Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the Air Traffic Controllers Strike, August 3, 1981

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August 3, 1981

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I’m not very good at firing people; maybe it goes back to the fact that as a child I can remember my father being out of work. I know the hardship and dislocation it can cause a family. But I also believe that people should keep their word when they make a promise. This is why I fired the air controllers.

This episode was an early test of my administration’s resolve. We had the choice of caving in to unreasonable demands while keeping our air traffic system operating without incident, or taking a stand for what we thought was right with the risk of throwing the system into possible chaos. I felt we had to do what was right. This decision forced us to train almost an entirely new crop of air traffic controllers. It took years for our air traffic system to return to normal. I think the principle was worth the price.

Most often it’s not how handsomely or eloquently you say something, but the fact that your words mean something. That’s the case here.

- Ronald Reagan -