Remarks at a White House Reception for Members of the Future Farmers of America

September 18, 1985

The President. Well, and already I've met someone from my hometown, Dixon, Illinois. Thank all of you. It is wonderful to have you visit here in the Rose Garden, where you can still see a little of the summer's crop is left.

I have been very interested in the Future Farmers of America, your program of building our American communities. And I commend all of you individually for your wonderful work in helping our rural communities. It's gratifying to me to see young people like yourselves volunteering your time to keep these communities strong. And everything you've done, including OPERATION: Care and Share and working with local churches and various groups and other private sector initiatives, is indispensable to the future of our farm communities.

I want you to know that I've been thinking about the problems of the farm these past few years. In fact, we're, all of us here in this big house, constantly concerned about the challenges faced by American farmers during these difficult days. We're a farming nation. We always have been. The American farmer not only feeds this country that is 238 million strong, the American farmer feeds the world. And so when we contemplate the problems farmers are facing these days, we realize that we are dealing with a problem that speaks to the heart of how America lives and what America is.

A while back I received a letter from a daughter of a farmer in Louisiana. She wrote of how she remembered her father -- up at last light, no time for breakfast, out milking the cows, gathering eggs, feeding the dogs. She spoke of how always in a farmer's day something will break down, and her father would have to fix it. And then he would hit the fields with the tractor and the earth tiller, and he wouldn't mind because ``a farmer is part of the ground he works.'' But she ended it with these words addressed to all: ``Don't you think it is time to say thanks to the farmer? After all, you stick your feet under his table every day.'' Well, those are wonderful words, and they shine with truth. But we do thank the farmer. And when you go home, will you tell your parents how we feel?

We've been trying to encourage a national farm bill that will help the farmer and ensure that you have a future in farming by making American agriculture more competitive. We want to put the agriculture industry on a firm and sound basis once and for all so that by the time you're ready to own and work a farm, you can count on being part of a strong and vibrant industry. And my great hope for you, for those of you who do aspire to farm for a living, is that you will be as wonderful as your parents are -- those people who are feeding a great nation and the world. They are the mainstay, the backbone of a great country. And I've got a little special place in my heart that's devoted to them alone.

It's been wonderful to have you here, and I thank you all for coming. I'd like to just add something here. You know, about 135 years ago a Frenchman came to this country because this country had already become the great economic powerhouse that it has continued to be. His name was Alexis de Tocqueville, and he toured all over this country, as he said, looking for the secret of our greatness. And he told some wonderful things. We are pretty unique in all the world with things like you, yourselves, are doing -- volunteer programs where people set out to help others, to help their neighbors. It's pretty traditionally American. And he described it as how, he said, a man would see a problem, and he wouldn't call the Government. He'd cross the street and talk to a friend, and pretty soon a committee would be formed. And, he said, they would solve the problem. And then in his book to his own countrymen in France, he said, and you won't believe this, but there wouldn't be a bureaucracy involved at any time in solving that problem. But he found the secret of America, and he also put this in his book. He said he had looked in the busy harbors; he'd looked in our industrial cities; he'd looked all over for the secret of our greatness. And then he said he looked in our churches, and he heard our pulpits aflame with righteousness. And he said America is great because America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

Well, I've taken more than my time here because I've got to get in Marine One out there on the South Lawn in just a few minutes and head off for New Hampshire with some of our people and talk to the people up there. And you are all invited to go on over there and -- you girls, it will kind of blow your hairdos a little bit when we take off. [Laughter] We'll shortly be taking off in Marine One, as it's called, out to get on Air Force One.

So, again, thank you all for being here. God bless all of you.

Mr. Meredith. Mr. President, you have long been recognized as having a tremendous desire to serve both education and agriculture, a desire reflected by the appointment of Secretaries Bennett and Block to serve this nation. As young people preparing for careers in the agriculture industry, and as part of a vocational education program in agriculture, we're excited about our futures. In particular, we are pleased to have you as a part of this national FFA conference on community development and would like to present you with this special gift from the Future Farmers of America and R.J. Reynolds Industries, Incorporated, and invite you to attend the 58th National FFA Convention, with over 22,000 members in attendance, November 14 through the 16th, in Kansas City, Missouri. Thank you.

[At this point, the President was presented with a clock.]

The President. Well, thank you all very much. I am very proud and pleased to have this. I have to tell you that there have been times when I hear a ticking I worry a little bit. [Laughter] In this case I figure it must be all right. But thank you all very much, and this will see that I get on the helicopter on time, as well as everyplace else. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 9:14 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Paul Kidd Meredith was assistant director of the Future Farmers of America.