellybeans helped nourish you on the climb. [Laughter]

[The group had presented the President with a bag of jellybeans and a flag which had been carried to the mountain's summit.]

You'd be surprised, though, we're beginning to run the government with them. They get us through a lot of late afternoon meetings, and you'd be surprised at the very important affairs that are being discussed and the jar of jellybeans is going around the table. I'm always interested in seeing the different styles. Some just grab a handful and some pick each one out one at a time -- [laughter] -- or it's passed on.

You know, the poet William Blake once wrote, ``Great things are done when men and mountains meet.'' Well now, I would add ``women'' to that statement and then say all of you certainly proved him correct -- and even more than correct. And so, it is with great pride that I accept this flag. By carrying it each step of your climb and planting it on top of Mount Rainier, you also planted courage and the capabilities of disabled people firmly in the minds of all Americans. Your triumph on Independence Day, during this International Year of Disabled Persons, clearly illustrated the independence disabled people can achieve when given the opportunity.

I take particular pride in the fact that we have on our White House staff someone who also serves as an example of that independence and self-confidence that disabled people can attain. I'm talking about Hal Krents, who carried this flag to you on our behalf, and I know he would have liked to have been on the mountain with you. Your 11-hour battle with snow, ice, and altitude, while carrying 40-pound backpacks, demonstrated to all of us that with spirit and determination, challenges are made to be met. We sometimes hear of the faith to move mountains. Well, you have the faith to climb mountains, and that faith is in yourselves.

When you came down from that mountain, it wasn't the experienced leading the disabled, but rather those who could see leading those who could not, those who could hear helping those who could not. And the tremendous bond that was forged by this experience, where you complemented each other and joined together to accomplish a great goal, is a significant lesson on what all of us as Americans can accomplish if we work together.

Nancy and I followed your progress, and when you reached the top, we, with the rest of America, shared your joy and were inspired by your courage. And we also must acknowledge the courage of your families, because we saw you, too, on television and, on television, heard through the radios, the walkie-talkies that you were carrying, the joy from the top of the mountain, all of you and your shouts as they were heard down below.

I know there must have been some tense moments during the climb and that the support you received from your families was an important element in your success. And I'm sure that Chuck O'Brien's twins will celebrate their birthdays with more than the usual sense of pride.

The corporations which sponsored this event believed in you. We must all work toward seeing that all businesses appreciate the possibilities of the disabled as fully as those gathered here today. As I stated in my February 6th proclamation of the International Year of Disabled Persons, disabled Americans represent one of our most underutilized resources. Your successful Mount Rainier ascent speaks more about the capabilities of our disabled citizens than any words can possibly state.

So, congratulations, and thanks to all of you for what you have shown and given to all of us. And I shall be very proud to keep this flag.

Thank you all for being here. I think I'd better let you get into some shade now. [Laughter] It's warm -- a slightly different climate than Mount Rainier. [Laughter]

Participant. We should have brought you back part of the glacier. [Laughter]

The President. Right here in the Rose Garden.

Well, God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.