[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George H. W. Bush (1991, Book I)]
[March 1, 1991]
[Pages 195-197]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the American Legislative Exchange Council
March 1, 1991

    Thank you so much for that warm welcome, and welcome back to the 
White House. I just had a chat with Ellen Sauerbrey outside and 
delighted to see her and all of you; Sam Brunelli, the executive 
director. And, of course, I'm delighted to be side-by-side today, as I 
have been for the last couple of years and especially the last few 
months, with our very able Secretary of Defense.
    I know Dick feels, as I do, that when you get a nice reception like 
that, people are really expressing their gratitude to the fighting men 
and women of the United States halfway around the world. What a job 
they've done! And nobody, no individual, deserves more credit for all of 
that than the man sitting over here behind me, our able Secretary of 
Defense. I will always be indebted to him, and so will our country.
    I understand that you've heard from Mary McClure and Deb over here--
Deb Anderson, and Richard Haass will be speaking to you in a minute. He 
has had a key role, is a key member of our National Security Council, 
every step of the way in what's happened over in the Gulf. So, you're 
going to be hearing from one upon whom I have relied heavily, upon whom 
General Scowcroft relies heavily. So you'll get the facts from him, and 
I'm sandwiched in between these two experts. [Laughter] But when I 
mention Deb and Mary, of course, I'm talking about two of your own--two 
State legislators, and both proof, if ever there was, of Finley Dunne's 
rule ``Every now and then an innocent person gets sent to the State 
legislature.'' [Laughter]
    So, I hope that you found these visits with our other--Dick 
Thornburgh and I don't know whether John Sununu has been over yet or 
not. I guess he has. And Jack Kemp is coming on. So we want you to hear 
in detail about our program--our legislative pro-

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gram, as well as what's transpired in the Gulf.
    Like so many other fine members of our team, most of those you'll 
hear from have something in common with each of the talented people out 
here in the audience. Most of them know what it meant when--Sam Rayburn 
put it this way when he said he knows what it is to run for sheriff. And 
one of his criticisms of a lot of people around Washington was that they 
never ran for sheriff. Well, you know what it's like, and I know what 
it's like. And so I hope that you recognize that we have able people who 
have been elected; many able who have not. But we put great emphasis on 
the elective political process.
    The presence of the veterans that we have, veterans of State 
politics, is important because they kind of remind us all the time of 
the philosophical underpinnings of our administration. And I want to 
just renew in a very few minutes here my own commitment not only to 
federalism but also to the principle that the States are what we call 
the laboratories of democracy, forging ahead at the cutting edge of the 
world's greatest experiment in freedom and diversity.
    It is, of course, an ongoing experiment, a continuing experiment. 
From parental choice in child care and education to tenant ownership in 
housing, from enterprise zones to create jobs to what we call these 
drug-free zones to take back the streets, State and local governments 
are finding the new approaches to solving these problems and looking not 
just at America's problems but also at our possibilities.
    Just a little over a month ago, I went up to the Congress and 
reported on the state of the Union. And I called it then a ``defining 
hour'' for our nation, and I spoke of the promise of a renewed America. 
And I issued a call not merely for new Government initiatives but for 
new initiative in government. And as has been true throughout our 
history, the wellspring of these new initiatives is likely to be the 50 
dynamic State laboratories that are represented by all of you here 
    I've often said that the State legislatures are some of our most 
practical and resourceful leaders. Close to America's roots, close to 
the people--I think that's what does it--close to the concerns of the 
    And that's why in that State of the Union Address I included a bold 
new proposal to select at least $15 billion in Federal programs and then 
turn them over to the States in one single consolidated grant, fully 
funded, for hands-on management by the States.
    And I want to thank Ellen and Sam, who sent me a letter just 2 days 
later telling us of your strong endorsement, your enthusiastic support 
for this proposal. Over the past months, we've worked with you and with 
the Governors and others in State and local government to select the 
programs that go into this turnover. We are committed to funding these 
programs, Sam, funding them for the next 5 years. And we are committed 
to moving power and decision-making closer to the people. Because at the 
bottom line, our idea of federalism comes down to four simple words: 
``more flexibility'' and ``fewer mandates.''
    I think John was to speak to you about this earlier, but I did want 
to come by and thank you for your support and for all you're doing to 
make this initiative a success. We're getting some flak from predictable 
places on it, but I think on balance it's been received very, very well. 
And I can guarantee you we're going to fight for it.
    I want to conclude by thanking this group particularly but so many 
people across this country for the tremendous support for our men and 
women serving overseas. And I want to particularly single out those that 
are actually serving in the Gulf or in support of Desert Storm, to click 
off just a few ALEC members like Louisiana's Hunt Downer--was on active 
duty, supposed to be here--right here. Hunt, glad to see you. We're 
delighted you're here. Nevada's Jim Gibbons; and Mike Coffman from 
Colorado; Connecticut's Chris Burnham, a Marine captain who took his 
third oath of office while stationed in Saudi Arabia.
    So, we've got citizen legislators today doing double duty as citizen 
soldiers. And ladies and gentlemen, these are America at its very, very 
    So, thank you. I know you share this won-

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derful feeling that I have of joy in my heart. But it is overwhelmed by 
the gratitude I feel--not just to the troops overseas but to those who 
have assisted the United States of America, like our Secretary of 
Defense, like our Chairman of our Joint Chiefs, and so many other unsung 
heroes who have made all this possible. It's a proud day for America. 
And, by God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.
    Thank you very, very much.

                    Note: The President spoke at 11:08 a.m. in Room 450 
                        of the Old Executive Office Building. In his 
                        remarks, he referred to Ellen R. Sauerbrey and 
                        Samuel A. Brunelli, national chairperson and 
                        executive director of the council; Secretary of 
                        Defense Dick Cheney; Mary A. McClure, Special 
                        Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental 
                        Affairs; Debra Anderson, Deputy Assistant to the 
                        President and Director of the Office of 
                        Intergovernmental Affairs; Richard N. Haass, 
                        Special Assistant to the President for National 
                        Security Affairs; Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to 
                        the President for National Security Affairs; 
                        Attorney General Dick Thornburgh; John H. 
                        Sununu, Chief of Staff to the President; 
                        Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack 
                        Kemp; State legislators Hunt Downer, Jim 
                        Gibbons, Mike Coffman, and Chris Burnham; and 
                        Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of