President Reagan’s Farewell Speech

The President spoke at 9:02 P.M. from the Oval Office at the White House. The address was broadcast live on nationwide radio and television.


This is the 34th time I’ll speak to you from the Oval Office and the last. We’ve been together 8 years now, and soon it’ll be time for me to go. But before I do, I wanted to share some thoughts, some of which I’ve been saving for a long time.

It’s been the honor of my life to be your President. So many of you have written the past few weeks to say thanks, but I could say as much to you. Nancy and I are grateful for the opportunity you gave us to serve.

One of the things about the Presidency is that you’re always somewhat apart. You spent a lot of time going by too fast in a car someone else is driving, and seeing the people through tinted glass—the parents holding up a child, and the wave you saw too late and couldn’t return. And so many times I wanted to stop and reach out from behind the glass, and connect. Well, maybe I can do a little of that tonight.

People ask how I feel about leaving. And the fact is, `parting is such sweet sorrow.’ The sweet part is California and the ranch and freedom. The sorrow—the goodbyes, of course, and leaving this beautiful place.

You know, down the hall and up the stairs from this office is the part of the White House where the President and his family live. There are a few favorite windows I have up there that I like to stand and look out of early in the morning. The view is over the grounds here to the Washington Monument, and then the Mall and the Jefferson Memorial. But on mornings when the humidity is low, you can see past the Jefferson to the river, the Potomac, and the Virginia shore. Someone said that’s the view Lincoln had when he saw the smoke rising from the Battle of Bull Run. I see more prosaic things: the grass on the banks, the morning traffic as people make their way to work, now and then a sailboat on the river.

I’ve been thinking a bit at that window. I’ve been reflecting on what the past 8 years have meant and mean. And the image that comes to mind like a refrain is a nautical one—a small story about a big ship, and a refugee, and a sailor. It was back in the early eighties, at the height of the boat people. And the sailor was hard at work on the carrier Midway, which was patrolling the South China Sea. The sailor, like most American servicemen, was young, smart, and fiercely observant. The crew spied on the horizon a leaky little boat. And crammed inside were refugees from Indochina hoping to get to America. The Midway sent a small launch to bring them to the ship and safety. As the refugees made their way through the choppy seas, one spied the sailor on deck, and stood up, and called out to him. He yelled, `Hello, American sailor. Hello, freedom man.’

A small moment with a big meaning, a moment the sailor, who wrote it in a letter, couldn’t get out of his mind. And, when I saw it, neither could I. Because that’s what it was to be an American in the 1980’s. We stood, again, for freedom. I know we always have, but in the past few years the world again—and in a way, we ourselves—rediscovered it.

It’s been quite a journey this decade, and we held together through some stormy seas. And at the end, together, we are reaching our destination.

The fact is, from Grenada to the Washington and Moscow summits, from the recession of ’81 to ’82, to the expansion that began in late ’82 and continues to this day, we’ve made a difference. The way I see it, there were two great triumphs, two things that I’m proudest of. One is the economic recovery, in which the people of America created—and filled—19 million new jobs. The other is the recovery of our morale. America is respected again in the world and looked to for leadership.

Something that happened to me a few years ago reflects some of this. It was back in 1981, and I was attending my first big economic summit, which was held that year in Canada. The meeting place rotates among the member countries. The opening meeting was a formal dinner of the heads of goverment of the seven industrialized nations. Now, I sat there like the new kid in school and listened, and it was all Francois this and Helmut that. They dropped titles and spoke to one another on a first-name basis. Well, at one point I sort of leaned in and said, ‘My name’s Ron.’ Well, in that same year, we began the actions we felt would ignite an economic comeback—cut taxes and regulation, started to cut spending. And soon the recovery began.

Two years later, another economic summit with pretty much the same cast. At the big opening meeting we all got together, and all of a sudden, just for a moment, I saw that everyone was just sitting there looking at me. And then one of them broke the silence. ‘Tell us about the American miracle,’ he said.

Well, back in 1980, when I was running for President, it was all so different. Some pundits said our programs would result in catastrophe. Our views on foreign affairs would cause war. Our plans for the economy would cause inflation to soar and bring about economic collapse. I even remember one highly respected economist saying, back in 1982, that `The engines of economic growth have shut down here, and they’re likely to stay that way for years to come.’ Well, he and the other opinion leaders were wrong. The fact is what they call `radical’ was really `right.’ What they called `dangerous’ was just `desperately needed.’

And in all of that time I won a nickname, `The Great Communicator.’ But I never though it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: it was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation—from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries. They called it the Reagan revolution. Well, I’ll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense.

Common sense told us that when you put a big tax on something, the people will produce less of it. So, we cut the people’s tax rates, and the people produced more than ever before. The economy bloomed like a plant that had been cut back and could now grow quicker and stronger. Our economic program brought about the longest peacetime expansion in our history: real family income up, the poverty rate down, entrepreneurship booming, and an explosion in research and new technology. We’re exporting more than ever because American industry because more competitive and at the same time, we summoned the national will to knock down protectionist walls abroad instead of erecting them at home.

Common sense also told us that to preserve the peace, we’d have to become strong again after years of weakness and confusion. So, we rebuilt our defenses, and this New Year we toasted the new peacefulness around the globe. Not only have the superpowers actually begun to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons—and hope for even more progress is bright—but the regional conflicts that rack the globe are also beginning to cease. The Persian Gulf is no longer a war zone. The Soviets are leaving Afghanistan. The Vietnamese are preparing to pull out of Cambodia, and an American-mediated accord will soon send 50,000 Cuban troops home from Angola.

The lesson of all this was, of course, that because we’re a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours. And something else we learned: Once you begin a great movement, there’s no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.

Countries across the globe are turning to free markets and free speech and turning away from the ideologies of the past. For them, the great rediscovery of the 1980’s has been that, lo and behold, the moral way of government is the practical way of government: Democracy, the profoundly good, is also the profoundly productive.

When you’ve got to the point when you can celebrate the anniversaries of your 39th birthday you can sit back sometimes, review your life, and see it flowing before you. For me there was a fork in the river, and it was right in the middle of my life. I never meant to go into politics. It wasn’t my intention when I was young. But I was raised to believe you had to pay your way for the blessings bestowed on you. I was happy with my career in the entertainment world, but I ultimately went into politics because I wanted to protect something precious.

Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: `We the People.’ `We the People’ tell the government what to do; it doesn’t tell us. `We the People’ are the driver; the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world’s constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which `We the People’ tell the government what it is allowed to do. `We the People’ are free. This belief has been the underlying basis for everything I’ve tried to do these past 8 years.

But back in the 1960’s, when I began, it seemed to me that we’d begun reversing the order of things—that through more and more rules and regulations and confiscatory taxes, the government was taking more of our money, more of our options, and more of our freedom. I went into politics in part to put up my hand and say, `Stop.’ I was a citizen politician, and it seemed the right thing for a citizen to do.

I think we have stopped a lot of what needed stopping. And I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.

Nothing is less free than pure communism—and yet we have, the past few years, forged a satisfying new closeness with the Soviet Union. I’ve been asked if this isn’t a gamble, and my answer is no because we’re basing our actions not on words but deeds. The detente of the 1970’s was based not on actions but promises. They’d promise to treat their own people and the people of the world better. But the gulag was still the gulag, and the state was still expansionist, and they still waged proxy wars in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Well, this time, so far, it’s different. President Gorbachev has brought about some internal democratic reforms and begun the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He has also freed prisoners whose names I’ve given him every time we’ve met.

But life has a way of reminding you of big things through small incidents. Once, during the heady days of the Moscow summit, Nancy and I decided to break off from the entourage one afternoon to visit the shops on Arbat Street—that’s a little street just off Moscow’s main shopping area. Even though our visit was a surprise, every Russian there immediately recognized us and called out our names and reached for our hands. We were just about swept away by the warmth. You could almost feel the possibilities in all that joy. But within seconds, a KGB detail pushed their way toward us and began pushing and shoving the people in the crowd. It was an interesting moment. It reminded me that while the man on the street in the Soviet Union yearns for peace, the government is Communist. And those who run it are Communists, and that means we and they view such issues as freedom and human rights very differently.

We must keep up our guard, but we must also continue to work together to lessen and eliminate tension and mistrust. My view is that President Gorbachev is different from previous Soviet leaders. I think he knows some of the things wrong with his society and is trying to fix them. We wish him well. And we’ll continue to work to make sure that the Soviet Union that eventually emerges from this process is a less threatening one. What it all boils down to is this: I want the new closeness to continue. And it will, as long as we make it clear that we will continue to act in a certain way as long as they continue to act in a helpful manner. If and when they don’t, at first pull your punches. If they persist, pull the plug. It’s still trust by verify. It’s still play, but cut the cards. It’s still watch closely. And don’t be afraid to see what you see.

I’ve been asked if I have any regrets. Well, I do.The deficit is one. I’ve been talking a great deal about that lately, but tonight isn’t for arguments, and I’m going to hold my tongue. But an observation: I’ve had my share of victories in the Congress, but what few people noticed is that I never won anything you didn’t win for me. They never saw my troops, they never saw Reagan’s regiments, the American people. You won every battle with every call you made and letter you wrote demanding action. Well, action is still needed. If we’re to finish the job. Reagan’s regiments will have to become the Bush brigades. Soon he’ll be the chief, and he’ll need you every bit as much as I did.

Finally, there is a great tradition of warnings in Presidential farewells, and I’ve got one that’s been on my mind for some time. But oddly enough it starts with one of the things I’m proudest of in the past 8 years: the resurgence of national pride that I called the new patriotism. This national feeling is good, but it won’t count for much, and it won’t last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.

An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-sixties.

But now, we’re about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs production [protection].

So, we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important—why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, 4 years ago on the 40th anniversary of D-day, I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who’d fought on Omaha Beach. Her name was Lisa Zanatta Henn, and she said, `we will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did.’ Well, let’s help her keep her word. If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.

And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ’em know and nail ’em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.

And that’s about all I have to say tonight, except for one thing. The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the `shining city upon a hill.’ The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was 8 years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

We’ve done our part. And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution, the men and women across America who for 8 years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren’t just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.

And so, goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

President Reagan’s Speech before the National Association of Evangelicals

President Reagan addressed the annual convention in Orlando, Florida on March 8, 1983.


Reverend Clergy all, Senator Hawkins, distinguished members of the Florida congressional delegation, and all of you:

I can’t tell you how you have warmed my heart with your welcome. I’m delighted to be here today.

Those of you in the National Association of Evangelicals are known for you spiritual and humanitarian work. And I would be especially remiss if I didn’t discharge right now one personal debt of gratitude. Thank you for your prayers. Nancy and I have felt their presence many times in many years. And believe me, for us they’ve made all the difference.

The other day in the East Room of the White House at a meeting there, someone asked me whether I was aware of all the people out there who were praying for the President. And I had to say, “Yes, I am. I’ve felt it. I believe in intercessionary prayer.” But I couldn’t help but say to that questioner after he’d asked the question that – or at least say to them that if sometimes when he was praying he got a busy signal, it was just me in there ahead of him. [Laughter] I think I understand how Abraham Lincoln felt when he said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” From the joy and the good feeling of this conference, I go to a political reception. [Laughter] Now, I don’t know why, but that bit of scheduling reminds me of a story – [Laughter] – which I’ll share with you.

An evangelical minister and a politician arrived at Heaven’s gate one day together. And St. Peter, after doing all the necessary formalities, took them in hand to show them where their quarters would be. And he took them to a small, single room with a bed, a chair, and a table and said this was for the clergyman. And the politician was a little worried about what might be in store for him. And he couldn’t believe it then when St. Peter stopped in front of a beautiful mansion with lovely grounds, many servants, and told him that these would be his quarters.

And he couldn’t help but ask, he said, “But wait, how-there’s something wrong – how do I get this mansion while that good and holy man only gets a single room?” And St. Peter said, “You have to understand how things are up here. We’ve got thousands and thousands of clergy. You’re the first politician who ever made it.” [Laughter]

But I don’t want to contribute to a stereotype. [Laughter] So I tell you there are a great many God-fearing, dedicated, noble men and women in public life, present company included. And yes, we need your help to keep us ever mindful of the ideas and the principles that brought us into the public arena in the first place. The basis of those ideals and principles is a commitment to freedom and personal liberty that, itself, is grounded in the much deeper realization that freedom prospers only where the blessings of God are avidly sought and humbly accepted.

The American experiment in democracy rests on this insight. Its discovery was the great triumph of our Founding Fathers, voiced by William Penn when he said: “If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.” Explaining the inalienable rights of men, Jefferson said, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.” And it was George Washington who said that “of all the disposition and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supporters.”

And finally, that shrewdest of all observers of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, put it eloquently after he had gone on a search for the secret of America’s greatness and genius – and he said: “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the greatness and the genius of America . . . America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Well, I’m pleased to be here today with you who are keeping America great by keeping her good. Only through your work and prayers and those of millions of others cans we hope to survive this perilous century and keep alive this experiment in liberty, this last, best hope of man.

I want you to know that this administration is motivated by a political philosophy that sees the greatness of America in you, here people, and in your families, churches, neighborhoods, communities – the institutions that foster and nourish values like concern for others and respect for the rule of law under God.

Now, I don’t have to tell you that this puts us in opposition to, or at least out of step with, a prevailing attitude of many who have turned to a modern-day secularism, discarding the tried and time-tested values upon which our very civilization is based. No matter how well intentioned, their value system is radically different from that of most Americans. And while they proclaim that they’re freeing us from superstitions of the past, they’ve taken upon themselves the job of superintending us by government rule and regulation. Sometimes their voices are louder than ours, but they are not yet a majority.

An example of that vocal superiority is evident in a controversy now going on in Washington. And since I’m involved I’ve been waiting to hear from the parents of young America. How far are they willing to go in giving to government their prerogatives as parents?

Let me state the case as briefly and simply as I can. An organization of citizens, sincerely motivated and deeply concerned about the increase in illegitimate births and abortions involving girls well below the age of consent, some time ago established a nationwide network of clinics to offer help to these girls and, hopefully, alleviate this situation. Now, again, let me say, I do not fault their intent. However, in their well-intentioned effort, these clinics have decided to provide advice and birth control drugs and devices to underage girls without the knowledge of their parents.

For some years now, the federal government has helped with funds to subsidize these clinics. In providing for this, the Congress decreed that every effort would be made to maximize parental participation. Nevertheless, the drugs and devices are prescribed without getting parental consent or giving notification after they’ve done so. Girls termed “sexually active” – and that has replaced the word “promiscuous” – are given this help in order to prevent illegitimate birth or abortion.

Well, we have ordered clinics receiving federal funds to notify the parents such help has been given. One of the nation’s leading newspapers has created the term “squeal rule” in editorializing against us for doing this, and we’re being criticized for violating the privacy of young people. A judge has recently granted an injunction against an enforcement of our rule. I’ve watched TV panel shows discuss the issue, seen columnists pontificating on our error, but no one seems to mention morality as playing a part in the subject of sex.

Is all of Judeo-Christian tradition wrong? Are we to believe that something so sacred can be looked upon as a purely physical thing with no potential for emotional and psychological harm? And isn’t it the parents’ right to give counsel and advice to keep their children from making mistakes that may affect their entire lives?

Many of us in government would like to know what parents think about this intrusion in their family by government. We’re going to fight in the courts. The right of parents and the rights of family take precedence over those of Washington-based bureaucrats and social engineers.

But the fight against parental notification is really only one example of many attempts to water down traditional values and even abrogate the original terms of American democracy. Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged. When our Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, they sought to protect churches from government interference. They never intended to construct a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief itself.

The evidence of this permeates our history and our government. The Declaration of Independence mentions the Supreme Being no less than four times. “In God We Trust” is engraved on our coinage. The Supreme Court opens its proceedings with a religious invocation. And the members of Congress open their sessions with a prayer. I just happen to believe the schoolchildren of the United States are entitled to the same privileges as Supreme Court justices and congressmen.

Last year, I sent the Congress a constitutional amendment to restore prayer to public schools. Already this session, there’s growing bipartisan support for the amendment, and I am calling on the Congress to act speedily to pass it and to let our children pray.

Perhaps some of you read recently about the Lubbock school case, where a judge actually ruled that it was unconstitutional for a school district to give equal treatment to religious and nonreligious student groups, even when the group meetings were being held during the students’ own time. The First Amendment never intended to require government to discriminate against religious speech.

Senators Denton and Hatfield have proposed legislation in the Congress on the whole question of prohibiting discrimination against religious forms of student speech. Such legislation could go far to restore freedom of religious speech for public school students. And I hope the Congress considers these bills quickly. And with you help, I think it’s possible we could also get the constitutional amendment through the Congress this year.

More than a decade ago, a Supreme Court decision literally wiped off the books of fifty states statutes protecting the rights of unborn children. Abortion on demand now takes the lives of up to one and a half million unborn children a year. Human life legislation ending this tragedy will someday pass the Congress, and you and I must never rest until it does. Unless and until it can be proven that the unborn child is not a living entity, then its right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must be protected.

You may remember that when abortion on demand began, many, and indeed, I’m sure many of you, warned that the practice would lead to a decline in respect for human life, that the philosophical premises used to justify abortion on demand would ultimately be used to justify other attacks on the sacredness of human life – infanticide or mercy killing. Tragically enough, those warnings proved all too true. Only last year a court permitted the death by starvation of a handicapped infant.

I have directed the Health and Human Services Department to make clear to every health care facility in the United States that the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects all handicapped persons against discrimination based on handicaps, including infants. And we have taken the further step of requiring that each and every recipient of federal funds who provides health care services to infants must post and keep posted in a conspicuous place a notice stating that “discriminatory failure to feed and care for handicapped infants in this facility is prohibited by federal law.” It also lists a twenty-four-hour, toll-free number so that nurses and others may report violations in time to save the infant’s life.

In addition, recent legislation introduced in the Congress by Representative Henry Hyde of Illinois not only increases restrictions on publicly financed abortions, it also addresses this whole problem of infanticide. I urge the Congress to begin hearings and to adopt legislation that will protect the right of life to all children, including the disabled or handicapped.

Now, I’m sure that you must get discouraged at times, but you’ve done better than you know, perhaps. There’s a great spiritual awakening in America, a renewal of the traditional values that have been the bedrock of America’s goodness and greatness.

One recent survey by a Washington-based research council concluded that Americans were far more religious than the people of other nations; 95 percent of those surveyed expressed a belief in God and a huge majority believed the Ten Commandments had real meaning in their lives. And another study has found that an overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of adultery, teenage sex, pornography, abortion, and hard drugs. And this same study showed a deep reverence for the importance of family ties and religious belief.

I think the items that we’ve discussed here today must be a key part of the nation’s political agenda. For the first time the Congress is openly and seriously debating and dealing with the prayer and abortion issues – and that’s enormous progress right there. I repeat: America is in the midst of a spiritual awakening and a moral renewal. And with your biblical keynote, I say today, “Yes, let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”

Now, obviously, much of this new political and social consensus I’ve talked about is based on a positive view of American history, one that takes pride in our country’s accomplishments and record. But we must never forget that no government schemes are going to perfect man. We know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin.

There is sin and evil in the world, and we’re enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might. Our nation, too, has a legacy of evil with which it must deal. The glory of this land has been its capacity for transcending the moral evils of our past. For example, the long struggle of minority citizens for equal rights, once a source of disunity and civil war, is now a point of pride for all Americans. We must never go back. There is no room for racism, anti-Semitism, or other forms of ethnic and racial hatred in this country.

I know that you’ve been horrified, as have I, by the resurgence of some hate groups preaching bigotry and prejudice. Use the mighty voice of your pulpits and the powerful standing of your churches to denounce and isolate these hate groups in our midst. The commandment given us is clear and simple: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

But whatever sad episodes exist in our past, any objective observer must hold a positive view of American history, a history that has been the story of hopes fulfilled and dreams made into reality. Especially in this century, America has kept alight the torch of freedom, but not just for ourselves but for millions of others around the world.

And this brings me to my final point today. During my first press conference as president, in answer to a direct question, I point out that, as good Marxist-Leninists, the Soviet leaders have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is that which will further their cause, which is world revolution. I think I should point out I was only quoting Lenin, their guiding spirit, who said in 1920 that they repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas – that’s their name for religion – or ideas that are outside class conceptions. Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war. And everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old, exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.

Well, I think the refusal of many influential people to accept this elementary fact of Soviet doctrine illustrates a historical reluctance to see totalitarian powers for what they are. We saw this phenomenon in the 1930s. We see it too often today.

This doesn’t mean we should isolate ourselves and refuse to seek an understanding with them. I intend to do everything I can to persuade them of our peaceful intent, to remind them that it was the West that refused to use its nuclear monopoly in the forties and fifties for territorial gain and which now proposes a 50-percent cut in strategic ballistic missiles and the elimination of an entire class of land-based, intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

At the same time, however, they must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards. We will never give away our freedom. We will never abandon our belief in God. And we will never stop searching for a genuine peace. But we can assure none of these things America stands for through the so-called nuclear freeze solutions proposed by some.

The truth is that a freeze now would be a very dangerous fraud, for that is merely the illusion of peace. The reality is that we must find peace through strength.

I would agree to freeze if only we could freeze the Soviets’ global desires. A freeze at current levels of weapons would remove any incentive for the Soviets to negotiate seriously in Geneva and virtually end our chances to achieve the major arms reductions which we have proposed. Instead, they would achieve their objectives through the freeze.

A freeze would reward the Soviet Union for its enormous and unparalleled military buildup. It would prevent the essential and long overdue modernization of United States and allied defenses and would leave our aging forces increasingly vulnerable. And an honest freeze would require extensive prior negotiations on the systems and numbers to be limited and on the measures to ensure effective verification and compliance. And the kind of a freeze that has been suggested would be virtually impossible to verify. Such a major effort would divert us completely from our current negotiations on achieving substantial reductions.

A number of years ago, I heard a young father, a very prominent young man in the entertainment world, addressing a tremendous gathering in California. It was during the time of the cold war, and communism and our own way of life were very much on people’s minds. And he was speaking to that subject. And suddenly, though, I heard him saying, “I love my little girls more than anything -” And I said to myself, “Oh, no, don’t. You can’t – don’t say that.” But I had underestimated him. He went on: “I would rather see my little girls die now, still believing in God, than have them grow up under communism and one day die no longer believing in God.”

There were thousands of young people in that audience. They came to their feet with shouts of joy. They had instantly recognized the profound truth in what he had said, with regard to the physical and the soul and what was truly important.

Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness – pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.

It was C.S. Lewis who, in his unforgettable Screwtape Letters, wrote: “The greatest evil is not done now in those sordid ‘dens of rime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not even done in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do no need to raise their voice.”

Well, because these “quiet men” do no “raise their voices,” because they sometimes speak in soothing tones of brotherhood and peace, because, like other dictators before them, they’re always making “their final territorial demand,” some would have us accept them as their word and accommodate ourselves to their aggressive impulses. But if history teaches anything, it teaches that simpleminded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly. It means the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom.

So, I urge you to speak our against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiority. You know, I’ve always believed that old Screwtape reserved his best efforts for those of you in the church. So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride – the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.

I ask you to resist the attempts of those who would have you withhold your support for our efforts, this administration’s efforts, to keep America strong and free, while we negotiate real and verifiable reductions in the world’s nuclear arsenals and one day, with God’s help, their total elimination.

While America’s military strength is important, let me add here that I’ve always maintained that the struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might. The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.

Whittaker Chambers, the man whose own religious conversation made him a witness to one of the terrible traumas of our time, the Hiss-Chambers case, wrote that the crisis of the Western world exists to the degree in which the West is indifferent to God, the degree to which it collaborates in communism’s attempt to make man stand alone without God. And then he said, for Marxism-Leninism is actually the second-oldest faith, first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden with the words of temptation, “Ye shall be as gods.”

The Western world can answer this challenge, he wrote, “but only provided that its faith in God and the freedom He enjoins is as great as communism’s faith in Man.”

I believe we shall rise to the challenge. I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written. I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual. And because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man. For in the words of Isaiah: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increased strength . . . But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary . . . ”

Yes, change your world. One of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine, said, “We have it within our power to begin the world over again.” We can do it, doing together what no one church could do by itself.

God bless you, and thank you very much.

Reagan’s Speech at the Eureka College Library Dedication

Eureka College, September 28, 1967


It must be evident to most of you that only a thin wall of wavering willpower stands between you and an engulfing flood of nostalgia.

Ten years ago, in cap and gown, I stood in this place to receive an honorary degree—a happening which only compounded an already heavy burden of guilt. I had always figured the first degree you gave me was honorary.

That first degree was thirty-five years and a few months ago.

Now, as far as you students are concerned, that makes it definite I am not of your generation. There are those with differing political views who would go even further and place me as far back as the Ice Age some even further to the time of McKinley.

Some here today, however, can bear witness that thirty- five years are like thirty-five minutes, so clear and fresh is memory. No matter how much you students may want to believe this, your imaginations are not quite up to it. you will just have to wait and find out for yourselves. But you will find out.

There is a tendency in today’s world to put more than years between us. Somehow, as humans, we have been stratified into a horizontal society instead of vertical. Layers of humanity are separated into age groups from preschool to those the social thinkers refer to as senior citizens. And somehow we are losing our ability to establish communications between layers. What is even worse, there is a growing hostility between these layers.

It is an unnatural situation. Humanity is vertically structured. The teenager will become the young married or junior executive, and, in turn, the middle-aged and eventually the senior citizen. Each one of us will take his faults and virtues, his pluses and minuses, through the years, being at all times the sum total of all he has experienced.

This separation into horizontal layers makes no sense at all. What of this talk that no one over thirty understands the youth of today? If this is true, then what happens when you reach thirty? Do you suddenly join us and quit understanding those who have not quite reached the magic age?

Each generation is critical of its predecessor. As the day nears when classroom and playing field must give way to the larger arena with its problems of inequality and human misunderstanding, it is easy to look at those in that arena and demand to know why the problems remain unsolved. We who preceded you asked that question of those who preceded us and another younger generation will ask it of you.

I hope there will be less justification for the question when it is your turn to answer. What I am trying to say is that no generation has failed completely, nor will yours succeed completely.

But don’t get me wrong. When the generation of which I am a part leaves the stage, history will record that seldom has any generation fought harder or paid a higher price for freedom.

We have known three wars and now a fourth, a cataclysmic worldwide depression that toppled governments and reshaped the map. And, because we could not find the single cure-all for man’s inhumanity to man or the answer to human frailty, we have downgraded our performance and confused you as well as ourselves.

It is easy to point to the failures and talk of the mess of our times, and even to promise we will do better. But for the record, since we are the generation that exploded the atomic bomb and brought a permanent terror to the world, we also harnessed the atom for peaceful purposes. And some of those peaceful purposes, in medicine and industrial power, have brought man to the threshold of a fabulous era.

We have defeated polio and tuberculosis and a host of plague diseases that held even more terror for mankind than the threat of the bomb. It is a certainty that your generation and ours will overlap in defeating cancer.

Point an accusing finger and list smog, water pollution, poverty, civil rights, inequality of opportunity. We still seek the answers, and, while many of us disagree as to the solutions, we were the ones who faced up to the problems and charged ourselves with finding the answers. No one in public life fails to treat these problems.

This horizontal stratification has led to lateral communication, and it is highly essential that we restore vertical dialogue, if not an outright recognition of the naturalness and rightness of a vertical structuring of society.

How well do young people understand those whose defect is age thirty-plus? Can you possibly believe your fathers who knew the savagery of World War II or your grandfathers who came of age in the muddy trenches of the Great War could possibly have an affection for war? That we would callously send our sons to war?

Permit me here to build at least a footbridge between the age groups of parent and child, remembering that bridges are open to traffic both ways.

That fellow with the thickening waist and the thinning hair who is sometimes unreasonable about your allowance or letting you have the car… his life seems a little dull to you now as he reports for his daily 9 to it chores, or looks forward to lowering a golf handicap, or catching a fish no one wants to eat.

I wish you could have known him a few years back on a landing craft at Normandy or Tarawa or on a weekend pass in Peoria. He was quite a guy. Winston Churchill said he was the only man in the world who could laugh and fight at the same time. General [George] Marshall called him our secret weapon. He hated war more than he hated the enemy, but he did what had to be done.

A few years after the end of World War II, I was in a little pub in rural England. The motherly soul who was waiting on trade figured out I was an American (for the life of me, I don’t know how). She began to reminisce. “During the war,” she said, “some of your chaps were stationed just across the road. They used to come in here and have song-fests. They called me Mom and my husband Pop. It was Christmas Eve and we were here all alone when the door burst open and there they were with presents for us.” she paused for a tear or two and then said: “Big strappin’ lads they was from a place called ‘Iowa’.”

I know those over-thirty fellows probably don’t tell it very well so that you can see them as they were then, but they all knew what it was like to dream, to say good-bye to a girl and wonder when, if ever, they would see her again. They missed a world that let things like that happen, and swore they would do better when they got back and were running the show.

They came back from war and created an organization to outlaw war, and we have not known a single minute’s peace since. The dream was a good dream, no effort was spared and we continue to pour out our treasure to make the dream come true. Proving again our vertical structures this problem will be yours as well as ours to solve.

It wasn’t that we faltered or lacked in willingness. There are organizational difficulties that could not have been foreseen. New and emerging nations with neither power nor responsibility for controlling world forces have a disproportionate voice in world councils. A two-thirds majority can be mustered among a half hundred nations who represent less than 10 percent of the world’s population.

Are the problems of urban ghettoes and poverty the result of selfishness on our part or indifference to suffering? No people in all the history of mankind have shared so widely its material resources.

We taxed ourselves more heavily and extended aid at home and abroad. And when the problems grew, we planned more and passed more legislation to add to the scores of programs, until today, they are listed in government catalogues of hundreds of pages. We who are called materialist have tried to solve human problems with material means. We have forgotten man’s spiritual heritage; we have placed security above freedom and confused the citizen’s responsibility to society with society’s responsibility to the individual.

We have to re-study some of our social legislation, legislation that meant well, but has failed in its goals or has created greater problems than the ones it was meant to cure.

We have to re-examine our individual goals and aims.

What do we want for ourselves and our children? Is it enough to have material things? Aren’t liberty and morality and integrity and high principles and a sense of responsibility more important?

The world’s truly great thinkers have not pointed us toward materialism; they have dealt with the great truths and with the high questions of right and wrong, of morality and of integrity.

They have dealt with the question of man, not the acquisition of things. And when civilizations have disregarded their findings, when they have turned to the things of the flesh, they have disappeared.

You are concerned with us and what seems to be hypocrisy and lack of purpose on our part. And we in turn are concerned about you, seeing a rising spirit of unrest, aimlessness, and drifting, a feeling of rebellion without a real cause that results sometimes in meaningless but violent actions. Now, let me make it plain. I am aware that all of you are unfairly suspect because of a very small percentage of dissidents.

Nevertheless, you do seek a purpose and a meaning to life, and apparently we have failed to give it to you. But, again, our failure was not one of bad intent.

We are the classic example of giving to you what we never had from TV to wheels and dental care to Little League. But I am afraid we shortchanged you on responsibilities or the right to earn for yourselves.

All too often, because we had to earn, we wanted to give. our motives have been laudable, but our judgment has been bad. “No” was either a dirty word or dropped from our vocabulary.

Some time ago in Newport, California, a row of luxurious oceanfront homes were threatened by an abnormally high tide and heavy surf. All through the day and night, volunteers worked, piling sandbags, in an effort to save these homes. Local TV stations, aware of the drama, covered the struggle. It was about 2 A.M. when one newscaster grabbed a young fellow in his teens, attired only in wet trunks. He had been working all day and night one of several hundred of his age group. No, he did not live in one of the homes they were trying to save, and, yes, he was cold and tired. The newscaster inevitably got around to why. The answer was so poignant, such an indictment of so many of us, it should be on a billboard across the nation. He said: “Well, I guess it’s the first time we’ve ever felt like we were needed.”

You are needed; we need your courage, your idealism, your new and untried viewpoint. You know more than we did at your age; you are brighter, better informed, even healthier. And because human kind is vertically structured, we can take a little credit for that. But, you want a purpose, a cause, a banner to follow, and we owe you that.

A few years ago, a national magazine did a series of articles by prominent people including a president, a vice- president, and distinguished statesmen. Each wrote his idea of what was our national purpose. Somehow, nothing very exciting or profound resulted from these articles. I have always felt it was because they tried to invent something we already have and have had for two hundred years. Our national purpose is to unleash the full talent and genius of the individual, not to create mass movements with the citizenry subjecting themselves to the whims of the state. Here, as nowhere in the world, we are established to provide the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order.

Today, we dedicate this library because Wesley and Clinton Melick have thought not in horizontal lines of just their associates in time. you want a purpose, something to believe in? You might try resolving that you will contribute something to generations unborn a handhold above your own achievement so that another generation can climb higher and achieve more.

This library is more than a beautiful and functional building. It is first and foremost a repository of knowledge and culture. More facts will be available in this one library than were available in all the libraries of the world a hundred years ago.

That shouldn’t surprise you.

Man’s knowledge has increased at such a rapid rate since the turn of the century that any book of facts written then would be obsolete now, both in terms of what we know to be true and also what we know to be true no longer.

But a library is more than just a place to go for facts. A library is also a place to go for wisdom. And the purpose of an educational institution is to teach not only knowledge, but also wisdom.

Someone once said that people who want to understand democracy should spend less time in the library with Aristotle and more time on buses and subways.

In a way, that may be true.

But to understand democracy is not necessarily to solve its problems.

And I would venture to say Aristotle, and those others whom you will find not in the buses and subways, but instead in this building here, will give you more answers and more clues to the solutions of our problems than you are likely to find on the buses and subways.

Maybe the best answer is to be found in both, but do not let the library go to waste because you are awaiting the completion of Eureka’s first subway.

Now, when I suggest that we turn to books, to the accumulated knowledge of the past, I am not suggesting that we turn back the clock or retreat into some dim yesterday that we remember only with nostalgia, if at all. But we must learn from yesterday to have a better tomorrow.

We are beset by problems in a complex world; we are confused by those who tell us only new and untried ways offer hope. The answers to all the problems of mankind will be found in this building by those who have the desire to find them and perception enough to recognize them.

There will be the knowledge of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates, and from the vantage point of history, their mistakes. We can look back and see where pure democracy became as dictatorial as a sultan and majority rule without protection for the minority became mob rule.

One of mankind’s problems is that we keep repeating the same errors. For every generation some place, two plus two has added up to three, or in another place, five four seems to elude some of us. This has happened in my generation and I predict, without smugness, it will happen to yours.

But, these two men here today have given something almost beyond comprehension.

Do you doubt the answers can be found here? From the eleventh century, Maimonides, Hebrew philosopher and physician, will give you the eight steps in helping the needy to help themselves.

Can you name one problem that would not be solved if we had simply followed the teachings of the man from Galilee? We can redirect our nation’s course into the paths of freedom and morality and high principle.

And, in so directing it, we can build better lives for ourselves and our children and a better nation for those who come after us, or we can ignore history and go the way of Greece and Rome.

I think that this is the significance of this library. The fact that we can use it to rechart our course, not into the great unknown, but onto paths that are clear and which, if followed, can show us how to cope with the new problems that always confront each generation and can lead us, as a people, on to continued greatness.

There were many who had a hand in this, but they would be the first to say it happened because of you, Woes and Clint Melick. On behalf of all of us who knew Eureka and those still to come, we thank you. Eureka means “We have found a way of life.” you have made the search much easier.

Reagan’s Commencement Address at Eureka College

Eureka College, June 7, 1957


I’m sure you all must know the depth of my gratitude for this honor you have done me. What you can’t know is how great is my feeling of unworthiness. For some 25 years I have nursed a feeling of guilt about the degree given me here upon the occasion of my own graduation. It was, I feel, more honorary than earned and for all these years I have carefully refrained from referring to myself as a “student” here. My very instinct is to mumble a modest “thanks” and sit down, but that retreat is denied me. Inherent in my invitation is the obligation to make some remarks appropriate to this occasion which shall climax your years of academic endeavor. I do not take this responsibility lightly. Realizing there are many present who are better qualified to perform this function, I have inquired right down to the start of the Processional as to an appropriate theme.

There was a temptation of course to beg your favor by citing the mistakes of my generation, dwelling on the awful site of the world and suggesting that you would bring order out of chaos and set things right. I’m not that pessimistic, however, and would be less than honest and sincere if I chose such a course. With your permission I would rather speak of something very close to my heart. You members of the graduating class of 1957 are today coming into your inheritance. You are taking your adult places in a society unique in the history of man’s tribal relations. I would like to play the role of a “legal light” in the reading of the will, and to discuss with you the terms and conditions of your legacy.

Looming large in your inheritance is this country, this land America, placed as it is between two great oceans. Those who discovered and pioneered it had to have rare qualities of courage and imagination nor did these qualities stop there. Even the modern-day immigrants have been possessed of courage beyond that of their neighbors. The courage to tear up centuries-old roots and leave their homelands, to come to this land where even the language was strange. Such courage is part of our inheritance, all of us spring from these special people and these qualities have contributed to the make-up of the American personality.

There are conditions to this “will” of which I speak. There are terms the heirs must meet in order to qualify for the legacy. But, I have never been able to believe that America is just a reward for those of extra courage and resourcefulness. This is a land of destiny and our forefathers found their way here by some Divine system of selective service gathered here to fulfill a mission to advance man a further step in his climb from the swamps.

Almost two centuries ago a group of disturbed men met in the small Pennsylvania State House they gathered to decide on a course of action. Behind the locked and guarded doors they debated for hours whether or not to sign the Declaration which had been presented for their consideration. For hours the talk was treason and its price the headsman’s axe, the gallows and noose. The talk went on and decision was not forthcoming. Then, Jefferson writes, a voice was heard coming from the balcony:

They may stretch our necks on all the gibbets in the land. They may turn every tree into a gallows, every home into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. They may pour our blood on a thousand scaffolds and yet from every drop that dyes the axe a new champion of freedom will spring into birth. The words of this declaration will live long after our bones are dust.To the mechanic in his workshop they will speak hope; to the slave in the mines, freedom; but to the coward rulers, these words will speak in tones of warning they cannot help but hear. Sign that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck. Sign if the next minute this hall rings with the clash of falling axes! Sign by all your hopes in life or death, not only for yourselves but for all ages, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom the bible of the rights of man forever.

Were my soul trembling on the verge of eternity, my hand freezing in death, I would still implore you to remember this truth God has given America to be free.

As he finished, the speaker sank back in his seat exhausted. Inspired by his eloquence the delegates rushed forward to sign the Declaration of Independence. When they turned to thank the speaker for his timely words he couldn’t be found and to this day no one knows who he was or how he entered or left the guarded room.

Here was the first challenge to the people of this new land, the charging of this nation with a responsibility to all mankind. And down through the years with but few lapses the people of America have fulfilled their destiny.

Almost a century and a half after that day in Philadelphia, this nation entered a great world conflict in Europe. Volumes of cynical words have been written about that war and our part in it. Our motives have been questioned and there has been talk of ulterior motives in high places, of world markets and balance of power. But all the words of all the cynics cannot erase the fact that millions of Americans sacrificed, fought and many died in the sincere and selfless belief that they were making the world safe for democracy and advancing the cause of freedom for all men.

A quarter of a century later America went into World War II, and never in the history of man had the issues of right and wrong been so clearly defined, so much so that it makes one question how anyone could have remained neutral. And again in the greatest mass undertaking the world has ever seen, America fulfilled her destiny.

A short time after that war was concluded a plane was winging its way across the Pacific Ocean. It contained dignitaries of the Philippines and of our own government. Landing at a naval installation a short distance from Manila, the plane was held there while those people listened by radio to the first detonation of an experimental atomic weapon at the Bikini Atoll. Then the plane took to the air again and soon landed in Manila. There these people, together with our vice president, senators, generals and admirals, met with 250,000 Philippines in the Grand Concourse, where they watched the American flag come down and the flag of the Philippine independence take its place.

I was privileged to sit in an auditorium one night and hear one of the passengers on that plane, a great man of the Philippines, describe this scene, General Carlos Romulo, whose father was killed by American soldiers in the Philippine insurrection. As a boy, the General was taught to be a guerrilla and to fight Americans and hate them. But I saw him, with tears in his eyes, tell us how he turned to his wife that day in Manila and said, a hundred years from now will our children’s children learn in their schoolrooms that on this day an atomic weapon was detonated for the first time on a Pacific Island, or will they learn that on another Pacific Island a great and powerful nation, which had bled the flower of its youth into the sands of the island’s beaches reconquering them from a savage enemy, had on this day turned to the people of that island and for the first time in the history of man’s relationship to man had said, ‘Here, we’ve taken your country back for you. It’s yours. As we heard him, I think most of us realized once again the magnitude of the challenge of our destiny, that here indeed is “the last best hope of man on earth.”

And now today we find ourselves involved in another struggle this time called a cold war. This cold war between great sovereign nations isn’t really a new struggle at all. It is the oldest struggle of human kind, as old as man himself. This is a simple struggle between those of us who believe that rnan has the dignity and sacred right and the ability to choose and shape his own destiny and those who do not so believe. This irreconcilable conflict is between those who believe in the sanctity of individual freedom and those who believe in the supremacy of the state.

In a phase of this struggle not widely known, some of us came toe to toe with this enemy this evil force in our own community in Hollywood, and make no mistake about it, this is an evil force. Don’t be deceived because you are not hearing the sound of gunfire, because even so you are fighting for your lives. And you’re fighting against the best organized and the most capable enemy of freedom and of right and decency that has ever been abroad in the world. Some years ago, back in the thirties, a man who was apparently just a technician came to Hollywood to take a job in our industry, an industry whose commerce is in tinsel and colored lights and make-believe. He went to work in the studios, and there were few to know he came to our town on direct orders from the Kremlin. When he quietly left our town a few years later the cells had been formed and planted in virtually all of our organizations, our guilds and unions. The framework for the Communist front organizations had been established.

It was some time later, under the guise of a jurisdictional strike involving a dispute between two unions, that we saw war come to Hollywood. Suddenly there were 5,000 tin-hatted, club- carrying pickets outside the studio gates. We saw some of our people caught by these hired henchmen; we saw them open car doors and put their arms across them and break them until they hung straight down the side of the car, and then these tin-hatted men would send our people on into the studio. We saw our so- called glamour girls, who certainly had to be conscious of what a scar on the face or a broken nose could mean careerwise going through those picket lines day after day without complaint. Nor did they falter when they found the bus which they used for transportation to and from work in flames from a bomb that had been thrown into it just before their arrival. Two blocks from the studio everyone would get down on hands and knees on the floor to avoid the bricks and stones coming through the windows. And the 5,000 pickets out there in their tin hats weren’t even motion picture workers. They were maritime workers from the water-front-members of Mr. Harry Bridges’ union.

We won our fight in Hollywood cleared them out after seven long months in which even homes were broken, months in which many of us carried arms that were granted us by the police, and in which policemen lived in our homes, guarding our children at night. And what of the quiet film technician who had left our town before the fighting started? Well, in 1951 he turned up on the Monterey Peninsula where he was involved in a union price-fixing conspiracy. Two years ago he appeared on the New York waterfront where he was Harry Bridges’ right hand man in an attempt to establish a liaison between the New York and West Coast waterfront workers. And a few months ago he was mentioned in the speech of a U.S. Congresswoman who was thanking him for his help in framing labor legislation. He is a registered lobbyist in Washington for Harry Bridges.

Now that the first flush of victory is over we in Hollywood find ourselves blessed with a newly developed social awareness. We have allowed ourselves to become a sort of a village idiot on the fringe of the industrial scene fair game for any demagogue or bigot who wants to stand up in the pulpit or platform and attack us. We are also fair game for those people, well-meaning though they may be, who believe that the answer to the world’s ills is more government and more restraint and more regimentation. Suddenly we find that we are a group of second class citizens subject to discriminatory taxation, government interference and harassment.

This harassment reaches its peak, of course, in censorship. Here in this great land of the free exchange of ideas our section of the communications industry is subjected to political censorship in more than 200 cities and 11 states and it’s spreading every day. But are we the only victims of these restraints and restrictions on our personal freedom? Is censorship really a restriction on us who already have a voluntary censorship code of good taste, or is this an invasion of your freedom? Isn’t this the case of a few of your neighbors taking it upon themselves the right to tell you what you are capable of seeing and hearing on a motion picture screen?

So we worry a little about the class of ’57, we who are older and have known another day. We worry that perhaps someday you might not resist as strongly as we would if someone decides to tell you what you can read in a newspaper, or hear on the radio, or hear from a speaker’s platform, or what you can say or what you can think. So there are terrns and conditions to the will, and one of the terms is your own eternal vigilance guarding against restrictions on our American freedom.

You today are smarter than we were. You are better educated and better informed than we were twenty-five years ago. And that is part of your heritage. You enjoy these added benefits because, more than 100 years ago near this very spot, a man plunged an ax into a tree and said, here we will build a school for our children.” And for over 100 years people have contributed to the endowment and support of this college. Their contributions were of the utmost in generosity because they could never know the handclasp of gratitude in return for their contributions. Their gifts were to generations yet unborn.

Many of us here share this heritage with you, and some of us shared it under different circumstances. I recall my own days on this campus in the depths of the depression. Even with study and reading I don’t think you can quite understand what it was like to live in an America where the Illinois National Guard, with fixed bayonets, paraded down Michigan Avenue in Chicago as a warning to the more than half million unemployed men who slept every night in alleys and doorways under newspapers. On this campus many of us came who brought not one cent to help this school and pay for our education. The college, of course, had suffered and lost much of its endowment in the stock crash, had seen its revenue not only from endowment but from gifts curtailed because of the great financial chaos. But we heard none of that. We attended a college that made it possible for us to attend regardless of our lack of means, that created jobs for us, so that we could eat and sleep, and that allowed us to defer our tuition and trusted that they could get paid some day long after we had gone. And the professors, God bless them, on this campus, the most dedicated group of men and women whom I have ever known, went long months without drawing any pay. Sometimes the college, with a donation of a little money or produce from a farm, would buy groceries and dole them out to the teachers to at least try and provide them with food. We know something of your heritage, but even if we had been able to pay as many of you have paid for your education we, and you, must realize that the total price paid by any student of this college is far less than it costs this college to educate you. This is true not only of Eureka, but of the hundreds of schools and universities across the land.

Now today as you prepare to leave your Alma Mater, you go into a world in which, due to our carelessness and apathy, a great many of our freedoms have been lost. It isn’t that an outside enemy has taken them. It’s just that there is something inherent in government which makes it, when it isn’t controlled, continue to grow. So today for every seven of us sitting here in this lovely outdoor theater, there is one public servant, and 31 cents of every dollar earned in America goes in taxes. To support the multitudinous and gigantic functions of government, taxation is levied which tends to dry up the very sources of contributions and donations to colleges like Eureka. So in this time of prosperity we find these church schools, these small independent colleges and even the larger universities, hard put to maintain themselves and to continue doing the job they have done so unselfishly and well for all these years. Observe the contrast between these small church colleges and our government, because, as I have said before, these have always given far more than was ever given to them in return.

Class of 1957, it will be part of the terms of the will for you to take stock in the days to come, because we enjoy a form of government in which mistakes can be rectified. The dictator can never admit he was wrong, but we are blessed with a form of government where we can call a halt, and say, “Back up. Let’s take another look. ” Remember that every government service, every offer of government financed security, is paid for in the loss of personal freedom. I am not castigating government and business for those many areas of normal cooperation, for those services that we know we must have and that we do willingly support. It is very easy to give up our personal freedom to drive 90 miles an hour down a city street in return for the safety that we will get for ourselves and our loved ones. Of course, that might not be a good example it seems sometimes that this is a thing we have paid for in advance and the merchandise hasn’t yet been delivered. But in the days to come whenever a voice is raised telling you to let the government do it, analyze very carefully to see whether the suggested service is worth the personal freedom which you must forego in return for such service.

There are many well-meaning people today who work at placing an economic floor beneath all of us so that no one shall exist below a certain level or standard of living, and certainly we don’t quarrel with this. But look more closely and you may find that all too often these well-meaning people are building a ceiling above which no one shall be permitted to climb and between the two are pressing us all into conformity, into a mold of standardized mediocrity. The tendency toward assembly-line education in some of our larger institutions, where we are not teaching but training to fulfill certain specific jobs in the economic life of our nation, is a part of this same pattern.

We have a vast system of public education in this country, a network of great state universities and colleges and none of us would have it otherwise. But there are those among us who urge expansion of this system until all education is by way of tax- supported institutions. Today we enjoy academic freedom in America as it is enjoyed nowhere else in the world. But this pattern was established by the independent secular and church colleges of our land schools like Eureka. Down through the years these colleges and universities have maintained intellectual freedom because they were beholden to no political group, for when politics control the purse strings, they also control the policy. No one advocates the elimination of our tax-supported universities, but we should never forget that their academic freedom is assured only so long as we have the leavening influence of hundreds of privately endowed colleges and universities throughout the land.

So you should resolve, here and now, that you will not only accept your heritage but abide by the terms and conditions of the will. You should firmly resolve that these schools will not just be a part of America’s past, but that they will continue to be a part of America’s great future. Democracy with the personal freedoms that are ours we hold literally in trust for that day when we shall have fulfilled our destiny and brought mankind a great and long step from the swamps. Can we deliver it to our children? Democracy depends upon service voluntarily rendered, money voluntarily contributed.

These institutions which have contributed so much to us, from which we have received so much of our heritage, were here for our benefit only because our forefathers preferred voluntarily to support institutions of their choice in addition to sharing taxation for the support of governmental institutions. The will provides, class of 1957, not only that you receive this heritage and cherish it, but that you voluntarily tax your own time and your own money and contribute to these free institutions so that generations not yet born in this country and in the rest of the world, may benefit from this same heritage of freedom.

It will be very easy for you to say, “Well, I will do something, some day. When I can afford it, I am going to.” But would you let an old “grad” tell you one thing now? Giving is a habit. Get into the habit now, because you will never be able to afford to give and contribute, thus to repay the obligation you owe to those people who made this college possible, if you wait until you think you can afford it. Start now regardless of how small, and in the days to come when you are confronted with demands for many worthwhile causes and charities I think you will find that you will give dutifully to all the worthy ones. But here and there you will pick one or two that will be favorites, and you can do no better than to pick this, your Alma Mater, because you will not only be repaying your own personal obligations, you will be making your contribution to the very process which has made and continues to keep America great.

This democracy of ours which sometimes we’ve treated so lightly, is more than ever a comfortable cloak, so let us not tear it asunder, for no man knows once it is destroyed where or when he will find its protective warmth again.

Economic Recovery Program

Address to a joint session of Congress, April 28th, 1981


You wouldn’t want to talk me into an encore, would you? Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, distinguished Members of the Congress, honored guests, and fellow citizens: I have no words to express my appreciation for that greeting. I have come to speak to you tonight about our economic recovery program and why I believe it’s essential that the Congress approve this package, which I believe will lift the crushing burden of inflation off of our citizens and restore the vitality to our economy and our industrial machine.

First, however, and due to events of the past few weeks, will you permit me to digress for a moment from the all-important subject of why we must bring government spending under control and reduce tax rates. I’d like to say a few words directly to all of you and to those who are watching and listening tonight, because this is the only way I know to express to all of you on behalf of Nancy and myself our appreciation for your messages and flowers and, most of all, your prayers, not only for me but for those others who fell beside me. The warmth of your words, the expression of friendship and, yes, love, meant more to us than you can ever know. You have given us a memory that we’ll treasure forever. And you’ve provide an answer to those few voices that were raised saying that what happened was evidence that ours is a sick society.

The society we heard from is made up of millions of compassionate Americans and their children, from college-age to kindergarten. As a matter of fact, as evidence of that I have a letter with me. The letter came from Peter Sweeney. He’s in the second grade in the Riverside School in Rockville Centre, and he said, “I hope you get well quick or you might have to make a speech in your pajamas.” And he added a postscript. “P.S. If you have to make a speech in your pajamas, I warned you.”

Well, sick societies don’t produce men like the two who recently returned from outer space. Sick societies don’t produce young men like Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, who placed his body–he placed his body between mine and the man with the gun simply because he felt that’s what his duty called for him to do. Sick societies don’t produce dedicated police officers like Tom Delahanty or able and devoted public servants like Jim Brady. Sick societies don’t make people like us so proud to be Americans and so very proud of our fellow citizens.

Now, let’s talk about getting spending and inflation under control and cutting your tax rates. Mr. Speaker and Senator Baker, I want to thank you for your cooperation in helping to arrange this joint session of the Congress. I won’t be speaking to you very long tonight, but I asked for this meeting because the urgency of our joint mission has not changed. Thanks to some very fine people, my health is much improved. I’d like to be able to say that with regard to the health of the economy.

It’s been half a year since the election that charged all of us in this government with the task of restoring our economy. And where have we come in this six months? Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, has continued at a double-digit rate. Mortgage interest rates have averaged almost 15 percent for these six months, preventing families across America from buying homes. There are still almost eight million unemployed. The average worker’s hourly earnings after adjusting for inflation are lower today than they were six months ago, and there have been over 6,000 business failures.

Six months is long enough. The American people now want us to act and not in half-measures. They demand and they’ve earned a full and comprehensive effort to clean up our economic mess. Because of the extent of our economy’s sickness, we know that the cure will not come quickly and that even with our package, progress will come in inches and feet, not in miles. But to fail to act will delay even longer and more painfully the cure which must come. And that cure begins with the federal budget. And the budgetary actions taken by the Congress over the next few days will determine how we respond to the message of last November 4th. That message was very simple. Our government is too big, and it spends too much.

For the last few months, you and I have enjoyed a relationship based on extraordinary cooperation. Because of this cooperation we’ve come a long distance in less than three months. I want to thank the leadership of the Congress for helping in setting a fair timetable for consideration of our recommendations. And committee chairmen on both sides of the aisle have called prompt and thorough hearings. We have also communicated in a spirit of candor, openness, and mutual respect. Tonight, as our decision day nears and as the House of Representatives weighs its alternatives, I wish to address you in that same spirit.

The Senate Budget Committee, under the leadership of Pete Domenici, has just today voted out a budget resolution supported by Democrats and Republicans alike that is in all major respects consistent with the program that we have proposed. Now we look forward to favorable action on the Senate floor, but an equally crucial test involves the House of Representatives. The House will soon be choosing between two different versions or measures to deal with the economy. One is the measure offered by the House Budget Committee. The other is a bipartisan measure, a substitute introduced by Congressmen Phil Gramm of Texas and Del Latta of Ohio.

On behalf of the administration, let me say that we embrace and fully support that bipartisan substitute. It will achieve all the essential aims of controlling government spending, reducing the tax burden, building a national defense second to none, and stimulating economic growth and creating millions of new jobs. At the same time, however, I must state our opposition to the measure offered by the House Budget Committee. It may appear that we have two alternatives. In reality, however, there are no more alternatives left.

The committee measure quite simply falls far too short of the essential actions that we must take. For example, in the next three years, the committee measure projects spending $141 billion more than does the bipartisan substitute. It regrettably cuts over $14 billion in essential defense spending, funding required to restore America’s national security. It adheres to the failed policy of trying to balance the budget on the taxpayer’s back. It would increase tax payments over a third, adding up to a staggering quarter of a trillion dollars. Federal taxes would increase 12 percent each year. Taxpayers would be paying a larger share of their income to the government in 1984 than they do at present. In short, that measure reflects an echo of the past rather than a benchmark for the future. High taxes and excess spending growth created our present economic mess; more of the same will not cure the hardship, anxiety, and discouragement it has imposed on the American people.

Let us cut through the fog for a moment. The answer to a government that’s too big is to stop feeding its growth. Government spending has been growing faster than the economy itself. The massive national debt which we accumulated is the result of the government’s high spending diet. Well, it’s time to change the diet and to change it in the right way.

I know the tax portion of our package is of concern to some of you. Let me make a few points that I think–feel have been overlooked. First of all, it should be looked at as an integral part of the entire package, not something separate and apart from the budget reductions, the regulatory relief, and the monetary restraints. Probably the most common misconception is that we are proposing to reduce government revenues to less than what the government has been receiving. This is not true. Actually, the discussion has to do with how much of a tax increase should be imposed on the taxpayer in 1982.

Now, I know that over the recess in some informal polling some of your constituents have been asked which they’d rather have, a balanced budget or a tax cut, and with the common sense that characterizes the people of this country, the answer, of course, has been a balanced budget. But may I suggest, with no inference that there was wrong intent on the part of those who asked the question, the question was inappropriate to the situation. Our choice is not between a balanced budget and a tax cut. Properly asked, the question is, “Do you want a great big raise in your taxes this coming year or, at the worst, a very little increase with the prospect of tax reduction and a balanced budget down the road a ways?” With the common sense that the people have already shown, I’m sure we all know what the answer to that question would be.

A gigantic tax increase has been built into the system. We propose nothing more than a reduction of that increase. The people have a right to know that even with our plan they will be paying more in taxes, but not as much more as they will without it. The option, I believe, offered by the House Budget Committee, will leave spending too high and tax rates too high. At the same time, I think it cuts the defense budget too much, and by attempting to reduce the deficit through higher taxes, it will not create the kind of strong economic growth and the new jobs that we must have.

Let us not overlook the fact that the small, independent business man or woman creates more than 80 percent of all the new jobs and employs more than half of our total work force. Our across-the-board cut in tax rates for a three-year period will give them much of the incentive and promise of stability they need to go forward with expansion plans calling for additional employees.

Tonight, I renew my call for us to work as a team, to join in cooperation so that we find answers which will begin to solve all our economic problems and not just some of them. The economic recovery package that I’ve outlined to you over the past weeks is, I deeply believe, the only answer that we have left. Reducing the growth of spending, cutting marginal tax rates, providing relief from overregulation, and following a noninflationary and predictable monetary policy are interwoven measures which will ensure that we have addressed each of the severe dislocations which threaten our economic future. These policies will make our economy stronger, and the stronger economy will balance the budget which we’re committed to do by 1984.

When I took the oath of office, I pledged loyalty to only one special interest group–“We the People. ” Those people–neighbors and friends, shopkeepers and laborers, farmers and craftsmen–do not have infinite patience. As a matter of fact, some 80 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt wrote these instructive words in his first message to the Congress: “The American people are slow to wrath, but when their wrath is once kindled, it burns like a consuming flame. ” Well, perhaps that kind of wrath will be deserved if our answer to these serious problems is to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The old and comfortable way is to shave a little here and a little there. Well, that’s not acceptable anymore. I think this great and historic Congress knows that way is no longer acceptable. Thank you very much. Thank you. I think you’ve shown that you know the one sure way to continue the inflationary spiral is to fall back into the predictable patterns of old economic practices. Isn’t it time that we tried something new? When you allowed me to speak to you here in these chambers a little earlier, I told you that I wanted this program for economic recovery to be ours–yours and mine. I think the bipartisan substitute bill has achieved that purpose. It moves us toward economic vitality.

Just two weeks ago, you and I joined millions of our fellow Americans in marveling at the magic historical moment that John Young and Bob Crippen created in their space shuttle Columbia. The last manned effort was almost six years ago, and I remembered on this more recent day, over how–over the years, how we’d all come to expect technological precision of our men and machines. And each amazing achievement became commonplace, until the next new challenge was raised. With the space shuttle we tested our ingenuity once again, moving beyond the accomplishments of the past into the promise and uncertainty of the future. Thus, we not only planned to send up a 122-foot aircraft 170 miles into space, but we also intended to make it maneuverable and return it to earth, landing 98 tons of exotic metals delicately on a remote, dry lake bed. The space shuttle did more than prove our technological abilities. It raised our expectations once more. It started us dreaming again.

The poet Carl Sandburg wrote, “The republic is a dream. Nothing happens unless first a dream.” And that’s what makes us, as Americans, different. We’ve always reached for a new spirit and aimed at a higher goal. We’ve been courageous and determined, unafraid and bold. Who among us wants to be first to say we no longer have those qualities, that we must limp along, doing the same things that have brought us our present misery? I believe that the people you and I represent are ready to chart a new course. They look to us to meet the great challenge, to reach beyond the commonplace and not fall short for lack of creativity or courage. Someone, you know, has said that he who would have nothing to do with thorns must never attempt to gather flowers. Well, we have much greatness before us. We can restore our economic strength and build opportunities like none we’ve ever had before. As Carl Sandburg said, all we need to begin with is a dream that we can do better than before. All we need to have is faith, and that dream will come true. All we need to do is act, and the time for action is now.

Thank you. Good night.

Ronald Reagan Biography

Reagan served from 1981 to 1989 as the 40th president of the United States. At the age of 69, he was the oldest man ever sworn into that office. Reagan’s previous executive experience included two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild (1952, 1959-60) and governor of the nation’s most populous state, California (1966-74).

Many books have been written about Ronald Reagan which describe his life in great detail. Reagan also wrote two biographies. For those looking for some highlights of his life we provide this brief timeline and details about events during his presidency.

Timeline: 1911-1980

You may skip ahead to 1981-9.

  • February 6, 1911Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in Tampico, Ill. to Nelle Wilson and Jack Reagan. The Reagans had one previous son, Neil “Moon” Reagan, born in 1908. Reagan earned the nickname “Dutch” from his father, who remarked that “he looked like a fat little Dutchman.”
  • 1920The Reagans moved to a succession of rural northern Illinois towns until they settled in Dixon, Illinois in December. Though the Reagans moved frequently, Dixon remains the place that Reagan considers his hometown.
  • 1922Reagan baptized at the Christian Church of Dixon, Illinois.
  • 1926Beginning in 1926, Reagan was employed as a lifeguard at Lowell Park in Dixon. Lowell Park is located alongside the Rock River, a sometimes dangerous body of water. He was credited with saving 77 lives during the six years he worked there, making him a local legend long before his careers in media and politics.
  • 1924-1928Reagan attended Dixon High School. He played on the football team and participated in school plays, foreshadowing his own movie career. Reagan was elected student body president in 1927.
  • 1928-1932Reagan attended Eureka College, a small liberal arts institution, and majored in economics and sociology. While at Eureka, Reagan pursued his interest in drama and became determined to become an actor. Reagan also served as student body president and helped organize a student strike.
  • 1932Reagan casts his first presidential vote, for FDR.

    Reagan received a temporary sports broadcasting job with WOC, a small radio station in Davenport, Iowa. He impressed the station manager with his ability to replay entire football games from memory. He obtained a part-time job announcing University of Iowa games before landing a full time job the next year.

  • 1933WHO, in Des Moines and WOC merge. Reagan moved to Des Moines as chief sports announcer. Reagan broadcast Cubs games from the studio, including a memorable incident where he described repeated “foul balls” to the audience when his game feed was interrupted for over six minutes.
  • 1935Reagan enlists in the Army Reserve.
  • 1937Reagan traveled west to cover the Cubs spring training. While in LA he took a screen test and was soon offered a contract by Warner Brothers for $200 per week. When told of the offer via telegram Reagan replied “sign before they change their minds”.

    Reagan appeared in his first film, Love is on the Air.

    Among other films and roles, Reagan realized his boyhood dream by playing George Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American. Over the next few years he starred in such films as King’s Row, Sante Fe Trail and Brother Rat.

    Reagan promoted to Second Lieutenant in the Reserve Corps of Cavalry.

  • 1938Reagan joins board of the Screen Actor’s Guild.

    The film Sergeant Murphy is released on February 1st.

  • January 16th, 1940Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman married. They met while making the movie Brother Rat.
  • January 4th, 1941Maureen was born.
  • September 17th, 1941Reagan testifies before before the Federal Bureau of Investigation about Communism in Hollywood
  • April 19th, 1942Reagan is called up from the Army reserves and assigned to the Army Air Corps. He spent WWII in the Army Air Corps Intelligence 1st Motion Picture Unit, dedicated to training pilots. Reagan would make many training films, briefing films for pilots and wartime films like Rear Gunner to boost morale.
  • September, 1942Reagan stars in King’s Row, wherein he plays Drake McHugh. One of the film’s most memorable lines “Where’s the rest of me?” would later become the title of Reagan’s first autobiography.
  • January 14th, 1943Reagan is promoted to First Lieutenant
  • July 22nd, 1943The Army promoted Reagan to the rank of Captain
  • February 2nd, 1945Reagan is recommended for promotion to Major
  • March 14th, 1945Adopted son, Michael, was born.
  • July 17th, 1945Promotion to Major denied
  • August 21st, 1945Reagan signs multi-million dollar contract with Warner Brothers studio.
  • Fall, 1945Reagan is one of the first persons to be able to view film of liberated concentration camps when it is delivered to the 1st Motion Picture Unit. It is a major influence on his world view.
  • December 9th, 1945The Army honorably discharged Captain Reagan. Reagan spent 10 years in the Army Reserve and on active duty in the Army Air Corps.
  • 1945-1965Reagan resumed his acting career after the war. Reagan made fifty-three motion pictures and one television movie.
  • 1945Michael adopted by Ronald and Jane.

    1946-1948 Reagan becomes President of the Screen Actor’s Guild. He guides the Guild through a difficult strike period which was intermixed by a hunt for Communists in Hollywood. As later information would reveal, the Communist Party, USA was behind the strikes, and was acting on orders from their counterparts in the Soviet Union.

  • March, 1947Reagan is elected President of the Screen Actor’s Guild for the first time. He is subsequently re-elected five times.
  • June 4th, 1947 Reagan stars in That Hagan Girl, with Shirley Temple.
  • October 25th, 1947Testifies before the House Un-American Activities Committee about Communism in Hollywood.
  • Fall, 1948Reagan supports Harry Truman for President.
  • June 28th, 1949Reagan’s divorce from Jane Wyman is finalized. Reagan’s increasing involvement in politics and the couple’s diverging movie careers were the main reasons behind the split.
  • 1950Reagan writes guest columns for Victor Riesel’s labor column.
  • April, 1950Reagan campaigned for Helen Gahagan Douglas for the Senate.
  • Fall, 1950Reagan switches his support to Richard Nixon. Inheriting from his father a New Deal orientation in politics, Reagan slowly shifted his views over the years as a concern with Communism overshadowed his ties to the party of the New Deal. In the 1950s he began to campaign on behalf of the strongest candidate against Communism, which was frequently a Republican.
  • December 7th, 1950Reagan makes his network television debut in Nash Airflyte Theatre. He would eventually star in over sixty television shows.
  • 1951Reagan stars in the comedy Bedtime for Bonzo.
  • March 4th, 1952Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis wed.
  • June, 1952Reagan delivers the commencement address America the Beautiful at William Woods College in Fulton, Missouri.
  • October 22nd, 1952Patricia was born.
  • Fall, 1952Reagan campaigned as a Democrat for Eisenhower.
  • Fall, 1952Reagan stars as Grover C. Alexander in The Winning Team, his last film for Warner Brothers.
  • May 2nd, 1953Named Honorary Mayor of Malibu Lake, California.
  • 1954Reagan accepted a job as spokesman for the General Electric Company. This allowed him to tour the country as he gave motivational speeches to GE employees. He also starred in GE Theater, hosting the show an occasionally appearing in feature roles.
  • 1955Named Honorary Mayor of Thousand Oaks, California.
  • 1956Reagan again campaigns as a Democrat for Eisenhower.
  • May 28th, 1958Ronald Prescott was born.
  • November, 1959Reagan is again elected President of the Screen Actors Guild.
  • July, 1960Reagan resigns as President of the Screen Actors Guild following a strike. He and Nancy also resign from the Board.
  • Fall, 1960Reagan campaigns for Richard Nixon for President.
  • February 5th, 1962Reagan makes a Grand Jury appearance in the MCA-SAG anti-trust hearing.
  • March, 1962GE discontinues GE Theatre. Reagan’s last appearance is broadcast on August 26th, 1962.
  • Fall, 1962Reagan officially changes his party registration to Republican. He supports Richard Nixon’s campaign for California governor.
  • 1964Reagan becomes host of Death Valley Days on TV. He appeared in or hosted twenty-one episodes broadcast from 1965-6.

    Starred in The Killers, uncharacteristically portraying the villain.

  • October 27th, 1964Reagan’s television address for Goldwater, A Time for Choosing, launches his political career. A group of California businessmen soon afterward approached Reagan and convinced him to run for Governor of California. Reagan would continue to use A Time for Choosing in the months and years ahead as a staple of his fundraising appearances and motivational talks.
  • 1965Reagan’s first autobiography, Where’s the Rest of Me? is published.

    Reagan resigns as host of Death Valley Days

  • 1966Reagan defeated incumbent governor Edmund G. (“Pat”) Brown in a landslide, winning by more than a million votes. He obtains the second nickname “Governor”. His success in the election and as governor made him a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. Governor Reagan won the loyalty of conservatives by initially opposing state spending and tax increases, but he proved to be a pragmatist when California’s growth required an expansion of government services. He left Sacramento in 1974 with the California budget showing a $550-million surplus.
  • January 2nd, 1967Reagan is sworn in as California Governor.
  • 1968Reagan made a tentative run for the presidency, waiting until the Republican National Convention in August to announce his candidacy. He later joined in unanimously supporting Richard Nixon.

    An attempt is made on Reagan’s life. At least two people tried to firebomb Reagan’s residence, but were driven off by Secret Service gunfire.

  • May 15th, 1969Governor Reagan calls out the National Guard to quell violence at Berkeley. Reagan’s most controversial decision while Governor was his hard-line stance against student uprisings at Berkeley and other California colleges. Reagan believed the disturbances were caused by outside agitators. Subsequent research would reveal that Communist organizations were behind many of the violent activities in and around the campuses.
  • November, 1970Reagan is re-elected Governor of California.
  • 1971Reagan signs the California Welfare Reform Act.
  • Fall, 1974For several months after his gubernatorial term ended, Reagan wrote a syndicated newspaper column and provided commentaries on radio stations across the country.

    Reagan declines offers from the Ford Administration to become either the Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, Secretary of Transportation or Secretary of Commerce.

  • November 20th, 1975Reagan announced candidacy for the Republican nomination for president. He lost the party’s nomination, but his strong showing and moving speech at the convention laid the groundwork for his election in 1980.
  • August 19th, 1976Reagan addresses the Republican National Convention in Kansas City.
  • November 13th, 1979Reagan announced his candidacy for President.
  • February 23rd, 1980Famous debate in Nashua, New Hampshire where Reagan states “I paid for this microphone” when debate moderators try to exclude anyone except candidates Reagan and Bush. Reagan’s inclusion of all candidates garners voter good will and helps him win the New Hampshire primary.
  • March 18th, 1980Reagan debates Bush, John Anderson and Phil Crane (the only remaining candidates).
  • April 24th, 1980Debates George Bush in Houston.
  • July 16th, 1980Reagan nominated by the Republican Party to run for President. He choses fellow candidate George Bush as his running mate after talks with former President Gerald Ford fail to achieve and agreement for him to join the ticket as the VP candidate. Reagan’s platform calls for “a new consensus with all those across the land who share a community of values embodied in these words: family, work, neighborhood, peace, and freedom.” Reagan also championed an across-the-board cut in tax rates, increased defense spending and decreasing overall Federal spending to lower deficits.
  • September 21st, 1980Reagan debates John Anderson, who is running as an independent candidate for President after failing to win the Republican nomination. Jimmy Carter declines to participate.
  • October 28th, 1980Debates Jimmy Carter.
  • November 4th, 1980Reagan is elected the 40th President of the United States in a landslide victory over the incumbent, Jimmy Carter.

Q&A at Moscow State

President Reagan’s Remarks at a question-and-answer session with the students and faculty at Moscow State University, May 31, 1988.


The President: Thank you, Rector Logunov, and I want to thank all of you very much for a very warm welcome. It’s a great pleasure to be here at Moscow State University, and I want to thank you all for turning out. I know you must be very busy this week, studying and taking your final examinations. So, let me just say zhelayu vam uspekha [I wish you success]. Nancy couldn’t make it today because she’s visiting Leningrad, which she tells me is a very beautiful city, but she, too, says hello and wishes you all good luck.

Let me say it’s also a great pleasure to once again have this opportunity to speak directly to the people of the Soviet Union. Before I left Washington, I received many heartfelt letters and telegrams asking me to carry here a simple message, perhaps, but also some of the most important business of this summit: It is a message of peace and good will and hope for a growing friendship and closeness between our two peoples.

As you know, I’ve come to Moscow to meet with one of your most distinguished graduates. In this, our fourth summit, General Secretary Gorbachev and I have spent many hours together, and I feel that we’re getting to know each other well. our discussions, of course, have been focused primarily on many of the important issues of the day, issues I want to touch on with you in a few moments. But first I want to take a little time to talk to you much as I would to any group of university students in the United States. I want to talk not just of the realities of today but of the possibilities of tomorrow.

Standing here before a mural of your revolution, I want to talk about a very different revolution that is taking place right now, quietly sweeping the globe without bloodshed or conflict. Its effects are peaceful, but they will fundamentally alter our world, shatter old assumptions, and reshape our lives. It’s easy to underestimate because it’s not accompanied by banners or fanfare. It’s been called the technological or information revolution, and as its emblem, one might take the tiny silicon chip, no bigger than a fingerprint. One of these chips has more computing power than a roomful of old-style computers.

As part of an exchange program, we now have an exhibition touring your country that shows how information technology is transforming our lives—replacing manual labor with robots, forecasting weather for farmers, or mapping the genetic code of DNA for medical researchers. These microcomputers today aid the design of everything from houses to cars to spacecraft; they even design better and faster computers. They can translate English into Russian or enable the blind to read or help Michael Jackson produce on one synthesizer the sounds of a whole orchestra. Linked by a network of satellites and fiber-optic cables, one individual with a desktop computer and a telephone commands resources unavailable to the largest governments just a few years ago.

Like a chrysalis, we’re emerging from the economy of the Industrial Revolution—an economy confined to and limited by the Earth’s physical resources—into, as one economist titled his book, “The Economy in Mind,” in which there are no bounds on human imagination and the freedom to create is the most precious natural resource. Think of that little computer chip. Its value isn’t in the sand from which it is made but in the microscopic architecture designed into it by ingenious human minds. Or take the example of the satellite relaying this broadcast around the world, which replaces thousands of tons of copper mined from the Earth and molded into wire. In the new economy, human invention increasingly makes physical resources obsolete. We’re breaking through the material conditions of existence to a world where man creates his own destiny. Even as we explore the most advanced reaches of science, we’re returning to the age-old wisdom of our culture, a wisdom contained in the book of Genesis in the Bible: In the beginning was the spirit and it was from this spirit that the material abundance of creation issued forth.

But progress is not foreordained. The key is freedom—freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of communication. The renowned scientist, scholar, and founding father of this university, Mikhail Lomonosov, knew that. “It is common knowledge,” he said, “that the achievements of science are considerable and rapid, particularly once the yoke of slavery is cast off and replaced by the freedom of philosophy.” You know, one of the first contacts between your country and mine took place between Russian and American explorers. The Americans were members of Cook’s last voyage on an expedition searching for an Arctic passage; on the island of Unalaska, they came upon the Russians, who took them in, and together with the native inhabitants, held a prayer service on the ice.

The explorers of the modern era are the entrepreneurs, men with vision, with the courage to take risks and faith enough to brave the unknown. These entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States. They are the prime movers of the technological revolution. In fact, one of the largest personal computer firms in the United States was started by two college students, no older than you, in the garage behind their home. Some people, even in my own country, look at the riot of experiment that is the free market and see only waste. What of all the entrepreneurs that fail? Well, many do, particularly the successful ones; often several times. And if you ask them the secret of their success they’ll tell you it’s all that they learned in their struggles along the way; yes, it’s what they learned from failing. Like an athlete in competition or a scholar in pursuit of the truth, experience is the greatest teacher.

And that’s why it’s so hard for government planners, no matter how sophisticated, to ever substitute for millions of individuals working night and day to make their dreams come true. The fact is, bureaucracies are a problem around the world. There’s an old story about a town—it could be anywhere—with a bureaucrat who is known to be a good-for-nothing, but he somehow had always hung on to power. So one day, in a town meeting, an old woman got up and said to him: “There is a folk legend here where I come from that when a baby is born, an angel comes down from heaven and kisses it on one part of its body. If the angel kisses him on his hand, he becomes a handyman. If he kisses him on his forehead, he becomes bright and clever. And I’ve been trying to figure out where the angel kissed you so that you should sit there for so long and do nothing.” [Laughter]

We are seeing the power of economic freedom spreading around the world. Places such as the Republic of Korea, Singapore Taiwan have vaulted into the technological era, barely pausing in the industrial age along the way. Low-tax agricultural policies in the subcontinent mean that in some years India is now a net exporter of food. Perhaps most exciting are the winds of change that are blowing over the People’s Republic of China, where one-quarter of the world’s population is now getting its first taste of economic freedom. At the same time, the growth of democracy has become one of the most powerful political movements of our age. In Latin America in the 1970’s, only a third of the population lived under democratic government; today over 90 percent does. In the Philippines, in the Republic of Korea, free, contested, democratic elections are the order of the day. Throughout the world, free markets are the model for growth. Democracy is the standard by which governments are measured.

We Americans make no secret of our belief in freedom. In fact, it’s something of a national pastime. Every 4 years the American people choose a new President, and 1988 is one of those years. At one point there were 13 major candidates running in the two major parties, not to mention all the others, including the Socialist and Libertarian candidates—all trying to get my job. About 1,000 local television stations, 8,500 radio stations, and 1,700 daily newspapers—each one an independent, private enterprise, fiercely independent of the Government—report on the candidates, grill them in interviews, and bring them together for debates. In the end, the people vote; they decide who will be the next President.But freedom doesn’t begin or end with elections.

Go to any American town, to take just an example, and you’ll see dozens of churches, representing many different beliefs—in many places, synagogues and mosques—and you’ll see families of every conceivable nationality worshiping together. Go into any schoolroom, and there you will see children being taught the Declaration of Independence, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights—among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—that no government can justly deny; the guarantees in their Constitution for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. Go into any courtroom, and there will preside an independent judge, beholden to no government power. There every defendant has the right to a trial by a jury of his peers, usually 12 men and women—common citizens; they are the ones, the only ones, who weigh the evidence and decide on guilt or innocence. In that court, the accused is innocent until proven guilty, and the word of a policeman or any official has no greater legal standing than the word of the accused. Go to any university campus, and there you’ll find an open, sometimes heated discussion of the problems in American society and what can be done to correct them. Turn on the television, and you’ll see the legislature conducting the business of government right there before the camera, debating and voting on the legislation that will become the law of the land. March in any demonstration, and there are many of them; the people’s right of assembly is guaranteed in the Constitution and protected by the police. Go into any union hall, where the members know their right to strike is protected by law. As a matter of fact, one of the many jobs I had before this one was being president of a union, the Screen Actors Guild. I led my union out on strike, and I’m proud to say we won.

But freedom is more even than this. Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuing revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions. It is the right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people. It is the right to dream—to follow your dream or stick to your conscience, even if you’re the only one in a sea of doubters. Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority or government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put on this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer.

America is a nation made up of hundreds of nationalities. Our ties to you are more than ones of good feeling; they’re ties of kinship. In America, you’ll find Russians, Armenians, Ukrainians, peoples from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. They come from every part of this vast continent, from every continent, to live in harmony, seeking a place where each cultural heritage is respected, each is valued for its diverse strengths and beauties and the richness it brings to our lives. Recently, a few individuals and families have been allowed to visit relatives in the West. We can only hope that it won’t be long before all are allowed to do so and Ukrainian-Americans, Baltic-Americans, Armenian-Americans can freely visit their homelands, just as this Irish-American visits his.

Freedom, it has been said, makes people selfish and materialistic, but Americans are one of the most religious peoples on Earth. Because they know that liberty, just as life itself, is not earned but a gift from God, they seek to share that gift with the world. “Reason and experience,” said George Washington in his Farewell Address, “both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. And it is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” Democracy is less a system of government than it is a system to keep government limited, unintrusive; a system of constraints on power to keep politics and government secondary to the important things in life, the true sources of value found only in family and faith.

But I hope you know I go on about these things not simply to extol the virtues of my own country but to speak to the true greatness of the heart and soul of your land. Who, after all, needs to tell the land of Dostoyevski about the quest for truth, the home of Kandinski and Scriabin about imagination, the rich and noble culture of the Uzbek man of letters Alisher Navoi about beauty and heart? The great culture of your diverse land speaks with a glowing passion to all humanity. Let me cite one of the most eloquent contemporary passages on human freedom. It comes, not from the literature of America, but from this country, from one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, Boris Pasternak, in the novel “Dr. Zhivago.” He writes: “I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats—any kind of threat, whether of jail or of retribution after death then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion tamer in the circus with his whip, not the prophet who sacrificed himself. But this is just the point—what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel, but an inward music—the irresistible power of unarmed truth.”

The irresistible power of unarmed truth. Today the world looks expectantly to signs of change, steps toward greater freedom in the Soviet Union. We watch and we hope as we see positive changes taking place. There are some, I know, in your society who fear that change will bring only disruption and discontinuity, who fear to embrace the hope of the future—sometimes it takes faith. It’s like that scene in the cowboy movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which some here in Moscow recently had a chance to see. The posse is closing in on the two outlaws, Butch and Sundance, who find themselves trapped on the edge of a cliff, with a sheer drop of hundreds of feet to the raging rapids below. Butch turns to Sundance and says their only hope is to jump into the river below, but Sundance refuses. He says he’d rather fight it out with the posse, even though they’re hopelessly outnumbered. Butch says that’s suicide and urges him to jump, but Sundance still refuses and finally admits, “I can’t swim.” Butch breaks up laughing and says, “You crazy fool, the fall will probably kill you.” And, by the way, both Butch and Sundance made it, in case you didn t see the movie. I think what I’ve just been talking about is perestroika and what its goals are.

But change would not mean rejection of the past. Like a tree growing strong through the seasons, rooted in the Earth and drawing life from the Sun, so, too, positive change must be rooted in traditional values—in the land, in culture, in family and community—and it must take its life from the eternal things, from the source of all life, which is faith. Such change will lead to new understandings, new opportunities to a broader future in which the tradition is not supplanted but finds its full flowering. That is the future beckoning to your generation.

At the same time, we should remember that reform that is not institutionalized will always be insecure. Such freedom will always be looking over its shoulder. A bird on a tether, no matter how long the rope can always be pulled back. And that is why in my conversation with General Secretary Gorbachev, I have spoken of how important it is to institutionalize change—to put guarantees on reform. And we’ve been talking together about one sad reminder of a divided world: the Berlin Wall. It’s time to remove the barriers that keep people apart.

I’m proposing an increased exchange program of high school students between our countries. General Secretary Gorbachev mentioned on Sunday a wonderful phrase you have in Russian for this: “Better to see something once than to hear about it a hundred times.” Mr. Gorbachev and I first began working on this in 1985. In our discussion today, we agreed on working up to several thousand exchanges a year from each country in the near future. But not everyone can travel across the continents and oceans. Words travel lighter, and that’s why we’d like to make available to this country more of our 11,000 magazines and periodicals and our television and radio shows that can be beamed off a satellite in seconds. Nothing would please us more than for the Soviet people to get to know us better and to understand our way of life.

Just a few years ago, few would have imagined the progress our two nations have made together. The INF treaty, which General Secretary Gorbachev and I signed last December in Washington and whose instruments of ratification we will exchange tomorrow—the first true nuclear arms reduction treaty in history, calling for the elimination of an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles. And just 16 days ago, we saw the beginning of your withdrawal from Afghanistan, which gives us hope that soon the figh ting may end and the healing may begin and that that suffering country may find self-determination, unity, and peace at long last.

It’s my fervent hope that our constructive cooperation on these issues will be carried on to address the continuing destruction and conflicts in many regions of the globe and that the serious discussions that led to the Geneva accords on Afghanistan will help lead to solutions in southern Africa, Ethiopia, Cambodia, the Persian Gulf, and Central America. I have often said: Nations do not distrust each other because they are armed, they are armed because they distrust each other. If this globe is to live in peace and prosper, if it is to embrace all the possibilities of the technological revolution, then nations must renounce, once and for all, the right to an expansionist foreign policy. Peace between nations must be an enduring goal, not a tactical stage in a continuing conflict.

I’ve been told that there’s a popular song in your country—perhaps you know it— whose evocative refrain asks the question, “Do the Russians want a war?” In answer it says: “Go ask that silence lingering in the air, above the birch and poplar there; beneath those trees the soldiers lie. Go ask my mother, ask my wife; then you will have to ask no more, ‘Do the Russians want a war?'” But what of your one-time allies? What of those who embraced you on the Elbe? What if we were to ask the watery graves of the Pacific or the European battlefields where America’s fallen were buried far from home? What if we were to ask their mothers, sisters, and sons, do Americans want war? Ask us, too, and you’ll find the same answer, the same longing in every heart. People do not make wars; governments do. And no mother would ever willingly sacrifice her sons for territorial gain, for economic advantage, for ideology. A people free to choose will always choose peace.

Americans seek always to make friends of old antagonists. After a colonial revolution with Britain, we have cemented for all ages the ties of kinship between our nations. After a terrible Civil War between North and South, we healed our wounds and found true unity as a nation. We fought two world wars in my lifetime against Germany and one with Japan, but now the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan are two of our closest allies and friends.

Some people point to the trade disputes between us as a sign of strain, but they’re the frictions of all families, and the family of free nations is a big and vital and sometimes boisterous one. I can tell you that nothing would please my heart more than in my lifetime to see American and Soviet diplomats grappling with the problem of trade disputes between America and a growing, exuberant, exporting Soviet Union that had opened up to economic freedom and growth.

And as important as these official people-to-people exchanges are, nothing would please me more than for them to become unnecessary, to see travel between East and West become so routine that university students in the Soviet Union could take a month off in the summer and, just like students in the West do now, put packs on their backs and travel from country to country in Europe with barely a passport check in between. Nothing would please me more than to see the day that a concert promoter in, say, England could call up a Soviet rock group, without going through any government agency, and have them playing in Liverpool the next night. Is this just a dream? Perhaps, but it is a dream that is our responsibility to have come true.

Your generation is living in one of the most exciting, hopeful times in Soviet history. It is a time when the first breath of freedom stirs the air and the heart beats to the accelerated rhythm of hope, when the accumulated spiritual energies of a long silence yearn to break free. I am reminded of the famous passage near the end of Gogol’s “Dead Souls.” Comparing his nation to a speeding troika, Gogol asks what will be its destination. But he writes, “There was no answer save the bell pouring forth marvelous sound.” We do not know what the conclusion will be of this journey, but we’re hopeful that the promise of reform will be fulfilled. In this Moscow spring, this May 1988, we may be allowed that hope: that freedom, like the fresh green sapling planted over Tolstoy’s grave, will blossom forth at last in the rich fertile soil of your people and culture. We may be allowed to hope that the marvelous sound of a new openness will keep rising through, ringing through, leading to a new world of reconciliation, friendship, and peace. Thank you all very much, and da blagoslovit vas gospod—God bless you.

Mr. Logunov. Dear friends, Mr. President has kindly agreed to answer your questions. But since he doesn’t have too much time, only 15 minutes—so, those who have questions, please ask them.


Strategic Arms ReductionsQ: And this is a student from the history faculty, and he says that he’s happy to welcome you on behalf of the students of the university. And the first question is that the improvement in the relations between the two countries has come about during your tenure as President, and in this regard he would like to ask the following question. It is very important to get a handle on the question of arms control and, specifically the limitation of strategic arms. Do you think that it will be possible for you and the General Secretary to get a treaty on the limitation of strategic arms during the time that you are still President?

The President: Well, the arms treaty that is being negotiated now is the so-called START treaty, and it is based on taking the intercontinental ballistic missiles and reducing them by half, down to parity between our two countries. Now, this is a much more complicated treaty than the INF treaty, the intermediate-range treaty, which we have signed and which our two governments have ratified and is now in effect. So, there are many things still to be settled. You and we have had negotiators in Geneva for months working on various points of this treaty. Once we had hoped that maybe, like the INF treaty, we would have been able to sign it here at this summit meeting. It is not completed; there are still some points that are being debated. We are both hopeful that it can be finished before I leave office which is in the coming January, but I assure you that if it isn’t—I assure you that I will have impressed on my successor that we must carry on until it is signed. My dream has always been that once we ve started down this road, we can look forward to a day—you can look forward to a day—when there will be no more nuclear weapons in the world at all.

Young People

Q: The question is: The universities influence public opinion, and the student wonders how the youths have changed since the days when you were a student up until now?

The President: Well, wait a minute. How you have changed since the era of my own youth?

Q: How just students have changed, the youth have changed. You were a student. [Laughter] At your time there were one type. How they have changed?

The President: Well, I know there was a period in our country when there was a very great change for the worse. When I was Governor of California, I could start a riot just by going to a campus. But that has all changed, and I could be looking out at an American student body as well as I’m looking out here and would not be able to tell the difference between you.

I think that back in our day—I did happen to go to school, get my college education in a unique time; it was the time of the Great Depression, when, in a country like our own, there was 25-percent unemployment and the bottom seemed to have fallen out of everything. But we had—I think what maybe I should be telling you from my point here, because I graduated in 1932, that I should tell you that when you get to be my age, you’re going to be surprised how much you recall the feelings you had in these days here and that—how easy it is to understand the young people because of your own having been young once. You know an awful lot more about being young than you do about being old. [Laughter]

And I think there is a seriousness, I think there is a sense of responsibility that young people have, and I think that there is an awareness on the part of most of you about what you want your adulthood to be and what the country you live in—you want it to be. And I have a great deal of faith. I said the other day to 76 students—they were half American and half Russian. They had held a conference here and in Finland and then in the United States, and I faced them just the other day, and I had to say—I couldn’t tell the difference looking at them, which were which, but I said one line to them. I said I believe that if all the young people of the world today could get to know each other, there would never be another war. And I think that of you. I think that of the other students that I’ve addressed in other places.

And of course, I know also that you’re young and, therefore, there are certain things that at times take precedence. I’ll illustrate one myself. Twenty-five years after I graduated, my alma mater brought me back to the school and gave me an honorary degree. And I had to tell them they compounded a sense of guilt I had nursed for 25 years because I always felt the first degree they gave me was honorary. [Laughter] You’re great! Carry on.

Regional Conflicts

Q: Mr. President, you have just mentioned that you welcome the efforts—settlement of the Afghanistan question and the difference of other regional conflicts. What conflicts do you mean? Central America conflicts, Southeast Asian, or South African?

The President: Well, for example, in South Africa, where Namibia has been promised its independence as a nation—another new African nation. But it is impossible because of a civil war going on in another country there, and that civil war is being fought on one side by some 30,000 to 40,000 Cuban troops who have gone from the Americas over there and are fighting on one side with one kind of authoritative government. When that country was freed from being a colony and given its independence, one faction seized power and made itself the government of that nation. And leaders of another—seeming the majority of the people had wanted, simply, the people to have the right to choose the government that they wanted, and that is the civil war that is going on. But what we believe is that those foreign soldiers should get out and let them settle it, let the citizens of that nation settle their problems.

And the same is true in Nicaragua. Nicaragua has been—Nicaragua made a promise. They had a dictator. There was a revolution, there was an organization that—and was aided by others in the revolution, and they appealed to the Organization of American States for help in getting the dictator to step down and stop the killing. And he did. But the Organization of American States had asked, what are the goals of the revolution? And they were given in writing, and they were the goals of pluralistic society, of the right of unions and freedom of speech and press and so forth and free elections—a pluralistic society. And then the one group that was the best organized among the revolutionaries seized power, exiled many of the other leaders, and has its own government, which violated every one of the promises that had been made. And here again, we want—we’re trying to encourage the getting back those—or making those promises come true and letting the people of that particular country decide their fate.

Soviet MIA’s in Afghanistan

Q. Esteemed Mr. President, I’m very much anxious and concerned about the destiny of 310 Soviet soldiers being missing in Afghanistan. Are you willing to help in their search and their return to the motherland?

The President: Very much so. We would like nothing better than that.

U.S. Constitution

Q: The reservation of the inalienable rights of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution faces certain problems; for example, the right of people to have arms, or for example, the problem appears, an evil appears whether spread of pornography or narcotics is compatible with these rights. Do you believe that these problems are just unavoidable problems connected with democracy, or they could be avoided?

The President: Well, if I understand you correctly, this is a question about the inalienable rights of the people—does that include the right to do criminal acts—for example, in the use of drugs and so forth? No. No, we have a set of laws. I think what is significant and different about our system is that every country has a constitution, and most constitutions or practically all of the constitutions in the world are documents in which the government tells the people what the people can do. our Constitution is different, and the difference is in three words; it almost escapes everyone. The three words are, “We the people.” Our Constitution is a document in which we the people tell the Government what its powers are. And it can have no powers other than those listed in that document. But very carefully, at the same time, the people give the government the power with regard to those things which they think would be destructive to society, to the family, to the individual and so forth—infringements on their rights. And thus, the government can enforce the laws. But that has all been dictated by the people.

President’s Retirement Plans

Q: Mr. President, from history I know that people who have been connected with great power, with big posts, say goodbye, leave these posts with great difficulty. Since your term of office is coming to an end what sentiments do you experience and whether you feel like, if, hypothetically, you can just stay for another term? [Laughter]

The President: Well, I’ll tell you something. I think it was a kind of revenge against Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, who was elected four times—the only President. There had kind of grown a tradition in our country about two terms. That tradition was started by Washington, our first President only because there was great talk at the formation of our country that we might become a monarchy, and we had just freed ourselves from a monarchy. So, when the second term was over, George Washington stepped down and said he would do it— stepping down—so that there would not get to be the kind of idea of an inherited aristocracy. Well, succeeding Presidents—many of them didn’t get a chance at a second term; they did one term and were gone. But that tradition kind of remained, but it was just a tradition. And then Roosevelt ran the four times—died very early in his fourth term. And suddenly, in the atmosphere at that time, they added an amendment to the Constitution that Presidents could only serve two terms.

When I get out of office—I can’t do this while I’m in office, because it will look as I’m selfishly doing it for myself—when I get out of office, I’m going to travel around what I call the mashed-potato circuit—that is the after-dinner speaking and the speaking to luncheon groups and so forth—I’m going to travel around and try to convince the people of our country that they should wipe out that amendment to the Constitution because it was an interference with the democratic rights of the people. The people should be allowed to vote for who they wanted to vote for, for as many times as they want to vote for him; and that it is they who are being denied a right. But you see, I will no longer be President then, so I can do that and talk for that.

There are a few other things I’m going to try to convince the people to impress upon our Congress, the things that should be done. I’ve always described it that if—in Hollywood, when I was there, if you didn’t sing or dance, you wound up as an afterdinner speaker. And I didn’t sing or dance. [Laughter] so, I have a hunch that I will be out on the speaking circuit, telling about a few things that I didn’t get done in government, but urging the people to tell the Congress they wanted them done.

American Indians

Q: Mr. President, I’ve heard that a group of American Indians have come here because they couldn’t meet you in the United States of America. If you fail to meet them here, will you be able to correct it and to meet them back in the United States?

The President: I didn’t know that they had asked to see me. If they’ve come here or whether to see t hem there{laughter]— I’d be very happy to see them.

Let me tell you just a little something about the American Indian in our land. We have provided millions of acres of land for what are called preservations—or reservations, I should say. They, from the beginning, announced that they wanted to maintain their way of life, as they had always lived there in the desert and the plains and so forth. And we set up these reservations so they could, and have a Bureau of Indian Affairs to help take care of them. At the same time, we provide education for them—schools on the reservations. And they’re free also to leave the reservations and be American citizens among the rest of us, and many do. Some still prefer, however, that way—that early way of life. And we’ve done everything we can to meet their demands as to how they want to live. Maybe we made a mistake. Maybe we should not have humored them in that wanting to stay in that kind of primitive lifestyle. Maybe we should have said, no, come join us; be citizens along with the rest of us. As I say, many have; many have been very successful.

And I’m very pleased to meet with them, talk with them at any time and see what their grievances are or what they feel they might be. And you’d be surprised: Some of them became very wealthy because some of those reservations were overlaying great pools of oil, and you can get very rich pumping oil. And so, I don’t know what their complaint might be.

Soviet Dissidents

Q: Mr. President, I’m very much tantalized since yesterday evening by the question, why did you receive yesterday—did you receive and when you invite yesterday—refuseniks or dissidents? And for the second part of the question is, just what are your impressions from Soviet people? And among these dissidents, you have invited a former collaborator with a Fascist, who was a policeman serving for Fascist.

The President: Well, that’s one I don’t know about, or maybe the information hasn’t been all given out on that. But you have to understand that Americans come from every corner of the world. I received a letter from a man that called something to my attention recently. He said, you can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman; you can go to live in Germany, you cannot become a German— or a Turk, or a Greek, or whatever. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in America and become an American.

You have to realize that we are a people that are made up of every strain, nationality, and race of the world. And the result is that when people in our country think someone is being mistreated or treated unjustly in another country, these are people who still feel that kinship to that country because that is their heritage. In America, whenever you meet someone new and become friends, one of the first things you tell each other is what your bloodline is. For example, when I’m asked, I have to say Irish, English, and Scotch—English and Scotch on my mother’s side, Irish on my father’s side. But all of them have that.

Well, when you take on to yourself a wife, you do not stop loving your mother. So, Americans all feel a kind of a kinship to that country that their parents or their grandparents or even some great-grandparents came from; you don’t lose that contact So, what I have come and what I have brought to the General Secretary—and I must say he has been very cooperative about it—I have brought lists of names that have been brought to me from people that are relatives or friends that know that—or that believe that this individual is being mistreated here in this country, and they want him to be allowed to emigrate to our country—some are separated families.

One that I met in this, the other day, was born the same time I was. He was born of Russian parents who had moved to America, oh, way back in the early 1900’s, and he was born in 1911. And then sometime later, the family moved back to Russia. Now he’s grown, has a son. He’s an American citizen. But they wanted to go back to America and being denied on the grounds that, well, they can go back to America, but his son married a Russian young lady, and they want to keep her from going back. Well, the whole family said, no, we’re not going to leave her alone here. She’s a member of the family now. Well, that kind of a case is brought to me personally, so I bring it to the General Secretary. And as I say, I must say, he has been most helpful and most agreeable about correcting these things.

Now, I’m not blaming you; I’m blaming bureaucracy. We have the same type of thing happen in our own country. And every once in a while, somebody has to get the bureaucracy by the neck and shake it loose and say, Stop doing what you’re doing! And this is the type of thing and the names that we have brought. And it is a list of names, all of which have been brought to me personally by either relatives or close friends and associates. [Applause]

Thank you very much. You’re all very kind. I thank you very much. And I hope I answered the questions correctly. Nobody asked me what it was going to feel like to not be President anymore—I have some understanding, because after I’d been Governor for 8 years and then stepped down, I want to tell you what it s like. We’d only been home a few days, and someone invited us out to dinner. Nancy and I both went out, got in the back seat of the car, and waited for somebody to get in front and drive us. [Laughter]

[At this point, Rector Logunov gave the President a gift]

That is beautiful. Thank you very much.

Lebanon and Grenada

President Reagan spoke to the nation on live television on October 27th, 1983 regarding the bombing in Lebanon and the liberation of Grenada.


My fellow Americans:

Some 2 months ago we were shocked by the brutal massacre of 269 men, women, and children, more than 60 of them Americans, in the shooting down of a Korean airliner. Now, in these past several days, violence has erupted again, in Lebanon and Grenada.

In Lebanon, we have some 1,600 marines, part of a multinational force that’s trying to help the people of Lebanon restore order and stability to that troubled land. Our marines are assigned to the south of the city of Beirut, near the only airport operating in Lebanon. Just a mile or so to the north is the Italian contingent and not far from them, the French and a company of British soldiers.

This past Sunday, at 22 minutes after 6 Beirut time, with dawn just breaking a truck, looking like a lot of other vehicles in the city, approached the airport on a busy, main road. There was nothing in its appearance to suggest it was any different than the trucks or cars that were normally seen on and around the airport. But this one was different. At the wheel was a young man on a suicide mission.

The truck carried some 2,000 pounds of explosives, but there was no way our marine guards could know this. Their first warning that something was wrong came when the truck crashed through a series of barriers, including a chain-link fence and barbed wire entanglements. The guards opened fire, but it was too late. The truck smashed through the doors of the headquarters building in which our marines were sleeping and instantly exploded. The four- story concrete building collapsed in a pile of rubble.

More than 200 of the sleeping men were killed in that one hideous, insane attack. Many others suffered injury and are hospitalized here or in Europe. This was not the end of the horror. At almost the same instant, another vehicle on a suicide and murder mission crashed into the headquarters of the French peacekeeping force, an eight-story building, destroying it and killing more than 50 French soldiers.

Prior to this day of horror, there had been several tragedies for our men in the multinational force. Attacks by snipers and mortar fire had taken their toll.

I called bereaved parents and/or widows of the victims to express on behalf of all of us our sorrow and sympathy. Sometimes there were questions. And now many of you are asking: Why should our young men be dying in Lebanon? Why is Lebanon important to us?

Well, it’s true, Lebanon is a small country, more than five-and-a-half thousand miles from our shores on the edge of what we call the Middle East. But every President who has occupied this office in recent years has recognized that peace in the Middle East is of vital concern to our nation and, indeed, to our allies in Western Europe and Japan. We’ve been concerned because the Middle East is a powderkeg; four times in the last 30 years, the Arabs and Israelis have gone to war. And each time, the world has teetered near the edge of catastrophe.

The area is key to the economic and political life of the West. Its strategic importance, its energy resources, the Suez Canal, and the well-being of the nearly 200 million people living there—all are vital to us and to world peace. If that key should fall into the hands of a power or powers hostile to the free world, there would be a direct threat to the United States and to our allies.

We have another reason to be involved. Since 1948 our Nation has recognized and accepted a moral obligation to assure the continued existence of Israel as a nation. Israel shares our democratic values and is a formidable force an invader of the Middle East would have to reckon with.

For several years, Lebanon has been torn by internal strife. Once a prosperous, peaceful nation, its government had become ineffective in controlling the militias that warred on each other. Sixteen months ago, we were watching on our TV screens the shelling and bombing of Beirut which was being used as a fortress by PLO bands. Hundreds and hundreds of civilians were being killed and wounded in the daily battles.

Syria, which makes no secret of its claim that Lebanon should be a part of a Greater Syria, was occupying a large part of Lebanon. Today, Syria has become a home for 7,000 Soviet advisers and technicians who man a massive amount of Soviet weaponry, including SS-21 ground-to-ground missiles capable of reaching vital areas of Israel.

A little over a year ago hoping to build on the Camp David accords, which had led to peace between Israel and Egypt, I proposed a peace plan for the Middle East to end the wars between the Arab States and Israel. It was based on U.N. resolutions 242 and 338 and called for a fair and just solution to the Palestinian problem, as well as a fair and just settlement of issues between the Arab States and Israel.

Before the necessary negotiations could begin, it was essential to get all foreign forces out of Lebanon and to end the fighting there. So, why are we there? Well, the answer is straightforward: to help bring peace to Lebanon and stability to the vital Middle East. To that end, the multinational force was created to help stabilize the situation in Lebanon until a government could be established and a Lebanese army mobilized to restore Lebanese sovereignty over its own soil as the foreign forces withdrew. Israel agreed to withdraw as did Syria, but Syria then reneged on its promise. Over 10,000 Palestinians who had been bringing ruin down on Beirut, however, did leave the country.

Lebanon has formed a government under the leadership of President Gemayal, and that government, with our assistance and training, has set up its own army. In only a year’s time, that army has been rebuilt. It’s a good army, composed of Lebanese of all factions.

A few weeks ago, the Israeli army pulled back to the Awali River in southern Lebanon. Despite fierce resistance by Syrian-backed forces, the Lebanese army was able to hold the line and maintain the defensive perimeter around Beirut.

In the year that our marines have been there, Lebanon has made important steps toward stability and order. The physical presence of the marines lends support to both the Lebanese Government and its army. It allows the hard work of diplomacy to go forward. Indeed, without the peacekeepers from the U.S., France, Italy, and Britain, the efforts to find a peaceful solution in Lebanon would collapse.

As to that narrower question—what exactly is the operational mission of the Marines—the answer is, to secure a piece of Beirut, to keep order in their sector, and to prevent the area from becoming a battlefield. Our marines are not just sitting in an airport. Part of their task is to guard that airport. Because of their presence, the airport has remained operational. In addition, they patrol the surrounding area. This is their part—a limited, but essential part—in the larger effort that I’ve described.

If our marines must be there, I’m asked, why can’t we make them safer? Who committed this latest atrocity against them and why?

Well, we’ll do everything we can to ensure that our men are as safe as possible. We ordered the battleship New Jersey to join our naval forces offshore. Without even firing them, the threat of its 16-inch guns silenced those who once fired down on our marines from the hills, and they’re a good part of the reason we suddenly had a cease fire. We’re doing our best to make our forces less vulnerable to those who want to snipe at them or send in future suicide missions.

Secretary Shultz called me today from Europe, where he was meeting with the Foreign Ministers of our allies in the multinational force. They remain committed to our task. And plans were made to share information as to how we can improve security for all our men.

We have strong circumstantial evidence that the attack on the marines was directed by terrorists who used the same method to destroy our Embassy in Beirut. Those who directed this atrocity must be dealt justice, and they will be. The obvious purpose behind the sniping and, now, this attack was to weaken American will and force the withdrawal of U.S. and French forces from Lebanon. The clear intent of the terrorists was to eliminate our support of the Lebanese Government and to destroy the ability of the Lebanese people to determine their own destiny.

To answer those who ask if we’re serving any purpose in being there, let me answer a question with a question. Would the terrorists have launched their suicide attacks against the multinational force of it were not doing its job? The multinational force was attacked precisely because it is doing the job it was sent to do in Beirut. It is accomplishing its mission.

Now then, where do we go from here? What can we do now to help Lebanon gain greater stability so that our marines can come home? Well, I believe we can take three steps now that will make a difference.

First, we will accelerate the search for peace and stability in that region. Little attention has been paid to the fact that we’ve had special envoys there working, literally, around the clock to bring the warring factions together. This coming Monday in Geneva, President Gemayel of Lebanon will sit down with other factions from his country to see if national reconciliation can be achieved. He has our firm support. I will soon be announcing a replacement for Bud McFarlane, who was preceded by Phil Habib. Both worked tirelessly and must be credited for much if not most of the progress we’ve made.

Second, we’ll work even more closely with our allies in providing support for the Government of Lebanon and for the rebuilding of a national consensus.

Third, we will ensure that the multinational peace-keeping forces, our marines, are given the greatest possible protection. Our Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Kelley, returned from Lebanon today and will be advising us on steps we can take to improve security. Vice President Bush returned just last night from Beirut and gave me a full report of his brief visit.

Beyond our progress in Lebanon, let us remember that our main goal and purpose is to achieve a broader peace in all of the Middle East. The factions and bitterness that we see in Lebanon are just a microcosm of the difficulties that are spread across much of that region. A peace initiative for the entire Middle East, consistent with the Camp David accords and U.N. resolutions 242 and 338, still offers the best hope for bringing peace to the region.

Let me ask those who say we should get out of Lebanon: If we were to leave Lebanon now, what message would that send to those who foment instability and terrorism? If America were to walk away from Lebanon, what chance would there be for a negotiated settlement, producing a unified democratic Lebanon?

If we turned our backs on Lebanon now, what would be the future of Israel? At stake is the fate of only the second Arab country to negotiate a major agreement with Israel. That’s another accomplishment of this past year, the May 17th accord signed by Lebanon and Israel.

If terrorism and intimidation succeed, it’ll be a devastating blow to the peace process and to Israel’s search for genuine security. It won’t just be Lebanon sentenced to a future of chaos. Can the United States, or the free world, for that matter, stand by and see the Middle East incorporated into the Soviet bloc? What of Western Europe and Japan’s dependence on Middle East oil for the energy to fuel their industries? The Middle East is, as I’ve said, vital to our national security and economic well-being.

Brave young men have been taken from us. Many others have been grievously wounded. Are we to tell them their sacrifice was wasted? They gave their lives in defense of our national security every bit as much as any man who ever died fighting in a war. We must not strip every ounce of meaning and purpose from their courageous sacrifice.

We’re a nation with global responsibilities. We’re not somewhere else in the world protecting someone else’s interests; we’re there protecting our own.

I received a message from the father of a marine in Lebanon. He told me, “In a world where we speak of human rights, there is a sad lack of acceptance of responsibility. My son has chosen the acceptance of responsibility for the privilege of living in this country. Certainly in this country one does not inherently have rights unless the responsibility for those rights is accepted.” Dr. Kenneth Morrison said that while he was waiting to learn if his son was one of the dead. I was thrilled for him to learn today that his son Ross is alive and well and carrying on his duties in Lebanon.

Let us meet our responsibilities. For people of the Middle East have lived from war to war with no prospect for any other future. That dreadful cycle must be broken. Why are we there? Well, a Lebanese mother told one of our Ambassadors that her little girl had only attended school 2 of the last 8 years. Now, because of our presence there, she said her daughter could live a normal life.

With patience and firmness, we can help bring peace to that strife-torn region—and make our own lives more secure. Our role is to help the Lebanese put their country together, not to do it for them. Now, I know another part of the world is very much on our minds, a place much closer to our shores: Grenada. The island is only twice the size of the District of Columbia, with a total population of about 110,000 people.

Grenada and a half dozen other Caribbean islands here were, until recently, British colonies. They’re now independent states and members of the British Commonwealth. While they respect each other’s independence, they also feel a kinship with each other and think of themselves as one people.

In 1979 trouble came to Grenada. Maurice Bishop, a protégé of Fidel Castro, staged a military coup and overthrew the government which had been elected under the constitution left to the people by the British. He sought the help of Cuba in building an airport, which he claimed was for tourist trade, but which looked suspiciously suitable for military aircraft, including Soviet-built long-range bombers.

The six sovereign countries and one remaining colony are joined together in what they call the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. The six became increasingly alarmed as Bishop built an army greater than all of theirs combined. Obviously, it was not purely for defense.

In this last year or so, Prime Minister Bishop gave indications that he might like better relations with the United States. He even made a trip to our country and met with senior officials of the White House and the State Department. Whether he was serious or not, we’ll never know. On October 12th, a small group in his militia seized him and put him under arrest. They were, if anything, more radical and more devoted to Castro’s Cuba than he had been.

Several days later, a crowd of citizens appeared before Bishop’s home, freed him, and escorted him toward the headquarters of the military council. They were fired upon. A number, including some children, were killed, and Bishop was seized. He and several members of his cabinet were subsequently executed, and a 24-hour shoot-to-kill curfew was put in effect. Grenada was without a government, its only authority exercised by a self-proclaimed band of military men.

There were then about 1,000 of our citizens on Grenada, 800 of them students in St. George’s University Medical School. Concerned that they’d be harmed or held as hostages, I ordered a flotilla of ships, then on its way to Lebanon with marines, part of our regular rotation program, to circle south on a course that would put them somewhere in the vicinity of Grenada in case there should be a need to evacuate our people.

Last weekend, I was awakened in the early morning hours and told that six members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, joined by Jamaica and Barbados, had sent an urgent request that we join them in a military operation to restore order and democracy to Grenada. They were proposing this action under the terms of a treaty, a mutual assistance pact that existed among them.

These small, peaceful nations needed our help. Three of them don’t have armies at all, and the others have very limited forces. The legitimacy of their request, plus my own concern for our citizens, dictated my decision. I believe our government has a responsibility to go to the aid of its citizens, if their right to life and liberty is threatened. The nightmare of our hostages in Iran must never be repeated.

We knew we had little time and that complete secrecy was vital to ensure both the safety of the young men who would undertake this mission and the Americans they were about to rescue. The Joint Chiefs worked around the clock to come up with a plan. They had little intelligence information about conditions on the island.

We had to assume that several hundred Cubans working on the airport could be military reserves. Well, as it turned out, the number was much larger, and they were a military force. Six hundred of them have been taken prisoner, and we have discovered a complete base with weapons and communications equipment, which makes it clear a Cuban occupation of the island had been planned.

Two hours ago we released the first photos from Grenada. They included pictures of a warehouse of military equipment—one of three we’ve uncovered so far. This warehouse contained weapons and ammunition stacked almost to the ceiling, enough to supply thousands of terrorists. Grenada, we were told, was a friendly island paradise for tourism. Well, it wasn’t. It was a Soviet-Cuban colony, being readied as a major military bastion to export terror and undermine democracy. We got there just in time.

I can’t say enough in praise of our military—Army rangers and paratroopers, Navy, Marine, and Air Force personnel—those who planned a brilliant campaign and those who carried it out. Almost instantly, our military seized the two airports, secured the campus where most of our students were, and are now in the mopping-up phase.

It should be noted that in all the planning, a top priority was to minimize risk, to avoid casualties to our own men and also the Grenadian forces as much as humanly possible. But there were casualties, and we all owe a debt to those who lost their lives or were wounded. They were few in number, but even one is a tragic price to pay.

It’s our intention to get our men out as soon as possible. Prime Minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica—I called that wrong she pronounces it Dominica—she is Chairman of OECS. She’s calling for help from Commonwealth nations in giving the people their right to establish a constitutional government on Grenada. We anticipate that the Governor General, a Grenadian, will participate in setting up a provisional government in the interim.

The events in Lebanon and Grenada, though oceans apart, are closely related. Not only has Moscow assisted and encouraged the violence in both countries, but it provides direct support through a network of surrogates and terrorists. It is no coincidence that when the thugs tried to wrest control over Grenada, there were 30 Soviet advisers and hundreds of Cuban military and paramilitary forces on the island. At the moment of our landing, we communicated with the Governments of Cuba and the Soviet Union and told them we would offer shelter and security to their people on Grenada. Regrettably, Castro ordered his men to fight to the death, and some did. The others will be sent to their homelands.

You know, there was a time when our national security was based on a standing army here within our own borders and shore batteries of artillery along our coasts, and, of course, a navy to keep the sea lanes open for the shipping of things necessary to our well-being. The world has changed. Today, our national security can be threatened in faraway places. It’s up to all of us to be aware of the strategic importance of such places and to be able to identify them.

Sam Rayburn once said that freedom is not something a nation can work for once and win forever. He said it’s like an insurance policy; its premiums must be kept up to date. In order to keep it, we have to keep working for it and sacrificing for it just as long as we live. If we do not, our children may not know the pleasure of working to keep it, for it may not be theirs to keep.

In these last few days, I’ve been more sure than I’ve ever been that we Americans of today will keep freedom and maintain peace. I’ve been made to feel that by the magnificent spirit of our young men and women in uniform and by something here in our Nation’s Capital. In this city, where political strife is so much a part of our lives, I’ve seen Democratic leaders in the Congress join their Republican colleagues, send a message to the world that we’re all Americans before we’re anything else, and when our country is threatened, we stand shoulder to shoulder in support of our men and women in the Armed Forces.

May I share something with you I think you’d like to know? It’s something that happened to the Commandant of our Marine Corps, General Paul Kelley, while he was visiting our critically injured marines in an Air Force hospital. It says more than any of us could ever hope to say about the gallantry and heroism of these young men, young men who serve so willingly so that others might have a chance at peace and freedom in their own lives and in the life of their country.

I’ll let General Kelley’s words describe the incident. He spoke of a “young marine with more tubes going in and out of his body than I have ever seen in one body.”

“He couldn’t see very well. He reached up and grabbed my four stars, just to make sure I was who I said I was. He held my hand with a firm grip. He was making signals, and we realized he wanted to tell me something. We put a pad of paper in his hand—and he wrote Semper Fi.”

Well, if you’ve been a marine or if, like myself, you’re an admirer of the marines, you know those words are a battle cry, a greeting, and a legend in the Marine Corps. They’re marine shorthand for the motto of the Corps—Semper Fidelis—”always faithful.”

General Kelley has a reputation for being a very sophisticated general and a very tough marine. But he cried when he saw those words, and who can blame him? That marine and all those others like him living and dead, have been faithful to their ideals. They’ve given willingly of them selves so that a nearly defenseless people in a region of great strategic importance to the free world will have a chance someday to live lives free of murder and mayhem and terrorism. I think that young marine and all of his comrades have given every one of us something to live up to.

They were not afraid to stand up for their country or, no matter how difficult and slow the journey might be, to give to others that last, best hope of a better future. We cannot and will not dishonor them now and the sacrifices they’ve made by failing to remain as faithful to the cause of freedom and the pursuit of peace as they have been.

I will not ask you to pray for the dead, because they’re safe in God’s loving arms and beyond need of our prayers. I would like to ask you all—wherever you may be in this blessed land—to pray for these wounded young men and to pray for the bereaved families of those who gave their lives for our freedom.

God bless you, and God bless America.

Iran-Contra

President Reagan addressed the nation from the White House concerning Iran-Contra on March 4th, 1987


My fellow Americans: I’ve spoken to you from this historic office on many occasions and about many things. The power of the Presidency is often thought to reside within this Oval Office. Yet it doesn’t rest here; it rests in you, the American people, and in your trust. Your trust is what gives a president his powers of leadership and his personal strength, and it’s what I want to talk to you about this evening.

For the past three months, I’ve been silent on the revelations about Iran. And you must have been thinking: “Well, why doesn’t he tell us what’s happening? Why doesn’t he just speak to us as he has in the past when we’ve faced troubles or tragedies?” Others of you, I guess, were thinking: “What’s he doing hiding out in the White House?” Well, the reason I haven’t spoken to you before now is this: You deserve the truth. And as frustrating as the waiting has been, I felt it was improper to come to you with sketchy reports, or possibly even erroneous statements, which would then have to be corrected, creating even more doubt and confusion. There’s been enough of that. I’ve paid a price for my silence in terms of your trust and confidence. But I’ve had to wait, as you have, for the complete story. That’s why I appointed Ambassador David Abshire as my Special Counselor to help get out the thousands of documents to the various investigations. And I appointed a Special Review Board, the Tower Board, which took on the chore of pulling the truth together for me and getting to the bottom of things. It has now issued its findings.

I’m often accused of being an optimist, and it’s true I had to hunt pretty hard to find any good news in the Board’s report. As you know, it’s well stocked with criticisms, which I’ll discuss in a moment; but I was very relieved to read this sentence: “…the Board is convinced that the President does indeed want the full story to be told. ” And that will continue to be my pledge to you as the other investigations go forward. I want to thank the members of the panel: former Senator John Tower, former Secretary of State Edmund Muskie, and former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft. They have done the nation, as well as me personally, a great service by submitting a report of such integrity and depth. They have my genuine and enduring gratitude.

I’ve studied the Board’s report. Its findings are honest, convincing, and highly critical; and I accept them. And tonight I want to share with you my thoughts on these findings and report to you on the actions I’m taking to implement the Board’s recommendations. First, let me say, I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration. As angry as I may be about activities undertaken without my knowledge, I am still accountable for those activities. As disappointed as I may be in some who served me, I’m still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior. And as personally distasteful as I find secret bank accounts and diverted funds—well, as the Navy would say, this happened on my watch.

Let’s start with the part that is the most controversial. A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower Board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages. This runs counter to my own beliefs, to administration policy, and the original strategy we had in mind. There are reasons why it happened, but no excuses. It was a mistake. I undertook the original Iran initiative in order to develop relations with those who might assume leadership in a post-Khomeini government.

It’s clear from the Board’s report, however, that I let my personal concern for the hostages spill over into the geopolitical strategy of reaching out to Iran. I asked so many questions about the hostages’ welfare that I didn’t ask enough about the specifics of the total Iran plan. Let me say to the hostage families: We have not given up. We never will. And I promise you we’ll use every legitimate means to free your loved ones from captivity. But I must also caution that those Americans who freely remain in such dangerous areas must know that they’re responsible for their own safety.

Now, another major aspect of the Board’s findings regards the transfer of funds to the Nicaraguan Contras. The Tower Board wasn’t able to find out what happened to this money, so the facts here will be left to the continuing investigations of the court-appointed Independent Counsel and the two congressional investigating communities. I’m confident the truth will come out about this matter, as well. As I told the Tower Board, I didn’t know about any diversion of funds to the Contras. But as president, I cannot escape responsibility.

Much has been said about my management style, a style that’s worked successfully for me during eight years as governor of California and for most of my Presidency. The way I work is to identify the problem, find the right individuals to do the job, and then let them go to it. I’ve found this invariably brings out the best in people. They seem to rise to their full capability, and in the long run you get more done. When it came to managing the NSC staff, let’s face it, my style didn’t match its previous track record. I’ve already begun correcting this. As a start, yesterday I met with the entire professional staff of the National Security Council. I defined for them the values I want to guide the national security policies of this country. I told them that I wanted a policy that was as justifiable and understandable in public as it was in secret. I wanted a policy that reflected the will of the Congress as well as the White House. And I told them that there’ll be no more freelancing by individuals when it comes to our national security.

You’ve heard a lot about the staff of the National Security Council in recent months. Well, I can tell you, they are good and dedicated government employees, who put in long hours for the nation’s benefit. They are eager and anxious to serve their country. One thing still upsetting me, however, is that no one kept proper records of meetings or decisions. This led to my failure to recollect whether I approved an arms shipment before or after the fact. I did approve it; I just can’t say specifically when. Well, rest assured, there’s plenty of record- keeping now going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

For nearly a week now, I’ve been studying the Board’s report. I want the American people to know that this wrenching ordeal of recent months has not been in vain. I endorse every one of the Tower Board’s recommendations. In fact, I’m going beyond its recommendations so as to put the house in even better order. I’m taking action in three basic areas: personnel, national security policy, and the process for making sure that the system works.

First, personnel—I’ve brought in an accomplished and highly respected new team here at the White House. They bring new blood, new energy, and new credibility and experience. Former Senator Howard Baker, my new Chief of Staff, possesses a breadth of legislative and foreign affairs skills that’s impossible to match. I’m hopeful that his experience as minority and majority leader of the Senate can help us forge a new partnership with the Congress, especially on foreign and national security policies. I’m genuinely honored that he’s given up his own presidential aspirations to serve the country as my Chief of Staff. Frank Carlucci, my new national security advisor, is respected for his experience in government and trusted for his judgment and counsel. Under him, the NSC is being rebuilt with the proper management discipline. Already, almost half the NSC professional staff is comprised of new people.

Yesterday, I nominated Wi11iam Webster, a man of sterling reputation, to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Webster has served as Director of the FBI and as a U.S. District Court judge. He understands the meaning of “rule of law.” So that his knowledge of national security matters can be available to me on a continuing basis, I wi11 so appoint John Tower to serve as a member of my Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. I am considering other changes in personnel, and I’ll move more furniture, as I see fit, in the weeks and months ahead.

Second, in the area of national security policy, I have ordered the NSC to begin a comprehensive review of all covert operations. I have also directed that any covert activity be in support of clear policy objectives and in compliance with American values. I expect a covert policy that, if Americans saw it on the front page of their newspaper, they’d say, “That makes sense.” I have had issued a directive prohibiting the NSC staff itself from undertaking covert operations—no “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts.” I have asked Vice President Bush to reconvene his task force on terrorism to review our terrorist policy in light of the events that have occurred.

Third, in terms of the process of reaching national security decisions, I am adopting in total the Tower Report’s model of how the NSC process and staff should work. I am directing Mr. Carlucci to take the necessary steps to make that happen. He will report back to me on further reforms that might be needed. I’ve created the post of NSC legal advisor to assure a greater sensitivity to matters of the law. I am also determined to make the congressional oversight process work. Proper procedures for consultation with the Congress will be followed, not only in letter but in spirit. Before the end of March, I will report to the Congress on all the steps I’ve taken in line with the Tower Board’s conclusions.

Now, what should happen when you make a mistake is this: You take your knocks, you learn your lessons, and then you move on. That’s the healthiest way to deal with a problem. This in no way diminishes the importance of the other continuing investigations, but the business of our country and our people must proceed. I’ve gotten this message from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, from allies around the world, and—if we’re reading the signals right—even from the Soviets. And of course, I’ve heard the message from you, the American people. You know, by the time you reach my age, you’ve made plenty of mistakes. And if you’ve lived your life properly—so, you learn. You put things in perspective. You pull your energies together. You change. You go forward.

My fellow Americans, I have a great deal that I want to accomplish with you and for you over the next two years. And the Lord willing, that’s exactly what I intend to do. Good night, and God bless you.

President Reagan’s Second Inaugural Address

Monday, January 21st, 1985


Senator Mathias, Chief Justice Burger, Vice President Bush, Speaker O’Neill, Senator Dole, Reverend Clergy, members of my family and friends, and my fellow citizens:

This day has been made brighter with the presence here of one who, for a time, has been absent–Senator John Stennis.

God bless you and welcome back.

There is, however, one who is not with us today: Representative Gillis Long of Louisiana left us last night. I wonder if we could all join in a moment of silent prayer. (Moment of silent prayer.) Amen.

There are no words adequate to express my thanks for the great honor that you have bestowed on me. I will do my utmost to be deserving of your trust.

This is, as Senator Mathias told us, the 50th time that we the people have celebrated this historic occasion. When the first President, George Washington, placed his hand upon the Bible, he stood less than a single day’s journey by horseback from raw, untamed wilderness. There were 4 million Americans in a union of 13 States. Today we are 60 times as many in a union of 50 States. We have lighted the world with our inventions, gone to the aid of mankind wherever in the world there was a cry for help, journeyed to the Moon and safely returned. So much has changed. And yet we stand together as we did two centuries ago.

When I took this oath four years ago, I did so in a time of economic stress. Voices were raised saying we had to look to our past for the greatness and glory. But we, the present-day Americans, are not given to looking backward. In this blessed land, there is always a better tomorrow.

Four years ago, I spoke to you of a new beginning and we have accomplished that. But in another sense, our new beginning is a continuation of that beginning created two centuries ago when, for the first time in history, government, the people said, was not our master, it is our servant; its only power that which we the people allow it to have.

That system has never failed us, but, for a time, we failed the system. We asked things of government that government was not equipped to give. We yielded authority to the National Government that properly belonged to States or to local governments or to the people themselves. We allowed taxes and inflation to rob us of our earnings and savings and watched the great industrial machine that had made us the most productive people on Earth slow down and the number of unemployed increase.

By 1980, we knew it was time to renew our faith, to strive with all our strength toward the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with an orderly society.

We believed then and now there are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams.

And we were right to believe that. Tax rates have been reduced, inflation cut dramatically, and more people are employed than ever before in our history.

We are creating a nation once again vibrant, robust, and alive. But there are many mountains yet to climb. We will not rest until every American enjoys the fullness of freedom, dignity, and opportunity as our birthright. It is our birthright as citizens of this great Republic, and we’ll meet this challenge.

These will be years when Americans have restored their confidence and tradition of progress; when our values of faith, family, work, and neighborhood were restated for a modern age; when our economy was finally freed from government’s grip; when we made sincere efforts at meaningful arms reduction, rebuilding our defenses, our economy, and developing new technologies, and helped preserve peace in a troubled world; when Americans courageously supported the struggle for liberty, self-government, and free enterprise throughout the world, and turned the tide of history away from totalitarian darkness and into the warm sunlight of human freedom.

My fellow citizens, our Nation is poised for greatness. We must do what we know is right and do it with all our might. Let history say of us, “These were golden years–when the American Revolution was reborn, when freedom gained new life, when America reached for her best.”

Our two-party system has served us well over the years, but never better than in those times of great challenge when we came together not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans united in a common cause.

Two of our Founding Fathers, a Boston lawyer named Adams and a Virginia planter named Jefferson, members of that remarkable group who met in Independence Hall and dared to think they could start the world over again, left us an important lesson. They had become political rivals in the Presidential election of 1800. Then years later, when both were retired, and age had softened their anger, they began to speak to each other again through letters. A bond was reestablished between those two who had helped create this government of ours.

In 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, they both died. They died on the same day, within a few hours of each other, and that day was the Fourth of July.

In one of those letters exchanged in the sunset of their lives, Jefferson wrote: “It carries me back to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right to self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us, and yet passing harmless … we rode through the storm with heart and hand.”

Well, with heart and hand, let us stand as one today: One people under God determined that our future shall be worthy of our past. As we do, we must not repeat the well-intentioned errors of our past. We must never again abuse the trust of working men and women, by sending their earnings on a futile chase after the spiraling demands of a bloated Federal Establishment. You elected us in 1980 to end this prescription for disaster, and I don’t believe you reelected us in 1984 to reverse course.

At the heart of our efforts is one idea vindicated by 25 straight months of economic growth: Freedom and incentives unleash the drive and entrepreneurial genius that are the core of human progress. We have begun to increase the rewards for work, savings, and investment; reduce the increase in the cost and size of government and its interference in people’s lives.

We must simplify our tax system, make it more fair, and bring the rates down for all who work and earn. We must think anew and move with a new boldness, so every American who seeks work can find work; so the least among us shall have an equal chance to achieve the greatest things–to be heroes who heal our sick, feed the hungry, protect peace among nations, and leave this world a better place.

The time has come for a new American emancipation–a great national drive to tear down economic barriers and liberate the spirit of enterprise in the most distressed areas of our country. My friends, together we can do this, and do it we must, so help me God.

From new freedom will spring new opportunities for growth, a more productive, fulfilled and united people, and a stronger America–an America that will lead the technological revolution, and also open its mind and heart and soul to the treasures of literature, music, and poetry, and the values of faith, courage, and love.

A dynamic economy, with more citizens working and paying taxes, will be our strongest tool to bring down budget deficits. But an almost unbroken 50 years of deficit spending has finally brought us to a time of reckoning. We have come to a turning point, a moment for hard decisions. I have asked the Cabinet and my staff a question, and now I put the same question to all of you: If not us, who? And if not now, when? It must be done by all of us going forward with a program aimed at reaching a balanced budget. We can then begin reducing the national debt.

I will shortly submit a budget to the Congress aimed at freezing government program spending for the next year. Beyond that, we must take further steps to permanently control Government’s power to tax and spend. We must act now to protect future generations from Government’s desire to spend its citizens’ money and tax them into servitude when the bills come due. Let us make it unconstitutional for the Federal Government to spend more than the Federal Government takes in.

We have already started returning to the people and to State and local governments responsibilities better handled by them. Now, there is a place for the Federal Government in matters of social compassion. But our fundamental goals must be to reduce dependency and upgrade the dignity of those who are infirm or disadvantaged. And here a growing economy and support from family and community offer our best chance for a society where compassion is a way of life, where the old and infirm are cared for, the young and, yes, the unborn protected, and the unfortunate looked after and made self-sufficient.

And there is another area where the Federal Government can play a part. As an older American, I remember a time when people of different race, creed, or ethnic origin in our land found hatred and prejudice installed in social custom and, yes, in law. There is no story more heartening in our history than the progress that we have made toward the “brotherhood of man” that God intended for us. Let us resolve there will be no turning back or hesitation on the road to an America rich in dignity and abundant with opportunity for all our citizens.

Let us resolve that we the people will build an American opportunity society in which all of us–white and black, rich and poor, young and old–will go forward together arm in arm. Again, let us remember that though our heritage is one of blood lines from every corner of the Earth, we are all Americans pledged to carry on this last, best hope of man on Earth.

I have spoken of our domestic goals and the limitations which we should put on our National Government. Now let me turn to a task which is the primary responsibility of National Government–the safety and security of our people.

Today, we utter no prayer more fervently than the ancient prayer for peace on Earth. Yet history has shown that peace will not come, nor will our freedom be preserved, by good will alone. There are those in the world who scorn our vision of human dignity and freedom. One nation, the Soviet Union, has conducted the greatest military buildup in the history of man, building arsenals of awesome offensive weapons.

We have made progress in restoring our defense capability. But much remains to be done. There must be no wavering by us, nor any doubts by others, that America will meet her responsibilities to remain free, secure, and at peace.

There is only one way safely and legitimately to reduce the cost of national security, and that is to reduce the need for it. And this we are trying to do in negotiations with the Soviet Union. We are not just discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons. We seek, instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.

Now, for decades, we and the Soviets have lived under the threat of mutual assured destruction; if either resorted to the use of nuclear weapons, the other could retaliate and destroy the one who had started it. Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side threatens to kill tens of millions of our people, our only recourse is to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs?

I have approved a research program to find, if we can, a security shield that would destroy nuclear missiles before they reach their target. It wouldn’t kill people, it would destroy weapons. It wouldn’t militarize space, it would help demilitarize the arsenals of Earth. It would render nuclear weapons obsolete. We will meet with the Soviets, hoping that we can agree on a way to rid the world of the threat of nuclear destruction.

We strive for peace and security, heartened by the changes all around us. Since the turn of the century, the number of democracies in the world has grown fourfold. Human freedom is on the march, and nowhere more so than our own hemisphere. Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit. People, worldwide, hunger for the right of self-determination, for those inalienable rights that make for human dignity and progress.

America must remain freedom’s staunchest friend, for freedom is our best ally.

And it is the world’s only hope, to conquer poverty and preserve peace. Every blow we inflict against poverty will be a blow against its dark allies of oppression and war. Every victory for human freedom will be a victory for world peace.

So we go forward today, a nation still mighty in its youth and powerful in its purpose. With our alliances strengthened, with our economy leading the world to a new age of economic expansion, we look forward to a world rich in possibilities. And all this because we have worked and acted together, not as members of political parties, but as Americans.

My friends, we live in a world that is lit by lightning. So much is changing and will change, but so much endures, and transcends time.

History is a ribbon, always unfurling; history is a journey. And as we continue our journey, we think of those who traveled before us. We stand together again at the steps of this symbol of our democracy–or we would have been standing at the steps if it hadn’t gotten so cold. Now we are standing inside this symbol of our democracy. Now we hear again the echoes of our past: a general falls to his knees in the hard snow of Valley Forge; a lonely President paces the darkened halls, and ponders his struggle to preserve the Union; the men of the Alamo call out encouragement to each other; a settler pushes west and sings a song, and the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air.

It is the American sound. It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent, and fair. That’s our heritage; that is our song. We sing it still. For all our problems, our differences, we are together as of old, as we raise our voices to the God who is the Author of this most tender music. And may He continue to hold us close as we fill the world with our sound–sound in unity, affection, and love–one people under God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the human heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and hopeful world.

God bless you and may God bless America.