Remarks at a Reagan-Bush Rally in Waterbury, Connecticut

September 19, 1984

The President. Thank you all very much. Reverend clergy, Mayor Mike Bergin, Secretary Baldrige, and the other guests here on the dais, and all of you people:

It's wonderful to be in Waterbury. I've been here before, you know, and I always had a good time. I've been by Immaculate Conception and Apothecary Hall and the train station, and I've kept myself abreast of the recent doings here. So, I think I can say with real knowledge and pride, ``I'm up on Waterbury,'' too.

I know that your door has always been open to all those Americans who came here as Italians, and the Irish, the French, the Poles, the Hispanics, the blacks. They made this a place where hard work is the rule, not the exception; a place where bedrock values took root -- faith in a loving God, belief in family, and love of a country that gave them, and you, opportunity, peace, and freedom.

Yes, we're up on Waterbury, and Waterbury is up on America.

I remember campaigning here when I was running for the Republican nomination in the winter of 1980. It was awfully cold then, but your warmth made up for it. And I remember that day that I talked about the problems of the time -- inflation, the energy crisis, and high taxes.

Well, that was 4 years ago, and since then, all of us together have managed to do something about those problems, haven't we? [Applause] Four years ago, unemployment in Waterbury was over 9 percent, and now it's way below 6. In the last 4 years, Waterbury has created almost 5,000 new jobs.

Across the country, take-home pay is up, and families have more to spend. And retail sales are up, and industrial production is up. So much is up that I hate to give you the downers: The tax rates are down; inflation is down; so is the prime interest rate, which by 1980 had reached the highest level since the Civil War. I guess that's what the other side means when they say there's a down side to the Reagan recovery. [Laughter] But let me correct something that has been misnamed, misnamed the Reagan recovery. It's the American recovery, because you did it. All we did was get government out of your way, and now it's the American expansion.

So, it seems to me things are a little bit better than they were 4 years ago. I don't want to take that for granted. Are you better off?

Audience. Yes!

The President. Do you think America is better off?

Audience. Yes!

The President. Well, it's nice to know we agree. [Laughter]

But I don't think the American recovery is confined to economic matters. There's a new mood in the country these days. Uncle Sam is seeming mighty jaunty. Our brilliant and optimistic young students and scholars and workers are all the leaders in this, and our young people, particularly. Your older brothers and sisters are showing renewed interest in the values and traditions by which this country flourished for more than two centuries. And it seems to me the older folks, the senior citizens of our country, are feeling pretty bouncy, too. Believe me, I hope I'm like that when I get old. [Laughter]

But our work isn't done; there's so much ahead of us. The future is out there. It's waiting to be seized and shaped; great frontiers in science, technology, and space waiting to be discovered and pushed back. And we can do it. We can do it because we saw with our Olympic athletes that when our people pull out all the steps -- the stops, I should say -- to meet a challenge, nothing can hold America back.

And I think that one challenge we're ready to meet as a nation, because it's so crucial to our future, is to make America's educational system a great center of leadership for excellence. And we've already begun. This morning we received word that the average scholastic aptitude test score, the thing we call the SAT's, has gone up a full 4 points. Now, 4 points doesn't sound like very much. It is just, however, the biggest increase in those scores in the last 21 years, and it's the second increase in 3 years. But it's not enough; we've got to do better.

So, I propose a challenge to all of us: It's time for America to lift her sights, time for us to resolve that before this decade is out we'll raise scholastic aptitude test scores nationwide. We'll make up half of all the ground that was lost over the last 20 years, which was more than 100 points. We must also reduce the dropout rate in our schools from 27 percent to 10 percent or less. And this will require a great national commitment by students, teachers, administrators and, most certainly, by American parents.

The challenge isn't easy but, my friends, we can meet it, just as we can continue to champion strong economic growth with greater individual opportunity.

We can simplify our tax system. We can make it more fair, easier to understand, so everyone in the country won't be sick with worry and confusion every April 15th when you face that complicated tax form. You know, it's good to remember that Albert Einstein said, he didn't understand it. [Laughter] But if we do that, if we simplify the taxes, we'll be able to push yours and everybody's income tax rates further down, not up. And with that money they're saving, Americans could spend and save and invest, and that would further boost the economy, and more jobs would be created.

We can pass an enterprise zones bill that would declare the older, distressed parts of cities to be special zones where business life would be encouraged through tax incentives to start up, train, and hire workers. The House Democratic leadership has bottled up that bill in committee. For 2 years, they've refused to allow the Congress to vote on it.

And we could add to enterprise zones a youth employment opportunity wage for teenagers, so that employers would be encouraged to hire those who are disadvantaged and, particularly, members of minority groups.

As Secretary Baldrige told you, we've created 6 million jobs in the last 20 months. It's a good record, better, in fact, than any other nation, but still not good enough. And I pledge to you that I won't rest until every American who wants a job can find a job.

So, I propose that we lift our sights toward a second challenge for America: By this time next year we must have passed enterprise zones, passed the youth opportunity wage, found ways to simplify the tax system, and all of us must go forward to make this expansion so strong that millions of jobs will be created in distressed areas where our fellow citizens need help the most. This, America can and must do.

There's more to be done, but we're on the right track -- not only on the right track, but I think we're chugging along like a pretty big, strong locomotive.

But do you know what the other side would do? The other side has put up a giant stop sign to stop the economy dead in its tracks. They've come up with an idea so old, so tired, that it could very well be called a cliche. Their wonderful idea is -- can you bear the suspense? Their wonderful idea is to raise your taxes again and again and again.

Audience. No!

The President. Now, I know I'm mixing metaphors here, but it seems to me the other side is so upset at the good health of the economy that they've decided to give us a dose of the medicine that made us sick. [Laughter] You know, even Waterbury never had that much brass. [Laughter] Maybe the other side just made a miscalculation. They heard the American people have a lot more moneys to spend, so they thought that we would buy anything.

Do we want to go back to the old days of misery, misfortune, and malaise?

Audience. No!

The President. Do we want to return to that time of taxes and timidity -- that reign of error?

Audience. No!

The President. Well, I want to tell you something I've been thinking of since this morning. Over there on the balcony of the Elton one night in 1960, just as the mayor told you, young John Kennedy stood there in the darkness. It was almost 3 o'clock in the morning. His campaign was near ending, and he was exhausted. But the night was bright with lights, and they lit the faces of the tens of thousands of people below who had showed up to cheer John Kennedy on.

And he stood down -- looked down at them. He smiled in the glow, and even though it was the fall, it seemed like springtime, those days. I see our country today, and I think it is springtime for America once again -- so many new beginnings. And I think John Kennedy would be proud of you and the things you believe in, proud of the stoutness of your hearts and the vision in your soul.

I hope there are some members of his party here today. I don't believe it would be possible to have this big a crowd in Waterbury without having a lot of Democrats here. Well, I was a Democrat once, for a large portion of my life. And it's a funny thing about party affiliation. Whether you inherited it for generations back in your family, maybe you embraced it on your own when you were young, but it can be a very wrenching thing, I found, to change parties. You feel as if you're abandoning your past. But I tell you truly, the only abandoning I see is that the Democratic leadership has abandoned the good and decent Democrats of the J.F.K., F.D.R., and Harry Truman tradition -- people who believe in the interests of working people, who are not ashamed or afraid of America standing up for freedom in the world.

And if you see it as I do, I have to tell you, join us. And by us, I hope you'll join John Rowland and Larry Denardis and Hershel Klein, Roberta Coontz, Stewart McKinney, and Nancy Johnson. Don't think, any of you, that you don't have a political home. You will listen to the arguments and issues in this campaign, and I think by the end you may decide your home is with us. And I hope you do. And believe me, you will be welcomed. I hope you'll walk with us down the new path of hope and opportunity.

And now I'm supposed to end my speech, but I don't want to go. Can I stay just long enough to add one more thing? [Applause] It's something I've been thinking about a great deal lately. I have to tell you that nothing, and I mean nothing, has made me prouder the past, almost-4 years than the young people who are serving our country in uniform. By any measure, they're just the best. You know, someone back in World War II asked General George Marshall what was the secret of America's success, what was our secret weapon in that war. And General Marshall said, ``The best damn kids in the world.''

Well, those young men and women who are serving today are the grandsons and granddaughters of those heroes of World War II. And I'll tell you, they're still the best damn kids in the world. Maybe when you, now and then, see one of them walking along the street, you might just go out of your way to nod or smile or say hello, and let them know how all of us feel about them.

And now, I do have to go, but it was, believe me, wonderful to be here. Can I come back again?

Audience. Yes! 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!

The President. Thank you.

Audience. 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!

The President. Thank you very much. I do have to go, but it's wonderful to be here. I'd love to see you all again. Waterbury's made a real difference in my campaign, just as it did in John Kennedy's, and I will always remember.

Thank you. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:21 p.m. at the Waterbury Town Green. Following his remarks, the President went to the Red Bull Inn, where he met with local Republican leaders and Reagan-Bush campaign leaders. He then traveled to Hammonton, NJ.