Remarks at the Annual National Leadership Conference of the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America in Louisville, Kentucky

June 29, 1983

Thank you very much, Rick. And what a pleasure it is for me to be with you today in Kentucky, a place the Indians once called ``the land of tomorrow.''

Well, this State and this arena of champions is a perfect setting for the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America to hold its annual national leadership conference and United States Skill Olympics. You represent this nature's [nation's] future. You will shape, fit, mold, construct, and program a new century for America. And once you've done that, you will tune it, alter it, repair it, and nurse it along so that it keeps running smoothly. America has no higher stake than in the quality of your education, the sharpness of your skills, and your opportunity to use them both in well-paying jobs. I've come here today to reaffirm my personal commitment. I'm determined to see that you get all three.

America's trades men and women are the pistons that drive the engine of our economy. This country was built with the sweat and determination of hard-working men and women who, like many of you, love to work with their hands as well as their minds. Your forerunners were America's link between our dreams and reality. They were the people who transformed this continent into one of the wonders of the modern world. We're a nation of people who believe it's not enough to be good; you've got to be good at something. And the difference that I've seen just here today of what is going on is thrilling and exciting to me because I've told some of the young people I met out there that I remember when vocational education was limited to teaching somebody how to make a pair of bookends. And nobody even tried to see whether they had a book or not. [Laughter]

But in this country, we have no patent on greatness. There is no guarantee that ``made in America'' will always mean made the best. Now, some doomcriers are already saying that we've begun to lose our edge. I don't think that's true, but we do need to remind ourselves where greatness comes from. Each generation must feel the spur of competition, share the commitment to excellence, and receive the rewards for a job well done. Each generation must remake the pact among Americans to live up to the promise of their freedom: to be the first, to be the best, to reach higher, farther, and deeper for greatness than anyone ever dreamed possible.

And each generation must realize that to achieve America's potential, we need all our people with all their talents working together. And that's why our drive for excellence in education must reach every student in every school in every subject. We should see that all our young people get a good grounding in English and literature, history, math, science, and the other basics. But we must also recognize that our vocational classrooms are just as important as any other. And we should insist that the vocational courses we teach prepare this generation with the skills they need for real jobs.

Another reason why Kentucky is such a perfect place to hold this convention is the State motto: ``United We Stand, Divided We Fall.'' When our educators, businesses, and work force pull together in the true American spirit, as they are at this Olympics, the result can be nothing but success. And that's why I've been a big admirer of VICA for a long time.

When I was Governor of California, I became concerned that, as I indicated before, that our vocational education system was not training our young people for jobs that would be available when they were ready to work. As soon as I was introduced to the Vocational and Industrial Clubs of America, I became a fan. You've been in the vanguard of the effort to increase cooperation between educators and industry. And I'm proud to hold a lifetime membership in California VICA.

VICA's Skill Olympics show how industry and educators can work together to improve the opportunities and productivity of America's workers. Some 245 major corporations, trade associations, and labor unions are pooling their resources to make this competition possible; donating time, equipment, training, and funding. This year alone, industry has contributed $7 million to the Skill Olympics, and that expense is like a green light that's beckoning you into the work force. That money is not charity; it's an investment. It was spent to train workers in skills industry needs for today and tomorrow.

Other examples of private sector involvement in training workers are springing up around the country -- I've visited an Opportunities Industrialization Center sponsored by IBM in Massachusetts and one of Control Data's training institutes in Pittsburgh, to name just two. In our private sector initiatives data bank alone, we show dozens of examples of business and education partnerships, and we're working to encourage more. I am convinced that forging these kinds of partnerships today is the key to a better trained, more productive work force tomorrow.

If America's industries hope to compete and win in world markets, they must have at their hearts a broadly educated work force trained in the skills of the 21st century. American industry as well as American educational institutions should take note of the VICA experience. Together we can lead our people and the world into a dynamic new era of innovation, growth, and prosperity. In the VICA tradition, we can forge a partnership for progress that will leave no one behind, calling on a great source of our country's strength: the commitment, energy, and patriotism of the American worker. We need the strength of every back and the power of every mind to bring about another golden age of prosperity for America. That's why we must not and I will not rest until every American who wants a job not only can find one but has the skills to get one.

You know, if I might inject something right here that I've said before, and sometimes been misunderstood or misinterpreted, in the average metropolitan center or city, on a Sunday, get a hold of the metropolitan paper and look at the help-wanted ads today with 11 million of our people unemployed in this recession. But I think a good share of them are unemployed because of the technological changes that are taking place and that you here are aware of. And you read those ads and you say, ``How can this be?'' -- the number of pages of them. The last time I read in Washington, D.C., I think was 65 pages, full pages of those little classified help wanted ads. And you read them in this time of unemployment, and you read that the requirements for them indicated that with all of the unemployment we have just fallen behind in equipping people for these new jobs that have come into the marketplace and are looking for people to fill them. And you are a part of that process here.

We're trying to incorporate the same theme of private sector involvement that I mentioned before in government jobs programs. Last year, I signed into law the Job Training Partnership Act. Instead of another make-work, bureaucratic boondoggle, that program will train more than 1 million Americans every year in skills they can market where they live. It will allow State and local government officials, business and labor leaders, and others to match the training provided with the jobs that are available in that particular area. The act also provides additional funds to our vocational institutions for effective job-training programs. You in VICA will play a key role in carrying out important provisions of this act.

Of course, America must have a thriving, growing economy for our people to work in. Since taking office, we've cut the rate of growth in government spending by 40 percent. And when the third installment of our tax cut takes effect on Friday, day after tomorrow -- and it will take effect on Friday -- and I can tell you that it will, because I have just received word since I arrived here that the Senate has voted down the attempt to change that tax law. I can put my veto pen away. [Laughter] We will have cut personal income taxes across the board by the day after tomorrow by 25 percent. We also passed a law that will index tax brackets, starting in 1985, to keep up with inflation. Now, this will protect you from being pushed by inflation into a higher tax bracket when you've only gotten the cost-of-living pay raise. Fairness in taxation demands indexing, and yet, as you've probably heard, some of those who call themselves compassionate want to take it away from you before you've even gotten it. Well, we've also encouraged a stable monetary policy and reduced the growth in Federal regulations by a third.

Although we're still waging a battle royal to rein in the undisciplined spending of liberals in the Congress and fend off their persistent attempts to raise taxes on working men and women, a great deal of progress has been made. Inflation was in double digits in 1980; today it's running at an annual rate of just 3\1/2\ percent and less than 2 percent for the last 6 months. The prime interest rate which shut down virtually the automobile industry and the housing industry was 21\1/2\ percent when we took office. It's less than half that now. Mortgage rates have been cut by 5\1/2\ percent. Our factories are beginning -- or 5\1/2\ percentage points, I should say. And our factories are beginning to hum again, our small businesses are coming up for air, and our housing and construction industries are taking off. Real wages were up in 1982 for the first time in 3 years, and last month personal income made its biggest jump in nearly 2 years.

Our task now is to hold the Congress to a course of fiscal responsibility. We must not allow these hard-won victories to become just another blip on the economic boom-and-bust roller coaster that we've been riding for a number of years. There's no doubt about it, we have begun a strong and steady recovery that will bring new opportunity and better times to all our people. Our economy is better off today than it was a month ago, and we can expect it to be better next month than it is today. Right now you can look to a future that is bright with hope, and I'll do everything in my power to ensure that the big spenders and the big taxers in the Congress won't steal it from you.

A few months ago at EPCOT Center, I saw a film which portrayed Thomas Wolfe saying, ``To everyone a chance, to all people, regardless of their birth, the right to live, to work, to become whatever their visions can combine to make them. This is the promise of America.'' Well, it's at the heart of our economic, education, and jobs program, and it's the reason for the Vocational and Industrial Clubs of America. You have a right to pursue careers of your choice and can take pride in the fact that America needs the ones that you've chosen.

As America progresses, as technology revolutionizes our way of life, we'll need you more than ever to program the computers, build the machines and make the microchips. Our service industries will need more and more of the skills that you are learning. About 8 out of 10 of the new jobs created in the last few years were in the service industries. And we will always need people expert in the basic building and mechanical skills that have been a traditional part of vocational education. You are and will be at the hub of every bit of progress we make. So, we must be sure that you get the very best training that we can provide.

VICA can be a great deal of help as we shape our agenda for excellence in American education. I understand that some of your voting delegates are serving in a task force in response to our education commission report. I'm counting on you to evaluate the report in detail and suggest activities for your local clubs. VICA can serve as a catalyst in local communities to increase awareness of the need for quality education. I would also like to commend you on your theme for the coming year: ``America's New Professionals Making Us First.'' On behalf of your fellow citizens, I thank you for your dedication to excellence and your volunteer spirit. Your efforts can only lead to a stronger, more highly motivated work force.

It was inspiring for me to watch some of you practicing for tomorrow's skills competitions. In you I could see a whole generation of Americans straining and striving to be the best. And I could see America's vast potential, our chance to build a bright and shining world of continued progress. I'm confident your generation is eager to take on the challenges ahead. If we who came before you do everything in our power to make sure you're ready, I know you won't let us down.

Good luck to each of you entered in the Skills Olympics tomorrow. And may the best competitors win. But let everyone go away from these Olympics knowing that the real victory is in the striving to be the best. And that makes every VICA member a winner already.

Could I tell you a little personal experience? Its only connection with what you're doing here is that it has to do with competition. It happened back when I was just first on the -- made the first football team at Eureka College -- made the first string, I should say. They'd had football teams before. [Laughter] I didn't word that very well, did I?

And one night, we were having a chalk talk over in one of the classrooms -- those dim bulbs that never seem to be bright enough when it's nighttime. And I had never gone into a game in my life that I hadn't said a prayer. But I never would've said it to those guys around me. I thought I was probably the only one in the world that ever did that. Somehow, the subject came up from the coach about this. And one by one, I sat there and listened. And every fellow in that room, it developed, did the same thing. And then a question came from the coach.

Now, I know what I'd figured out for myself should be a prayer. You can't ask to win, because the Lord's got to be on everybody's side. But there are things you can ask. And one by one, I heard every one of these fellows, and all of us on our own, never having admitted it before, had come up with the same idea. You can't ask to win, but you can ask that He help you do your best and that you'll have no regrets having done your best no matter how it turns out, and that you will be content with the outcome -- satisfied. Just may the best one win.

And I could say the same thing to you, because I'm quite sure that a great many of you've got some prayers in your heart about this. But that's why you're all going to go home winners no matter just how it comes out. As a matter of fact, you're winners or you wouldn't even be competing in this particular contest. You're winners already.

Thank you. Thank you very much, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:09 a.m. in Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. He was introduced by Richard Bearden, president of the high school division of the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America.

Prior to his remarks, the President toured a practice competition of the U.S. Skill Olympics in the East Wing of the center.

Following his appearance at the conference, the President met separately with leaders of vocational student organizations and Kentucky Republican Party leaders in the center.