Ronald Reagan's 1980 Neshoba County Fair speech
Following is the speech of Ronald Reagan at the Neshoba County Fair on Sunday, Aug. 3, 1980, as transcribed from a tape recording by Stanley Dearman, the now late editor and publisher of The Neshoba Democrat.
Thank you very much.
I think you all know without my saying it that Nancy and I have never seen anything like this, because there isn't anything like this any place on earth.
From the moment we got off the plane in Meridian, and from the crowds all along the way that were waving a warm welcome to us, and now, to this
Your congressman, your senator, president of your Fair, and your other officials who are here, and to your acting governor, Bill Alexander, who is governor while your governor is at the Governor's Conference, I have to tell you that several years ago when I was governor, I was the guest of your then-governor of Mississippi. It was late in the fall, toward the end of the football season, and he had me as his guest, Nancy and myself, at the game between Ole Miss and Tennessee.
Now that particular season, Tennessee hadn't done very well-I mean, Ole Miss hadn't done very well. Tennessee was a powerhouse, so it was a foregone conclusion how the game would turn out-except, they forgot to tell the Ole Miss team it was a foregone conclusion. And, as football teams will, no matter how bad the season has been, they were rising to the heights, and along about the middle of the third quarter when it was apparent Ole Miss was going to win, and by several touchdowns, there was a lull in the noise of the crowd, and I heard a voice behind me up in the stands say, "Man, if they do this for him, what would they have done if John Wayne was here." God rest his soul. I don't know whether John Wayne ever had this experience or not, but I wish he had, because I don't know of anyone who would have loved it more or been more at home here than the Duke would have been, right here.
Now these gifts. When I think how tough the next 12 weeks is going to be-and Nancy says she's going to sit in that [rocking chair] and eat that fruit, she's gonna be sitting on my lap. As a matter of fact, knowing what a campaign is like, I expect to sit in it about two weeks and then I'll start rocking. Finally, we'll get around to the buggy. This is just wonderful.
I know that in speaking to this crowd, that I'm speaking to what has to be about 90 percent Democrat. [Shouts of "No" from the crowd.] I just meant by party affiliation. I didn't mean how you feel now. I was a Democrat most of my life myself, but then decided that there were things that needed to be changed.
I know, people have been telling me that Jimmy Carter has been doing his best. And that's our problem.
The President lately has been saying that I am irresponsible. And you know, I'll admit to that if he'll confess he's responsible.
We've had the New Deal, and then Harry Truman gave us the Fair Deal, and now we have a misdeal.
They're having quite a fight in that conventions that's coming up. Teddy Kennedy-I know why he's so interested in poverty: He never had any when he was a kid.
All of us in this race, of course-you know, there's talk now about getting our commercials together, and our television ads and so forth. I heard the other day they have one for Jimmy Carter. It's called, "The Best of the Carter Years." It's a 3-second station break.
But I don't know-do you feel as I do, when they talk in Washington of balancing the budget that makes me think of a fellow sitting in a restaurant. He's ordered dinner. He knows he doesn't have any money in his pocket to pay for it, but he's hoping maybe he'll find a pearl in his oysters.
Seriously, and I'm not going to take a great deal of time talking about the particular troubles we-we know what confronts us in this country. We know that an administration for three and a half years, that told us when they took office that it was going to reduce inflation to less than four percent and reduce unemployment to less than four percent, has betrayed the people with an inflation rate that they hope that they might get back down to 10 percent after it having reached 18 at the beginning of the year.
The unemployment in the months of April and May alone-1, 700,000 American working people lost their jobs. I don't know how many since.
But probably the worst thing is what had been done to this county on the international scene. This once proud country, this country that all the world turned to and looked to as the shelter, as the safety and as the anchor to windward. Today, our friends don't know whether they can trust us, and certainly our enemies have no respect for us.
Our young men are told to pre-register in the event that we need a draft. May I suggest something I think we need much more than that, because I don't believe we need a peacetime draft. What we need is to recognize what we're asking of the young people of this country who are in the volunteer military and then provide a pay scale and benefits commensurate.
But you'll never know how rewarding this is, this institution that has existed for so long-and as I said in the beginning, I know there is nothing-I have read all about it in the National Geographic. How did you ever accomplish this without a federal program?
Sure, it's right that we should say we want, too, to do something about unemployment, and about inflation, about the value of our money and to get this country moving again. But I think even more important on a broader scale [is] in doing that, what we will have to do is to bring back to this country what is so evident here: Bring back the recognition that the people of this country can solve the problems, that we don't have anything to be afraid of as long as we have the people of America.
[In] more recent years with the best intention, they have created a vast bureaucracy, or a bureaucratic structure-bureaus and departments and agencies — to try and solve all the problems and eliminate all the things of human misery that they can. They have forgotten that when you create a government bureaucracy, no matter how well-intentioned it is, almost instantly its top priority becomes preservation of the bureaucracy.
Today, and I know from our own experience in California when we reformed welfare, I know that one of the great tragedies of welfare in America today, and I don't believe stereotype after what we did, of people in need who are there simply because they prefer to be there. We found the overwhelming majority would like nothing better than to be out, with jobs for the future, and out here in the society with the rest of us. The trouble is, again, that bureaucracy has them so economically trapped that there is no way they can get away. And they're trapped because that bureaucracy needs them as a clientele to preserve the jobs of the bureaucrats themselves.
I believe that there are programs like that, programs like education and others, that should be turned back to the states and the local communities with the tax sources to fund them, and let the people [applause drowns out end of statement].
I believe in states' rights; I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level. And I believe that we've distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the constitution to that federal establishment. And if I do get the job I'm looking for, I'm going to devote myself to trying to reorder those priorities and to restore to the states and local communities those functions which properly belong there.
I'm going to try also to change federal regulations in the tax structure that has made this once-powerful industrial giant in this land and in the world now with a lower rate of productivity than any of the other industrial nations, with a lower rate of savings and investment on the part of our people and put us back where we belong.
Now I just want to conclude with a couple words about something that inspired me last night, and I hope it will you, too, and it's just an indication of why I still believe the answer to any problem confronting us lies with the people.
Nancy and I attended a swimming meet in California last night. It's little bit in some ways like this in that it's a longtime institution at that particular community, in Irvine. So, young swimmers from all over the United States were there because this year they made it something more special.
All the swimmers who were unable to compete to go to the Olympics and then go to Moscow-and I think properly so because I don't think that the Soviet Union has any characteristic that qualifies it to hold the Olympics.
These young Americans, young men and young women were there competing-and in addition to the medals they were going to compete to be on an honorary Olympic team. In other words, they were competing so that at least they would be able to say that even though we could not go to the Olympics they made the Olympic team. And I want to tell you, up there on that electric scoreboard when the times of the various events were coming off-and up above them were the times of those same events in the Olympics in Moscow.
What a thrill; five young men in the 100-yard butterfly-five young men, all of whom had beaten the winning time in Moscow.
A 15-year-old girl in the same event for women not only holds now the world's record as a result of that meet, but she too last night beat the gold medal winner's time in Moscow in that event.
And I had the privilege of speaking to them for just a few minutes at the midway point in the swimming meet. And I called attention to the fact of the sacrifice that they had had to make, more than most have had to make, because of our feelings in this country about the Soviet Union and where the Olympics are going to be held. And I said — I wasn't quite sure-I worried a little bit because I thought some of them might have been bitter about not being allowed to go. But I said to them anyway, I hope that as the years go on, you realize, and be proud of your sacrifice because you will know that it was for the right cause.
And those young people, those competitors, came to their feet with a roar and a cheer that just sent shivers down my spine. They know what they've done; they're willing to make the sacrifice, and I think this country of ours is going to be in pretty safe hands from here on out.
Now I know I have to conclude, and you've been very patient, but before the press says it, I just want to say one thing about that surrey over there. I can remember when I rode one of those for real.
Thank you all very much.