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Thank you all for that welcome back. And, Joe, thank you, sir, for those very kind words. I'm very pleased that both Tom Luken and Bill Gradison made their flight out with us on Air Force One today, and they're both with us. And if it's not inappropriate, I would ask Joe if I could ask them both to stand up and be saluted by this audience of friends. [Applause] Where did Tom go? Okay, we'll let his son represent him -- the mayor of Cincinnati. [Laughter]
But I'm delighted to be back in here. And it is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical gathering -- first one I've attended in Hamilton County like that in a long, long time. [Laughter] And it's good to see State Senator Stan Aronoff over here; my friend Bob Taft, the commissioner; the mayor, who is doing a superb job, Charles Luken.
Delighted to be back here in Cincinnati. I will say to you, Joe, that, yes, I learned a lot from that spectacular program there at Taft. And I expect we all ought to salute the leadership of Procter and Gamble -- my friend John Smale, always out front on what I call a Thousand Points of Light, trying to help somebody else. But for those of you in this community who have not had a chance to see what it is I'm talking about here -- this new program of voluntarism interacting with the best in professionalism at a school to help lift these kids up -- you ought to go take a look and you ought to get involved. It is stimulating in every single way.
Actually, I was hoping to get out here for the Reds' opening day. But they tell me I'm 3 months too early. [Laughter] Same problem I ran into on Pearl Harbor Day. [Laughter] But here I am. And we're not here to talk baseball. But you can claim him in Cincinnati, and I'll claim him from Houston, but I'm mighty proud of Joe Morgan making it into the Hall of Fame. You got Johnny Bench, and now you've got Joe.
And let me, colonel, thank you and the Air Force for that magnificent music and being with us here today.
You know, it is fitting in the days leading up to the State of the Union Address we should meet again in Cincinnati. The last time I visited was in November of '88, in the final days of the Presidential campaign. And earlier, Cincinnati was one of my last stops before the convention in New Orleans.
On the trip before that we spent a morning out at Procter and Gamble's R D facility. They taught me a trick that every President should know -- how to put toothpaste back into the tube. [Laughter] A marvelously educational experience. [Laughter]
All in all, I did come here four times during the Presidential campaign. I talked of America's future and of future generations. I talked of certain principles. And I told you that I was ready to make the tough calls and to take the heat. And today I've come back to tell you that I'm ready to make good on that pledge, because up on Capitol Hill some important business remains unfinished, promises have gone unfulfilled. We sent responsible proposals to Congress in a lot of areas, but certainly in four of America's most critical areas: capital gains, America's children, clean air, and combating crime.
In some cases, our proposals have been under consideration with Congress for the better part of a year. And these four issues are bogged down in the jungles on Capitol Hill. The clock is running, and America's patience is running out. And I'm not here to assign blame; I'm here to suggest that we need to move forward. America wants it done right. America wants it done responsibly. And America wants it done now. And these four initiatives represent only part of the way in which the events of 1989 will affect the coming year.
We've seen a lot of exhilarating changes in recent months that offer new hope for world peace. It's an exciting time we're living in, and we like what's happening in Central Europe. But just as it would have been impossible 6 months ago to predict those thunderous changes, it's impossible today to know what will unfold in the next 6 months, let alone the next 6 years. But in this world of change, one thing is certain: America must be ready. And as excited as I am about the changes moving toward a more peaceful Eastern Europe, America must be strong. And a strong America means not only a strong economy; it still must mean a strong defense, a ready and highly effective defense force. And if proof of that were ever needed, we saw it in that superb, beautifully coordinated operation last month -- we saw it in the courage of our troops in Panama.
I welcome the dynamic changes in Eastern Europe. I strongly support, as I bet we all do, Mr. Gorbachev's perestroika and his commitment to peaceful change and openness, glasnost. But this is not the time that we should naively cut the muscle out of our defense posture. And yet some think that all the answers to this year's problems can be found by spending what is called in Washington a peace dividend. It's like the next-of-kin who spent the inheritance before the will is read. And unfortunately, what is being packaged as a dividend is not money in the bank. It is more like a possible future inheritance, a legacy that will enable us to pass on a better world to our children; and like an inheritance, it's a special gift, a legacy not only of prosperity but also security earned by the hard work and sacrifice of those who came before.
Of course, whenever a potential inheritance looms, there are those eager to rush out and squander it -- to buy new things, to spend, to spend, to spend -- and spending funds they don't yet have. Then the bills start coming, and the inheritance may not. And what was promised as a bonus becomes a burden. In Washington, that burden comes in the form of a new spending program. That's not going to happen, because most Americans know we not only must maintain a strong defense but still must reduce the deficit. And reducing the deficit isn't just a good idea, a sound idea, an idea of sound fiscal policy; it's what the American people want. And as our two Congressmen here today know, it's the law -- it's required under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law.
The way to reduce the deficit is to restrain the spending growth and continue the economic growth. And it's not the time, as some like to say, to go on out and raise the taxes on the working men and women in this country. The new budget must meet Gramm-Rudman requirements. It must reduce barriers to economic growth. It must keep interest rates low. And I'm not satisfied yet -- I'm encouraged, but I'm not satisfied at all -- want to see them lower. And I say all this because the best poverty program -- the best antipoverty program, if you will -- is a good job. And the best jobs program is a sound, strong central economy.
A sound economy is a competitive economy. And to keep America competitive, to fuel our continuing growth -- in some areas, boom -- we also need an infusion of new venture capital. That's why we need a majority in both Houses of Congress -- what they've already voted for, and I'm talking about a tax cut on capital gains.
As the world turns to freer markets -- and you're seeing this happen, some solidifying their commitment to freer markets, countries that never had the benefit of free markets beginning to move, taking early steps towards free markets -- but as the world moves in this direction, this is no time to become wishy-washy about where America stands. The jury is no longer out. Markets work. Government controls do not work.
And since the debate has all but ended on this issue, perhaps our most diehard ideologs can now turn their attention to the real question that divides America: Is it Texas or Cincinnati that produces the world's best chili? [Laughter] Of course, this is a question to be decided by the market -- [laughter] -- and that's what I'm trying to tell you all here today.
The economic challenge of the nineties is to make markets work better. And one of the best ways a government can do that is to do what people around the world are asking their governments to do: get out of the way -- less regulation, fewer mandated programs from Washington that tie the hands of our health care providers, our educators, and so many others as well. You see, our ideas work here at home. We're in the midst of the longest peacetime expansion in the history of the United States, an 86-month expansion that has created an astonishing 20 million new jobs since 1982. That's due to the genius of places like Cincinnati and the solid American values that have flourished here and inspired the world from Central Europe to Central America.
The whole world is watching, and the whole world is ready. The headlines tell of other nations buying American. That's good news, not bad news. We've been urging our own people to ``Buy American'' for years, to invest in the greatest job-creating machine of the 20th century. And it's no surprise, then, the world investors are following suit. The results are in: America is the choice.
We don't have to look elsewhere to know what works. If you want to follow the smart money advice of the 1990's, go to where the Japanese and the Europeans are going. Look at the United States of America. Look at what the rest of the world calls the American miracle. You've seen it happen. You've made it happen. You've been a part of it happening right here in Cincinnati, U.S.A., the Blue Chip City, where 150,000 more people are at work than were working 6 years ago -- 150,000 more.
Cincinnati produced its miracle the old-fashioned way, the American way. It's an old tradition here. When he first opened his slaughterhouse in 1810, Richard Fosdick was warned that meat couldn't be cured in Cincinnati's climate. But he didn't know that it couldn't be done. He continued his experiments until he discovered the rock-salt process for curing meat and made this city the principal hog market of the world.
Renewing our emphasis on innovation is one of the ways modern Cincinnati has prospered. You've also built a diverse economic base, stripped away corporate fat, renewed our emphasis on quality. Fortune says Cincinnati makes some of the best jet engines in the entire world.
Ultimately, these are the kind of efforts that will determine how America fares in the competitive, free-trade world of the nineties. The way of the future is free people. And the way of the future, in my view, is and must be free trade. And free people and free trade is what America is all about.
Of course, it's not enough that we say that trade simply be free. It has also got to be fair. And I am not complacent; I am not satisfied with where things stand. We must do better in removing barriers to Americans' goods and services, whether those barriers be in Japan, in Western Europe, or anywhere else in the world. A global game is afoot, a game in which a Cincinnati businessman can now fly nonstop to London and Frankfurt any day of the week. If the rules are fair and the same for everybody, we can play this game. It's called free enterprise. And America is the free enterprise capital of the world.
Winning in the competitive nineties will take more than investing in products. We must also invest in people. And that was what was so moving about my experience today here at lunch. We must invest in people. And that means offering every American child an education second to none. Our Education Excellence Act remains a priority of my administration, sent to Congress almost 9 months ago. It calls for choice, flexibility, and accountability. And the time for study is past, and the time for action is now.
You in Cincinnati have acted, working to educate and train our people for the 21st century. Three years ago business, educational, and community leaders here came together to take on a mighty task: reduce the numbers of students at risk, that staggering 40-percent dropout rate in Cincinnati's public schools. The result was what I saw today -- that Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, an intensive people-to-people mentoring program that many of you support. And it's already seen some fantastic, early success.
It has America talking. Your Governor visited one of the participating classrooms at McKinley Preschool before coming out to the education summit that I hosted there in Charlottesville, Virginia, last fall. And earlier today, as I said, I had this opportunity to see the tremendous programs at Taft High School firsthand. I guess the most moving part of it for me today was the mentoring part -- involvement of one Cincinnatian in the life of another; an older man, an older woman taking under his or her arm a kid, lifting them up, helping them when they're hurt. A beautiful experience.
There are other matters that require urgent attention when Congress gets back later this month. Our Clean Air Act proposals recognize that in an emerging global economy, environmental destruction knows no borders, and that a healthy economy goes hand in hand with a healthy environment.
And a kinder, gentler environment also means a society where every man, woman, and child can live and prosper in an environment free from fear. And that, then, means freedom from crime, and especially the increasingly violent crime that has been spawned by this plague of drug abuse, drug trafficking. Our anticrime package, as well -- it's time for the Congress to act on it.
There's much to be done in the months ahead. But as a new year begins, Americans should also pause to take some pride in what we've all accomplished together. Let me suggest two areas. At home, more than anything else -- if you had to define it -- a kinder and gentler nation is one in which everyone who wants a job has a job. And today America has the lowest unemployment rate since 1973, and Ohio has reached its highest employment level in history.
Abroad, for more than 40 years, 3 generations has stood steadfast in an often hostile and tumultuous world. Firm in our belief in America's destiny as leader of the free world, our spirit did not falter; our troops did not flinch. And today, after the watershed events of 1989, the free world that we're leading is growing bigger all the time.
And in the past months we saw democracy restored to the brave people of Panama. We want to help them enhance it and strengthen it. We saw the powerful brought before the bar of justice. And we took pride in the skill and the courage and, yes, the sacrifice of American soldiers. The Panamanian operation was conducted by highly trained troops -- the best, the finest, the best trained troops in the world. But it is not simply training; it's patriotism, and it's dedication.
I went to a couple of hospitals in San Antonio -- Barbara and I did -- to talk to some of our wounded. And I'll never, ever forget their spirit. One kid lying there severely wounded said, ``My only regret,'' he said, ``is that I'm here, not down there with the others.'' Pride in America, in my view, has never been higher.
And somehow, it is more than coincidence. In the same month, we hear that the bald eagle -- the American eagle -- may soon come off the endangered species list. How about that? [Applause]
In case you don't understand it, I love my job. [Laughter] We've got a lot to do. But as you see the changes in Eastern Europe, see Mr. Gorbachev struggling against what some would say just terribly difficult odds -- things are coming our way. They're moving toward freedom. They're moving toward democracy. And I am proud to be at the helm.
Thank you all. God bless you, and God bless Cincinnati, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very, very much.
Note: The President spoke at 2:16 p.m. in the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Joseph Head, chairman of the board of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce; Representatives Thomas A. Luken and Willis D. Gradison, Jr.; Robert A. Taft II, president of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners; Joe Morgan, former member of the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds baseball teams, and Johnny Bench, former member of the Cincinnati Reds, both recently elected members of the Baseball Hall of Fame; and Air Force Band commander Lt. Col. Richard A. Shelton. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.