Public Papers

Remarks to Federal Express Employees in Memphis, Tennessee


Thank you so very much. Thank you so much for that enthusiastic welcome. And thank you to my friend Howard Baker, one of the great leaders in the United States Senate in all of its history. Thank you for the introduction, Howard. And may I salute Congressman Don Sundquist, who has been at my side in the political wars, a good friend, a great Congressman. And I'm delighted to be here at Federal Express, 1990 Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award winner, a national winner.

My staff told me they weren't sure they could fit this stop in our schedule. But when I said it was a ``Fred said,'' I knew we had to do it and fast. Fred, thank you. You know, Fred Smith has always been very, very generous. And Fred, it's good to know that if Air Force One ever has a problem, I can always ride in the jump seat. And I hope I don't forget the cookies. And you know what that means.

The people of Memphis, indeed, all Americans, face a momentous decision this year. And I would never presume to tell you how to vote; it must be between you and your conscience: Which Elvis should be on the postage stamp? I noticed the sign.

And really, it is a delight to be in this State because the people of Tennessee believe in big things, and we agree on the values that are closest to our hearts. And I'm talking about job security. I'm talking about family. I'm talking about world peace for us and our children and for our families for generations to come.

I'm here today because the people in Memphis, as well as people at Federal Express, embody the values that have made America number one in the world. And I know that with leaders like you, America will stay number one. Don't listen to the gloom-and-doom pessimists on that evening news every night. You don't shrink from a challenge, whether in the marketplace or in the world at large. Think back to a year ago. Think back to Operation Desert Storm. America faced a great challenge then, and Tennessee met it proudly. More than 6,000 Tennesseans served their country as reservists or members of the National Guard. And Fed Ex flew more missions than any other single civilian carrier. And believe me, that is not a contribution that America will ever forget. Thank you all very much and all of you that helped make that possible.

What makes this city, this State, and this company so successful? It's not hard to figure out. Look closely at what happens right here at Federal Express. You seek out new technologies; you make them work. You see job training not as a one-shot deal but as an ongoing process. And you set high standards, constantly asking more of yourselves and your coworkers, and you're satisfied with nothing short of excellence. Innovation, that's what being competitive is all about.

The key to success, to our success as a Nation is competitiveness. And for some, that word, competitiveness, is just this year's political buzzword. Here in Memphis it's a reality. Competitiveness is your key to leadership. And companies like this one here, Fed Ex, understand a central truth about America: If we are to succeed economically at home, we must lead economically abroad. And that's what you are doing.

And here at Fed Ex that's just common sense. More than 1.5 million packages pass through here everyday en route to all parts of the globe. And Memphis, therefore, is already America's distribution center, and now you're becoming the world's. And that means economic opportunity, and it means jobs for the American people.

You know, in this political year, this political year some people can't seem to understand that. They see the challenges of a global economy, and they say, ``Let's draw the blinds; bolt the doors. Maybe the world will go away.'' And they push protectionism, an ugly word that really means surrender. Don't be fooled by the tough talk and the patriotic political bluster out there. Protectionism comes from fear, fear that Americans can't compete, fear that Americans have no ideas and no foresight, fear that America can no longer lead. And let those skeptics come to Memphis, Tennessee, and let them come to Federal Express and see what it really is about. And maybe then they'll understand what you and I already know: Americans here and across our country can outthink, outperform, outproduce anybody in the world.

Never in this country's history have Americans turned their back on a challenge. And we don't run and hide. We compete. As long as I am President, we will continue to compete, and we will continue to compete. I don't believe in protectionism, and I don't believe in isolationism.

Yes, we've got a lot of work to do to keep America on top. And of course, you know and I know that our biggest challenge, my first priority, is to get this economy moving, to create and preserve American jobs. And in my State of the Union Address in January, I laid out a two-part plan for the economic recovery. First, a short-term plan to strengthen the economy right now. And then, second, a longer term plan to keep America growing strong for years to come. And my plan gets business moving again, hiring again. It gets the housing market back on its feet with a ,000 tax credit for that first-time homebuyer. Give those young families a chance to own their own home, commonsense proposals to get people buying homes and then building homes.

Fortunately, Congress can't tie my hands on everything. I've been able to take some steps on my own. For example, I put a 90-day freeze on new Government regulations so that all major Cabinet Departments and Agencies can conduct a top-to-bottom review. And I've given them some advice: Wherever possible, they must speed up any regulations that encourage economic growth and scrap regulations that restrict economic growth in this country.

Overregulation robs the inventiveness and risk-taking the economy needs to grow. And you all understand that better than anybody. For the first year, Fed Ex ran its business with 32 small planes. Any further expansion was inhibited by air cargo regulations. And deregulation allowed Fed Ex to buy more planes, larger planes for transport. And literally, Federal Express took off when the regulatory burden was lifted from their backs. And so, we're going to energize our economy nationally the same way. The days of overregulation are just that, they are over.

And also there's another thing on the minds of the people in this great area, and that means reforming our legal system. When parents won't coach Little League for fear of being slapped with a liability lawsuit and doctors stop delivering babies for fear of a malpractice suit, there is something wrong. And that's why I've sent a bill to the Congress, supported by Don Sundquist, to stop the frivolous lawsuits that drain our wallets and tear apart our society. And here's the bottom line: America won't find its way out of this mess until we spend more time helping each other than we do suing each other.

We've got to also reform our health care system. Anyone who's had even a checkup knows that medical costs are going right through the roof. And I believe all Americans deserve quality health care. However, too many families go without health care coverage. And our plan focuses on opening up access to health care to all Americans, rich or poor. And some want to take us down the road of nationalized health care, and I think you and I both know that nationalized health care where Government makes all the decisions would be a national disaster. And so I say to the Congress, the Congress of the United States: The American people need your help, and now is not the time for the Government to play doctor. Give us an improved health care program for this country.

I'd like them to do it now. But see, I know Congress can be a little slow doing things. [Laughter] That's like the guy that takes an hour and a half to watch ``60 Minutes.'' [Laughter] So I gave them a deadline, March 20th, to enact this short-term plan. And unfortunately for the American people, the Democrats, the liberals that control the Congress, had other ideas. Last week they passed a plan of their own. And here's what it does: In exchange for a two-bit tax cut, literally about 25 cents a day per taxpayer, they will raise another 0 billion in taxes. And they call that 0 billion new revenues. And I have another word for it: your money. [Laughter]

No matter how the the Democrats try to dress it up, any economist can tell you the last thing we need right now is a 0 billion tax hike. So if the Democrats in Congress want to send that bill to me, I've got a message for them: I will veto it, absolutely, positively, overnight.

No, the American people have had enough of the old tax-and-spend, and they want to get our economy back on track. And every day each one of you hears Federal Express airplanes flying overhead. To some people that might sound like noise, but it is music to my ears. It is the sound of an economy on the move, an economy that is worldwide. It is the sound of American ingenuity taking off.

Since I took office, it has been my responsibility to work for what is right for America. And I often go back, I expect we all do as families -- and I wish Barbara Bush were with me to see this marvelous crowd today -- we often go back to the simple ideal that in our case, that my parents taught me: Try your hardest. Be honest. Do your best. And let me tell you something: I'm not finished yet. I want your support for 4 more years to finish this job. And I say to the people of Tennessee, together we're going to make a change, a change that for once Congress will believe in you and give you values you believe in, give those values a real chance to work.

Thank you for your hard work. Thank you all for this enthusiastic welcome and your continued support. And may God bless the greatest, freest country on the face of the Earth, the United States of America. Thank you so much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:35 p.m. at Memphis International Airport. In his remarks, he referred to Frederick W. Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Federal Express.