Remarks on the Occasion of Alfred M. Landon's 100th Birthday in Topeka, Kansas


September 6, 1987


Governor Landon. It's a great day in my life, and it's a great day in the life of all of us to have had the privilege that we have today of meeting the President of the United States and Mrs. Reagan. I give you now the President.


The President. Well, Governor Landon, Mrs. Landon, Governor Hayden, Senator Kassebaum, Senator Dole, Mayor Wright, ladies and gentlemen, I can't resist saying this: You don't know what a joy it is for a fellow like me to go to a birthday party for someone who can, in all honesty, call me ``kid.'' [Laughter] Today we celebrate -- I know it will actually be in just a few days -- but we're celebrating Alf Landon's first century, half the life of our nation since the framing of the Constitution. As you know, it seems right to me that Alf Landon was born in the centennial year of the Constitution and is now part of its bicentennial year.


And after all, you ask what the America that our Constitution created is, what it means, and you'll get back many answers. For example, America means a dream and the freedom to chase that dream. America means government of, by, and for the people, in a land where the sacred soul of humanity is not only respected but revered. America means justice under law. It means peace and decency. It means a bright Kansas Sun rising over fields that hard-working, broad-shouldered farmers have planted with prayers and plowed with hope. But the funny thing is that no matter what you say when you talk about America you'll also be saying something about Alf Landon. In a hundred years, Alf Landon has chased many dreams and caught most of them. Along the way, he's found time to stand for the American values of liberty, democracy, and opportunity. And no one is more the living soul of Kansas, which to me means quiet strength and the simple decency of all America, than Alf Landon.


Now, Governor, you preceded me by a bit as our party's nominee for President, and I had a little better luck. Well, I also had better years and an easier field. But no one ever did prouder as a candidate by his party or the Nation than you. When it was out of fashion, you warned of the dangers of too much government and too much government spending. Recently, I was reminded that on your 90th birthday you said that credit cards are the worst things that have happened to our country; they encourage people to spend money they don't have. Well, don't spend money you don't have. I just wish I could get you to come back to Washington and help me drum that message into the Congress. But I guess the next best thing to having you in Washington is having a chip off the old block. I know you're proud, just as I'm grateful, that Nancy is in the Senate. She's doing a great job.


So this is my birthday message: It is that all Americans are thankful for what you have meant to our country. And now, before I wax so eloquent that no one can stop me, I'll break off here just saying: Alf, happy birthday and God bless you!


[At this point, the President and family and friends sang ``Happy Birthday.''] 


The President. I know the time has come to leave, but I just couldn't help but tell you a little experience. I have met the Governor on a previous birthday sometime ago, and I expressed the wish that I could meet him again on his hundredth birthday. He looked me up and down; he said, ``You seem to be in pretty good shape. I think maybe you can make it.'' [Laughter]


Note: The President spoke at 2:10 p.m. at Mr. Landon's home. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Mrs. Theo Landon, Gov. Mike Hayden, Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Senator Robert Dole, and Mayor Douglas Wright. Following his remarks, he returned to Washington, DC.