Remarks at a White House Briefing for Women Entrepreneurs


December 3, 1986


Thank you everyone, and let me say a special hello to an old friend and trusted adviser, the cochairman of the Republican National Committee, Betty Heitman. Betty will be retiring from the RNC, and I just want to thank her for a job well done, especially for her efforts on behalf of women. And to all of you here today, welcome to the White House complex. I always feel a little funny saying that about the White House over there and this great big granite monster over here and calling it part of the White House. It ought to be the other way around.


It's a pleasure to see all of you, the representatives of America's more than 3 million women entrepreneurs. We're meeting at a time of unparalleled optimism in our country -- optimism about the future, optimism about the direction in which our nation is going, and optimism among all Americans about our own lives. I'm going to talk in a few minutes about our agenda for the next few years, but let me say here that if I have one message for you today, it's this: that America has a great future ahead. We have a future of more opportunity, more growth. We have a future of a stronger America and a freer world. And that's what we're building toward, and this is what we can achieve. The last 6 years have been only the beginning. We're just starting to climb to the mountaintop, where we can look out over the promise of our future.


Now, it'd be easy to stand up here and take credit for starting America on that path -- for the low inflation and the low interest rates and the creation of more new jobs in the last 4 years than Europe and Japan combined -- but as I've said many times since our recovery began, the credit belongs not just to an administration, it belongs to the American people. We trusted the American people, and they did the rest. I always have said mainly my philosophy about government has been, for many years, just get out of the way of the people, and they'll do the rest. I can't think of any group of Americans that deserves more credit than the group I see in this room -- America's entrepreneurs, and in this case, entrepreneurs who happen to be women.


You know better than most the importance of entrepreneurship in national life. Since our recovery began, Americans have created millions of new jobs. Yet entrepreneurs -- men and women with businesses that are 5 years old or less and businesses that have 20 or fewer employees -- have created even more jobs than that. In fact, if you took away the jobs that entrepreneurship created during the years of our administration, we would have lost more than 3 million jobs. So, whenever I get a letter from a young man or woman telling me that he or she has an idea for a service or a product, wants to take a chance and, yes, maybe win or lose, but still take the chance and work hard and start a business, I just can't help saying to that young man or woman something I said in another context some time ago: ``Go ahead, make my day!''


But thanks to you, we've come far since the days of skyrocketing inflation and economic stagnation, when the once-powerful American economy was the weakling of the industrial world. Yes, we're strong again, but our work isn't done -- far from it. We have an agenda for the next 2 years, an agenda for setting America on the path to even greater growth and greater opportunity for a generation yet to come. Getting Federal spending under control is part of that agenda, and that means giving the President what 43 Governors in our nation have: a line-item veto. It means a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. And it means that pulling a tax increase out of the hat is not going to be this year's version of the big spender's escape trick. There's no way on God's good Earth that I will agree to an unraveling of what we've done with tax reform. Tax rates have come down, and they're going to stay down.


But that's not all. We've taken giant steps toward making jobs grow faster by making exports grow faster. The dollar is down. We've been tough with unfair trading practices around the world. And we're moving to a new round of trade talks. But we've got to do more, and it must be a bipartisan effort. For 40 years, America has been the leader in building the open world economy on which our peace and prosperity are built. That's why today more than 10 million American jobs are tied to imports, exports, or both. And foreign trade involves one-fifth of our economy. That's compared to 12 percent when the Smoot-Hawley tariff shut down our international trade and sent us into the Great Depression. None of you here are old enough to remember that. [Laughter] Well, I don't believe that either Democrats or Republicans want to return to those Depression days. It's time not for new protectionism but for new cooperation for growing American exports in a growing world economy.


Around the world, our agenda is one of peace and freedom. We cannot let recent events distract us from the cause of those brave fighters for freedom around the world. [Applause] Bless you. Yes, you just did make my day. [Laughter] Nothing that's happened makes those causes any less just or vital to our country and all it stands for. And as we work for freedom, we must also work for peace. Some have been kind enough to say that Mr. Gorbachev and I made more progress towards eliminating nuclear ballistic missiles in 2 days in Iceland than our negotiators made in 2 years in Geneva. Well, that's progress we intend to build on. And, yes, we do dream of the day when we can have a world free from nuclear terror, and nothing is more important in building toward that world than our strategic defense against ballistic missiles. Some have said we ought to scrap it. Well, I say strategic defense is our insurance policy for peace. We're going to continue research and development on our Strategic Defense Initiative.


But let's, if I could, turn for a moment to the revelations of the past week and to my announcement yesterday. As I said yesterday, much in this case is hard to understand, and all Americans are entitled to have their questions answered -- you know I'm talking about Iran. That's why I am determined to get to the bottom of this matter and to get all the facts out. Let me review for you what we've done. First, we went immediately before the public when we uncovered the kind of activity in question, and this included the Attorney General's preliminary report. Now, with my full support and encouragement, the Attorney General is asking the court to appoint an independent counsel -- we used to call them prosecutors -- so that any possible wrongdoing will be revealed and prosecuted. Also unprecedented has been our cooperation with Congress. We've cooperated fully with congressional inquiries, and we'll continue to cooperate. And I've endorsed the idea of consolidating congressional investigations, so that Congress can pursue its work even more effectively. I've also appointed a Special Review Board to investigate the activities of the National Security Council staff. The men on this Board are distinguished Americans of absolute integrity and have had experience in every area of the making of our foreign policy. I intend to make their recommendations and conclusions available to Congress and the public.


Finally, as I announced yesterday, I've asked Frank Carlucci to become the new Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Mr. Carlucci is a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, a former Deputy Director of the CIA, and a former Ambassador; and he is among our most distinguished and experienced public servants. So, in short, the machinery is in place to seek answers to the questions that are being asked, to fix what needs fixing, and to restore complete confidence to the conduct of our foreign policy. All of this we intend to do, and that is my pledge to you and to the American people.


I'm saying this here because you, as a group, are so important to the future of our country and particularly to the growth that we all want for America's future. In America, since our recovery began, women have created one out of every four new businesses. In the past decade, the number of women-owned businesses in America has grown at an annual rate of more than 9 percent, while the growth rate in sales has been three times that of businesses owned by men. And today more than 3 million businesses are owned by women, which is over a quarter of all the independent businesses in the country, and that number is growing two times as fast as the number of businesses men own. You know, when you think of all that women entrepreneurs have meant to our country since the recovery began, it just goes to show that when it comes to creating new jobs, new technologies, and new businesses in America, a woman's work is never done. [Laughter]


Now, I know that some people dismiss all this and say that women have tended to stay in areas in which they traditionally had a role. Well, those who say that ought to take another look. Women-owned businesses are springing up fastest in fields where women are relative newcomers, fields like manufacturing, high tech, and finance. Many of you are examples of that. Fourteen years ago, Joyce Eddy was an antique dealer in Georgia, and today she's no longer selling antiques. No, her company, Habersham Plantation, manufactures reproductions of early American furniture and sells through more than 200 dealers throughout the country. Marjorie Balaz started only 10 years ago. With a $7,000 investment she set up Balaz's Analytical Laboratory in Mountain View, California. Her company has won an international clientele for its research in chemical processing of integrated circuits and has set industry standards for ultrapure water. The Balaz's laboratory is a leader in the high technology field. And there are many other leaders here: Laura Sloate, whose New York investment and research firm has grown to manage more than $150 million. In the traditionally male-dominated world of finance, nothing can stop Laura Sloate -- not that she's a woman, and not that she's blind.


Yes, all of you are leaders. All of you are helping America to grow and remain the land of opportunity for all. You know, I spent a large part of my life in a profession where there was no question about the equal status of women and men, and that's the way I believe it should be in all lines of work. You're helping to make that happen. You're also -- by building your companies -- helping to keep the doors of opportunity open wide for everyone in our country and helping to lead America into the future.


I have to interrupt and tell a little incident. It isn't a joke; it's an actual happening. And I enjoy telling it. As a matter of fact, I enjoy particularly telling it to audiences of men. But it has to do with an accident, a traffic accident, and the usual scene: a man stretched out on the pavement, unconscious. A woman was ministering over him, and the crowd had gathered around. And a man came and elbowed his way through the crowd, shoved the woman aside, and said, ``I have had lessons in first aid.'' And he started to minister, and she meekly stepped back and stood behind him while he went at putting into practice the things he'd learned in first aid. And then he came to one point; she tapped him on the shoulder and said, ``When you get to that part about calling the doctor, I'm right here.'' [Laughter]


So, if you're ever getting down, just think about that. So, let me just close by saying, for all Americans, thank you for all that you're doing. Thank you, and God bless you.


Note: The President spoke at 1:15 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building to a group of 160 business executives.