Public Papers

Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Governor Buddy Roemer in New Orleans, Louisiana


Thank you all very, very much. Thank you, Buddy, and thank all of you. Thank you so very much for that warm welcome. I'm just delighted to be here. It was a wonderful introduction, recalling why the author Pearl Buck wrote, ``I fell in love with Louisiana generally and New Orleans in particular.'' Well, thinking back to the 1988 convention, this town reminds me of winning. And I have a feeling that, come October 19th, it's going to remind me of winning once again -- because we're going to reelect this State Governor.

I want to thank my friends, Jim Bob Moffett and Dave Treen, and everyone else that worked on this highly successful dinner. A quick ``hello'' to two with whom I closely work and whom I respect enormously, Jim McCrery and Bob Livingston, Members of the United States Congress who are right here with us tonight.

And also, we ought to have a word in there for that marching band from St. Augustine. Just first class. First class. Thank you. And it was so great to taxi up in this magnificent new Air Force One and see a red carpet rolled out at the airport to greet me. Then, I found out it was for Jim Mora. [Laughter]

Actually, you're getting a preview of what a Republican administration can do for Louisiana. How 'bout those Saints, fastest start in history. [Applause]

But I am proud, very proud, indeed, to be here to show my support for my long-time friend, and I use that term advisedly, Buddy Roemer. We've done a lot of things together; fought a lot of battles on the athletic courts.

I think we've got a lot in common. We both can be a bit stubborn. We don't always get along with the legislature. [Laughter] We both like fishing. We both love Tabasco. And I want to see him reelected Governor of this State, and I'm sure he agrees with me that he wants to be reelected Governor of this State.

But look at the record, though, seriously. A man who values conviction above conscience, who puts the people before the politicians. He was elected in very tough times, if you just look back over your all's shoulders, to do some tough work. And now he deserves reelection, as Jim Bob said, to finish the job. He spoke for most Louisianians when he said, and here were his quotes: ``Change and progress do not come easily. There have been battles won and battles lost. But we will not go back. We will not turn back the clock. Our children's future can't endure it. Our conscience won't allow it.'' Those were his words.

Like Buddy Roemer, our administration has tried to pursue policies of conscience which do advance that future. First, as he did, let's now look abroad where, more than ever, America clearly remains the light of the world.

When a dictator crushed hopes for democracy in his homeland and endangered the Western Hemisphere, we helped the Panamanian people restore free elections and the rule of law. And when a brutal tyrant invaded and plundered Kuwait, we helped put together an international coalition that rolled back his aggression and liberated a land. And let me say this: The aggression against Kuwait did not stand, and any defiance of those United Nations resolutions now on the books and unfulfilled, any aggression against those, any defiance of those will not stand either. I'm just as determined to see that he does not succeed.

As communism crumbled, we extended a helping hand and made it clear that Americans will support those who promote democracy, free enterprise, and individual liberty.

And so ours is a changing world. And I might say, parenthetically, I can't think of a time in American history of more challenge or more excitement to be President of the United States. It is absolutely fantastic, the change that's going on around the world.

Just last month when a coup threatened the cause of democracy in the Soviet Union, we stood, all of us in this country, firmly on the side of freedom. And after the coup failed, both Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev called me to say how absolutely crucial it had been to have the support of the American people.

These Soviet leaders, as Lincoln said, had the courage ``to think anew.'' And because of that and because of our commitment -- America's commitment to values people respect around the globe -- as you saw Friday night, we are now able to take dramatic steps to reduce nuclear weapons and to build a freer and safer world. And I might add, the response to the proposals that I made Friday about nuclear arms reduction has been overwhelming, from countries all over the world: Not just over in Eastern Europe; not just the Soviet Union; all over the world, a freer and a safer world.

And at home, we seek nothing less. So, we have launched a domestic agenda, Buddy talked about some of it on education, to achieve growth and opportunity and progress. Let me just cite some accomplishments. We've got a long way to go, working with the Governors for some of these objectives.

The child care: Our administration pushed for and got legislation that has dramatically increased child care assistance to parents in this country, giving the parents a choice as to where they want their kids taken care of when they need child care.

And next, the clean air: We pushed for and got pioneering legislation to combat acid rain and toxic air pollutants.

Also, last year we pushed for and got the first landmark civil rights legislation for people with disabilities: the Americans With Disabilities Act.

These bills represent an administration which believes that government should serve the people, not the other way around. Buddy knows what I'm talking about. It's been said that Buddy doesn't just talk the talk; he walks the walk. And so does this administration. We are walking, I'd say running, with a flock of domestic initiatives. There's only one problem, and that is a Congress whose only agenda is to block our agenda. And we're getting a little tired of it, frankly.

Let's look first at crime and transportation. Our administration has unveiled a transportation bill to address local needs and a crime bill to take the criminals off the street, so that law-abiding Americans can take back the streets. Last March 6th, I said we could pass both bills in 100 days. It's 208 days later, and Congress still hasn't even acted on this legislation.

Let's take a look next at the environment. Here in Louisiana, Buddy Roemer has made your Department of Environmental Quality protect what Teddy Roosevelt called ``our cathedral of the outdoors.'' I challenge Congress to do the same by funding our America the Beautiful program to restore our wetlands.

Let's look at civil rights. Some in Congress want a bill that divides our people. I want one that brings us together. And I have just this kind of civil rights bill up there right now, and I'd like to see it passed. I don't like these allegations made that we're not interested in the rights of all Americans. We are, but I'm not going to sign a bad bill just to have satisfaction of some Democrats that are running the Congress.

Another initiative is our capital gains legislation to spur the economy. In Louisiana, some are saying, ``Laissez les bon temps rouler.'' [Laughter] Well, everybody knows first you've got to make a roux. [Laughter] Capital gains is a recipe for growth. It isn't a tax break for the rich. It's a jobs creation bill. And with this stagnant economy, heaven knows we need something to create jobs for the American people.

And finally, let me talk about how you can't have a developed economy without developed minds, what Buddy referred to as ``the second war.'' We've started a crusade for educational excellence that's taken hold in State after State. It is called, as he said, America 2000. And when he, when this Governor, saw that Louisiana wasn't passing the grade, he sent the State back to school. Today, you see signs of progress everywhere in this State, and you feel it. In Louisiana, the ACT scores of black students have increased dramatically. The CAT scores of all students have improved for 3 straight years. And your college-bound seniors have improved their SAT scores. The Roemer legacy: Smaller class sizes, more respect for the teachers that sacrifice for the lives of our kids, and achievement on the rise. And that is a good legacy for this State, and it's a good example for our entire country.

You know, a noted politician once said of Buddy Roemer, ``He's often wrong, but never in doubt.'' [Laughter] That's a real compliment coming from Tip O'Neill. [Laughter]

Two years and two days ago, I saw how Buddy can be self-confident and right -- sorry, Tip -- working with me and all of the Nation's Governors at the Charlottesville education summit.

Buddy also joined me last April at the White House when I announced America 2000, a national strategy to reach six education goals, from making every citizen literate to making our students first in math and science. There were 50 Governors. There was a handful of them out front creating, doing the imaginative thinking. And I can tell you without fear of contradiction, Governor Roemer of Louisiana was one of that handful that made this whole strategy possible.

And I agree with him that our future depends on raising education above previous plateaus of achievement. And that's why Buddy recently announced his intention to organize 2000 Louisiana communities statewide: his own crusade, your own crusade for excellence.

The Americans really in this field, I think, want radical reform. We're not talking anymore about patching it up. We're not taking about that. Spending on education went from something like 0 billion to 0 billion over the last 10 years. It isn't a question simply of spending money. The results went down, spending almost quadrupled.

What we need -- reforms like school choice to give the parents a chance to choose where they want those kids to go. And that choice alone will guarantee that the schools that are not chosen will improve themselves. It's worked in other cities. It's worked in States, and it can work right here under his leadership. Americans, the people, want radical reform with competition and accountability, and with those schools we'll work, and wasteful programs will waste away. And power will shift from the heavy hand of the State to the hands that run the home and raise the family.

Like America 2000, Louisiana 2000 will let citizens work together to help our education system work for us. I speak of government and communities, teachers and parents, businesses and volunteers, and yes, in this field Democrats and Republicans, and liberals and conservatives. It doesn't matter. It is too important to let party divide us and keep us from accomplishing our, achieving our goals. We're involved in a cause that is larger than ourselves. And I might say that if I ever get negligent and don't do my part, this lady sitting over here on my left, given her commitment to literacy, will see that I do my job. I'll guarantee you that. So there.

Education, the environment, a strong economy, and true civil rights: Buddy changed parties to crusade for these causes. And Churchill said, ``Some men change their principles for their party. Others change their party for their principles.'' Some would rather fight than switch. Some would rather switch than fight. Buddy decided to switch and fight. And tonight, I ask you and all the people across this State of Louisiana to fight for him, to keep him as Governor of this State.

So join us in a government of the extended hand, not the closed mind and the self-indulgent heart. Let's help Buddy Roemer steer Louisiana away from old-style gutter politics and toward the far limits of the horizon.

Thank you all for your support. Thank you for the warm welcome for Barbara and me, and may God bless you. And let's keep Buddy Roemer the great Governor of the State of Louisiana. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:27 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to James R. Moffett, chairman of the Louisiana Council for Fiscal Reform; David Treen, former Governor of Louisiana; Congressmen Jim McCrery and Bob Livingston; Jim Mora, head coach of the New Orleans Saints football team; President Boris Yeltsin of the Republic of Russia; President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union; and Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., former Speaker of the House of Representatives. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.