Remarks and a
Question-and-Answer Session With
The President. Superintendent Sang,
Secretary Bennett, and Members of the Congress who are here, and all of you,
thank you very much. I'm going to keep my remarks brief. I'm not going to take
a chance on being voted in your yearbooks the President most likely to talk
until June. [Laughter] You know, it's good to get out of
now, before I get started, I have a special message from
is not just a high school convocation, it's a family
day as well. So, let me ask the parents who are here today -- could you stand
for a moment just so we could see you? [Applause] I'll applaud that, too. Mothers
and fathers, your dedication to your children and the schools has made this
community what it is today. Your support is the foundation on which the success
of Education Bill Bennett tells me that wherever you find parents and
communities who care -- principals who set goals and keep track of progress,
teachers who pay attention to basics, and students who work hard -- in those
places you find America's great school systems. He also tells me that
yes, since Herb Sang took over as superintendent 11 years ago, you in the
public schools -- teachers, principals, parents, and students -- have made your
mark on American education. You've sprinted to the head of the class in
improving test scores, cutting dropout rates, winning teaching awards, winning
more National Merit Scholarships, and winning a better future for every student
and for this entire community. And that's why you are on all lists of the best
school systems in
heard that you have a slogan around here: ``Winners are finishers.'' It means
stay in school, stick it out through tough times as well as good, finish and
you'll be a winner, too. But I can't help thinking: Doesn't that have a lot to
do with how your school system itself became a winner? Success wasn't handed on
a platter. It didn't come because you had lots of money. In fact, your spending
per pupil is regularly below the national average. But as Dr. Sang has taught,
progress and money are not the same. And boy, that's one lesson in
you didn't do it with lots of money; you did it with the courage to be
different. When others had lost faith, you did it with your belief in hard work
and real standards and with the American tradition of trusting in the future
and your ability to build for it with your own hands and your own minds and
your own determination. You didn't look to
know a favorite story of mine is about some advice that supposedly a wise man
gave a President of the
decisions outside of
And while we're talking about the American people making choices, not Washington, don't you think that each morning when you start your school day you should have the same voluntary choice every Member of Congress has everyday: to bow your head to God in prayer? [Applause]
come here this morning with a simple message about your future, you who are
students. And that is that
The Federal Government does a lot to shape the future. And there are many times when it would be helpful if government just left things alone. Our goal should be to make government the servant of the people and not the other way around. That is one of the reasons that, over the last 7 years, our administration has pushed for more individual freedom and less government interference. In dealing with the Federal budget deficit, our goal has been to provide those services that are necessary, to provide for our national defense, and to do so at the lowest cost to the average American taxpayer; because what we spend today will be a burden to you tomorrow.
I feel it's time for us to step forward and provide a clear direction for continued economic growth and opportunity. Eleven days ago I joined with the bipartisan leaders in Congress in forging a budget compromise that will put the Nation on a road toward a balanced budget and keep us on that track. I said it was time to roll up our sleeves and get the job done. Well, today I hope you will join with me in this crusade to balance the Federal budget. Let's commit ourselves to do all that we can now and to do even more in the years ahead to continue our economic expansion. It's a time to put aside partisan and personal preferences and join together. It's a time to say, I can and I will.
many years critics around the world have insisted that it would be impossible
to get an agreement along the lines we've now worked out. Six years ago, when I
proposed the elimination of an entire category of
of those same critics also said that it was provocative to tell the truth about
repression in the
the summit, we'll keep our negotiators working on an agreement that could lead
to cutting the
But in the excitement of the summit, the treaty signing, and all the rest, we must not forget that peace means more than arms reduction. More than a decade ago, there was a warming in U.S.-Soviet affairs that we called detente. But while talking friendship, the Soviets worked even faster on the largest military buildup in world history. They stepped up their aggression around the world. They became more repressive at home. We do not want mere words; this time we're after true peace.
One Eastern European dissident thinker has written that ``respect for human rights is the fundamental condition and the sole guarantee of true peace.'' Well, I believe he's right. True peace and freedom are indivisible. That's why it's important to all of us that the Soviets have released over 200 political prisoners over the past year and that they appear to have eased censorship somewhat in the arts and media.
It's also why we're concerned that many more political prisoners remain in jail, internal exile, and psychiatric hospitals. As many as 10,000 Jews await permission to emigrate. Persecution of religious believers continues. Some, including Ludmilla Andrushenko and Father Alsonsas Svarinskas, wait in prison. Their only crime: They wanted to practice their religion and worship God as they pleased. Well, Mr. Gorbachev and I are going to have a few words about that.
also going to have words about Soviet expansionism around the world, for
are these freedom fighters? Well, many of them would be your classmates if they
lived here in
will also say it's time for them to leave
I want my meeting with Mr. Gorbachev to help build a true peace that will last
for your lifetime and that of your children and of their children. And that's why we will review our areas of agreement, but also
emphasize our points of disagreement. Some say it will be impossible for
the Soviets to listen. But we've come a long way already by being strong,
steady, and determined. We Americans set our goals. We were realistic about how
to go after them. We kept on working, in good times and bad. We believed in
I leave, I thought I'd tell you a story that I've told to other students. It's
about a college professor, quite an eminent scholar, who was flying on a trip
over to the
Well, the professor made his trip to Moscow, got in a cab there and started into the city and by coincidence had a young fellow -- looked about the same age as the cabdriver in America. And being able to speak Russian, he got in a conversation with him and found out this young man was still getting his education, in addition to driving the cab. And so, he finally asked him that same question: What did he plan to do when his education was finished? And the young man said, ``I don't know. They haven't told me yet.'' That answer's a pretty good one at summing up the great difference between us.
So, when you leave here today, please remember the blessings of American freedom. Think of how God graced you when he set you down in this land of liberty and of peace and of opportunity, this land of neighbor helping neighbor and family helping family. I have often thought -- maybe you could call it mysticism if you will -- but I've thought that God placed these American continents here between the two great oceans for the most adventurous, the bravest, and the most resourceful people on Earth to find, people from every corner of the Earth who had a little extra love for freedom and the ambition that brought them here and settled them here in this land of ours, bringing you here by deciding how you want to use America's opportunities and then by saying, I can.
I just have one other thing that I'd like to leave with you. I'm sure in this year of the 200th anniversary of our Constitution you probably have been taught a little extra about the Constitution, but if not, I would like to tell you something that -- I have read a lot of constitutions. Every country has a constitution, it seems. And then I was struck one day by -- well, they talked about freedom of this and that, and freedom to do such and such, and well then why was our Constitution so different? And finally the answer came to me. All those other constitutions said, We the government allow you the people to have the following freedoms and do the following things. Our Constitution says, We the people allow the government to do certain things, and it can do no other things that aren't covered in this covenant, this document. I told that story at a state dinner in the White House to the wife of the Crowned Prince of Japan. And she added another line to my story, because when I finished saying what I've just said to you, she very quietly said to me, ``Our constitution, too, says, We the people.'' And I couldn't hide my surprise. That's right. After the war, when we stopped being enemies, they had a new constitution, and so there is now another country in the world that says what ours does -- that the people are in charge.
Well, that's enough from me. I know right now that Superintendent Sang has something to contribute here, and he will tell you what the next step is.
Mr. Sang. Mr. President, your aides have indicated that you might give us a few more minutes, and our students love to ask questions. In fact, they really work our teachers over. And we selected six of our outstanding academic achievers, and with your permission, they would like to each ask you a question. And I see one already over here to my right.
The President. All right.
Mr. President, I am Victoria Gossmire, from
The President. You have some friends here.
Q. And my question is: How will I, as a youth, be affected by the summit meetings?
The President. How will you, as a student, be affected by the summit meeting?
Q. Yes, sir.
The President. Well, if the summit
meeting carries out as we optimistically think today that it will -- that for
one thing, we will have started down the road to the elimination of nuclear
weapons. We will have done away with those weapons of ours that are based on
the NATO line. They were put there in response -- we did not put them there
first -- in response to the Soviets aiming what are called SS - 20 missiles at
all the targets of
But for all of you, this threat that's alive in the world today of missiles that can -- well, I've said that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought. By never being won, I mean that, by the time two great nations exchange the thousands of nuclear missiles -- firing at each other -- where would those people who weren't blown up -- who still remained left -- where would they live? The very soil would be poisoned -- radioactivity. There would be no place for anyone to live. So, I think that we can't do it all at once. But if we've started down that path, and as you come up and take over from the rest of us -- maybe there'll still be some of the job done -- we can once and for all rid the world of nuclear weapons. And that, I think, will make for a far better life for all of you.
Q. Thank you.
Mr. President, my name's Jason Doman, from
The President. Well, now, that's
something that we have looked at down the way in the future, and it is no
I think that we've got a lot of people on both sides standing in the wings,
waiting now for us to approach that problem of that kind of weapon. And we have
determined that when you start to talk about eliminating those then you must,
at the same time, discuss the balancing of the
conventional weapons. Because if we all eliminated right now our nuclear
battlefield weapons that can balance things up -- but if we all did away with
those weapons, both sides, we would have given the
Yes, back there.
Strategic Defense Initiative
Mr. President, my name is Tracie Pough, and I bring
you greetings from
The President. Now, I didn't hear just the beginning, because there were some people still cheering you.
Q. I would like to know if you would reiterate the importance to our future of developing and having a Star Wars space-base missile system?
The President. Oh, I'd be delighted.
[Laughter] There is so much misinformation out about that. This started several
years ago. I asked our people in the Defense Department if it wasn't possible
to see in this modern day of technology if there wasn't a weapon that could be
designed that could intercept nuclear missiles as they came out of their silos.
For example, from the
What we have in mind -- Strategic Defense Initiative, it's called, that's the SDI -- what we have in mind is a defensive system that can begin by hitting those weapons as they come out of the silos. And those that manage to get through, those warheads -- there is a second stage then that goes up and catches them before they come back into the atmosphere and, finally, a third stage to catch any that might come through. The main thing about it is it could really make nuclear weapons obsolete, because what country would, if we have such a system -- even if they thought that some might get through, they wouldn't be certain enough to start a nuclear attack, because they would know our ability to attack them back.
So, what I have in mind is that -- I won't be around by the time we've got it completed, but what we should do is, when that is completed and we begin to deploy that, we should say to the rest of the world, including the Soviets, if everybody, including us, will get rid of our nuclear weapons, we'll give this to everybody, because we all know how to make them. So, someday we can't be sure that there might not come a madman someplace like a Hitler, who knowing how to make them and knowing that no one else in the world had them, he might decide that he was going to do it. I've likened it to our people as when we got together after World War I and everybody decided that we would no longer use poison gas, but everybody kept their gas masks. Well, I think of this as a gigantic gas mask, and maybe this will be the thing that could bring about the end of nuclear missiles.
Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev
Yes, I'm Shane Green, from
The President. I have more faith in
the American people than that. We're a pretty independent people. You find that
out in any number of things that go on any day on the city streets. And I think
that the American people are aware of the shortcomings of communism -- the boy
that can't tell you what he's going to do with his life until they tell him
what he's going to do. Do you know that in graduation from high schools in that
country they come in the rooms where they've got the graduates and they pick
them out and tell them who is going to go to college and who is going to go to
work in the factory -- and they assign them to these places. So, I don't fear
Now, at the same time, I'm not going to tell you that he doesn't believe in their system. He was born and raised in that system, and he believes in much of their propaganda. But he is the first one -- no other Russian leader has ever agreed to eliminate weapons they already have. He is the first one to do that. Now, there is one other thing I'm watching. He is also the first Russian leader who has never reiterated before the great national Communist congress that the Soviets are pledged to a world expansion -- a one-world Communist state. That has been the stated goal of previous leaders. He has said no such thing.
And I know when we first met, my first words to him -- just the two of us in the room and an interpreter -- and I said we're very unique in this moment. Here we are in a room, the two of us, and literally in our hands could be the peace of the world or war for the world. No other two nations could bring that about but us. And he agreed that, yes, that we should start working for peace. And, no, I don't resent his popularity or anything else. Good Lord, I costarred with Errol Flynn once. [Laughter]
Arms Reduction Verification
Mr. President, my name is Michael Davis, from
The President. I have to tell you, I have a little hearing problem. Try again.
Q. My question was: If an agreement on nuclear or conventional weapons was reached, what actions would be taken to ensure that both sides upheld the agreement?
The President. You have touched on what has been the touchiest point all the way: verification. And this is what's been going on now in these meetings between Foreign Minister Shevardnadze and our Secretary of State George Shultz -- is to try and iron out this thing of, yes, how do we establish that there is no cheating and that we're really destroying the weapons that we're supposed to destroy? And we apparently have worked out an agreement that is the strongest verification agreement that has ever been worked out in any kind of arms negotiations. It will have us with the ability to not only supervise areas where such things would be made but also to make spot checks -- just decide we want to go and take a look. And they can do the same, of course, with us. And I think that that is -- well, that was the absolute essential thing. As a matter of fact, I'm no linguist, but I did learn a very brief Soviet proverb, which I made it a point to recite to General Secretary Gorbachev when we first started negotiations. It goes: Dovorey no provorey -- trust but verify.
Mr. President, I'm Stephanie Barnett, from
The President. If I
could ever give advice to Mr. Gorbachev? To really stick with his
program of glasnost and with this worry that they have about people wanting to
emigrate from their country, to make their country like ours to the place that
people don't want to leave. And I would begin with the most important part of
that. I think when the day comes that the people of the
I happen to be a friend of a man -- you all know the name -- Billy Graham.
Billy Graham, as you know, has been invited and has held great meetings there
I have a little Bible in a plastic cover about that high and no thicker than my finger. And inside are some verses that are in there. When they can get their hands on a Bible -- it is so difficult there, and they're not supposed to have them -- they cut them up and make them into these little books so that everybody has just a few verses of their own of the Bible. And one of those was sent to me to show me what they do. So, efforts like that -- they're going forward. And, yes, I may find myself bending his ear on that very subject and telling him maybe his problems would be a lot less.
Q. Thank you.
The President. Thank you all. Thank you, and God bless you all.
Mr. Sang. Mr. President, in appreciation of your being here, our students have a couple of presentations they'd like to make to you at this time.
Dennard. Mr. President, we are sincerely grateful to
you for coming to
Thank you, sir.
The President. Thank you.
Bell. From the time of the Liberty Bell in
The President. Thank you very much. Class dismissed.
Note: The President
spoke at at Veterans' Memorial Coliseum to seniors in the