Public Papers

Remarks at the Great American Workout


Welcome, all, to the White House. And let me tell you how much I appreciate this wonderful display of fitness, something so important to our country. May I start off by saluting Secretary Sullivan, who I don't see, who's going to be with us in a minute; Chairman Schwarzenegger, of course. Where's Lou? Over here, suited up. [Laughter] And thank Barbara Mandrell and members of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and the National Fitness Leaders Association; and of course, Milton Berle and Bob Saget; Mary Lou Retton, an old friend; Peter Vidmar; Chris Evert; Lauri Single, National Fitness Director of the Year; and on and on it goes.

Welcome to the White House and to an event which kicks off National Fitness Month. That's the third Great American Workout. It's a special pleasure to be introduced by a friend, a man who embodies this event, the Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who literally has done a superb job, going to every single State in the Nation on his own to take this message of fitness to everybody. We're very grateful to him.

As I told Arnold earlier, I am sorry to have to cut short my participation in this great event. I hope you can understand; I am going to be getting, at 7:15 a.m., an update on the situation that troubles the whole country, the situation in Los Angeles, meeting with the Attorney General and the head of the FBI. Then we'll be meeting with some of our outstanding civil rights leaders to discuss our common commitment to justice, civil tranquility, and the rule of law.

But before I go, let me just say a few words about this important issue of fitness. Arnold, as I mentioned, or didn't, maybe, but yesterday he visited the 50th State out there in Ohio as Chairman. And he's spreading the word that each of us has a stake, a serious stake in making exercise a part of America's fitness and fitness a part of each American day.

When we see these workout stations, which I was privileged to participate in last year, you can understand it more clearly. Even a special workout to honor true heroes has been set up, and those are representatives of the Special Olympics. We welcome them back to the White House again. They set a great example for kids around this country.

Part of his message is that we need balanced and nutritional diet. And we've got to avoid tobacco and drug use, avoid excessive alcohol use. And fitness really can enrich the human mind and body by lowering stress and blood pressure and cholesterol.

We also have to act on another front by putting new emphasis on quality physical education in our schools. Arnold has pointed out to me that only one State, Illinois, gives daily physical education for K through 12. And that's the only State giving it, thus, the priority that it really deserves. Now, we've got to change that. So let's make it 50, just as our Chairman has done by going to 50 States.

A man with us, a special man, knows all about fitness. He knows that an American that is physically and mentally fit is fit to take on the world. And at 83 -- sorry about that, Milton -- [laughter] -- Milton Berle still rides his stationary bike, he does a lot of walking, he punches a heavy bag, and he maintains a healthy diet. So no wonder he's just been named a special adviser to Arnold. I welcome his leadership, showing that nobody, put it this way, is too old to stay fit.

So to Milton and to Arnold and all of you, my thanks for what you've done. Thanks for showing the Nation what fitness means. And I hope you enjoy the Great American Workout. I arranged for the weather here. [Laughter] And I know you'll enjoy the program which follows on the main stage, starring the famous and wonderfully generous Harlem Globetrotters. We welcome them. We have a basketball court down there. And I got a lot of laughs when I threw the basketball with Duke the other day. But the difference is these guys are funny on purpose. [Laughter]

So thank you all. And Arnold, once more, my heartfelt thanks for what you're doing in leading this country to new levels of fitness. Now I must leave, but Barbara's going to join in, so she will demonstrate the Bush family commitment to work out, every station, 20 minutes at each one.

Note: The President spoke at 7:04 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House.