Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Distinguished Rank Awards


August 2, 1988


Well, thank you. And Connie, it's good to see you and so many of the agency heads whose employees we're honoring here today. Welcome to the White House complex. White House complex -- that's because nothing in Washington is ever simple -- [laughter] -- well, almost nothing.


Today we're here to honor a quality that is both simple and noble: dedication, true dedication to public service. When our administration came to Washington nearly 8 years ago, we promised the American people a government that would stop doing what it shouldn't be doing and did a good job on all that was left. Today we're honoring those who have helped us keep that promise. You're the ones who have taken our broad policies and put them into practice one day at a time. You're the best of our senior career services -- the men and women who stand out above all the rest -- and we're here today to show our appreciation for you.


It's been said that a bureaucrat is someone who has a problem for every solution. [Laughter] And by that standard there isn't a bureaucrat in the room today. You've taken the chances. You've exercised the judgment. You've found the solutions, and you've made them work. Thanks to you, as well as the agency heads you serve under and many of your colleagues, both political and nonpolitical, America today has, overall, the best run Federal Government we've ever had.


I can't mention all of you and what you've accomplished. But I thought that you'd like to hear a few examples of what some who share these awards with you today have achieved. For example, there's Peter Allgeier, an Assistant U.S. Trade Representative. Under his direction, American negotiators obtained elimination of Korea's import licensing restrictions on U.S. computers, on construction equipment, and on a wide range of consumer products. He's won revisions of Singapore's copyright law and the near elimination of Singapore's exports of pirated records, tapes, and video cassettes. And thanks to his work, improved patent and copyright laws have been negotiated with Korea and Taiwan, and America is far more able to protect its intellectual property in Asia.


Another example: Stephen Higgins, Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and a frontline commander in the fight against armed career criminals and armed drug traffickers. He has pioneered the use of firearms laws against the drug cartels, using those laws much as other ``G - men'' once used the tax laws against Al Capone. Congress and the press have joined in admiring the extraordinary work that he and the men and women of his agency have done against the Jamaican cocaine distribution organization. And anytime you can get Congress and the press to agree with those of us in the administration on anything, you've done something right. [Laughter]


Doing something right must run in the family. Stephen's brother Maurice, who's Executive Director for Contracting in the Naval Air Systems Command, is also receiving an award. He's a big reason the price the Government pays for major naval aircraft did not go up one penny between 1982 and 1987. I'm told Stephen and Maurice's mother and stepfather have come all the way from Kansas to celebrate with their sons, and you both can be very proud.


One last example: Dr. Janet Norwood, Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment, unemployment, price, productivity, and wage reports are among the most sensitive and significant data that the Federal Government produces. And yet, when we came into office, the way we determined many of our economic statistics was badly out of date. Dr. Norwood has directed numerous improvements in national data, including the revision of the Consumer Price Index, as well as improvements in employment and unemployment data for individual States.


Every one of you has a story like these stories to tell. Every one of you has shown that an old ideal continues to live: that public service is a public trust. Every one of you deserves the gratitude of the entire Nation, and today we show that gratitude.


So, thank you all, and God bless you.


And now, with a little help, I'll present the Distinguished Service Awards -- or Distinguished Rank Awards.


Note: The President spoke at 11:32 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his opening remarks, he referred to Constance J. Horner, Director of the Office of Personnel Management.