For The Presidency
September 16, 1986
Thank you Governor Castle for your kind introduction, and thank all of you, family, friends and neighbors for joining Elise and me on this very special day. I'm delighted you're here, and I appreciate your enthusiasm and support because we're going to need all of it - and then some - in the quest we begin this afternoon.
I want to talk with you today about the future of our country, and about how together, we might help shape that future.
As a nation we will soon be without the graceful, confident leadership of Ronald Reagan. Under his leadership, we've known what we stood for as a people and where we wanted to go as a nation. Sooner than we realize he will step down from the presidency; so we must begin to think about who will next lead this country, and in what direction.
Anyone who would seek the office of president should let our countrymen know something of his vision of America. We're all familiar with President Reagan's vision. Today I'd like to share mine.
Since 1776, America has had the clarity of a pioneer axe. The truths and values of life have been self-evident. Provide for our families. Worship God. Help our neighbors. Underlying these values is one truth that separates us from other societies, giving America a special clarity of purpose - and that is our deep commitment to opportunity.
Opportunity is why we were founded, why we prospered, and why we prevail.
Opportunity is not government power; it's not government programs; it's not something to be administered. Opportunity is the power of people to make their own choices, to improve their own lives, to control their own destinies.
I was born with a well-known name and genuine opportunity. I hope I have lived up to both. That is a matter of personal importance to me but for our nation, I know this central truth - America is renewed from the bottom up, not the top down. I believe in the words of Woodrow Wilson, "The genius which springs up from the ranks of unknown men is the genius that renews the youth and energy of our people."
In the 1980s we Americans began to see that opportunities could blossom again - opportunities triggered by lower inflation, lower taxes, and lower interest rates - opportunities triggered by renewed pride, confidence and optimism.
But the opportunities of the 1980s are not chiseled in granite. Nor are the opportunities of today enough for tomorrow. There is potential in America that is untapped. There are problems that are unsolved. There are needs that are unmet, lives that are unfulfilled. Increasing the momentum of opportunity for America is the challenge for tomorrow's leaders.
In considering whether I can meet that challenge for our country, the first question is whether I met it for the people of Delaware. President Reagan recently said the closest thing to being president is being a governor. And he is right, because in both jobs you have the power to create opportunity. And we sure did that here in Delaware.
We went from repeated budget deficits to eight balanced budgets in eight years.
We went from a string of 22 tax increases to income tax cuts of 30 percent.
And do you know what? One in every five jobs in Delaware was created during our eight years.
But those are just statistics. People at work in good jobs that provide ladders to even better ones - now to me, that's a wonderful, fulfilling sight.
I've seen the opportunities that tax and spending cuts can release. High taxes give government power. Lower taxes give people power. And what's often overlooked is this: People are the economy, not the government. It's the people who produce, who earn, who save, who invest - it's not the government.
The tax reform bill with its simplified structure and lowered rates hasn't even passed yet. And do you know what Democrats in Congress are already talking about? They're talking about increasing tax rates.
To paraphrase a well-known American, "There they go again."
Government doesn't need more money until it does better with the money it already has. Teaching government that lesson was the challenge of the Reagan administration. Applying is the challenge for the next one.
There are too many cases where government spends vast sums of money and burns up incredible amounts of time and energy and still fails to offer opportunity. I think I can change that. I suppose every candidate does. But perhaps I will be a little different from some of the others. Because starting today, I will tell you how.
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Let me start where opportunity begins for all of us ... with education.
Americans simply cannot be prepared for the 1990s with an educational system designed a century ago. Education is one of the last government monopolies. Government tells us where we go to school, what subjects we take, what we read and what we learn. The way you break monopolies is with competition. Some insist competition will destroy our schools. I believe competition will save our students. Yes, the weakest schools would eventually be weeded out. But let me ask you a simple question: don't they deserve to be?
Giving parents a greater say in where their kids go to school will force schools to improve. I would begin by providing current education assistance to the needy in the form of vouchers. It is not all we need to do, but it is the right way to start.
I also believe that we have defined education too narrowly in this country. If America is to be competitive, education and training must continue throughout our lives. We need to help those who must prepare for second and third careers - for new work in new industries.
What we need is a national schooling and training bank. It would have simple rules. Everybody in our country would have the opportunity to receive schooling, training or retraining. Eighteen-year-olds could go to any college or to any vocational school where they are accepted. So could 40-year-olds. You could borrow as much money as you need and the government would guarantee the loan. But .... you'd have to borrow it at market rates and pay it back yourself. The opportunity is there, but it's your responsibility because it's your future.
So education is where we begin. But even the most dramatic improvement in our education system won't be enough to help those who are already trapped by the cycle of poverty. Our welfare system should be designed to vault people out of poverty. Today it accomplishes exactly the opposite. If we tried to design a system that purposely demeaned the human spirit, we couldn't have done any better. It's not right to deny people opportunity just because they're poor.
In the past 10 years our welfare system has given people over $300 billion without requiring them to work. Yet today, more of our citizens live in poverty than 10 years ago. We should have learned by now that government spending doesn't cure poverty. Only opportunity can do that. Instead of a handout, we need to provide poor people with a job and everything that comes with it - a paycheck, a boss, responsibility for mistakes, rewards for initiative, and a chance to move up to a better job.
Our first effort should be to help people find private jobs. If after exhausting counseling and retraining programs a person still can't find work, he or she would have to go work for the government at 90% of minimum wage with day-care being part of the package.
I know you've all heard about something called "workfare." But nowhere in America are we saying to able-bodied people who are on welfare; "We're not going to give you a check, we're going to get you a job." Our policy in this country must be: "If you don't work - you don't get paid."
We should have the courage to admit the welfare system is a human and governmental failure and replace it.
The same goes for our farm programs. During the past five years, spending on price support programs has increased more rapidly than any other budget item - even defense - from 4 billion dollars in 1981 to more than 25 billion dollars this year. And the average farmer isn't any better off - in fact he's worse off.
No wonder. Our own government policies and foreign subsidies have made it impossible for our farmers to prosper. Our programs are contradictory; we pay farmers to grow more, to grow nothing, to store their crops rather than sell them. Government support programs are a trap for the farmer and a fleecing of the taxpayer. How in the world can the farmer ever prosper in a system that encourages overproduction and depresses market prices? It just doesn't make sense.
I believe the government should be out of the agricultural marketplace in five years. In the meantime we should stop playing politics with price-fixing schemes, and start making payments directly to farmers during this transition period. Our farmers are the most productive in the world - they can out-plant, out-harvest and out-sell any competitor. It's high time we gave the American farmer the chance to be his own master once again.
Now I'd like to take a moment to talk about drugs. We're about to embark on a Rambo-like crusade against smugglers and pushers. Well that's the right thing to do. But a drug-free nation is not something government can create no matter how hard it tries. Only individual Americans can make that happen. The supply of drugs will be irrelevant if we don't use drugs. I want to give us the incentive to do just that.
The first action should be in our schools. The one place kids should be safe from drugs is in the classroom.
The only way we'll ever guarantee drug-free classrooms is comprehensive drug testing of teenagers in our schools. If we can require vaccinations before kids go to school, we can require drug testing while they're in school.
Of course we must provide counseling and help for young people who need it. But we have to let them know there are penalties - and consequences - for drug use. We have to say, "If you use drugs you won't drive ... because you won't have a driver's license."
As for adults, some people believe occasional drug use is okay. They are wrong. If you're an adult drug user in this country, two things ought to happen to you - it should cost you a great deal of money in fines that really hurt, and you should go to jail. For a long time we've gone after drug pushers. Now it's time to get tough with drug users too.
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Education, poverty, agriculture and drugs all present enormous challenges for tomorrow's leaders. Meeting them is just the beginning of improving our lives and our opportunities. After all, the only limit on America's destiny is our own creativity and courage.
But opportunities are of no value if we're not free to pursue them. Protecting our freedom is the first responsibility of a president. Today we are the freest people on earth. Tomorrow we must not only ensure that freedom, but advance it, for that is the key to our own security and our obligation to mankind.
For nearly 40 years the containment of communism has been the core of our foreign policy, because all that time the Soviet Union has been the greatest threat to the freedom and safety of the world. Although I support that policy wholeheartedly, it isn't enough. Our foreign policy for the '90s needs to be based on the concept of choice - extending to people the power to better their own lives in their own ways.
Our foreign policy shouldn't be only a negative one of containing communism, but a positive one of expanding freedom. And we should be open about it. A nation born of a struggle against tyranny should never apologize for helping others win their freedom.
Freedom ought to be given every opportunity, and it doesn't matter if it's in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Angola, Chile or South Africa. We ought to be consistent, and we ought to be forceful.
Our defense policies, too, are still based largely on the 1950s rather than the 1990s. In the '50s our defense rested heavily on offensive technology. That hasn't changed very much. We're still relying on something called "mutual assured destruction" as a deterrent to nuclear war.
Let's be honest. Even if 50, 60, or 80 percent of the nuclear arms of the two superpowers were eliminated tomorrow, there'd still be enough weapons left to destroy civilization as we know it.
The first generation of nuclear arms control has been based on trying to limit these weapons through agreements. Although we must doggedly keep trying, that hasn't been good enough so far.
The second generation of nuclear arms control must be based on limiting the very threat these weapons pose. I'm talking about the president's Strategic Defense Initiative. This defensive shield symbolizes a new era in which we entrust our security to the ingenuity of the American people rather than the integrity of the Soviet government.
Now I know there are some who say we don't have the technology to build such a shield and never will. Well, they're wrong. Those who have bet against American technology in this century have lost their money every time and they'll lose it again.
Others say we must bargain away the only arms control power we can implement our selves. I disagree with that too. If we ever bargain away the right to develop high-technology defensive weapons, we'll be threatening the future safety of our country.
As we move toward defensive systems we must also move toward a broader defense strategy for the '90s. Let me give you an example. At present our nuclear deterrent is heavily dependent upon large, fixed, land-based missiles; missiles that are sitting ducks in a Soviet attack. The MX missile would be an even more attractive target. We should use America's technological strength to shift from reliance on these land-based missiles to less vulnerable mobile systems and more sophisticated cruise missiles. By doing this we would reduce the likelihood of a Soviet attack and help build a more secure peace.
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So today we begin. We talk about opportunity as Americans always have. But opportunity is more than a word that goes into a litany of campaign promises. It's one of our enduring values. We're a nation - the only nation in history - founded on a faith in our own possibilities.
Our founders began a remarkable, inspiring heritage. We're equal to continuing that heritage for generations to come. We have the same heart, the same determination, the same values.
You know, one of America's space pioneers once said, "Don't ever tell me man doesn't belong out there. He belongs wherever he wants to go and he'll do plenty well when he gets there." That attitude embodies the American spirit. It speaks of our sense of freedom, and opportunity, and confidence.
One hundred eighty-seven years ago a man named Pierre Samuel du Pont and his two sons left France to find opportunity in a freer world. They and their descendants enjoyed that freedom and prospered with it. Today one of those descendants has been given another extraordinary opportunity. He has been allowed the privilege of dreaming to lead the nation his ancestors risked everything to join.
I'm sure old Pierre is smiling as he looks down from the heavens to hear his namesake say, yes, I am a candidate for the president of the United States of America.
Source: Governor Pete du Pont.
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