Remarks at a White House Barbecue for Members of Congress


September 23, 1987


I'm delighted to welcome the Members of Congress from both parties as well as our other guests to this annual White House Congressional Barbecue. First of all, I would like to thank the Marine Band for their toe-tapping rendition of ``The Music Man'' by Meredith Willson -- [applause] -- who posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. Once again, the Marines have made my day. From the halls of Montezuma to River City, U.S.A., wherever there's trouble, the Marines always have the situation well in hand.


We are honored to have Rosemary Willson with us this evening. Rosemary, as long as there's an American flag to wave and warm evenings with friends, Meredith's music will live on in our hearts. We elected officials are always trying to figure out the mood of the country. We look at polls, we see what the newspapers are saying, call in experts. But I suspect that if we just listen to a Meredith Willson composition, we would know the spirit and soul of our nation. I've been looking forward to this event, because, as you know, I enjoy the outdoors, good food, and good conversation.


And this evening we had all three. As you know, these bipartisan get-togethers help build a spirit of unity and amiability between those of us who must make government work. But as I think back to other such after-six events, when the casual conversations with members of both parties led to bipartisan policy, I can't help remembering Lloyd George's observation that trying to enter an alliance with one of his political opponents was ``like going for a walk with a grasshopper.'' [Laughter]


And I know that some of my best friends from time to time think I'd been led both down and off the garden path by, if not a grasshopper, perhaps the occasional gypsy moth or even a boll weevil. [Laughter] Well, it's true that in American politics, some of us may prefer different paths from time to time, but we're all heading toward the same goal. And we're more likely to get there if we remember that at its core, the American political process is premised on friendly political competition between fellow citizens.


After all, only in America can a President of one party get together with congressional members of both political parties for a friendly feast right in the middle of a heated political struggle. We should be grateful for this tradition; we should work hard to maintain it. And in that spirit, Nancy and I are delighted to have been able to join you this evening for these moments of leisure, friendship, and good will. So, thank you all, and God bless you.


Note: The President spoke at 7:50 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House.