President Reagan’s Speech at Pointe de Hoc, Normandy

Ronald Reagan — Pointe de Hoc, Normandy, June 6, 1984 (The 40th anniversary of D-Day)


We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied peoples joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers — at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine-guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting only ninety could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your ‘lives fought for life…and left the vivid air signed with your honor’…

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith, and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

Reagan’s Speech at the 4th Annual CPAC Convention: A New Republican Party

February 6, 1977

I’m happy to be back with you in this annual event after missing last year’s meeting. I had some business in New Hampshire that wouldn’t wait.

Three weeks ago here in our nation’s capital I told a group of conservative scholars that we are currently in the midst of a re-ordering of the political realities that have shaped our time. We know today that the principles and values that lie at the heart of conservatism are shared by the majority.

Despite what some in the press may say, we who are proud to call ourselves “conservative” are not a minority of a minority party; we are part of the great majority of Americans of both major parties and of most of the independents as well.

A Harris poll released September 7, l975 showed 18 percent identifying themselves as liberal and 31 per- cent as conservative, with 41 percent as middle of the road; a few months later, on January 5, 1976, by a 43-19 plurality those polled by Harris said they would “prefer to see the country move in a more conservative direction than a liberal one.”

Last October 24th, the Gallup organization released the result of a poll taken right in the midst of the presidential campaign.

Respondents were asked to state where they would place themselves on a scale ranging from “right-of-center” (which was defined as “conservative”) to left-of-center (which was defined as “liberal”).

Thirty-seven percent viewed themselves as left-of-center or liberal
Twelve percent placed themselves in the middle
Fifty-one percent said they were right-of-center, that is, conservative.

What I find interesting about this particular poll is that it offered those polled a range of choices on a left-right continuum. This seems to me to be a more realistic approach than dividing the world into strict left and rights. Most of us, I guess, like to think of ourselves as avoiding both extremes, and the fact that a majority of Americans chose one or the other position on the right end of the spectrum is really impressive.

Those polls confirm that most Americans are basically conservative in their outlook. But once we have said this, we conservatives have not solved our problems, we have merely stated them clearly. Yes, conservatism can and does mean different things to those who call themselves conservatives.

You know, as I do, that most commentators make a distinction between they call “social” conservatism and “economic” conservatism. The so-called social issues—law and order, abortion, busing, quota systems—are usually associated with blue-collar, ethnic and religious groups themselves traditionally associated with the Democratic Party. The economic issues—inflation, deficit spending and big government—are usually associated with Republican Party members and independents who concentrate their attention on economic matters.

Now I am willing to accept this view of two major kinds of conservatism—or, better still, two different conservative constituencies. But at the same time let me say that the old lines that once clearly divided these two kinds of conservatism are disappearing.

In fact, the time has come to see if it is possible to present a program of action based on political principle that can attract those interested in the so-called “social” issues and those interested in “economic” issues. In short, isn’t it possible to combine the two major segments of contemporary American conservatism into one politically effective whole?

I believe the answer is: Yes, it is possible to create a political entity that will reflect the views of the great, hitherto, conservative majority. We went a long way toward doing it in California. We can do it in America. This is not a dream, a wistful hope. It is and has been a reality. I have seen the conservative future and it works.

Let me say again what I said to our conservative friends from the academic world: What I envision is not simply a melding together of the two branches of American conservatism into a temporary uneasy alliance, but the creation of a new, lasting majority.

This will mean compromise. But not a compromise of basic principle. What will emerge will be something new: something open and vital and dynamic, something the great conservative majority will recognize as its own, because at the heart of this undertaking is principled politics.

I have always been puzzled by the inability of some political and media types to understand exactly what is meant by adherence to political principle. All too often in the press and the television evening news it is treated as a call for “ideological purity.” Whatever ideology may mean—and it seems to mean a variety of things, depending upon who is using it—it always conjures up in my mind a picture of a rigid, irrational clinging to abstract theory in the face of reality. We have to recognize that in this country “ideology” is a scare word. And for good reason. Marxist-Leninism is, to give but one example, an ideology. All the facts of the real world have to be fitted to the Procrustean bed of Marx and Lenin. If the facts don’t happen to fit the ideology, the facts are chopped off and discarded.

I consider this to be the complete opposite to principled conservatism. If there is any political viewpoint in this world which is free for slavish adherence to abstraction, it is American conservatism.

When a conservative states that the free market is the best mechanism ever devised by the mind of man to meet material needs, he is merely stating what a careful examination of the real world has told him is the truth.

When a conservative says that totalitarian Communism is an absolute enemy of human freedom he is not theorizing—he is reporting the ugly reality captured so unforgettably in the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

When a conservative says it is bad for the government to spend more than it takes in, he is simply showing the same common sense that tells him to come in out of the rain.

When a conservative says that busing does not work, he is not appealing to some theory of education—he is merely reporting what he has seen down at the local school.

When a conservative quotes Jefferson that government that is closest to the people is best, it is because he knows that Jefferson risked his life, his fortune and his sacred honor to make certain that what he and his fellow patriots learned from experience was not crushed by an ideology of empire.

Conservatism is the antithesis of the kind of ideological fanatacism that has brought so much horror and destruction to the world. The common sense and common decency of ordinary men and women, working out their own lives in their own way—this is the heart of American conservatism today. Conservative wisdom and principles are derived from willingness to learn, not just from what is going on now, but from what has happened before.

The principles of conservatism are sound because they are based on what men and women have discovered through experience in not just one generation or a dozen, but in all the combined experience of mankind. When we conservatives say that we know something about political affairs, and that we know can be stated as principles, we are saying that the principles we hold dear are those that have been found, through experience, to be ultimately beneficial for individuals, for families, for communities and for nations—found through the often bitter testing of pain, or sacrifice and sorrow.

One thing that must be made clear in post-Watergate is this: The American new conservative majority we represent is not based on abstract theorizing of the kind that turns off the American people, but on common sense, intelligence, reason, hard work, faith in God, and the guts to say: “Yes, there are things we do strongly believe in, that we are willing to live for, and yes, if necessary, to die for.” That is not “ideological purity.” It is simply what built this country and kept it great.

Let us lay to rest, once and for all, the myth of a small group of ideological purists trying to capture a majority. Replace it with the reality of a majority trying to assert its rights against the tyranny of powerful academics, fashionable left-revolutionaries, some economic illiterates who happen to hold elective office and the social engineers who dominate the dialogue and set the format in political and social affairs. If there is any ideological fanaticism in American political life, it is to be found among the enemies of freedom on the left or right—those who would sacrifice principle to theory, those who worship only the god of political, social and economic abstractions, ignoring the realities of everyday life. They are not conservatives.

Our first job is to get this message across to those who share most of our principles. If we allow ourselves to be portrayed as ideological shock troops without correcting this error we are doing ourselves and our cause a disservice. Wherever and whenever we can, we should gently but firmly correct our political and media friends who have been perpetuating the myth of conservatism as a narrow ideology. Whatever the word may have meant in the past, today conservatism means principles evolving from experience and a belief in change when necessary, but not just for the sake of change.

One we have established this, the next question is: What will be the political vehicle by which the majority can assert its rights?

I have to say I cannot agree with some of my friends—perhaps including some of you here tonight—who have answered that question by saying this nation needs a new political party.

I respect that view and I know that those who have reached it have done so after long hours of study. But I believe that political success of the principles we believe in can best be achieved in the Republican Party. I believe the Republican Party can hold and should provide the political mechanism through which the goals of the majority of Americans can be achieved. For one thing, the biggest single grouping of conservatives is to be found in that party. It makes more sense to build on that grouping than to break it up and start over. Rather than a third party, we can have a new first party made up of people who share our principles. I have said before that if a formal change in name proves desirable, then so be it. But tonight, for purpose of discussion, I’m going to refer it simply as the New Republican Party.

And let me say so there can be no mistakes as to what I mean: The New Republican Party I envision will not be, and cannot, be one limited to the country club-big business image that, for reasons both fair and unfair, it is burdened with today. The New Republican Party I am speaking about is going to have room for the man and the woman in the factories, for the farmer, for the cop on the beat and the millions of Americans who may never have thought of joining our party before, but whose interests coincide with those represented by principled Republicanism. If we are to attract more working men and women of this country, we will do so not by simply “making room” for them, but by making certain they have a say in what goes on in the party. The Democratic Party turned its back on the majority of social conservatives during the 1960s. The New Republican Party of the late ’70s and ’8Os must welcome them, seek them out, enlist them, not only as rank-and-file members but as leaders and as candidates.

The time has come for Republicans to say to black voters: “Look, we offer principles that black Americans can, and do, support.” We believe in jobs, real jobs; we believe in education that is really education; we believe in treating all Americans as individuals and not as stereotypes or voting blocs—and we believe that the long-range interest of black Americans lies in looking at what each major party has to offer, and then deciding on the merits. The Democratic Party takes the black vote for granted. Well, it’s time black America and the New Republican Party move toward each other and create a situation in which no black vote can be taken for granted.

The New Republican Party I envision is one that will energetically seek out the best candidates for every elective office, candidates who not only agree with, but understand, and are willing to fight for a sound, honest economy, for the interests of American families and neighborhoods and communities and a strong national defense. And these candidates must be able to communicate those principles to the American people in language they understand. Inflation isn’t a textbook problem. Unemployment isn’t a textbook problem. They should be discussed in human terms.

Our candidates must be willing to communicate with every level of society, because the principles we espouse are universal and cut across traditional lines. In every Congressional district there should be a search made for young men and women who share these principles and they should be brought into positions of leadership in the local Republican Party groups. We can find attractive, articulate candidates if we look, and when we find them, we will begin to change the sorry state of affairs that has led a Democratic-controlled Congress for more than 40 years. I need not remind you that you can have the soundest principles in the world, but if you don’t have candidates who can communicate those principles, candidates who are articulate as well as principled, you are going to lose election after election. I refuse to believe that the good Lord divided this world into Republicans who defend basic values and Democrats who win elections. We have to find tough, bright young men and women who are sick and tired of cliches and the pomposity and the mind-numbing economic idiocy of the liberals in Washington.

It is at this point, however, that we come across a question that is really the essential one: What will be the basis of this New Republican Party? To what set of values and principles can our candidates appeal? Where can Americans who want to know where we stand look for guidance?

Fortunately, we have an answer to that question. That answer was provided last summer by the men and women of the Republican Party—not just the leadership, but the ones who have built the party on local levels all across the country.

The answer was provided in the 1976 platform of the Republican Party.

This was not a document handed down from on high. It was hammered out in free and open debate among all those who care about our party and the principles it stands for.

The Republican platform is unique. Unlike any other party platform I have ever seen, it answers not only programmatic questions for the immediate future of the party but also provides a clear outline of the underlying principles upon which those programs are based.

The New Republican Party can and should use the Republican platform of 1976 as the major source from which a Declaration of Principles can be created and offered to the American people.

Tonight I want to offer to you my own version of what such a declaration might look like. I make no claim to originality. This declaration I propose is relatively short, taken, for most part, word for word from the Republican platform. It concerns itself with basic principles, not with specific solutions.

We, the members of the New Republican Party, believe that the preservation and enhancement of the values that strengthen and protect individual freedom, family life, communities and neighborhoods and the liberty of our beloved nation should be at the heart of any legislative or political program presented to the American people. Toward that end, we, therefore, commit ourselves to the following propositions and offer them to each American believing that the New Republican Party, based on such principles, will serve the interest of all the American people .

We believe that liberty can be measured by how much freedom Americans have to make their own decisions, even their own mistakes. Government must step in when one’s liberties impinge on one’s neighbor’s. Government must protect constitutional rights, deal with other governments, protect citizens from aggressors, assure equal opportunity, and be compassionate in caring for those citizens who are unable to care for themselves.

Our federal system of local-state-national government is designed to sort out on what level these actions should be taken. Those concerns of a national character—such as air and water pollution that do not respect state boundaries, or the national transportation system, or efforts to safeguard your civil liberties—must, of course, be handled on the national level.

As a general rule, however, we believe that government action should be taken first by the government that resides as close to you as possible.

We also believe that Americans, often acting through voluntary organizations, should have the opportunity to solve many of the social problems of their communities. This spirit of freely helping others is uniquely American and should be encouraged in every way by government.

Families must continue to be the foundation of our nation.

Families—not government programs—are the best way to make sure our children are properly nurtured, our elderly are cared for, our cultural and spiritual heritages are perpetuated, our laws are observed and our values are preserved.

hus it is imperative that our government’s programs, actions, officials and social welfare institutions never be allowed to jeopardize the family. We fear the government may be powerful enough to destroy our families; we know that it is not powerful enough to replace them. The New Republican Party must be committed to working always in the interest of the American family.

Every dollar spent by government is a dollar earned by individuals. Government must always ask: Are your dollars being wisely spent? Can we afford it? Is it not better for the country to leave your dollars in your pocket?

Elected officials, their appointees, and government workers are expected to perform their public acts with honesty, openness, diligence, and special integrity.

Government must work for the goal of justice and the elimination of unfair practices, but no government has yet designed a more productive economic system or one which benefits as many people as the American market system.

The beauty of our land is our legacy to our children. It must be protected by us so that they can pass it on intact to their children.

The United States must always stand for peace and liberty in the world and the rights of the individual. We must form sturdy partnerships with our allies for the preservation of freedom. We must be ever willing to negotiate differences, but equally mindful that there are American ideals that cannot be compromised. Given that there are other nations with potentially hostile design, we recognize that we can reach our goals only while maintaining a superior national defense, second to none.

In his inaugural speech President Carter said that he saw the world “dominated by a new spirit.” He said, and I quote: “The passion for freedom is on the rise.”

Well, I don’t know how he knows this, but if it is true, then it is the most unrequited passion in human history. The world is being dominated by a new spirit, all right, but it isn’t the spirit of freedom.

It isn’t very often you see a familiar object that shocks and frightens you. But the other day I came across a map of the world created by Freedom House, an organization monitoring the state of freedom in the world for the past 25 years. It is an ordinary map, with one exception: it shows the world’s nations in white for free, shaded for partly free and black for not free.

Almost all of the great Eurasian land mass is completely colored black, from the western border of East Germany, through middle and eastern Europe, through the awesome spaces of the Soviet Union, on to the Bering Strait in the north, down past the immensity of China, still further down to Vietnam and the South China Sea—in all that huge, sprawling, inconceivably immense area not a single political or personal or religious freedom exists. The entire continent of Africa, from the Mediterranean to the Cape of Good Hope, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, all that vastness is almost totally unfree. In the tiny nation of Tanzania alone, according to a report in the New York Times, there are 3,000 people in detention for political crimes—that is more than the total being held in South Africa! The Mideast has only one free state: Israel. If a visitor from another planet were to approach earth, and if this planet showed free nations in light and unfree nations in darkness, the pitifully small beacons of light would make him wonder what was hidden in that terrifying, enormous blackness.

We know what is hidden: gulag. Torture. Families—and human beings—broken apart. No free press, no freedom of religion. The ancient forms of tyranny revived and made even more hideous and strong through what Winston Churchill once called “a perverted science.” Men rotting for years in solitary confinement because they have different political and economic beliefs, solitary confinement that drives the fortunate ones insane and makes the survivors wish for death.

Only now and then do we in the West hear a voice from out of that darkness. Then there is silence—the silence of human slavery. There is no more terrifying sound in human experience, with one possible exception. Look at that map again. The very heart of the darkness is the Soviet Union and from that heart comes a different sound. It is the whirring sound of machinery and the whisper of the computer technology we ourselves have sold them. It is the sound of building, building of the strongest military machine ever devised by man. Our military strategy is designed to hopefully prevent a war. Theirs is designed to win one. A group of eminent scientists, scholars and intelligence experts offer a survey showing that the Soviet Union is driving for military superiority and are derided as hysterically making, quote, “a worst case,” unquote, concerning Soviet intentions and capabilities.

But is it not precisely the duty of the national government to be prepared for the worst case? Two senators, after studying the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have reported to the Armed Forces committee that Soviet forces in Eastern Europe have the capability to launch, with little warning, a “potentially devastating” attack in Central Europe from what is termed a “standing alert.”

Reading their report, one can almost see the enormous weight of the parts of the earth that are under tyranny shifting in an irresistible tilt toward that tiny portion of land in freedom’s light. Even now in Western Europe we have Communists in the government of Italy. France appeasing terrorists, and England—for centuries the model or the sword of freedom in Western Europe—weak, dispirited, turning inward.

A “worst case?” How could you make a good case out of the facts as they are known? The Soviet Union, poised on the edge of free Europe, capable of striking from a standing start, has modern tanks in far greater numbers than the outmoded vehicles of NATO. We have taken comfort from NATO’s superiority in the air, but now the Soviet Union has made a dramatic swing away from its historic defensive air posture to one capable of supporting offensive action. NATO’s southern flank is described in the Senate report with a single word: shambles.

The report is simply reality as it was, with different names and faces, in Europe in the late 1930s when so many refused to believe and thought if we don’t look the threat will go away.

We don’t want hysteria. We don’t want distortion of Soviet power. We want truth. And above all we want peace. And to have that the United States has to immediately re-examine its entire view of the world and develop a strategy of freedom. We cannot be the second-best super-power for the simple reason that he who is second is last. In this deadly game, there are no silver medals for second.

President Carter, as a candidate, said he would cut five to seven billion dollars from the defense budget. We must let him know that while we agree, there must be no fat in our armed forces. Those armed forces must be capable of coping with the new reality presented to us by the Russians, and cutting seven billion dollars out of our defense budget is not the way to accomplish this. Some years ago, a young President said we will make any sacrifice, bear any burden and we will to preserve our freedom.

Our relationship with mainland China is clouded. The so-called “gang of four” are up one day and down the next and we are seeing the pitfalls of making deals with charismatic personalities and living legends. The charisma fades as the living legends die, and those who take their place are interested not in our best wishes but in power. The keyword for China today is turmoil. We should watch and observe and analyze as closely and rationally as we can.

But in our relationships with the mainland of China we should always remember that the conditions and possibilities for and the realities of freedom exist to an infinitely greater degree with our Chinese friends in Taiwan. We can never go wrong if we do what is morally right, and the moral way—the honorable way—is to keep our commitment, our solemn promise to the people of Taiwan. Our liberal friends have made much of the lack of freedom in some Latin American countries. Senator Edward Kennedy and his colleagues here in Washington let no opportunity pass to let us know about horrors in Chile.

Well, I think when the United States of America is considering a deal with a country that hasn’t had an election in almost eight years, where the press is under the thumb of a dictatorship, where ordinary citizens are abducted in the night by secret police, where military domination of the country is known to be harsh on dissenters and when these things are documented, we should reject overtures from those who rule such a country.

But the country I’m describing is not Chile—it is Panama.

We are negotiating with a dictatorship that comes within the portion of that map colored black for no freedom. No civil rights. One-man rule. No free press.

Candidate Carter said he would never relinquish “actual control” of the Panama Canal. President Carter is negotiating with a dictatorship whose record on civil and human rights is as I have just described and the negotiations concern the rights guaranteed to us by treaty which we will give up under a threat of violence. In only a few weeks we will mark the second anniversary of the death of freedom for the Vietnamese. An estimated 300,000 of them are being “re-educated” in concentration camps to forget about freedom.

There is only one major question on the agenda of national priorities and that is the state of our national security. I refer, of course, to the state of our armed forces—but also to our state of mind, to the way we perceive the world. We cannot maintain the strength we need to survive, no matter how many missiles we have, no matter how many tanks we build, unless we are willing to reverse:

The trend of deteriorating faith in and continuing abuse of our national intelligence agencies. Let’s stop the sniping and the propaganda and the historical revisionism and let the CIA and the other intelligence agencies do their job!
Let us reverse the trend of public indifference to problems of national security. In every congressional district citizens should join together, enlist and educate neighbors and make certain that congressmen know we care. The front pages of major newspapers on the East Coast recently headlined and told in great detail of a takeover, the takeover of a magazine published in New York—not a nation losing its freedom. You would think, from the attention it received in the media, that it was a matter of blazing national interest whether the magazine lived or died. The tendency of much of the media to ignore the state of our national security is too well documented for me to go on.

My friends, the time has come to start acting to bring about the great conservative majority party we know is waiting to be created.

And just to set the record straight, let me say this about our friends who are now Republicans but who do not identify themselves as conservatives: I want the record to show that I do not view the new revitalized Republican Party as one based on a principle of exclusion. After all, you do not get to be a majority party by searching for groups you won’t associate or work with. If we truly believe in our principles, we should sit down and talk. Talk with anyone, anywhere, at any time if it means talking about the principles for the Republican Party. Conservatism is not a narrow ideology, nor is it the exclusive property of conservative activists.

We’ve succeeded better than we know. Little more than a decade ago more than two-thirds of Americans believed the federal government could solve all our problems, and do so without restricting our freedom or bankrupting the nation.

We warned of things to come, of the danger inherent in unwarranted government involvement in things not its proper province. What we warned against has come to pass. And today more than two-thirds of our citizens are telling us, and each other, that social engineering by the federal government has failed. The Great Society is great only in power, in size and in cost. And so are the problems it set out to solve. Freedom has been diminished and we stand on the brink of economic ruin.

Our task now is not to sell a philosophy, but to make the majority of Americans, who already share that philosophy, see that modern conservatism offers them a political home. We are not a cult, we are members of a majority. Let’s act and talk like it.

The job is ours and the job must be done. If not by us, who? If not now, when?

Our party must be the party of the individual. It must not sell out the individual to cater to the group. No greater challenge faces our society today than ensuring that each one of us can maintain his dignity and his identity in an increasingly complex, centralized society.

Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business, galloping inflation, frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite.

Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people. Any organization is in actuality only the lengthened shadow of its members. A political party is a mechanical structure created to further a cause. The cause, not the mechanism, brings and holds the members together. And our cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America’s spiritual heritage to our national affairs.

Then with God’s help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us.

To Restore America

Ronald Reagan: Speech to America, March 31, 1976


Good evening to all of you from California. Tonight, I’d like to talk to you about issues. Issues which I think are involved—or should be involved in this primary election season. I’m a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. But I hope that you who are Independents and Democrats will let me talk to you also tonight because the problems facing our country are problems that just don’t bear any party label.

In this election season the White House is telling us a solid economic recovery is taking place. It claims a slight drop in unemployment. It says that prices aren’t going up as fast, but they are still going up, and that the stock market has shown some gains. But, in fact, things seem just about as they were back in the 1972 election year. Remember, we were also coming out of a recession then. Inflation had been running at round 6 percent. Unemployment about 7 [percent]. Remember, too, the upsurge and the optimism lasted through the election year and into 1973. And then the roof fell in. Once again we had unemployment. Only this time not 7 percent, more than 10. And inflation wasn’t 6 percent, it was 12 percent. Now, in this election year 1976, we’re told we’re coming out of this recession just because inflation and unemployment rates have fallen, to what they were at the worst of the previous recession. If history repeats itself, will we be talking recovery four years from now merely because we’ve reduced inflation from 25 percent to 12 percent?

The fact is, we’ll never build a lasting economic recovery by going deeper into debt at a faster rate than we ever have before. It took this nation 166 years until the middle of World War II to finally accumulate a debt of $95 billion. It took this administration just the last 12 months to add $95 billion to the debt. And this administration has run up almost one-fourth of the total national debt in just these short 19 months.

Inflation is the cause of recession and unemployment. And we’re not going to have real prosperity or recovery until we stop fighting the symptoms and start fighting the disease. There’s only one cause for inflation government spending more than government takes in. The cure is a balanced budget. Ah, but they tell us, 80 percent of the budget is uncontrollable. It’s fixed by laws passed by Congress. Well, laws passed by Congress can be repealed by Congress. And, if Congress is unwilling to do this, then isn’t it time we elect a Congress that will?

Soon after he took office, Mr. Ford promised he would end inflation. Indeed, he declared war on inflation. And, we all donned those WIN buttons to “Whip Inflation Now.” Unfortunately the war if it ever really started was soon over. Mr. Ford without WIN button, appeared on TV, and promised he absolutely would not allow the Federal deficit to exceed $60 billion (which incidentally was $5 billion more than the biggest previous deficit we’d ever had). Later he told us it might be as much as $70 billion. Now we learn it’s 80 billion or more.

Then came a White House proposal for a $28 billion tax cut, to be matched by a S28 billion cut in the proposed spending not in present spending, but in the proposed spending in the new budget. Well, my question then and my question now is, if there was $28 billion in the new budget that could be cut, what was it doing there in the first place?

Unfortunately, Washington doesn’t feel the same pain from inflation that you and I do. As a matter of fact, government makes a profit on inflation. For instance, last July Congress vaccinated itself against that pain. It very quietly passed legislation (which the president signed into law) which automatically now gives a pay increase to every Congressman every time the cost of living goes up.

It would have been nice if they’d thought of some arrangement like that for the rest of us. They could, for example, correct a great unfairness that now exists in our tax system. Today, when you get a cost of living pay raise one that just keeps you even with purchasing power it often moves you up into a higher tax bracket. This means you pay a higher percentage in tax, but you reduce your purchasing power. Last year, because of this inequity, the government took in $7 billion in undeserved profit in the income tax alone, and this year they’ll do even better.

Now isn’t it time that Congress looked after your welfare as well as its own? Those whose spending policies cause inflation to begin with should be made to feel the painful effect just as you and I do.

Repeal of Congress’ automatic pay raise might leave it with more incentive to do something to curb inflation. Now, let’s 100k at Social Security. Mr. Ford says he wants to “preserve the integrity of Social Security.” Well, I differ with him on one word. I would like to restore the integrity of Social Security. Those who depend on it see a continual reduction in their standard of living. Inflation strips the increase in their benefits. The maximum benefit today buys 80 fewer loaves of bread than it did when that maximum payment was only $85 a month. In the meantime, the Social Security payroll tax has become the most unfair tax any worker pays. Women are discriminated against particularly working wives. And, people who reach Social Security age and want to continue working, should be allowed to do so without losing their benefits. I believe a presidential commission of experts should be appointed to study and present a plan to strengthen and improve Social Security while there’s still time so that no person who has contributed to Social Security will ever lose a dime.

Before leaving this subject of our economic problems, let’s talk about unemployment. Ending inflation is the only long range and lasting answer to the problem of unemployment. The Washington Establishment is not the answer. It’s the problem. Its tax policies, its harassing regulation, its confiscation of investment capital to pay for its deficits keeps business and industry from expanding to meet your needs and to provide the jobs we all need.

No one who lived through the Great Depression can ever look upon an market for that job skill. Back in those dark depression days I saw my father on a Christmas eve open what he thought was a Christmas greeting from his boss. Instead, it was the blue slip telling him he no longer had a job. The memory of him sitting there holding that slip of paper and then saying in a half whisper, “That’s quite a Christmas present”; it will stay with me as long as I live. Other problems go unsolved. Take energy. Only a short time ago we were lined up at the gas station turned our thermostats down as Washington announced “Project Independence.” We were going to become self-sufficient, able to provide for our own energy needs. At the time, we were only importing a small percentage of our oil. Yet, the Arab boycott caused half a million Americans to lose their jobs when plants closed down for lack of fuel. Today, it’s almost three years later and “Project Independence” has become “Project Dependence.” Congress has adopted an energy bill so bad we were led to believe Mr. Ford would veto it. Instead, he signed it. And, almost instantly, drilling rigs all over our land started shutting down. Now, for the first time in our history we are importing more oil than we produce. How many Americans will be laid off if there’s another boycott? The energy bill is a disaster that never should have been signed.

An effort has been made in this campaign to suggest that there aren’t any real differences between Mr. Ford and myself. Well, I believe there are, and these differences are fundamental. One of them has to do with our approach to government. Before Richard Nixon appointed him Vice President, Mr. Ford was a Congressman for 25 years. His concern, of necessity, was the welfare of his congressional district. For most of his adult life he has been a part of the Washington Establishment. Most of my adult life has been spent outside of government. My experience in government was the eight years I served as governor of California. If it were a nation, California would be the 7th-ranking economic power in the world today.

When I became governor, I inherited a state government that was in almost the same situation as New York City. The state payroll had been growing for a dozen years at a rate of from five to seven thousand new employees each year. State government was spending from a million to a million-and-a-half dollars more each day than it was taking in. The State’s great water project was unfinished and under-funded by a half a billion dollars. My predecessor had spent the entire year’s budget for Medicaid in the first six months of the fiscal year. And, we learned that the teacher’s retirement fund was unfunded a $4 billion liability hanging over every property owner in the state. I didn’t know whether I’d been elected governor or appointed receiver. California was faced with insolvency and on the verge of bankruptcy. We had to increase taxes. Well, this came very hard for me because I felt taxes were already too great a burden. I told the people the increase in my mind was temporary and that, as soon as we could, we’d return their money to them.

I had never in my life thought of seeking or holding public of office and I’m still not quite sure how it all happened. In my own mind, I was a citizen representing my fellow citizens against the institution of government. I turned to the people, not to politicians for help. Instead of a committee to screen applicants for jobs, I had a citizens’ recruiting committee, and I told this committee I wanted an administration made up of men and women who did not want government careers and who’d be the first to tell me if their government job was unnecessary. And I had that happen. A young man from the aerospace industry dissolved his department in four months, handed me the key to this office, and told me we’d never needed the department. And to this day, I not only have never missed it I don’t know where it was.

There was a reason for my seeking people who didn’t want government careers. Dr. Parkinson summed it all up in his book on bureaucracy. He said, “Government hires a rat-catcher and the first thing you know, he’s become a rodent control officer.” In those entire eight years, most of us never lost that feeling that we were there representing the people against what Cicero once called the “arrogance of officialdom.” We had a kind of watchword we used on each other. “When we begin thinking of government as we instead of they, we’ve been here too long.” Well, I believe that attitude would be beneficial in Washington.

We didn’t stop just with getting our administration from the ranks of the people. We also asked for help from expert people in a great many fields, and more than 250 of our citizens volunteered to form into task forces. They went into every department and agency of state government to see how modern business practices could make government more efficient, economical and responsive. They gave an average of 117 days apiece full time, away from their own jobs and careers at no cost to the taxpayers. They made eighteen hundred specific recommendations. We implemented more than sixteen hundred of those recommendations.

This was government-by-the-people, proving that it works when the people work at it. When we ended our eight years, we turned over to the incoming administration a balanced budget, a $500 million surplus, and virtually the same number of employees we’d started with eight years before even though the increase in population had given some departments a two-thirds increase in work load. The water project was completed with $165 million left over. Our bonds had a triple A rating, the highest credit rating you can get. And the teachers’ retirement program was fully funded on a sound actuarial basis. And, we kept our word to the taxpayers we returned to them in rebates and tax cuts, $5 billion, $761 million.

I believe that what we did in California can be done in Washington if government will have faith in the people and let them bring their common sense to bear on the problems bureaucracy hasn’t solved. I believe in the people. Now, Mr. Ford places his faith in the Washington Establishment. This has been evident in his appointment of former Congressmen and longtime government workers to positions in his Administration. Well, I don’t believe that those who have been part of the problem are necessarily the best qualified to solve those problems.

The truth is, Washington has taken over functions that don’t truly belong to it. In almost every case it has been a failure. Now, understand, I’m speaking of those programs which logically should be administered at state and local levels. Welfare is a classic example. Voices that are raised now and then urging a federalization of welfare don’t realize that the failure of welfare is due to federal interference. Washington doesn’t even know how many people are on welfare how many cheaters are getting more than one check. It only knows how many checks it’s sending out. Its own rules keep it from finding out how many are getting more than one check.

Well, California had a welfare problem. Sixteen percent of all welfare recipients in the country were drawing their checks in our state. We were sending welfare checks to families who decided to live abroad. One family was receiving its check in Russia. Our caseload was increasing by 40,000 people a month. Well, after a few years of trying to control this runaway program and being frustrated by bureaucrats here in California and in Washington, we turned again to a citizens’ task force. The result was the most comprehensive welfare reform ever attempted. And in less than three years we reduced the rolls by more than 300,000 people, saved the taxpayers S2 billion, and increased the grants to the truly deserving needy by an average of 43 percent. We also carried out a successful experiment which I believe is an answer to much of the welfare problem in the nation. We put able- bodied welfare recipients to work at useful community projects in return for their welfare grants.

Now, let’s look at housing. Washington has tried to solve this problem for the poor by building low-cost houses. So far it’s torn down three and a half homes for every one it’s built.

Schools in America we created at the local level and administered at the local level for many years the greatest public school system in the world. Now through something called federal aid to education, we have something called federal interference, and education has been the loser. Quality has declined as federal intervention has increased. Nothing has created more bitterness, for example, than forced busing to achieve racial balance. It was born of a hope that we could increase understanding and reduce prejudice and antagonism. And I’m sure we all approved of that goal. But busing has failed to achieve the goal. Instead, it has increased the bitterness and animosity it was supposed to reduce. California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Wilson Riles (himself a Black), says, “The concept that Black children can’t learn unless they are sitting with white children is utter and complete nonsense. ” Well, I agree. The money now being wasted on this social experiment could be better spent to provide the kind of school facilities every child deserves. Forced busing should be ended by legislation if possible by constitutional amendment if necessary. And, control of education should be returned to local school districts.

The other day Mr. Ford came out against gun control. But back in Washington, D.C., his Attorney General has proposed a seven-point program that amounts to just that: gun control. I don’t think that making it difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns will lower the crime rate not when the criminals will always find a way to get them. In California I think we found an answer. We put into law what is practical gun control. Anyone convicted of having a gun in his possession while he committed a crime: add five to fifteen years to the prison sentence.

Sometimes bureaucracy’s excesses are so great that we laugh at them. But they are costly laughs. Twenty-five years ago the Hoover Commission discovered that Washington files a million reports a year just reporting there is nothing to report. Independent business people, shopkeepers and farmers file billions of reports every year required of them by Washington. It amounts to some 10 billion pieces of paper each year, and it adds $50 billion a year to the cost of doing business. Now, Washington has been loud in its promise to do something about this blizzard of paperwork. And they made good. Last year they increased it by 20 percent.

But there is one problem which must be solved or everything else is meaningless. I am speaking of the problem of our national security. Our nation is in danger, and the danger grows greater with each passing day. Like an echo from the past, the voice of Winston Churchill’s grandson was heard recently in Britain’s House of Commons warning that the spread of totalitarianism threatens the world once again and the democracies are wandering without aim.”

“Wandering without aim” describes the United States’ foreign policy. Angola is a case in point. We gave just enough support to one side to encourage it to fight and die, but too little to give them a chance of winning. And while we’re disliked by the winner, distrusted by the loser, and viewed by the world as weak and unsure. If detente were the two-way street it’s supposed to be, we could have told the Soviet Union to stop its trouble-making and leave Angola to the Angolans. But it didn’t work out that way.

Now, we are told Washington is dropping the word “detente,” but keeping the policy. But whatever it’s called, the policy is what’s at fault. What is our policy? Mr. Ford’s new Ambassador to the United Nations attacks our longtime ally, Israel. In Asia, our new relationship with mainland China can have practical benefits for both sides. But that doesn’t mean it should include yielding to demands by them, as the administration has, to reduce our military presence on Taiwan where we have a longtime friend and ally, the Republic of China.

And, it’s also revealed now that we seek to establish friendly relations with Hanoi. To make it more palatable, we’re told that this might help us learn the fate of the men still listed as Missing in Action. Well, there’s no doubt our government has an obligation to end the agony of parents, wives and children who’ve lived so long with uncertainty. But, this should have been one of our first demands of Hanoi’s patron saint, the Soviet Union, if detente had any meaning at all. To present it now as a reason for friendship with those who have already violated their promise to provide such information is hypocrisy.

In the last few days, Mr. Ford and Dr. Kissinger have taken us from hinting at invasion of Cuba, to laughing it off as a ridiculous idea. Except, that it was their ridiculous idea. No one else suggested it. Once again what is their policy? During this last year, they carried on a campaign to befriend Castro. They persuaded the Organization of American States to lift its trade embargo, lifted some of the U.S. trade restrictions. They engaged in cultural exchanges. And then, on the eve of the Florida primary election, Mr. Ford went to Florida, called Castro an outlaw and said he’d never recognize him. But he hasn’t asked our Latin American neighbors to reimpose a single sanction, nor has he taken any action himself. Meanwhile, Castro continues to export revolution to Puerto Rico, to Angola, and who knows where else?

As I talk to you tonight, negotiations with another dictator go forward negotiations aimed at giving up our ownership of the Panama Canal Zone. Apparently, everyone knows about this except the rightful owners of the Canal Zone you, the people of the United States. General Omar Torrijos, the dictator of Panama, seized power eight years ago by ousting the duly-elected government. There have been no elections since. No civil liberties. The press is censored. Torrijos is a friend and ally of Castro and, like him, is pro-Communist. He threatens sabotage and guerrilla attacks on our installations if we don’t yield to his demands. His foreign minister openly claims that we have already agreed in principle to giving up the Canal Zone.

Well, the Canal Zone is not a colonial possession. It is not a long-term lease. It is sovereign United States Territory every bit the same as Alaska and all the states that were carved from the Louisiana Purchase. We should end those negotiations and tell the General: We bought it, we paid for it, we built it, and we intend to keep it.

Mr. Ford says detente will be replaced by “peace through strength.” Well now, that slogan has a a nice ring to it, but neither Mr. Ford nor his new Secretary of Defense will say that our strength is superior to all others. In one of the dark hours of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “It is time to speak the truth frankly and boldly.” Well, I believe former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger was trying to speak the truth frankly and boldly to his fellow citizens. And that’s why he is no longer Secretary of Defense.

The Soviet Army outnumbers ours more than two-to-one and in reserves four-to-one. They out-spend us on weapons by 50 percent. Their Navy outnumbers ours in surface ships and submarines two-to-one. We’re outgunned in artillery three-to-one and their tanks outnumber ours four-to-one. Their strategic nuclear missiles are larger, more powerful and more numerous than ours. The evidence mounts that we are Number Two in a world where it’s dangerous, if not fatal, to be second best. Is this why Mr. Ford refused to invite Alexander Solzhenitsyn to the White House? Or, why Mr. Ford traveled halfway ’round the world to sign the Helsinki Pact, putting our stamp of approval on Russia’s enslavement of the captive nations? We gave away the freedom of millions of people freedom that was not ours to give.

Now we must ask if someone is giving away our own freedom. Dr. Kissinger is quoted as saying that he thinks of the United States as Athens and the Soviet Union as Sparta. “The day of the U.S. is past and today is the day of the Soviet Union.” And he added, “. . . My job as Secretary of State is to negotiate the most acceptable second-best position available.” Well, I believe in the peace of which Mr. Ford spoke as much as any man. But peace does not come from weakness or from retreat. It comes from the restoration of American military superiority. as much as any man. But peace does not come from weakness or from retreat. It comes from the restoration of American military superiority.

Ask the people of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary all the others: East Germany, Bulgaria, Romania ask them what it’s like to live in a world where the Soviet Union is Number One. I don’t want to live in that kind of world; and I don’t think you do either. Now we learn that another high official of the State Department, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, whom Dr. Kissinger refers to as his “Kissinger,” has expressed the belief that, in effect, the captive nations should give up any claim of national sovereignty and simply become a part of the Soviet Union. He says, “their desire to break out of the Soviet straightjacket” threatens us with World War III. In other words, slaves should accept their fate.

Well, I don’t believe the people I’ve met in almost every State of this Union are ready to consign this, the last island of freedom, to the dust bin of history, along with the bones of dead civilizations of the past. Call it mysticism, if you will, but I believe God had a divine purpose in placing this land between the two great oceans to be found by those who had a special love of freedom and the courage to leave the countries of their birth. From our forefathers to our modern-day immigrants, we’ve come from every corner of the earth, from every race and every ethnic background, and we’ve become a new breed in the world. We’re Americans and we have a rendezvous with destiny. We spread across this land, building farms and towns and cities, and we did it without any federal land planning program or urban renewal.

Indeed, we gave birth to an entirely new concept in man’s relation to man. We created government as our servant, beholden to us and possessing no powers except those voluntarily granted to it by us. Now a self-anointed elite in our nation’s capital would have us believe we are incapable of guiding our own destiny. They practice government by mystery, telling us it’s too complex for our understanding. Believing this, they assume we might panic if we were to be told the truth about our problems.

Why should we become frightened? No people who have ever lived on this earth have fought harder, paid a higher price for freedom, or done more to advance the dignity of man than the living Americans the Americans living in this land today. There isn’t any problem we can’t solve if government will give us the facts. Tell us what needs to be done. Then, get out of the way and let us have at it.

Recently on one of my campaign trips I was doing a question-and-answer session, and suddenly I received a question from a little girl couldn’t have been over six or seven years old standing in the very front row. I’d heard the question before but somehow in her asking it, she threw me a little bit. She said, why do you want to be president? Well, I tried to tell her about giving government back to the people; I tried to tell her about turning authority back to the states and local communities, and so forth; winding down the bureaucracy. [It] might have been an answer for adults, but I knew that it wasn’t what that little girl wanted, and I left very frustrated. It was on the way to the next stop that I turned to Nancy and I said I wish I had it to do over again because I I’d like to answer her question.

Well, maybe I can answer it now. I would like to go to Washington. I would like to be president, because I would like to see this country become once again a country where a little six-year old girl can grow up knowing the same freedom that I knew when I was six years old, growing up in America. If this is the America you want for yourself and your children; if you want to restore government not only of and for but by the people; to see the American spirit unleashed once again; to make this land a shining, golden hope God intended it to be, I’d like to hear from you. Write, or send a wire. I’d be proud to hear your thoughts and your ideas.

Thank you, and good night.

California and the Problem of Government Growth

January 5, 1967


To a number of us, this is a first and hence a solemn and momentous occasion, and yet, on the broad page of state and national history, what is taking place here is almost commonplace routine. We are participating in the orderly transfer of administrative authority by direction of the people. And this is the simple magic which makes a commonplace routine a near miracle to many of the world’s inhabitants: the continuing fact that the people, by democratic process, can delegate this power, yet retain custody of it.

Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle too long to be properly appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction, It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again. Knowing this, it is hard to explain those who even today would question the people’s capacity for self-rule. Will they answer this: if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? Using the temporary authority granted by the people, an increasing number lately have sought to control the means of production, as if this could be done without eventually controlling those who produce. Always this is explained as necessary to the people’s welfare. But, “The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principle upon which it was founded” [Montesquieu]. This is as true today as it was when it was written in 1748.

Government is the people’s business, and every man, woman and child becomes a shareholder with the first penny of tax paid. With all the profound wording of the Constitution, probably the most meaningful words are the first three: “We, the People.” Those of us here today who have been elected to constitutional office or legislative position are in that three-word phrase. We are of the people, chosen by them to see that no permanent structure of government ever encroaches on freedom or assumes a power beyond that freely granted by the people. We stand between the taxpayer and the taxspender.

It is inconceivable to me that anyone could accept this delegated authority without asking God’s help. I pray that we who legislate and administer will be granted wisdom and strength beyond our own limited power; that with Divine guidance we can avoid easy expedients, as we work to build a state where liberty under law and justice can triumph, where compassion can govern, and wherein the people can participate and prosper because of their government and not in spite of it.

The path we will chart is not an easy one. It demands much of those chosen to govern, but also from those who did the choosing. And let there be no mistake about this: We have come to a crossroad a time of decision and the path we follow turns away from any idea that government and those who serve it are omnipotent. It is a path impossible to follow unless we have faith in the collective wisdom and genius of the people. Along this path government will lead but not rule, listen but not lecture. It is the path of a Creative Society.

A number of problems were discussed during the campaign, and I see no reason to change the subject now. Campaign oratory on the issues of crime, pollution of air and water, conservation, welfare, and expanded educational facilities does not mean the issues will go away because the campaign has ended. Problems remain to be solved and they challenge all of us. Government will lead, of course, but the answer must come from all of you.

We will make specific proposals and we will solicit other ideas. In the area of crime, where we have double our proportionate share, we will propose legislation to give back to local communities the right to pass and enforce ordinances which will enable the police to more adequately protect these communities. Legislation already drafted will be submitted, calling upon the Legislature clearly to state in the future whether newly-adopted laws are intended to preempt the right of local governments to legislate in the same field. Hopefully, this will free judges from having to guess the intent of those who passed the legislation in the first place.

At the same time, I pledge my support and fullest effort to a plan which will remove from politics, once and for all, the appointment of judges . . . not that I believe I’ll be overburdened with making judicial appointments in the immediate future.

Just as we assume a responsibility to guard our young people up to a certain age from the possible harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco, so do I believe we have a right and a responsibility to protect them from the even more harmful effects of exposure to smut and pornography. We can and must frame legislation that will accomplish this purpose without endangering freedom of speech and the press.

When fiscally feasible, we hope to create a California crime technological foundation utilizing both public and private resources in a major effort to employ the most scientific techniques to control crime. At such a time, we should explore the idea of a state police academy to assure that police from even the smallest communities can have the most advanced training. We lead the nation in many things; we are going to stop leading in crime. Californians should be able to walk our streets safely day or night. The law abiding are entitled to at least as much protection as the law-breakers.

While on the subject of crime . . . those with a grievance can seek redress in the courts or legislature, but not in the streets. Lawlessness by the mob, as with the individual, will not be tolerated. We will act firmly and quickly to put down riot or insurrection wherever and whenever the situation requires.

Welfare is another of our major problems. We are a humane and generous people and we accept without reservation our obligation to help the aged, disabled, and those unfortunates who, through no fault of their own, must depend on their fellow man. But we are not going to perpetuate poverty by substituting a permanent dole for a paycheck. There is no humanity or charity in destroying self-reliance, dignity, and self-respect … the very substance of moral fiber.

We seek reforms that will, wherever possible, change relief check to paycheck. Spencer Williams, Administrator of Health and Welfare, is assessing the amount of work that could be done in public installations by welfare recipients. This is not being done in any punitive sense, but as a beginning step in rehabilitation to give the individual the self-respect that goes with performing a useful service.

But this is not the ultimate answer. Only private industry in the last analysis can provide jobs with a future. Lieutenant Governor Robert Finch will be liaison between government and the private sector in an all-out program of job training and education leading to real employment.

A truly great citizen of our state and a fine American, Mr. H.C. McClellan, has agreed to institute a statewide program patterned after the one he directed so successfully in the “curfew area” of Los Angeles. There, in the year and a half since the tragic riots, fully half of the unemployed have been channeled into productive jobs in private industry, and more than 2,600 businesses are involved. Mr. McClellan will be serving without pay and the entire statewide program will be privately financed. While it will be directed at all who lack opportunity, it offers hope especially to those minorities who have a disproportionate share of poverty and unemployment.

In the whole area of welfare, everything will be done to reduce administrative overhead, cut red tape, and return control as much as possible to the county level. And the goal will be investment in, and salvage of, human beings.

This Administration will cooperate with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in his expressed desires to return more control of curriculum and selection of textbooks to local school districts. We will support his efforts to make recruitment of out-of-state teachers less difficult.

In the subject of education… hundreds of thousands of young men and women will receive an education in our state colleges and universities. We are proud of our ability to provide this opportunity for our youth and we believe it is no denial of academic freedom to provide this education within a framework of reasonable rules and regulations. Nor is it a violation of individual rights to require obedience to these rules and regulations or to insist that those unwilling to abide by them should get their education elsewhere.

It does not constitute political interference with intellectual freedom for the taxpaying citizens who support the college and university systems to ask that, in addition to teaching, they build character on accepted moral and ethical standards.

Just as a man is entitled to a voice in government, so he should certainly have that right in the very personal matter of earning a living. I have always supported the principle of the union shop, even though that includes a certain amount of compulsion with regard to union membership. For that reason it seems to me that government must accept a responsibility for safeguarding each union member’s democratic rights within his union. For that reason we will submit legislative proposals to guarantee each union member a secret ballot in his union on policy matters and the use of union dues.

There is also need for a mediation service in labor management disputes not covered by existing law. There are improvements to be made in workmen’s compensation in death benefits and benefits to the permanently disabled. At the same time, a tightening of procedures is needed to free business from some unjust burdens.

A close liaison with our congressional representatives in Washington, both Democratic and Republican, is needed so that we can help bring about beneficial changes in Social Security, secure less restrictive controls on federal grants, and work for a tax retention plan that will keep some of our federal taxes here for our use with no strings attached. We should strive also to get tax credits for our people to help defray the cost of sending their children to college.

We will support a bipartisan effort to lift the archaic 160- acre limitation imposed by the federal government on irrigated farms. Restrictive labor policies should never again be the cause of crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.

Here in our own Capitol, we will seek solutions to the problems of unrealistic taxes which threaten economic ruin to our biggest industry. We will work with the farmer as we will with business, industry, and labor to provide a better business climate so that they may prosper and we all may prosper.

There are other problems and possible problems facing us. one such is now pending before the United States Supreme Court. I believe it would be inappropriate to discuss that matter now. We will, however, be prepared with remedial legislation we devoutly hope will be satisfactory to all of our citizens if court rulings make this necessary.

This is only a partial accounting of our problems and our dreams for the future. California, with its climate, its resources, and its wealth of young, aggressive, talented people, must never take second place. We can provide jobs for all our people who will work, and we can have honest government at a price we can afford. Indeed, unless we accomplish this, our problems will go unsolved, our dreams unfulfilled and we will know the taste of ashes.

I have put off until last what is by no means least among our problems. Our fiscal situation has a sorry similarity to the situation of a jetliner out over the North Atlantic, Paris-bound. The pilot announced he had news some good, some bad and he would give the bad news first. They had lost radio contact; their compass and altimeter were not working; they didn’t know their altitude, direction or where they were headed. Then he gave the good news they had a 100-mile-an-hour tail-wind and they were ahead of schedule.

Our fiscal year began July 1st and will end on the coming June 30th six months from now. The present budget for this twelve-month period is $4.6 billion, an all-time high for any of the fifty states. When this budget was presented, it was admittedly in excess of the estimated tax revenues for the year. It was adopted with the assurance that a change in bookkeeping procedures would solve this imbalance.

With half the year gone, and faced now with the job of planning next year’s budget, we have an estimate provided by the experienced personnel of the Department of Finance. We have also an explanation of how a change in bookkeeping could seemingly balance a budget that called for spending $400 million more than we would take in.

Very simply, it was just another one-time windfall a gimmick that solved nothing but only postponed the day of reckoning. We are financing the twelve-month spending with fifteen-month income. All the tax revenues for the first quarter of next year July, August, and September will be used to finance this year’s expenses up to June 30th. And incidentally, even that isn’t enough, because we will still have a deficit of some $63 million.

Now, with the budget established at its present level, we are told that it, of course, must be increased next year to meet the added problems of population growth and inflation. But the magic of the changed bookkeeping is all used up. We are back to only twelve months’ income for twelve months’ spending. Almost automatically we are being advised of all the new and increased taxes which, if adopted, will solve the problem. Curiously enough, another one-time windfall is being urged. If we switch to withholding of personal income tax, we will collect two years’ taxes the first year and postpone our moment of truth perhaps until everyone forgets we did not cause the problem we only inherited it. Or maybe we are to stall, hoping a rich uncle will remember us in his will.

If we accept the present budget as absolutely necessary and add on projected increases plus funding for property tax relief (which I believe is absolutely essential and for which we are preparing a detailed and comprehensive program), our deficit in the coming year would reach three-quarters of a billion dollars.

But Californians are already burdened with combined state and local taxes $113 per capita higher than the national average. Our property tax contributes to a slump in the real estate and building trades industries and makes it well-nigh impossible for many citizens to continue owning their own homes.

For many years now, you and I have been shushed like children and told there are no simple answers to the complex problems which are beyond our comprehension.

Well the truth is, there are simple answers they just are not easy ones. The time has come for us to decide whether collectively we can afford everything and anything we think of simply because we think of it. The time has come to run a check to see if all the services government provides were in answer to demands or were just goodies dreamed up for our supposed betterment. The time has come to match outgo to income, instead of always doing it the other way around.

The cost of California’s government is too high; it adversely affects our business climate. We have a phenomenal growth with hundreds of thousands of people joining us each year. Of course, the overall cost of government must go up to provide necessary services for these newcomers, but growth should mean increased prosperity and thus a lightening of the load each individual must bear. If this isn’t true, then you and I should be planning how we can put up a fence along the Colorado River and seal our borders.

Well, we aren’t going to do that. We are going to squeeze and cut and trim until we reduce the cost of government. It won’t be easy, nor will it be pleasant, and it will involve every department of government, starting with the Governor’s office. I have already informed the legislature of the reorganization we hope to effect with their help in the executive branch and I have asked for their cooperation and support.

The new Director of Finance is in complete agreement that we turn to additional sources of revenue only if it becomes clear that economies alone cannot balance the budget.

Disraeli said: “Man is not a creature of circumstances. Circumstances are the creatures of men.” you and I will shape our circumstances to fit our needs.

Let me reaffirm a promise made during the months of campaigning. I believe in your right to know all the facts concerning the people’s business. Independent firms are making an audit of state finances. When it is completed, you will have that audit. You will have all the information you need to make the decisions which must be made. This is not just a problem for the administration; it is a problem for all of us to solve together. I know that you can face any prospect and do anything that has to be done as long as you know the truth of what you are up against.

We will put our fiscal house in order. And as we do, we will build those things we need to make our state a better place in which to live and we will enjoy them more, knowing we can afford them and they are paid for.

If, in glancing aloft, some of you were puzzled by the small size of our state flag… there is an explanation. That flag was carried into battle in Vietnam by young men of California. Many will not be coming home. One did: Sergeant Robert Howell, grievously wounded. He brought that flag back. I thought we would be proud to have it fly over the Capitol today. It might even serve to put our problems in better perspective. It might remind us of the need to give our sons and daughters a cause to believe in and banners to follow.

If this is a dream, it is a good dream, worthy of our generation and worth passing on to the next.

Let this day mark the beginning.

Great Quotes from President Reagan

When you see all that rhetorical smoke billowing up from the Democrats, well ladies and gentleman, I’d follow the example of their nominee; don’t inhale.

Republican National Convention, 1992.

This fellow they’ve nominated claims he’s the new Thomas Jefferson. Well let me tell you something; I knew Thomas Jefferson. He was a friend of mine and Governor… You’re no Thomas Jefferson!

Republican National Convention, 1992

Welfare’s purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence.

Los Angeles Times, January 7, 1970

It is not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work — work with us, not over us; stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.

First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981

This Administration’s objective will be a healthy, vigorous, growing economy.

First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981

[N]o arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.

First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981.

Cures were developed for which there were no known diseases.

Commenting on Congress and the federal budget, 1981

I hope you’re all Republicans.

To surgeons as he entered the operating room, March 30, 1981

We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefitting from their success — only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free. Trust the people. This is the one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development.

September 29, 1981

The size of the federal budget is not an appropriate barometer of social conscience or charitable concern.

Address to the National Alliance of Business, October 5, 1981

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.

Farewell Address to the Nation, January 20th, 1989.

Government has an important role in helping develop a country’s economic foundation. But the critical test is whether government is genuinely working to liberate individuals by creating incentives to work, save, invest, and succeed.

October 30, 1981

Government is the people’s business and every man, woman and child becomes a shareholder with the first penny of tax paid.

Address to the New York City Partnership Association, January 14, 1982

We don’t have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.

Address to National Association of Realtors, March 28, 1982

It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history…. [It is] the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism- Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.

Speech to Britain’s Parliament, June, 1982

Let us beware that while they [Soviet rulers] preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination over all the peoples of the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world…. I urge you to beware the temptation … 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, good and evil.

Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals, March 8, 1983

I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering those nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.

Address to the Nation, March 23, 1983

There are no such things as limits to growth, because there are no limits on the human capacity for intelligence, imagination and wonder.

Address to the University of South Carolina, Columbia, September 20, 1983

History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.

Address to the nation, January 16, 1984

We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.

Normandy, France, June 6, 1984

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.

Normandy, France, June 6, 1984.

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them — this morning, as they prepared for their journey, and waved good-bye, and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

Speech about the Challenger disaster, January 28, 1986

Government growing beyond our consent had become a lumbering giant, slamming shut the gates of opportunity, threatening to crush the very roots of our freedom. What brought America back? The American people brought us back — with quiet courage and common sense; with undying faith that in this nation under God the future will be ours, for the future belongs to the free.

State of the Union Address, February 4, 1986

[G]overnment’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Remarks to the White House Conference on Small Business, August 15, 1986

The other day, someone told me the difference between a democracy and a people’s democracy. It’s the same difference between a jacket and a straitjacket.

Remarks at Human Rights Day event, December 10, 1986

How do you tell a Communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.

Remarks in Arlington, Virginia, September 25, 1987

Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Speech near the Berlin Wall, 1987

A friend of mine was asked to a costume ball a short time ago. He slapped some egg on his face and went as a liberal economist.

February 11, 1988

Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuous revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions.

Address to students at Moscow State University, May 31, 1988

The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away.

Attributed

Republicans believe every day is 4th of July, but Democrats believe every day is April 15.

Attributed

“After watching the State of the Union address the other night, I’m reminded of the old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Only in this case, it’s not flattery, but grand larceny: the intellectual theft of ideas that you and I recognize as our own. Speech delivery counts for little on the world stage unless you have convictions, and, yes, the vision to see beyond the front row seats.”

RNC Annual Gala, Feb. 3, 1994

“Although the political landscape has changed, the bold ideas of the 1980’s are alive and well. Republican candidates swept every major election across the country last year… and as a result, it seems that our opponents have finally realized how unpopular liberalism really is. So now they’re trying to dress their liberal agenda in a conservative overcoat.”

RNC Annual Gala, Feb. 3, 1994

Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor’s fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can’t socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he’ll eat you last.

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? . . . Today in our country the tax collector’s share is 37 cents of every dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp.

October 27, 1964 [Contributor’s note: The Tax Foundation reports government at all levels as of 1994 takes 49% of personal income, minus transfer payments.]

However, our task is far from over. Our friends in the other party will never forgive us for our success, and are doing everything in their power to rewrite history. Listening to the liberals, you’d think that the 1980’s were the worst period since the Great Depression, filled with suffering and despair. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting awfully tired of the whining voices from the White House these days. They’re claiming there was a decade of greed and neglect, but you and I know better than that. We were there.

RNC Annual Gala, Feb. 3, 1994

If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what’s at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

In an ironic sense, Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis — a crisis where the demands of the economic order are colliding directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet Union…. [Communism will be] left on the ash heap of history.

June 1982

It was leadership here at home that gave us strong American influence abroad, and the collapse of imperial Communism. Great nations have responsibilities to lead, and we should always be cautious of those who would lower our profile, because they might just wind up lowering our flag.

RNC Annual Gala, Feb. 3, 1994

It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, “We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” This idea that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power, is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

Now, as most of you know, I’m not one for looking back. I figure there will be plenty of time for that when I get old. But rather, what I take from the past is inspiration for the future, and what we accomplished during our years at the White House must never be lost amid the rhetoric of political revisionists.

RNC Annual Gala, Feb. 3, 1994

Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, “What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power.” But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere.”

FORTUNE, September 15, 1986

The Democrats may remember their lines, but how quickly they forget the lessons of the past. I have witnessed five major wars in my lifetime, and I know how swiftly storm clouds can gather on a peaceful horizon. The next time a Saddam Hussein takes over Kuwait, or North Korea brandishes a nuclear weapon, will we be ready to respond? In the end, it all comes down to leadership, and that is what this country is looking for now.

RNC Annual Gala, Feb. 3, 1994

The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

“The years ahead will be great ones for our country, for the cause of freedom and the spread of civilization. The West will not contain Communism, it will transcend Communism. We will not bother to denounce it, we’ll dismiss it as a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.”

Notre Dame University, May 17, 1981

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that “the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits — not animals.” And he said, “There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem. However, we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments.

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him. . . . But we cannot have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure.

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we’re always “against,” never “for” anything.

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream — the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, “The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.”

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

Address to the nation, October 27, 1964

For you see, my fellow Republicans, we are the change!

RNC speech, August 17, 1992

The poet called Miss Liberty’s torch, “the lamp beside the golden door.” Well, that was the entrance to America, and it still is. And now you really know why we’re here tonight.

The glistening hope of that lamp is still ours. Every promise every opportunity is still golden in this land. And through that golden door our children can walk into tomorrow with the knowledge that no one can be denied the promise that is America.

Her heart is full; her torch is still golden, her future bright. She has arms big enough to comfort and strong enough to support, for the strength in her arms is the strength of her people. She will carry on in the eighties unafraid, unashamed, and unsurpassed.

In this springtime of hope, some lights seem eternal; America’s is.

RNC speech, August 23, 1984

President Reagan’s 1992 Republican Convention Speech

President Reagan delivered this speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston.


Thank you, Paul for that kind introduction. And Mr. Chairman, delegates, friends, fellow Americans, thank you so very much for that welcome. You’ve given Nancy and me so many wonderful memories, so much of your warmth and affection, we cannot thank you enough for the honor of your friendship.

Over the years, I’ve addressed this convention as a private citizen, as a governor, as a presidential candidate, as a president and now, once again tonight, as private citizen Ronald Reagan.

Tonight is a very special night for me. Of course, at my age, every night’s a very special night. After all, I was born in 1911. Indeed, according to the experts, I have exceeded my life expectancy by quite a few years. Now this a source of great annoyance to some, especially those in the Democratic party.

But, here’s the remarkable thing about being born in 1911. In my life’s journey over these past eight decades, I have seen the human race through a period of unparalleled tumult and triumph. I have seen the birth of communism and the death of communism. I have witnessed the bloody futility of two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. I have seen Germany united, divided and united again. I have seen television grow from a parlor novelty to become the most powerful vehicle of communication in history. As a boy I saw streets filled with model-Ts; as a man I have met men who walked on the moon.

I have not only seen, but lived the marvels of what historians have called the “American Century.” Yet, tonight is not a time to look backward. For while I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future. So this evening, for just a few minutes, I hope you will let me talk about a country that is forever young.

There was a time when empires were defined by land mass, subjugated peoples, and military might. But the United States is unique because we are an empire of ideals. For two hundred years we have been set apart by our faith in the ideals of democracy, of free men and free markets, and of the extraordinary possibilities that lie within seemingly ordinary men and women. We believe that no power of government is as formidable a force for good as the creativity and entrepreneurial drive of the American people.

Those are the ideals that invented revolutionary technologies and a culture envied by people everywhere. This powerful sense of energy has made America synonymous for opportunity the world over. And after generations of struggle, America is the moral force that defeated communism and all those who would put the human soul itself into bondage.

Within a few short years, we Americans have experienced the most sweeping changes of this century: the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of the global economy. No transition is without its problems, but as uncomfortable as it may feel at the moment, the changes of the 1990’s will leave America more dynamic and less in danger than at any time in my life.

A fellow named James Allen once wrote in his diary, “many thinking people believe America has seen its best days.” He wrote that July 26, 1775. There are still those who believe America is weakening; that our glory was the brief flash of time called the 20th Century; that ours was a burst of greatness too bright and brilliant to sustain; that America’s purpose is past.

My friends, I utterly reject those views. That’s not the America we know. We were meant to be masters of destiny, not victims of fate. Who among us would trade America’s future for that of any other country in the world? And who could possibly have so little faith in our America that they would trade our tomorrows for our yesterdays?

I’ll give you a hint. They put on quite a production in New York a few weeks ago. You might even call it slick. A stone’s throw from Broadway it was, and how appropriate. Over and over they told us they are not the party they were. They kept telling us with straight faces that they’re for family values, they’re for a strong America, they’re for less intrusive government.

And they call me an actor.

To hear them talk, you’d never know that the nightmare of nuclear annihilation has been lifted from our sleep. You’d never know that our standard of living remains the highest in the world. You’d never know that our air is cleaner than it was 20 years ago. You’d never know that we remain the one nation the rest of the world looks to for leadership.

It wasn’t always this way. We mustn’t forget–even if they would like to– the very different America that existed just 12 years ago; an America with 21 percent interest rates and back to back years of double digit inflation; an America where mortgage payments doubled, paychecks plunged, and motorists sat in gas lines; an America whose leaders told us it was our own fault; that ours was a future of scarcity and sacrifice; and that what we really needed was another good dose of government control and higher taxes.

It wasn’t so long ago that the world was a far more dangerous place as well. It was a world where aggressive Soviet communism was on the rise and American strength was in decline. It was a world where our children came of age under the threat of nuclear holocaust. It was a world where our leaders told us that standing up to aggressors was dangerous — that American might and determination were somehow obstacles to peace.

But we stood tall and proclaimed that communism was destined for the ash heap of history. We never heard so much ridicule from our liberal friends. The only thing that got them more upset was two simple words: “Evil Empire.”

But we knew then what the liberal Democrat leaders just couldn’t figure out: the sky would not fall if America restored her strength and resolve. The sky would not fall if an American president spoke the truth. The only thing that would fall was the Berlin Wall.

I heard those speakers at that other convention saying “we won the Cold War” — and I couldn’t help wondering, just who exactly do they mean by “we”? And to top it off, they even tried to portray themselves as sharing the same fundamental values of our party! What they truly don’t understand is the principle so eloquently stated by Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

If we ever hear the Democrats quoting that passage by Lincoln and acting like they mean it, then, my friends, we will know that the opposition has really changed.

Until then, we see all that rhetorical smoke, billowing out from the Democrats, well ladies and gentlemen, I’d follow the example of their nominee. Don’t inhale.

This fellow they’ve nominated claims he’s the new Thomas Jefferson. Well, let me tell you something. I knew Thomas Jefferson. He was a friend of mine. And governor, you’re no Thomas Jefferson.

Now let’s not dismiss our current troubles, but where they see only problems, I see possibilities — as vast and diverse as the American family itself. Even as we meet, the rest of the world is astounded by the pundits and finger pointers who are so down on us as a nation.

Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — America’s best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead. America remains what Emerson called her 150 years ago, “the country of tomorrow.” What a wonderful description and how true. And yet tomorrow might never have happened had we lacked the courage in the 1980’s to chart a course of strength and honor.

All the more reason no one should underestimate the importance of this campaign and what the outcome will mean. The stakes are high. The presidency is serious business. We cannot afford to take a chance. We need a man of serious purpose, unmatched experience, knowledge and ability. A man who understands government, who understands our country and who understands the world. A man who has been at the table with Gorbachev and Yeltsin. A man whose performance as commander-in-chief of the bravest and most effective fighting force in history left the world in awe and the people of Kuwait free of foreign tyranny. A man who has devoted more than half of his life to serving his country. A man of decency, integrity and honor.

And tonight I come to tell you that I — warmly, genuinely, wholeheartedly support the re-election of George Bush as president United States.

We know President Bush. By his own admission, he is a quiet man, not a showman. He is a trustworthy and levelheaded leader who is respected around the world. His is a steady hand on the tiller through the choppy waters of the ’90s, which is exactly what we need.

We need George Bush!

Yes, we need Bush.

We also need another fighter, a man who happens to be with us this evening, someone who has repeatedly stood up for his deepest convictions. We need our vice president, Dan Quayle.

Now it’s true: a lot of liberal democrats are saying it’s time for a change; and they’re right; the only trouble is they’re pointing to the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue. What we should change is a Democratic congress that wastes precious time on partisan matters of absolutely no relevance to the needs of the average American. So to all the entrenched interests along the Potomac — the gavel-wielding chairmen, the bloated staffs, the taxers and takers and congressional rule makers, we have a simple slogan for november 1992: clean house!

For you see, my fellow Republicans, we are the change! For 50 of the last 60 years the Democrats have controlled the Senate. And they’ve had the House of Representatives for 56 of the last 60 years.

It’s time to clean house. Clean out the privileges and perks. Clean out the arrogance and the big egos. Clean out the scandals, the corner-cutting and the foot-dragging.

What kind of job do you think they’ve done during all those years they’ve been running the Congress?

You know, I used to say to some of those Democrats who chair every committee in the House: “You need to balance the government’s checkbook the same way you balance your own.” Then I learned how they ran the House bank, and I realized that was exactly what they had been doing!

Now, just imagine what they would do controlled the executive branch, too!

This is the 21st presidential election in my lifetime, the 16th in which I will cast a ballot. Each of those elections had its shifting moods of the moment, its headlines of one day that were forgotten the next. There have been a few more twists and turns this year than in others, a little more shouting about who was up or down, in or out, as we went about selecting our candidates. But now we have arrived, as we always do, at the moment of truth — the serious business of selecting a president.

Now is the time for choosing.

As it did 12 years ago, and as we have seen many times in history, our country now stands at a crossroads. There is widespread doubt about our public institutions and profound concern, not merely about the economy but about the overall direction of this great country.

And as they did then, the American people are clamoring for change and sweeping reform. The question we had to ask 12 years ago is the question we ask today: What kind of change can we Republicans offer the American people?

Some might believe that the things we have talked about tonight are irrelevant to the choice. These new isolationists claim that the American people don’t care about how or why we prevailed in the great defining struggle of our age — the victory of liberty over our adversaries. They insist that our triumph is yesterday’s news, part of a past that holds no lessons for the future.

Well nothing could be more tragic, after having come all this way on the journey of renewal we began 12 years ago, than if America herself forgot the lessons of individual liberty that she has taught to a grateful world.

Emerson was right. We are the country of tomorrow. Our revolution did not end at Yorktown. More than two centuries later, America remains on a voyage of discovery, a land that has never become, but is always in the act of becoming.

But just as we have led the crusade for democracy beyond our shores, we have a great task to do together in our own home. Now, I would appeal to you to invigorate democracy in your own neighborhoods.

Whether we come from poverty or wealth; whether we are Afro-American or Irish-American; Christian or Jewish, from big cities or small towns, we are all equal in the eyes of God. But as Americans that is not enough we must be equal in the eyes of each other. We can no longer judge each other on the basis of what we are, but must, instead, start finding out who we are. In America, our origins matter less than our destinations and that is what democracy is all about.

A decade after we summoned America to a new beginning, we are beginning still. Every day brings fresh challenges and opportunities to match. With each sunrise we are reminded that millions of our citizens have yet to share in the abundance of American prosperity. Many languish in neighborhoods riddled with drugs and bereft of hope. Still others hesitate to venture out on the streets for fear of criminal violence. Let us pledge ourselves to a new beginning for them.

Let us apply our ingenuity and remarkable spirit to revolutionize education in America so that everyone among us will have the mental tools to build a better life. And while we do so, let’s remember that the most profound education begins in the home.

And let us harness the competitive energy that built America, into rebuilding our inner cities so that real jobs can be created for those who live there and real hope can rise out of despair.

Let us strengthen our health care system so that Americans of all ages can be secure in their futures without the fear of financial ruin.

And my friends, once and for all, let us get control of the federal deficit through a Balanced Budget Amendment and line item veto.

And let us all renew our commitment. Renew our pledge to day by day, person by person, make our country and the world a better place to live. Then when the nations of the world turn to us and say, “America, you are the model of freedom and prosperity.” We can turn to them and say, “you ain’t seen nothing, yet!”

For me, tonight is the latest chapter in a story that began a quarter of a century ago, when the people of California entrusted me with the stewardship of their dreams.

My fellow citizens — those of you here in this hall and those of you at home — I want you to know that I have always had the highest respect for you, for your common sense and intelligence and for your decency. I have always believed in you and in what you could accomplish for yourselves and for others.

And whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.

My fondest hope for each one of you — and especially for the young people here — is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism. May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will make the world a little better for your having been here.

May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism.

And finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill.

Before I go, I would like to ask the person who has made my life’s journey so meaningful, someone I have been so proud of through the years, to join me. Nancy …

My fellow Americans, on behalf of both of us, goodbye, and God bless each and every one of you, and God bless this country we love.

Announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative

President Reagan spoke to the nation from the White House on March 23rd, 1983


My fellow Americans, thank you for sharing your time with me tonight.

The subject I want to discuss with you, peace and national security, is both timely and important. Timely, because I’ve reached a decision which offers a new hope for our children in the 21st century, a decision I’ll tell you about in a few minutes. And important because there’s a very big decision that you must make for yourselves. This subject involves the most basic duty that any President and any people share, the duty to protect and strengthen the peace.

At the beginning of this year, I submitted to the Congress a defense budget which reflects my best judgment of the best understanding of the experts and specialists who advise me about what we and our allies must do to protect our people in the years ahead. That budget is much more than a long list of numbers, for behind all the numbers lies America’s ability to prevent the greatest of human tragedies and preserve our free way of life in a sometimes dangerous world. It is part of a careful, long-term pla n to make America strong again after too many years of neglect and mistakes.

Our efforts to rebuild America’s defenses and strengthen the peace began 2 years ago when we requested a major increase in the defense program. Since then, the amount of those increases we first proposed has been reduced by half, through improvements in management and procurement and other savings.

The budget request that is now before the Congress has been trimmed to the limits of safety. Further deep cuts cannot be made without seriously endangering the security of the Nation. The choice is up to the men and women you’ve elected to the Congress, and that means the choice is up to you.

Tonight, I want to explain to you what this defense debate is all about and why I’m convinced that the budget now before the Congress is necessary, responsible, and deserving of your support. And I want to offer hope for the future.

But first, let me say what the defense debate is not about. It is not about spending arithmetic. I know that in the last few weeks you’ve been bombarded with numbers and percentages. Some say we need only a 5-percent increase in defense spending. The so-called alternate budget backed by liberals in the House of Representatives would lower the figure to 2 to 3 percent, cutting our defense spending by $163 billion over the next 5 years. The trouble with all these numbers is that they tell us little about the kind of defense program America needs or the benefits and security and freedom that our defense effort buys for us.

What seems to have been lost in all this debate is the simple truth of how a defense budget is arrived at. It isn’t done by deciding to spend a certain number of dollars. Those loud voices that are occasionally heard charging that the Government is trying to solve a security problem by throwing money at it are nothing more than noise based on ignorance. We start by considering what must be done to maintain peace and review all the possible threats against our security. Then a strategy for strengthening peace and defending against those threats must be agreed upon. And, finally, our defense establishment must be evaluated to see what is necessary to protect against any or all of the potential threats. The cost of achieving these ends is totaled up, and the result is the budget for national defense.

There is no logical way that you can say, let’s spend x billion dollars less. you can only say, which part of our defense measures do we believe we can do without and still have security against all contingencies? Anyone in the Congress who advocates a percentage or a specific dollar cut in defense spending should be made to say what part of our defenses he would eliminate and he should be candid enough to acknowledge that his cuts mean cutting our commitments to allies or inviting greater risk or both.

The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression­to preserve freedom and peace.

Since the dawn of the atomic age, we’ve sought to reduce the risk of war by maintaining a strong deterrent and by seeking genuine arms control. “Deterrence” means simply this: making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States, or our allies, or our vital interests, concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won’t attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.

This strategy of deterrence has not changed. It still works. But what it takes to maintain deterrence has changed. It took one kind of military force to deter an attack when we had far more nuclear weapons than any other power; it takes another kind now that the Soviets, for example, have enough accurate and powerful nuclear weapons to destroy virtually all of our missiles on the ground. Now, this is not to say that the Soviet Union is planning to make war on us. Nor do I believe a war is inevitable­quite the contrary. But what must be recognized is that our security is based on being prepared to meet all threats.

There was a time when we depended on coastal forts and artillery batteries, because, with the weaponry of that day, any attack would have had to come by sea. Well, this is a different world, and our defenses must be based on recognition and awareness of the weaponry possessed by other nations in the nuclear age.

We can’t afford to believe that we will never be threatened. There have been two world wars in my lifetime. We didn’t start them and, indeed, did everything we could to avoid being drawn into them. But we were ill-prepared for both. Had we been better prepared, peace might have been preserved.

For 20 years the Soviet Union has been accumulating enormous military might. They didn’t stop when their forces exceeded all requirements of a legitimate defensive capability. And they haven’t stopped now. During the past decade and a half, the Soviets have built up a massive arsenal of new strategic nuclear weapons­weapons that can strike directly at the United States.

As an example, the United States introduced its last new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Minute Man III, in 1969, and we’re now dismantling our even older Titan missiles. But what has the Soviet Union done in these intervening years? Well, since 1969 the Soviet Union has built five new classes of ICBM’s, and upgraded these eight times As a result, their missiles are much more powerful and accurate than they were several years ago, and they continue to develop more, while ours are increasingly obsolete.

The same thing has happened in other areas. Over the same period, the Soviet Union built 4 new classes of submarine-launched ballistic missiles and over 60 new missile submarines. We built 2 new types of submarine missiles and actually withdrew 10 submarines from strategic missions. The Soviet Union built over 200 new Backfire bombers, and their brand new Blackjack bomber is now under development. We haven’t built a new long-range bomber since our B-52’s were deployed about a quarter of a century ago, and we’ve already retired several hundred of those because of old age. Indeed, despite what many people think, our strategic forces only cost about 15 percent of the defense budget.

Another example of what’s happened: in 1978 the Soviets had 600 intermediaterange nuclear missiles based on land and were beginning to add the SS-20­a new, highly accurate, mobile missile with 3 warheads. We had none. Since then the Soviets have strengthened their lead. By the end of 1979, when Soviet leader Brezhnev declared “a balance now exists,” the Soviets had over 800 warheads. We still had none. A year ago this month, Mr. Brezhnev pledged a moratorium, or freeze, on SS-20 deployment. But by last August, their 800 warheads had become more than 1,200. We still had none. Some freeze. At this time Soviet Defense Minister Ustinov announced “approximate parity of forces continues to exist.” But the Soviets are still adding an average of 3 new warheads a week, and now have 1,300. These warheads can reach their targets in a matter of a few minutes. We still have none. So far, it seems that the Soviet definition of parity is a box score of 1,300 to nothing, in their favor.

So, together with our NATO allies, we decided in 1979 to deploy new weapons, beginning this year, as a deterrent to their SS-20ss and as an incentive to the Soviet Union to meet us in serious arms control negotiations. We will begin that deployment late this year. At the same time, however, we’re willing to cancel our program if the Soviets will dismantle theirs. This is what we’ve called a zero-zero plan. The Soviets are now at the negotiating table­and I think it’s fair to say that without our planned deployments, they wouldn’t be there.

Now let’s consider conventional forces. Since 1974 the United States has produced 3,050 tactical combat aircraft. By contrast, the Soviet Union has produced twice as many. When we look at attack submarines, the United States has produced 27 while the Soviet Union has produced 61. For armored vehicles, including tanks, we have produced 11,200. The Soviet Union has produced 54,000­nearly 5 to 1 in their favor. Finally, with artillery, we’ve produced 950 artillery and rocket launchers while the Soviets have produced more than 13,000­a staggering 14-to-1 ratio.

There was a time when we were able to offset superior Soviet numbers with higher quality, but today they are building weapons as sophisticated and modern as our own.

As the Soviets have Increased their military power, they’ve been emboldened to extend that power. They’re spreading their military influence in ways that can directly challenge our vital interests and those of our allies.

The following aerial photographs, most of them secret until now, illustrate this point in a crucial area very close to home: Central America and the Caribbean Basin. They’re not dramatic photographs. But I think they help give you a better understanding of what I’m talking about.

This Soviet intelligence collection facility, less than a hundred miles from our coast, is the largest of its kind in the world. The acres and acres of antennae fields and intelligence monitors are targeted on key U.S. military installations and sensitive activities. The installation in Lourdes, Cuba, is manned by 1,500 Soviet technicians. And the satellite ground station allows instant communications with Moscow. This 28 square-mile facility has grown by more than 60 percent in size and capability during the past decade.

In western Cuba, we see this military airfield and it complement of modern, Soviet-built Mig-23 aircraft. The Soviet Union uses this Cuban airfield for its own long-range reconnaissance missions. And earlier this month, two modern Soviet antisubmarine warfare aircraft began operating from it. During the past 2 years, the level of Soviet arms exports to Cuba can only be compared to the levels reached during the Cuban missile crisis 20 years ago.

This third photo, which is the only one in this series that has been previously made public, shows Soviet military hardware that has made its way to Central America. This airfield with its Ml-8 helicopters, anti-aircraft guns, and protected fighter sites is one of a number of military facilities in Nicaragua which has received Soviet equipment funneled through Cuba, and reflects the massive military buildup going on in that country.

On the small island of Grenada, at the southern end of the Caribbean chain, the Cubans, with Soviet financing and backing, are in the process of building an airfield with a 10,000-foot runway. Grenada doesn’t even have an air force. Who is it intended for? The Caribbean is a very important passageway for our international commerce and military lines of communication. More than half of all American oil imports now pass through the Caribbean. The rapid buildup of Grenada’s military potential is unrelated to any conceivable threat to this island country of under 110,000 people and totally at odds with the pattern of other eastern Caribbean States, most of which are unarmed.

The Soviet-Cuban militarization of Grenada, in short, can only be seen as power projection into the region. And it is in this important economic and strategic area that we’re trying to help the Governments of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and others in their struggles for democracy against guerrillas supported through Cuba and Nicaragua.

These pictures only tell a small part of the story. I wish I could show you more without compromising our most sensitive intelligence sources and methods. But the Soviet Union is also supporting Cuban military forces in Angola and Ethiopia. They have bases in Ethiopia and South Yemen, near the Persian Gulf oil fields- They’ve taken over the port that we built at Carn Ranh Bay in Vietnam. And now for the first time in history, the Soviet Navy is a force to be reckoned with in the South Pacific.

Some people may still ask: Would the Soviets ever use their formidable military power? Well, again, can we afford to believe they won’t? There is Afghanistan. And in Poland, the Soviets denied the will of the people and in so doing demonstrated to the world how their military power could also be used to intimidate.

The final fact is that the Soviet Union is acquiring what can only be considered an offensive military force. They have continued to build far more intercontinental ballistic missiles than they could possibly need simply to deter an attack. Their conventional forces are trained and equipped not so much to defend against an attack as they are to permit sudden, surprise offensives of their own.

Our NATO allies have assumed a great defense burden, including the military draft in most countries. We’re working with them and our other friends around the world to do more. Our defensive strategy means we need military forces that can move very quickly, forces that are trained and ready to respond to any emergency.

Every item in our defense program­our ships, our tanks, our planes, our funds for training and spare parts­is intended for one all-important purpose: to keep the peace. Unfortunately, a decade of neglecting our military forces had called into question our ability to do that.

When I took office in January 1981, I was appalled by what I found: American planes that couldn’t fly and American ships that couldn’t sail for lack of spare parts and trained personnel and insufficient fuel and ammunition for essential training. The inevitable result of all this was poor morale in our Armed Forces, difficulty in recruiting the brightest young Americans to wear the uniform, and difficulty in convincing our most experienced military personnel to stay on.

There was a real question then about how well we could meet a crisis. And it was obvious that we had to begin a major modernization program to ensure we could deter aggression and preserve the peace in are the years ahead.

We had to move immediately to improve the basic readiness and staying power of our conventional forces, so they could meet­and therefore help deter­a crisis. We had to make up for lost years of investment by moving forward with a long-term plan to prepare our forces to counter the military capabilities our adversaries were developing for the future.

I know that all of you want peace, and so do I. I know too that many of you seriously believe that a nuclear freeze would further the cause of peace. But a freeze now would make us less, not more, secure and would raise, not reduce, the risks of war. It would be largely unverifiable and would seriously undercut our negotiations on arms reduction. It would reward the Soviets for their massive military buildup while preventing us from modernizing our aging and increasingly vulnerable forces. With their pr esent margin of superiority, why should they agree to arms reductions knowing that we were prohibited from catching up?

Believe me, it wasn’t pleasant for someone who had come to Washington deterrmined to reduce government spending, but we had to move forward with the task of repairing our defenses or we would lose our ability to deter conflict now and in the future. We had to demonstrate to any adversary that aggression could not succeed, and that the only real solution was substantial, equitable, and effectively verifiable arms reduction­the kind we’re working for right now in Geneva.

Thanks to your strong support, and bipartisan support from the Congress, we began to turn things around. Already, we’re seeing some very encouraging results. Quality recruitment and retention are up dramatically­more high school graduates are choosing military careers, and more experienced career personnel are choosing to stay. our men and women in uniform at last are getting the tools and training they need to do their jobs.

Ask around today, especially among our young people, and I think you will find a whole new attitude toward serving their country This reflects more than just better pay, equipment, and leadership. You the American people have sent a signal to these young people that it is once again an honor to wear the uniform. That’s not something you measure in a budget, but it’s a very real part of our nation’s strength.

It’ll take us longer to build the kind of equipment we need to keep peace in the future, but we’ve made a good start.

We haven’t built a new long-range bomber for 21 years. Now we’re building the B-1. We hadn’t launched one new strategic submarine for 17 years. Now we’re building one Trident submarine a year. our land-based missiles are increasingly threatened by the many huge, new Soviet ICBM’s. We’re determining how to solve that problem. At the same time, we’re working in the START and INF negotiations with the goal of achieving deep reductions in the strategic and intermediate nuclear arsenals of both sides.

We have also begun the long-needed modernization of our conventional forces. The Army is getting its first new tank in 20 years. The Air Force is modernizing. We’re rebuilding our Navy, which shrank from about a thousand ships in the late 1960’s to 453 during the 1970’s. Our nation needs a superior navy to support our military forces and vital interests overseas. We’re now on the road to achieving a 600-ship navy and increasing the amphibious capabilities of our marines, who are now serving the cause of peace in Lebanon. And we’re building a real capability to assist our friends in the vitally important Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf region.

This adds up to a major effort, and it isn’t cheap. It comes at a time when there are many other pressures on our budget and when the American people have already had to make major sacrifices during the recession. But we must not be misled by those who would make defense once again the scapegoat of the Federal budget.

The fact is that in the past few decades we have seen a dramatic shift in how we spend the taxpayer’s dollar. Back in 1955, payments to individuals took up only about 20 percent of the Federal budget. For nearly three decades, these payments steadily increased and, this year, will account for 49 percent of the budget. By contrast, in 1955 defense took up more than half of the Federal budget. By 1980 this spending had fallen to a low of 23 percent. Even with the increase that I am requesting this year, defense will still amount to only 28 percent of the budget.

The calls for cutting back the defense budget come in nice, simple arithmetic. They’re the same kind of talk that led the democracies to neglect their defenses in the 1930’s and invited the tragedy of World War II. We must not let that grim chapter of history repeat itself through apathy or neglect.

This is why I’m speaking to you tonight to urge you to tell your Senators and Congressmen that you know we must continue to restore our military strength. If we stop in midstream, we will send a signal of decline, of lessened will, to friends and adversaries alike. Free people must voluntarily through open debate and democratic means, meet the challenge that totalitarians pose by compulsion. It’s up to us, in our time, to choose and choose wisely between the hard but necessary task of preserving peace and freedom and the temptation to ignore our duty and blindly hope for the best while the enemies of freedom grow stronger day by day.

The solution is well within our grasp. But to reach it, there is simply no alternative but to continue this year, in this budget, to provide the resources we need to preserve the peace and guarantee our freedom.

Now, thus far tonight I’ve shared with you my thoughts on the problems of national security we must face together. My predecessors in the Oval Office have appeared before you on other occasions to describe the threat posed by Soviet power and have proposed steps to address that threat. But since the advent of nuclear weapons, those steps have been increasingly directed toward deterrence of aggression through the promise of retaliation.

This approach to stability through offensive threat has worked. We and our allies have succeeded in preventing nuclear war for more than three decades. In recent months, however, my advisers, including in particular the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have underscored the necessity to break out of a future that relies solely on offensive retaliation for our security.

Over the course of these discussions, I’ve become more and more deeply convinced that the human spirit must be capable of rising above dealing with other nations and human beings by threatening their existence. Feeling this way, I believe we must thoroughly examine every opportunity for reducing tensions and for introducing greater stability into the strategic calculus on both sides.

One of the most important contributions we can make is, of course, to lower the level of all arms, and particularly nuclear arms. We’re engaged right now in several negotiations with the Soviet Union to bring about a mutual reduction of weapons. I will report to you a week from tomorrow my thoughts on that score. But let me just say, I’m totally committed to this course.

If the Soviet Union will join with us in our effort to achieve major arms reduction we will have succeeded in stabilizing the nuclear balance. Nevertheless, it will still be necessary to rely on the specter of retaliation, on mutual threat. And that’s a sad commentary on the human condition. Wouldn’t it be better to save lives than to avenge them? Are we not capable of demonstrating our peaceful intentions by applying all our abilities and our ingenuity to achieving a truly lasting stability? I think we are. Indeed, we must.

After careful consultation with my advisers, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I believe there is a way. Let me share with you a vision of the future which offers hope. It is that we embark on a program to counter the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive. Let us turn to the very strengths in technology that spawned our great industrial base and that have given us the quality of life we enjoy today.

What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?

I know this is a formidable, technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century. Yet, current technology has attained a level of sophistication where it’s reasonable for us to begin this effort. It will take years, probably decades of effort on many fronts. There will be failures and setbacks, just as there will be successes and breakthroughs. And as we proceed, we must remain constant in preserving the nuclear deterrent and maintaining a solid capability for flexible response. But isn’t it worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war? We know it is.

In the meantime, we will continue to pursue real reductions in nuclear arms, negotiating from a position of strength that can be ensured only by modernizing our strategic forces. At the same time, we must take steps to reduce the risk of a conventional military conflict escalating to nuclear war by improving our nonnuclear capabilities.

America does possess now the technologies to attain very significant improvements in the effectiveness of our conventional, nonnuclear forces. Proceeding boldly with these new technologies, we can significantly reduce any incentive that the Soviet Union may have to threaten attack against the United States or its allies.

As we pursue our goal of defensive technologies, we recognize that our allies rely upon our strategic offensive power to deter attacks against them. Their vital interests and ours are inextricably linked. Their safety and ours are one. And no change in technology can or will alter that reality. We must and shall continue to honor our commitments.

I clearly recognize that defensive systems have limitations and raise certain problems and ambiguities. If paired with offensive systems, they can be viewed as fostering an aggressive policy, and no one wants that. But with these considerations firmly in mind, I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.

Tonight, consistent with our obligations of the ABM treaty and recognizing the need for closer consultation with our allies, I’m taking an important first step. I am directing a comprehensive and intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles. This could pave the way for arms control measures to eliminate the weapons themselves. We seek neither military superiority nor political advantage. Our only purpose­one all people share­is to search for ways to reduce the danger of nuclear war.

My fellow Americans, tonight we’re launching an effort which holds the promise of changing the course of human history. There will be risks, and results take time. But I believe we can do it. As we cross this threshold, I ask for your prayers and your support.

Thank you, good night, and God bless you.

Statement on the Occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the Announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative

President Ronald Reagan, March 23rd, 1993. Washington, D.C.


Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be able to speak to you today on this tenth anniversary of my announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative. Above all I want to thank all of you for the hard work and perseverance you have shown through the years in supporting and shaping this very important program. It is as true today as it was ten years ago that this effort holds the promise of changing the course of human history, by freeing the world from the ominous threat of ballistic missile attack. Given the choice, shouldn’t we seek to save lives rather than avenge them? I think we should. And indeed, now we can.

Ten years ago when I asked the scientific community to give us the means of defending against the threat of ballistic missiles, I said there would be risks, and that results would take time. Well, I’m proud to say that these scientists and engineers boldly embraced this challenge, and in only a few short years broke new technological ground in developing innovative systems capable of providing effective and affordable defenses against missile attacks anywhere in the world. It is a tremendous achievement, worthy of the great scientific accomplishments of this century.

As you know, however, critics of SDI from the very beginning have been all too eager to denounce the program (and if it weren’t for George Lucas, maybe we would have been off to a better start). But over the years, these critics have been disproved time and time again. Today we know that we can defend ourselves, that the threats have not disappeared — many new threats, in fact, are rapidly emerging — and that Russia and our European allies have expressed their desire to cooperate with us in developing a global system of missile defenses.

This should be good news. Unfortunately, there is a stubborn contingent of policy-makers who insist on abiding by the obsolete ABM Treaty and support only extremely limited missile defenses, or even none at all. Yet I believe their efforts will not stop the progress we have made and the progress we have yet to make. The wisdom of the program we launched a decade ago will prevail, and America will not remain forever defenseless against ballistic missile attack.

Now more than ever it is vital that the United States not back down from its efforts to develop and deploy strategic defenses. It is technologically feasible, strategically necessary and morally imperative. For if our nation and our precious freedoms are worth defending with the threat of annihilation, we are surely worth defending by defensive means that ensure our survival.

Thank you again. God bless you, and may God bless America.

Lady Thatcher Salutes Reagan at the 1994 Gala

Text of remarks by Lady Margaret Thatcher at the gala birthday tribute to President Ronald Reagan February 3, 1994.


President Reagan, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for that wonderful introduction. It’s the sort I would have loved at the beginning of every election campaign.

It is an honor and a joy to be with you to celebrate the 44th anniversary of your 39th birthday.

I hope to be here to celebrate the 51st anniversary of this same birthday.

Indeed, if you were thinking of running again to see us into the 21st century I’d be even better pleased.

I note President Reagan, from one of your books, that in 1987 you heard one presidential candidate say that what this country needed was a president for the ’90s. You were set to run again, because you thought he said a president in his 90s and you were (inaudible).

Well, for us, hope springs eternal. All it needs is to repeal the 27th Amendment to the Constitution.

Sir, you strode into our midst at a time when America needed you most. This great country had been through a period of national malaise bereft of any sense of moral direction. Through it all, throughout eight of the fastest moving years in memory, you were unflappable and unyielding.

You brushed off the jibes and jabs of your jealous critics. With that Irish twinkle and that easy homespun style, which never changed, you brought a new assurance to America. You were not only America’s President — important as that is — you were a great leader. In a time of average men, you stood taller than anyone else.

With a toughness unseen for a long time, you stood face-to-face with the evil empire. And, with an unexpected diplomacy which confused your foes — and even some of your friends — you reached out to that empire, perhaps no longer evil, but still formidable. You met its leaders on their turf, but on your terms.

In a time of politicians, you proved yourself a statesman. And that leadership, that faith in freedom and enterprise brought about a renewal of this great country. America was back and the free world became a safer place.

It was not only that you were the Great Communicator — and you were the greatest — but that you had a message to communicate.

The message that had inspired the founding fathers, the message that has guided this nation from its birth — the essence of good government is to blend the wisdom of the ages with the circumstances of contemporary times — that is what you did. Not since Lincoln, or Winston Churchill in Britain, has there been a President who has so understood the power of words to uplift and to inspire.

You reached beyond partisanship to principles, beyond our own selves to our very souls. You reached for and touched, as Lincoln had said so long before you, the better angels of our nature. Leadership is more than budgets and balance sheets. More than the policy of public measures, it is a matter of moral purpose. And that moral realm is reached by that insight and rhetoric of which only the truly great are capable.

This political instinct of truth, conviction and patriotism began long before you were President. I have been reading that excellent book of your speeches, Ron, and I am going to refer to three speeches in particular.

In 1969, as Governor of California, you spoke at Eisenhower College. It was a terrible time of student rebellion, of violence against property, violence against fellow students and violence against others on the campus. “How and when did all this begin?”, you asked. “It began,” you said, “the first time someone old enough to know better declared it was no crime to break the law in the name of social protest. It began with those, who in the name of change or progress, decided they could strap all the time- tested wisdom man has accumulated in his climb from the swamp to the stars.” And I particularly like the next bit.

“Saint Thomas Aquinas warned teachers that they must never dig a ditch in front of a student that they failed to fill in. To nearly raise doubts, and to ever seek and never find is to be in opposition to education and progress.” You were right and said so fearlessly while some academics just compromised.

And my second choice arises because we are coming to the 50th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy landings — the Longest Day, the day we dare not lose the battle. Let us recall what you said on the 40th anniversary on those beaches, for no one else could say it better.

You said, “Those men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. The Americans who fought here that morning,” you continued, “knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They felt in their hearts that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 a.m. in the morning. In Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell. And they knew that God was an ally in this great cause. That night General Ridgeway was listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua; ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee’.” And you said “Let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died. We will always remember. We will always be proud.”

Ron, I think that was your greatest speech.

Like Winston Churchill, you made words fight like soldiers and lifted the spirit of the nation

And my third one, also a favorite, which was seen the world over, was the terrible Challenger space shuttle disaster. You knew immediately, with that unfailing instinct, that the tragedy needed a national voice to share the mourning, to comfort and yet to say, “The quest must go on.” You were on television within hours. And I remember so well you spoke especially to the school children who had been watching. You said “I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted. It belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew is pulling us into the future. And we’ll continue to follow them.” And, of course, America did, as we saw today.

And the memorable last words you used came from a poem which linked you all so much to Britain, because that poem was written by a young fighter pilot killed in the skies over Britain shortly before his death in 1941, at the age of 19. You will know them, they’re your favorite and they are mine. “I slipped the surly bonds of earth, put out my hand and touched the face of God. ”

You always had the right words, and we honor you for it.

There were so many other speeches, some prophetic, some humorous, but all with a vision, all which inspired. We could identify with each and every one. More than anyone else, you knew peoples’ desire to be attached to some cause greater than themselves. So, instead of inundating the American people with the torrent of projections and percentages, you spoke of the voluntary spirit of community and charity.

When others spoke of the fear of war, you spoke of the need for warriors and peace through strength. When others bewailed the failure of big government to provide for the collective good, you spoke of self-reliance, of personal responsibility, of individual pride and integrity. When others demanded compromise — when other demanded compromise, you, Ronald Reagan, preached conviction.