Public Papers

Remarks to AT T Employees in Basking Ridge, New Jersey


Please be seated, and thank you very much, Dr. Mary Stewart. Thanks for the welcome. Thank you very much, and good afternoon. What a wonderful introduction by such a wonderfully experienced person. Dr. Stewart, thank you very, very much. And good afternoon to everyone.

I want to first recognize she who came up with me on the airplane today, Secretary Lynn Martin. She is doing a great job for this country as Secretary of Labor. I'll have more to say about her own labors in the context of this speech. But I want to thank her for being with us. She is a former Member of Congress. She is now leading this enormous Department and doing a first-class job.

As to Tom Kean, your former Governor, my longtime friend, I couldn't be more pleased. He is heading up our campaign effort here, and I can't think of any better formula for success in this State because of his own record, the respect with which he's held. It is just a wonderful thing. Barbara and I are just delighted to have him at our side in this fight.

Another one is Congressman Dean Gallo, who has been a leader for me and who's helping this State and this community a great deal in the House of Representatives. If we had more like him, we wouldn't hear everybody yelling at me, ``Clean House!'' everyplace I went. So that was nice.

Of course, I'm grateful to the chairman, Bob Allen, and to everyone at AT T. I think it's a good thing that you provide a forum for political people to bring their views to a community. A lot of companies duck it; they dodge it. Then they end up writing me letters griping about how things are. This one is out front. Bob Allen has always been willing to take a position. He stands for something, and so do the people that work with him. So I want to express my thanks to not only those that are in this room but those that might be plugged into some fancy high-tech AT T communications system around here. But the company does good work and certainly is a great corporate citizen of this wonderful community.

I want to thank the speaker who's here, Chuck Haytaian. He is leading the New Jersey Legislature. All States are caught up in enormous battles. And I'm very, very proud of him.

With me today also are two women that came up with us from Washington, both of them standing there. Connie Horner is an Assistant to the President in terms of personnel. She gave up an enormous job as number two in the largest Department in the Federal Government. She's over now working with us in the White House in charge of all of our personnel. You all know the size of the Federal Government. So believe me, that's a major assignment, and I'm delighted she came.

Next to her, some of you may know our household word, our household symbol now, Marlin Fitzwater. Well, Marlin's able deputy is Judy Smith, standing over next to Connie. You may have seen her on television fencing with or supporting the press, depending what kind of mood she's in -- [laughter] -- as we go around this country. But I just am so pleased that they're here with us today.

You know, I remember standing in the Rose Garden just last year and awarding a prize, Environment and Conservation Challenge Award, to AT T for your world-class work in reducing air pollutants. It's great to be here and see firsthand the folks who made it happen. That was a national honor well deserved by you and those who work with you.

But there's something also sad, and Tom touched on it, about being in this neck of New Jersey today, and I'd like to just take a minute or two to explain why.

You lost one of your most remarkable citizens on Wednesday when Congressman Millicent Fenwick died at the age of 82. She was an incredible person. And many portrayed her as the ``pipe-smoking grandmother,'' but she preferred ``hard-working grandmother.'' She said it had the same number of syllables -- typical of Millicent. [Laughter] And she spent her whole life climbing obstacles and helping others to do the same.

Yes, she was born to a life of privilege. But in the early thirties, her marriage split up, and she moved to New York alone, deep in debt, with a couple of kids. She wanted to get a job selling stockings at a department store, but they turned her away. She hadn't earned a high school diploma. She stuck with it, finally rising to be an editor of Vogue magazine.

Her kids grown up, Millicent came home to New Jersey and started to get involved in town politics. She was the first woman member of the Bernardsville Borough Council. She ran then for the State assembly and won and served as State consumer affairs director.

Then at 64, when most people are settling down, Millicent was just starting to make this fantastic reputation in Congress. I was honored to know her very, very well indeed. She helped run my campaign here in this State in 1980. She was deeply principled in politics for all the right reasons, to fulfill a deep and burning desire to achieve justice for all people.

Her commitment to the underdogs of the world was matched only by her wit. Once a State legislator said to her, ``I've always thought of women as kissable, cuddly, and smelling good.'' Millicent replied, ``That's the way I feel about men, too. I only hope for your sake that you haven't been disappointed as often as I have.'' [Laughter] Well, who but Millicent? Enough said.

Well, Millicent Fenwick lived during interesting times. She saw a world transformed outside our borders, and she helped lead that transformation. You remember her assignment after she left the Congress was to go off into a marvelous agency helping people in the food area. But while these remarkable changes took place overseas, here in America a quieter and even more profound revolution has been unfolding, and Millicent was a part of that, too.

I'm talking about a move toward human justice at its most basic level, the movement toward equality of the sexes, a movement that cuts across social and ideological boundaries and touches all our lives. Of course, before we all get carried away with the congratulations, we have to admit -- and Lynn and I were talking about this coming up here on the plane -- that we have a ways to go. I did not come here today just as one more man, but I'm here as a President whose policies affect your lives.

Last week I unveiled, and Dr. Stewart very generously talked about this, my Agenda for American Renewal, answers to the questions that Americans are asking around their kitchen tables. The agenda is a comprehensive strategy to guarantee that by the early part of the 21st century, America will enjoy the world's first trillion economy. I have several priorities; most are well underway. I want to open new markets and new customers for the products you produce. I want to create new schools for a new age. I want to sharpen businesses' competitive edge, with relief from taxation, regulation, and certainly from litigation. I want to reach out to all Americans, and I want to dramatically reduce the size and the scope of the Federal Government.

That's my agenda. But today, I'm here to talk about a special priority on my agenda, providing economic security for American working men and women. The first order of business, as I said, is to admit that there is still unfinished business. Women work as hard as men and still earn less, and that's not acceptable. Most working women do more than equal work on the job and at home, and that's not acceptable, either.

Many women are trying to do it all alone. Look, divorce happens, and I know it from my own family, my own daughter. I've seen what single mothers are up against, the kind of pressures, trying to do 36 hours of work in a 24-hour day.

As a nation, we must confront these challenges head-on. Not talk, not slogans, not political rhetoric, we need Government policies that help men and women meet their responsibilities at home. And that means child care. It means family leave policies. It means child support enforcement. It means cheaper health care.

Both candidates in this election are talking about these issues. But we offer entirely different solutions. The other side puts their faith in Government, Government mandates. On issue after issue, their solution comes down to giving more power to Government. I put my faith in you. I want to give you the power to help yourself. The other side's ideas sound very enticing. But you have to ask, ``Will they work for me? Will they make a difference in my life?''

In thinking about this, I refer you to a story about William II, the Emperor of Germany. He saw himself as a man's man, which I guess means he was the kind of Kaiser who, when he got lost, would refuse to ask anybody directions. [Laughter] Well, the Kaiser got in his head that he could design a better battleship. So he drew up plans and sent them to the naval architect for him to study. And the architect said the Kaiser's battleship would be absolutely the finest one on Earth. It would be as fast as a speedboat. Its range and its power would overwhelm the enemy. Everybody on board would feel like they were lounging in their living room. There was only one teeny, tiny problem: If the boat were built and actually placed in the water, it would sink.

Well, I'm afraid a lot of policies that have been coming out of Capitol Hill the past few years do that. All are designed to use Government to achieve great things on your behalf. But look closely, and I suggest that they just might not float in water.

Let me give you a few examples. You decide for yourself.

This week, Congress sent me what's called family leave legislation. The bill has the noble goal of allowing a mom or dad to leave a job in order to take care of a new baby, maybe care for a sick parent. The bill would require companies to keep the job open for 3 months until the employee could come back to work.

Now, I believe family leave is necessary, and our families need it. A lot of companies are providing it. This one right here does; AT T is one. You should be proud of your farsighted leadership on this. But the bill Congress sent me this week would force every company with more than 50 employees to provide family leave. If companies don't foot the bill, they break the law. Now, that's one approach, and I offer another one. I want to give all businesses incentives in the form of credits, tax credits to offer family leave.

It's an election year, so congressional leaders have sent me their mandatory approach. They've been sitting on it all year long, I might add. Now, with 2 weeks to go in this session of the Congress, or 3, sent it to me and dared me not to sign it. I want to explain why I can't support their approach.

First of all, our economy is sluggish. Here in New Jersey and all across the country it's sluggish. Think of the ad agencies, the printing companies, other suppliers in your neighborhoods and people that you work with every day. They're still cutting budgets and payrolls, and I don't want to load on more Federal mandates that will force them to lay off people.

You might say, ``You're protecting the rich.'' But, you know, entrepreneurs aren't all rich. In fact, more and more people are taking their pensions and starting their own small businesses. By the year 2000, women will run the majority of these businesses.

Here's another point to consider: You and I know the best benefit packages often come from the largest employers. They're the ones that can provide the benefits. Small companies are usually where parents have to make the tough choice between work and family. But the other side's approach exempts the smallest employers. My approach offers incentives to those companies, and it will cover the 40 percent of American workers who won't be covered by the other side's plan.

One more thing: Think of the impact mandated family leave has on hiring decisions. I know it's not supposed to happen, but how many employers will think, why not hire a man instead of a woman? He won't leave to have a child. He won't leave to care for his family. This is illegal, and we must enforce the law. But mandated family leave could encourage this subtle kind of discrimination.

I don't think you'll hear these kinds of details discussed in the media. But I'm going to take a stand because to me, it's not worth putting politics ahead of progress.

Let me talk just about another job-related issue, something that's called the glass ceiling. Today, companies are promoting some women in greater numbers, but not fast enough. So a lot of talented women are going into the businesses for themselves.

This isn't just a corporate problem; we're seeing the same thing happen in Government. And I'm proud of our record in promoting women. But I'm especially proud that we've put talented women in important economic positions: running the Department of Labor, running the Department of Commerce or the Small Business Administration, or handling all of our trade negotiations. The women I work with tell me they don't want any special opportunity; they just want the right to succeed or fail, to be measured by the same standard as men.

We want to see the Lynn Martins of corporate America succeed, too. That's why this Secretary of Labor, Lynn Martin, has made shattering the glass ceiling a top priority. She's making sure that companies who receive your tax dollars through Federal contracts make career opportunities available to women.

Let's talk child care for a moment. You see a difference in philosophies here. Congress wanted a Government-run child care program, a mandated program emanating from some subcommittee and then working its way through the Congress. I heard from parents who wanted the right to choose the best child care for their children. It might be a public school. It might be a church or a synagogue, an aunt's house. And the point is, you want to make the choice, not be told where to go by some county clerk. Congress wanted to give the money directly to county agencies and limit the family's alternatives. I fought for giving vouchers directly to parents, so you can choose the best care, regardless of who provides it. Our way was better, and on this one we won.

Now we're having a similar debate, major national debate, over health care. Costs are rising more than 10 percent a year. It's putting pressure on families. It's the fastest growing item in this enormous Federal budget. Once again, the other side wants the Government alone to solve the problem, either by directly taking over our health care system or by indirectly getting involved in setting prices and mandating benefits. Now, that idea sounds appealing to some, but it will end up meaning longer lines and less flexibility for you and for your families.

I offer an entirely different approach, sitting up there now in the United States Congress awaiting action. I want to give companies incentives to provide coverage and use competition to drive down costs. I want to get at the root cause of raising prices, including skyrocketing malpractice insurance. I want to let small businesses pool their coverage, insurance coverage, so they can get the same price breaks as larger companies do. My plan will lower costs through competition, extend coverage to the poorest of the poor -- insurance coverage -- extend coverage to 30 million Americans who cannot afford it today and build on the strengths of our system, which already provides the highest quality care in the world.

You see people coming from all over the world to come to America for health care. Why? Because we have the highest quality care. If you take it out of the private sector and you put it in the public sector, you can guarantee that it will no longer be that beacon for quality. I believe my approach is right. I believe it's right for the citizens of this country, and I believe it's right when it comes to a philosophy of government.

Now, here's something that really bothers me. Five million women today in America are entitled to child support from ex-husbands. Now, you know how many of those women get all they are entitled to? About half. About half. I think it's outrageous that a father in Pennsylvania can be shopping for a new Corvette, while his ex-wife in New Jersey is struggling to shop for food. And I think it's time that the long arm of the law taps every deadbeat dad on the shoulder and says, pay up, or else.

There's a lot more in this agenda. We've made it so you can take a pension from job to job. Our health care proposal, the health care goes from job to job. We've provided incentives for student aid. Today one out of two students at a college or university gets a Federal loan or grant. And the purpose is the same: to protect working men and women, to make it easier to raise a family.

But listing the exact details of every program isn't as important as the philosophy behind them, a philosophy that says: Ultimately, the only way to make people more secure is to give you more power, give you, the individual, more power over the decisions that affect your jobs and family budgets.

If we're going to use the power of Government to move us forward, we need to use the power of Government to help, not hinder; not to add new barriers to opportunity but to remove old ones. I started by talking about the economic challenge before America, and I'd like to close the same way because ultimately that's what this election is about: Who has the ideas that can help America win the global economic competition? When you stop to consider all the challenges we face in this Nation, let's not ignore some of the advantages.

Here in America, we send more of our students to higher education, more than any other nation, twice as many as Germany and more than twice as many as Japan. More than half of these American students are women. Basically, we have twice as many educated people as our competitors. It's because America is the only nation that really tries to base opportunity on character and talent alone.

The changes of the past few decades have improved the lives of all Americans. But more than that, they've improved our society. They've made us stronger as we face the stiff challenges ahead. The policies that I've outlined today are designed to build on our strengths, to help us take advantage of the talents of every American, to strengthen all our families so that we can make America safer and more secure.

I have seven granddaughters. Maybe I better rephrase that: Barbara and I have seven granddaughters. [Laughter] I don't want to be killed when I get down to Maryland. [Laughter] The oldest is 15 years old. And the world that she enters today will be much different than the world that Barbara and I entered many years ago. If my granddaughter wants to go out to Texas and start an oil company, she can do it. If she wants to write the ``Vogue Book of Etiquette,'' she can do that, too. If she chooses another line of work, if she chose to stay home and raise her kids, well, I'll give her love and support. She won't have to answer to anyone about the choices she's made. If she wants to try and run for President, she can do that, too. And I hope she does.

I'm very glad that my grandchildren face these opportunities, but they will only be able to take advantage of them if America remains the most dynamic place on this great Earth. I think the path to economic security lies with less Government, less regulation, more freedom and respect for families and individuals.

So what I offer in this election is simple: a new path to a renewed America, based on some tried and true values. That's how we're going to build a safer, more secure America for all of us and certainly for our kids, your kids, and my grandkids.

Thank you for listening. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:54 p.m. at the AT T corporate headquarters. In his remarks, he referred to Mary L. Stewart, president, Stewart Management Group, and Chuck Haytaian, speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly.