Public Papers

Remarks at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Dinner in Houston, Texas


Thank you very much, Don. Let me just say how pleased Barbara and I are to be back here. You have a wonderful way of making people feel at home, those involved in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Let me first salute last year's winners of the Scramble, of the Houston Calf Scramble, now celebrating its 50th year, and also the 1991 livestock and dairy judging contests. Congratulations on using your 0 certificate to help buy a heifer; what's more, to help pay for a year-long animal project.

To Tom Glazier and Bill Ruckelshaus and his wife, Jill, over here, and Judge Lindsay and our great new commissioner of agriculture, Rick Perry, and fellow Houstonians and Texans. As I say, it is a joy to be back here for a lot of reasons. It's a joy to be out of there; that's in Washington.

But first let me just thank Dick Graves. The first thing when we arrived here that was on our table was a beautiful book commemorating 60 years of the rodeo. And typical of him, his thoughtfulness, there it was awaiting us when we arrived. I want to thank him, and obviously thank him for these two very special commemorative belt buckles. In this tough political season I can't think of a more pleasant way to get belted. And once again, it is a pleasure to be with you.

I went to the first, I think, my first show when Bar and I just moved down here from Midland in 1960. And there we got the feeling of what was going on, seeing the whole community coming together to back these young would-be ranchers and farmers. And I've been back to the show many times.

The spirit of this show has obviously not changed since then or really since it started. Nor has the courage and the heroism of the cowboys, nor the titanic size of the cattle. Seven years ago, as I think Don mentioned, I first attended, a first for me, the Houston Calf Scramble banquet -- steak and eggs was what I thought it was when I got going, ``calf scramble'' -- [laughter] -- but here we are once again 7 years later, and I see that Barbara and I are holding up the meal.

I want to tell you why we were a couple of seconds late walking in here. We were presented a replica of this magnificent bronze that I understand you can see it from the freeway, Dan Gattis and Joe Ainsworth showing us a model of this. And I just can't wait to see the real thing, time and a half as big as the real horses and just a fabulous bronze. So if any of you haven't seen it, I expect most everyone here has, why, you're in for a treat. From what we've seen, it is really spectacular.

In 1988, I was the grand marshal of the rodeo parade. I would like everybody to know that; that was a great honor. It was only equalled by being the grand marshal a year before of the Daytona 500. I think I was going up, though, when I got to be the grand marshal of this one. And I just wish we were going to be able to be with you for one of the shows. But again, many, many thanks.

A couple of things pleased me. First, I liked the show's timing. Maybe I can pick up some tips on how to herd Congress my way. And if that doesn't work, there's always roping and tying. I'm looking forward to being back in this Astrodome, I might say, this summer very much. We're going to bring a lot of people with us, and I hope that's good for Houston. But I think they're in for a treat as well.

The reason I'm most glad to be with you, though, is a feeling that eclipses time and place. It's the feeling that we share as Americans, a feeling we share as Texans, and the feeling when you see the bluebonnets or spot the cattle grazing in the distance or see a landscape that causes a catch in the throat or a tear in the eye. Ours is a great State, and we don't like limits of any kind.

Ricky Clunn is one of the great bass fishermen. He's a Texan, young guy, and he's a very competitive fisherman. He talked about learning to fish wading in the creeks behind his dad; he in his underwear, wading in the creeks behind his father. And he said, as a fisherman he said, ``It's great to grow up in a country with no limits.'' And I've always remembered that wonderful statement by this young kid who has gone on to be one of the champion fishermen in our country and a proud son of Texas.

We don't like limits of any kind. And we know that sustained by the big things like family, home, school -- and thank you, Reverend Payne -- church, community, and country, we can remake a lot of our country in this image that I think of as Texas: generous, self-reliant, enterprising, proud, patriotic.

Here's a story that I think shows what I'm talking about here. It's a favorite of Phil Gramm's. Phil tells of a friend of his named Dickey Flatt who owns his own printing press, lives in Mexia, Texas, population of about, what, 7,000. And he's Phil's barometer of what is right and what is true. He says whether Dickey works 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, whether he's at church on Sunday or a Boy Scout meeting or the chamber of commerce, he can never quite get the blue ink off his fingers. So when a bill comes up in Congress, Phil asks, ``Is it worth taking money out of the pocket of Dickey Flatt to spend on this program? And let me tell you, there are a lot of programs,'' he says, ``that don't stand up to that test.'' And to that, I would simply say Amen. That's the kind of way I think we ought to look at some of the things that are going on in Washington.

Ask yourself or your neighbor: Wouldn't we all be better off if all of us, executive branch and the Congress, thought a little more about people like Dickey Flatt who is out there working his heart out? And wouldn't our lives be better, our Nation greater if, instead of Government, we put the individual first?

This guy Dickey Flatt is like a lot of Texans. We do believe in good schools and good streets. We believe in less Government and keeping taxes down. And we still believe, I think, in a strong defense.

I am very proud that since I've become President, the Berlin Wall has come down and the Soviet Union isn't anymore. Imperial communism, the aggressive communism that wanted to take over the world, doesn't exist anymore. And I think these young kids here today probably go to sleep at night without the fear of nuclear weapons and nuclear war that maybe their mothers and dads did, not so many years ago. So, we have a lot to be grateful for in terms of the changes that are taking place around the world.

Having said that, I have proposed substantial defense cuts based on the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and of our very able Secretary of Defense. But people say to me, ``What is the enemy?'' And the enemy is unpredictability. The enemy is surprise. And I am determined as long as I am President to keep the muscle of our defense intact so that we can guarantee the national security for these young kids that are here today. And that's an awesome responsibility and one that I hope I can fulfill.

We believe that trapping people in dependency is wrong. There's an awful lot of people that need help. They need help from community, as our able judge knows, my friend Jon Lindsay. They need help from Government. And the Government should be compassioned and try to help. But when we have a system that assigns people, because of its inadequacy, to generation after generation of welfare, there's something wrong. And we're trying to change it, and we ought to change it because we need people to have a little more dignity and a little less dependence on a system that regrettably has let them down.

We believe that America is divinely blessed. I still feel this, and I still think that we ought to have voluntary prayer in our schools. I don't think anybody is hurt by that. And I think our Nation was weakened when that was removed from the classrooms of this country.

And so I've tried to highlight some of the values. You know, we had -- I mentioned this in my State of the Union Message -- several of the leading mayors, I think it was the executive committee from the National League of Cities, came to the White House. And they made a real impression on me -- Mayor Tom Bradley of the sprawling city of Los Angeles and others from large cities; one Republican mayor from a tiny town in North Carolina; the Mayor of Plano, a woman from up in Plano, Texas -- and all of them said, ``We have met, and we believe that the major problems in the cities stem from the decline of the American family.''

And so that night in the State of the Union Message, I appointed a commission to be headed by Governor Ashcroft and by Mayor Strauss, former Mayor Strauss, Annette Strauss of Dallas, to take a look at every single piece of legislation to see if in some devious way it weakens family and then to make proposals for legislation that can help keep our families together. The more I think about the problem, the more I think those mayors are right. And I hope as President we can demonstrate not only love for our own personal family but the fact that we think family is very, very important to the heartbeat and to the strength of our great country.

This is America. This is what we are and why we live. And these things are worth fighting for, as Texans have shown that from San Jacinto until just a year ago today, I believe it was, when that war in the Persian Gulf wrapped up with many volunteers, many reserves, many regulars coming from our great State in that war as they have in so many in the past.

There are also things which don't change from one year to the next in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in our families, and in ourselves. And I think these values show why the American way of life is the greatest way of all.

We're in some tough times now. I happen to think there's a little too much pessimism around because we are Americans, all of us here, we are Texans, and we're not going to be defeated. We're going to prevail as this economy comes back. And as we once -- we will keep the position we have in the world as number one. I hear people talk about, `Well, we want to be first.'' Well, we are first. You have to go to some foreign country, and there's never been more credibility or respect for the United States of America around the world than there is today.

So I think we've been a little too apologetic and a little too pessimistic in these tough economic times. And I hope I'm the one to lead us out of that pessimism into the kind of days that this State knows and knows well.

We are delighted to have been here today. And I might -- listen, can I make one other family observation? I am very proud -- Barbara's -- I'm having difficulty living with her because this morning they named a school for her right here in -- Barbara Bush School, and she's been on Cloud Nine since she got back. But I think she's doing a superb job in emulating and speaking for these values that I've talked with you a little bit about today.

I don't know why I've inflicted such a philosophical lecture on you at such an upbeat time as this. But maybe it's just because we feel we're among friends.

Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:07 p.m. at the Sheraton Astrodome Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Don Jordan, master of ceremonies, Tom Glazier, vice president, Dick Graves, president, Dan A. Gattis, general manager, and Joseph T. Ainsworth, M.D., executive committee member, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo; William D. Ruckelshaus, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, and his wife, Jill; Jon Lindsay, county judge, Harris County, TX; Senator Phil Gramm; and Claude Payne, rector of St. Martin's Episcopal Parish, Houston, TX, who gave the invocation.