Ronald Reagan on Memorial Day

Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad.

Pope Benedict XVI

My fellow Americans, Memorial Day is a day of ceremonies and speeches. Throughout America today, we honor the dead of our wars. We recall their valor and their sacrifices. We remember they gave their lives so that others might live.

We’re also gathered here for a special event—the national funeral for an unknown soldier who will today join the heroes of three other wars.

When he spoke at a ceremony at Gettysburg in 1863, President Lincoln reminded us that through their deeds, the dead had spoken more eloquently for themselves than any of the living ever could, and that we living could only honor them by rededicating ourselves to the cause for which they so willingly gave a last full measure of devotion.

Well, this is especially so today, for in our minds and hearts is the memory of Vietnam and all that that conflict meant for those who sacrificed on the field of battle and for their loved ones who suffered here at home.

Not long ago, when a memorial was dedicated here in Washington to our Vietnam veterans, the events surrounding that dedication were a stirring reminder of America’s resilience, of how our nation could learn and grow and transcend the tragedies of the past.

During the dedication ceremonies, the rolls of those who died and are still missing were read for three days in a candlelight ceremony at the National Cathedral. And the veterans of Vietnam who were never welcomed home with speeches and bands, but who were never defeated in battle and were heroes as surely as any who have ever fought in a noble cause, staged their own parade on Constitution Avenue. As America watched them—some in wheelchairs, all of them proud—there was a feeling that this nation—that as a nation we were coming together again and that we had, at long last, welcomed the boys home.

“A lot of healing went on,” said one combat veteran who helped organize support for the memorial. And then there was this newspaper account that appeared after the ceremonies. I’d like to read it to you. “Yesterday, crowds returned to the Memorial. Among them was Herbie Petit, a machinist and former marine from New Orleans. ‘Last night,’ he said, standing near the wall, ‘I went out to dinner with some other ex-marines. There was also a group of college students in the restaurant. We started talking to each other. And before we left, they stood up and cheered us. The whole week,’ Petit said, his eyes red, ‘it was worth it just for that.'”

It has been worth it. We Americans have learned to listen to each other and to trust each other again. We’ve learned that government owes the people an explanation and needs their support for its actions at home and abroad. And we have learned, and I pray this time for good, the most valuable lesson of all—the preciousness of human freedom. (more…)

Published in: on May 28, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ronald Reagan on Memorial Day  
Tags: , ,

May 17, 1981: Reagan at Notre Dame

The Reagan Foundation has a great section in which you can access the personal diary of President Ronald Reagan.  Here is his diary entry from forty years ago:

Change signals on Prince Turki—he left for Saudi Arabia today by commercial plane. An easy morning with the Sunday papers—my exercises and then boarded the chopper & Air Force 1 for South Bend Ind. Had lunch on board with Walter & Lee Annenberg. Father Hesburgh met us at the airport and we drove to Notre Dame. It was commencement for 2000 graduates but there must have been 15,000 all told in the auditorium. Pat O’Brien was there also to get an honorary degree. It really was exciting. Every N.D. student sees the Rockne film and so the greeting for Pat & me was overwhelming. Speech went O.K. and I was made an honorary member of the Monogram Club. When I opened my certificate I thought they’d made 2 copies—they hadn’t, the 2nd was to “The Gipper.” He died before graduation so had never been made a member. Got back to the plane wringing wet—Cap & Gown plus an “iron” vest makes for heat. Discovered a service I hadn’t been aware of—a change of clothing is always carried when I go on a trip. Change in this case meant a welcome dry shirt. Dinner on T.V. in front of “60 Minutes”—oh yes—on the plane called Bob Dole re our tax plan. He’s having breakfst with Rep. Rostenkowski, Sen. Long & Rep. Barber Conable.

The best President of my lifetime.  May he now be enjoying the Beatific Vision.

Published in: on May 27, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on May 17, 1981: Reagan at Notre Dame  
Tags: ,

Rawhide Down

Forty years ago, on March 30, 1981, delusional Jodie Foster fan John Hinckley, in an attempt to attract the attention of the actress, came close to assassinating President Ronald Reagan, whose Secret Service codename, a tribute to his Western roles as an actor, was Rawhide.

Reagan had just finished a speech at the Washington Hilton, when Hinckley left off six shots. One bounded of the Presidential limousine and entered Reagan through his left underarm, breaking a rib, puncturing a lung and causing serious internal bleeding. Reagan was near death when he arrived at George Washington University Hospital. Reagan walked into the hospital because no stretch was ready, waving to bystanders. Inside he collapsed. His superb physical condition for a 70 year old, and the quick work of the emergency room team saved his life. Later in surgery Reagan quipped that he hoped they were all Republicans. His surgeon, a Democrat, responded that they were all Republicans today.

Reagan left the hospital on April 11. His recovery speed was remarkable, but his recovery was not complete until October. His close call left Reagan with the conviction that God had spared his life for him to serve some higher purpose.

Hinckley shot three other men that day.

White House Press Secretary James Brady was hit in the head by the first round. He would survive but with permanent mental impairment. He passed away at age 73 in 2014.

DC cop Thomas Delahanty was hit in the back of the neck by the second round, the bullet ricocheting off his spine. He would survive and retire from the force due to nerve damage to his left arm from the shooting.

Alfred Antenucci, a labor official from Ohio, charged Hinckley, hit him in the head, and wrestled him to the ground. Secret Service agents were pushing Reagan into the limousine, and probably saved him from being shot in the head by the third round.

Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy, shielding the President with his own body, was shot in the lower abdomen by the fourth round, McCarthy making a full recovery.

The fifth round hit the bullet resistant window of the open rear door, and the sixth bullet hit Reagan.

Hinckley was by this time subdued by bystanders and a Secret Service agent.

Oddly since 1840 every American President elected in a twenty year repeating sequence died in office. The unsuccessful attempt on the life of Reagan broke that bad streak.

Hinckley was found not guilty due to insanity and was committed to Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington. Beginning in 2006 he was allowed to spend time with his mother and was released full time to live with her in 2016. Being deranged caused Hinckley to fit right in with the rogue’s gallery of Presidential assassins.

Published in: on April 8, 2021 at 5:30 pm  Comments Off on Rawhide Down  
Tags: , , ,

April 2, 1983: Reagan on Passover and Easter

My fellow Americans:

This week as American families draw together in worship, we join with millions upon millions of others around the world also celebrating the traditions of their faiths. During these days, at least, regardless of nationality, religion, or race, we are united by faith in God, and the barriers between us seem less significant.

Observing the rites of Passover and Easter, we’re linked in time to the ancient origins of our values and to the unborn generations who will still celebrate them long after we’re gone. As Paul explained in his Epistle to the Ephesians, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. So then you were no longer strangers and aliens, but you were fellow citizens of God’s household.”

This is a time of hope and peace, when our spirits are filled and lifted. It’s a time when we give thanks for our blessings-chief among them, freedom, peace, and the promise of eternal life.

This week Jewish families and friends have been celebrating Passover, a tradition rich in symbolism and meaning. Its observance reminds all of us that the struggle for freedom and the battle against oppression waged by Jews since ancient times is one shared by people everywhere. And Christians have been commemorating the last momentous days leading to the crucifixion of Jesus 1,950 years ago. Tomorrow, as morning spreads around the planet, we’ll celebrate the triumph of life over death, the Resurrection of Jesus. Both observances tell of sacrifice and pain but also of hope and triumph.

As we look around us today, we still find human pain and suffering, but we also see it answered with individual courage and spirit, strengthened by faith. For example, the brave Polish people, despite the oppression of a godless tyranny, still cling to their faith and their belief in freedom. Shortly after Palm Sunday Mass this week, Lech Walesa faced a cheering crowd of workers outside a Gdansk church. He held his hand up in a sign of victory and predicted, “The time will come when we will win.”

Recently, an East German professor, his wife, and two daughters climbed into a 7-foot rowboat and crossed the freezing, wind-whipped Baltic to escape from tyranny. Arriving in West Germany after a harrowing 7-hour, 31-mile journey past East German border patrols, the man said he and his family had risked everything so that the children would have the chance to grow up in freedom.

In Central America Communist-inspired revolution still spreads terror and instability, but it’s no match for the much greater force of faith that runs so deep among the people. We saw this during Pope John Paul II’s recent visit there. As he conducted a Mass in Nicaragua, state police jeered and led organized heckling by Sandinista supporters. But the Pope lifted a crucifix above his head and waved it at the crowd before him, then turned and symbolically held it up before the massive painting of Sandinista soldiers that loomed behind. The symbol of good prevailed. In contrast, everywhere else the Holy Father went in the region, spreading a message that only love can build, he was met by throngs of enthusiastic believers, eager for Papal guidance and blessing. (more…)

Published in: on April 3, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: ,

Reagan Interview With Carson

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Hail to the Chief in reference to President Ronald Wilson Reagan:

 

Today is the 110th birthday of Ronald Reagan, a birth date which I happily share.  On January 3, 1975 he was interviewed by Johnny Carson.  This was unusual because Carson rarely interviewed politicians, attempting to keep The Tonight Show free of political involvement.  The length is also unusual in that Reagan spoke with Carson for over a half hour.  Carson personally was a moderate to liberal Republican, although throughout his adult life he attempted to be resolutely apolitical in public.  Reagan had just finished his second term as Governor of California, and was beginning to contemplate a run for President in 1976.  He did so and came within a hair’s breadth of taking the nomination from President Ford, that unsuccessful run giving him valuable experience for his victorious campaign for the White House in 1980.  The interview is now a fascinating time capsule from 46 years ago.

 

Published in: on February 6, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

Ronald Reagan: January 28, 1986: The Future Doesn’t Belong to the Faint Hearted

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. 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. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

                                              President Ronald Reagan, January 28, 1986

As regular readers of this blog know, I am honored to share my birthday, February 6, with the greatest president of my lifetime:  Ronald Wilson Reagan.  One aspect of his Presidency was the power of his oratory:  Mr. Reagan being a master of giving voice to sentiments with verbal images that could move and inspire his listeners.  One of the best short samples of his skill, is the speech that he gave on the day of the Challenger disaster.  Reagan, obviously filled with grief himself, did not allow his speech to be a mere lament.  While honoring the dead he pointed to the future, and told the hard truth that loss and disaster are the inevitable price to be paid for exploration and new frontiers.  Here is the text of his speech: (more…)

Published in: on January 28, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ronald Reagan: January 28, 1986: The Future Doesn’t Belong to the Faint Hearted  
Tags: ,

Reagan and Me

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

Ronald Reagan

Today is my 63rd birthday and the 109th birthday of Ronald Reagan, the man who gets my vote as the best president of my life time.  As the video clip above indicates, Reagan was a liberal Democrat for the first half of his life.  He often referred to this, sometimes humorously:

Sometimes seriously:

The classic liberal used to be the man who believed the individual was, and should be forever, the master of his destiny. That is now the conservative position. The liberal used to believe in freedom under law. He now takes the ancient feudal position that power is everything. He believes in a stronger and stronger central government, in the philosophy that control is better than freedom. The conservative now quotes Thomas Paine, a long-time refuge of the liberals: ‘Government is a necessary evil; let us have as little of it as possible.’

I of course lived during the time of Reagan’s life after he had become a conservative.  When I was seven years old I watched on television a speech, often referred to by Reagan biographers as The Speech, that Reagan gave in support of Barry Goldwater.  That speech led me to become a conservative.  The clip below is from a section of the speech that I have recalled all of my life: (more…)

Published in: on February 6, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Reagan and Me  
Tags: ,

History: Great Events or Great Men and Great Women?

 

One of the abiding debates in History is whether it is shaped primarily by vast forces at work in human civilizations or by great, the term is not used in a moral sense, men and women who shape the times in which they lived.  It is tempting to fudge the question and say both, an easy answer and partially true.  Napoleon would doubtless have ended his career on half pay as a Major serving in the Royal artillery of France but for the French Revolution.  However, it is impossible to see the French Revolution morphing into the French Empire without the drive, extreme military genius and grandiose vision of Napoleon.  I think it is also impossible to see the French Revolution occurring or prevailing except for Louis XVI, a good man and perhaps the most incompetent of French monarchs being, on the throne of France in 1789.  No, I am fully in the camp of historians who believe history is shaped mostly by great individuals.  Behind the scenes of course all of this is being stage managed for His purposes, within the limits of human free will, by God, but that is to leave History and enter the realm of theology.

Recently I read the book Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the Twenty-First Century (2013) by Christian Caryl.  It is an astonishingly good book and shows how four figures:  Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, Deng Xiaoping, Ayatollah Khomeini, each, in their own way, led counter-revolutions against the drift towards Socialism that was the dominant theme of the world post World War II up till 1979.  Of course there was a fifth figure at that time, perhaps the most important of them all, who was preparing a campaign which would drive from power an incumbent President and alter the course of American, and world, history, Ronald Reagan.  Reagan is a large figure in Caryl’s chapters on Thatcher, but I think he explored the other four individuals in making his argument, because they are much less well known, with the possible exception of Pope John Paul II, to most Americans than Reagan.

Thatcher made an odd Prime Minister of Great Britain, and not primarily because of her sex.  As she climbed the greasy pole of British politics, her opponents sneered at her lower middle class origins, calling her “the grocer’s daughter”.  I doubt if Thatcher minded.  Most of her world view she acquired from her father, an intensely religious and conservative man, who treasured hard work and drive, and preached the need for limited government and the importance of the free market.  He taught his daughter never to follow the crowd and to stand unhesitatingly for what she thought was right.  In her radical embrace of free markets and her intense Euro-skepticism, Thatcher stood in sharp contrast to the well bred elites who tended to dominate the Conservative Party.  What Thatcher proclaimed, they argued sotto voce, was well enough to say when stumping for votes, but to actually govern that way would be a disaster.  She proved them wrong and they never forgave her for it, ultimately replacing her in 1990 with the colorless non-entity John Major, who would lead the Tories to their worst electoral defeat ever in 1997 at the hands of Tony Blair and his more market oriented New Labor.  Thatcher died in 2013, her passing marked by displays of raw hate by the far Left in the UK.  (I suspect that Thatcher would have viewed these grotesque displays of bile as the finest tribute paid to her!)  The hatred was well earned.  Thatcher had planted well.  No British government could return to pre-Thatcher Socialism and her Euro-skepticism was prophetic of the Brexit vote in 2016.  Rather than being shaped by her times primarily, Thatcher shaped the times to come.

 

Published in: on January 13, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on History: Great Events or Great Men and Great Women?  
Tags: , , , ,

Thirty-Eight Years Ago: Reagan Christmas Address

 

On December 23, 1981, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation.  The video above is an excerpt from that speech.  The portion of the address dealing with the attempt by the then Polish Communist regime to crush Solidarity, the Polish labor union leading a movement for freedom that would ultimately be the spark that destroyed Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, is omitted.  A few things struck me about the address:

1.  When is the last time a president quoted G.K. Chesterton?

2.   Reagan’s reference to children as a gift from God.

3.   His reference to Christ’s first miracle being His coming to humanity as a helpless babe.

They don’t make them like Reagan anymore, and more is the pity.  Here is the text of his address: (more…)

Published in: on December 23, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thirty-Eight Years Ago: Reagan Christmas Address  
Tags: , ,

Reagan Farewell

 

 

Today is my sixty-second birthday.  As faithful readers of this blog know, I share my birthday with Ronald Reagan, the greatest president, in my opinion, in my lifetime.  Three decades ago, he was once again a private citizen.  On January 11, 1989, he gave his last address as President.  It is extremely relevant today.  Here is the text of his speech:

 

My fellow Americans:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s about all I have to say tonight, except for one thing. The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the “shining city upon a hill.” The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

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

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

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

 

Published in: on February 6, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: