“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. — Ronald Reagan
This question has been asked many times since 1988. Republicans constantly claim the mantle of the great communicator and all of them have fallen short. George Bush was not Reagan. John McCain, while claiming to follow in Reagan’s footsteps, fell far short, however, his running mate Sarah Palin came close. And Mitt Romney, while a good businessman was certainly not a Ronald Reagan in any sense of the word.
In order to form the basis of comparison to evaluate our current crop of so-called Republican conservatives we must first look at who Ronald Reagan was and what and how he did the things he did to restore our economy, national defense and the moral clarity of America. In essence we have to look at the Reagan Revolution — the great rediscovery of our values, our principles, and our common sense.
Ronald Reagan rejected the notion that the West, and the United States in particular, was in a period of inevitable decline. At the time of his election in 1980, America's economy was hampered by high taxes and inflation, and the growing menace of Soviet tyranny abroad. Reagan understood America to be unique and exceptional in world history because of its founding principles of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Nicknamed the "Great Communicator," Reagan helped restore to the American people a belief in and adherence to their founding principles and a renewal of the American spirit
Reagan began his career as a Hollywood movie actor, eventually rising to the head of the Screen Actors' Guild. It was through Reagan's leadership that the union resisted a takeover by Communist sympathizers, though this event placed him in great personal danger. Reagan grew up a Democrat, but through his work with the General Electric Theater television series and his travels around the country meeting and talking with ordinary American workers, his views on the importance of limited government and the free market. Reagan's endorsement of Barry Goldwater for President in 1964, and in particular his nationally-televised "A Time for Choosing" speech, launched Reagan onto the national political stage. Beginning in 1967 he served two terms as governor of California, during which time he worked to reform welfare and opposed the violent anti-war and anti-establishment protests across college campuses.
After unsuccessful campaigns for the Republican nomination for President in both 1968 and 1976, Reagan ran again in 1980, this time securing both the nomination and winning the election against the incumbent Jimmy Carter. Domestically, Americans faced an economy hampered by high taxes and inflation. Internationally, the United States was still in the midst of the Cold War, and what seemed like a rising Soviet Union. Reagan refused to believe that the West, particularly America, was in decline. His message of greater freedom and prosperity both at home and abroad were based upon an understanding of America's founding and the timeless principles of liberty that required application to the challenges of the 20th century.
Reagan's policies, both domestic and foreign, were successful. From the time of his election in 1980, to his final full year in office, 1988, the United States saw large declines in inflation, unemployment, and overall tax rates, among other indicators of growing national prosperity. Abroad, Reagan affirmed the idea of "peace through strength," refusing to capitulate to Soviet demands and intimidation, and, with the aid of leaders like British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pop John Paul II, meeting the threat of Communism around the world. In perhaps the most dramatic moment of his Presidency, Reagan, at a speech beneath the Brandenburg Gate of the Berlin Wall, told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," the most visible symbol of Soviet oppression in Europe. In the next four years, the world witnessed first the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
To better understand Ronald Reagan we have to go back to 1964 and his support of Barry Goldwater. After serving as the President of The Screen Actors Guild and defeating the potential take-over of the Hollywood union by communists and suffering insults and threats to his personal security to the point of having body guards and carrying a firearm he joined General Electric as a roving ambassador giving speeches around the country and making TV appearance. During this time, while traveling mainly by train, he began reading the works Milton Friedman, James M. Buchanan, William F. Buckley, books on the Founders and the Federalist Papers. It was during this period from 1954 to 1964 he began his metamorphous from a Roosevelt Democrat to a Conservative Republican and began to think about entering politics.
In 1964 he gave one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century when, in support of Barry Goldwater’s campaign in in the 1964 presidential election. In the speech he laid out, in a clear and concise manner, what conservatisms represented. Here are a few choice excerpts from that speech, A Time for Choosing, and the video is shown below — it is well worth watching over and over again if you want to better understand Ronald Reagan and his beliefs. His comments are as valid today as they were 49 years ago:
“But I have an uncomfortable feeling that this prosperity isn't something on which we can base our hopes for the future. No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income. Today, 37 cents of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector's share, and yet our government continues to spend $17 million a day more than the government takes in. We haven't balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We have raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations in the world. We have $15 billion in gold in our treasury—we don't own an ounce. Foreign dollar claims are $27.3 billion, and we have just had announced that the dollar of 1939 will now purchase 45 cents in its total value.
And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as "meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government." Well, I for one resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me—the free man and woman of this country—as "the masses." This is a term we haven't applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government"—this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.
Meanwhile, back in the city, under urban renewal the assault on freedom carries on. Private property rights are so diluted that public interest is almost anything that a few government planners decide it should be. In a program that takes for the needy and gives to the greedy, we see such spectacles as in Cleveland, Ohio, a million-and-a-half-dollar building completed only three years ago must be destroyed to make way for what government officials call a "more compatible use of the land." The President tells us he is now going to start building public housing units in the thousands where heretofore we have only built them in the hundreds. But FHA and the Veterans Administration tell us that they have 120,000 housing units they've taken back through mortgage foreclosures. For three decades, we have sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government planning, and the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan. The latest is the Area Redevelopment Agency. They have just declared Rice County, Kansas, a depressed area. Rice County, Kansas, has two hundred oil wells, and the 14,000 people there have over $30 million on deposit in personal savings in their banks. When the government tells you you're depressed, lie down and be depressed.
So now we declare "war on poverty," or "you, too, can be a Bobby Baker!" Now, do they honestly expect us to believe that if we add $1 billion to the $45 million we are spending one more program to the 30-odd we have—and remember, this new program doesn't replace any, it just duplicates existing programs—do they believe that poverty is suddenly going to disappear by magic? Well, in all fairness I should explain that there is one part of the new program that isn't duplicated. This is the youth feature. We are now going to solve the dropout problem, juvenile delinquency, by reinstituting something like the old CCC camps, and we are going to put our young people in camps, but again we do some arithmetic, and we find that we are going to spend each year just on room and board for each young person that we help $4,700 a year! We can send them to Harvard for $2,700! Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that Harvard is the answer to juvenile delinquency. (Editor’s note: $4.700 in 1964 would equal $35,000 in today’s dollars)
But seriously, what are we doing to those we seek to help? Not too long ago, a judge called me here in Los Angeles. He told me of a young woman who had come before him for a divorce. She had six children, was pregnant with her seventh. Under his questioning, she revealed her husband was a laborer earning $250 a month. She wanted a divorce so that she could get an $80 raise. She is eligible for $330 a month in the Aid to Dependent Children Program. She got the idea from two women in her neighborhood who had already done that very thing.
Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we are always "against" things, never "for" anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so.
You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, "There is a price we will not pay." There is a point beyond which they must not advance. This is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater's "peace through strength." 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."
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 last step into a thousand years of darkness.”
Suffice it to say while Barry Goldwater was defeated by Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 Presidential Election Ronald Reagan’s star was on the ascendency.
In 1966 Reagan was elected Governor of the State of California defeating two-term Governor Edmund (Pat) Brown. Reagan turned California’s economy around and set the foundation for the next three decades of business growth and expansion turning the Golden States into the 5th largest economy in the world. The one mistake he admits in his autobiography was the signing of the state’s abortion rights bill.
Early in 1967, the national debate on abortion was beginning. Democratic California state senator Anthony Beilenson introduced the "Therapeutic Abortion Act", in an effort to reduce the number of "back-room abortions" performed in California. The State Legislature sent the bill to Reagan's desk where, after many days of indecision, he signed it. About two million abortions would be performed as a result, most because of a provision in the bill allowing abortions for the well-being of the mother. Reagan had been in office for only four months when he signed the bill, and stated that had he been more experienced as governor, it would not have been signed. After he recognized what he called the "consequences" of the bill, he announced that he was pro-life. He maintained that position later in his political career, writing extensively about abortion.
On a personal note when Reagan was elected governor I was running a survey crew for the California Division of Highways (now CALTRANS) doing the construction layout for the San Diego Freeway (I-405) in Orange County. One of the first things Regan did was to audit all of the state agencies to see how efficient or inefficient they were in accomplishing their stated mission. For this audit he appointed teams of three — on member from the State Personnel Office and the other two from the private sector with expertise in the mission of the agency.
One day one of the teams showed up on our construction site and interviewed my survey crew. As the supervisor I was prohibited from participating in the interview. The interview lasted about 30 minutes and when it was over I queried my crew to see what was said. They told me they were asked questions as to what they were doing, what their mission was, did they understand the work, did they like their job, and what their morale was. They told me that when the interview was over the representative form Shell Oil gave then each a business card and told them if they ever left Division of Highways they should contact him for a job interview. Evidently he was impressed with the crew. The Division of Highways did well, but the Mental Health Department and the DMV did not fare as well.
In 1976 Reagan entered the presidential campaign challenging Gerald Ford (who hated Reagan) for the Republican nomination. By a close delegate vote Ford won the nomination (1.187 to 1,070) and went on to lose to the peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter.
The next for years brought misery to the people of the United States. The Misery Index, a combination of unemployment and inflation, rose from 13% to 20%. Like the band playing the tune “The World Turned Upside Down” at Lord Cornwallis’ surrender after the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 Jimmy Carter had turned our world upside down South American countries were falling to Communism, many liberals and academics believed that the Soviet Union had a better system, and Iran was holding our diplomats hostage. The anti-hero was replacing the hero and John Wayne was out and Woody Allen was in.
Reagan was not deterred by his defeat at the 1976 Republican Convention and after touring the country and gather support he handily won the nomination of his party.
The 1980 presidential campaign between Reagan and incumbent President Jimmy Carter was conducted during domestic concerns and the ongoing Iran hostage crisis. His campaign stressed some of his fundamental principles: lower taxes to stimulate the economy, less government interference in people's lives, states' rights, a strong national defense, and restoring the U.S. Dollar to a gold standard.
In the 1980 presidential election Reagan defeated his opponents Jimmy Carter and the liberal Republican John Anderson, who ran as an independent. Reagan received 489 Electoral Votes and 50.8% of the popular vote carrying 44 states including California. Carter received 49 Electoral Votes, 41.0% of the popular vote and carried 6 states plus the District of Columbia. He failed to carry his home state of Georgia. Anderson received 6.6% of the popular vote and received no Electoral Votes and carried no states. The world was about to be turned upside-right.
In his First Inaugural Address set forth his vision and plan to turn the United States around. In his January 20, 1981 speech Regan said the following:
“Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, causing human misery and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity.
But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.
You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.
From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.
We hear much of special interest groups. Our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and our factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we are sick —professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truck drivers. They are, in short, "We the people," this breed called Americans.
So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.
It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some
would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.
We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we are in a time when there are no heroes just don’t know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter—and they are on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They are individuals and families whose taxes support the Government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet but deep. Their values sustain our national life.
I have used the words "they" and "their" in speaking of these heroes. I could say "you" and "your"
because I am addressing the heroes of whom I speak—you, the citizens of this blessed land. Your dreams, your hopes, your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes, and the goals of this administration, so help me God.”
Reagan refuted the claims of the major claims of the progressive liberals and their belief in the bureaucratic administrative state with just a few words.
His first act as President was to sign an Executive Order repealing the price control on gasoline thus increasing the supply and bringing down the price. In 1981 he brought the marginal tax rates down from 70% to 50% and was able to do this with a Democrat controlled House. He also worked with Paul Volker, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve to institute some painful measures to restore the economy. These policies were called “Reaganomics.” By 1982 the economy began to turnaround.
I remember this very well as the owner of a business. In 1982 I had to enter a merger with another similar firm to stay afloat. By 1983 we were on a growth path once again.
During the 8 years of Reagan’s presidency (1981-1989) he, along with a hostile House and media accomplished the following:
Prime Interest Rate
Top Marginal Tax Rate
Gasoline per Gallon
$1.35 ($3.81 today)
<$1.00 ($2.82 today)
Median Family Income
$38,000 – a 15% increase
Other Reagan accomplishments:
- The top 5% of earners went from paying 35% of the government’s taxes to 46% even with lower rates due to dramatic increase in the top earners.
- Charitable contributions went from $65 billion to$100 billion, a 54% increase
- The deficit went from $2.5 billion to $2.5 billion – this is not a typo.
- Tax receipts increased by 50%
- The S&P had an annual gain of 25%
- Employment of Blacks rose 29% cutting their unemployment rate in half.
- Black families making more the $50,000 per year increased by 86%. During the Carter Administration this figure was 2.5% for whites and 1% for Blacks. Reagan’s policies changed this to 14% and 18% respectively.
In essence Reagan’s policies were lifting all boats
The question you need to ask yourself is if you had a time machine where would you go —1963, 1973 or 1983?
But 1984 Reagan’s policies were working and the 1984 election proved it.
The United States presidential election of 1984 was the 50th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 6, 1984. The contest was between the incumbent President Ronald Reagan, the Republican candidate, and former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate.
Reagan carried 49 of the 50 states, becoming only the second presidential candidate to do so after Richard Nixon's victory in the 1972 presidential election. Reagan touted a strong economic recovery from the deep recession of 1981–1982 and the widespread perception that his presidency had overseen a revival of national confidence and prestige. Mondale's only electoral votes came from the District of Columbia, which has never given its electoral votes to a Republican candidate, and his home state of Minnesota, which he won by a mere 3,761 votes.
Reagan's 525 electoral votes (out of 538) is the highest total ever received by a presidential candidate. Mondale's 13 electoral votes is also the second-fewest ever received by a second-place candidate, second only to Alf Landon's in 1936. In the national popular vote, Reagan received 58.8% to Mondale's 40.6%. No candidate since then has managed to equal or surpass Reagan's 1984 electoral result. Also, no post-1984 Republican candidate has managed to match or better Reagan's electoral performance in the Northeastern United States (Known to be a very Democratic region in modern times) and in the Western United States. Much of this success for Reagan can be attributed to the so-called “Reagan Democrats” — mainly blue collar workers with a great amount of patriotism and common sense.
Reagan was also equally successful, much to the disdain of the progressive liberals, academics and media, in foreign affairs.
Many bone-headed progressives and academics believed the Soviet system of government was better. The Left believed that the USSR would always be there and we needed to go along to get along. Many on the Right believed the USSR would always be there and we would never get along.
Reagan took a third position. He believed the USSR was an intimate threat to civilization and a failed system that could not last forever, perhaps no more than a decade. He was right on both counts.
He believed we needed to be militarily strong, globally strong, and morally strong if we wanted to win the Cold War. His doctrine, AKA the “Reagan Doctrine”, was based on three pillars:
- Rebuilding the U.S. Military
- Aiding countries wishing to maintain or regain their freedom, and
- Being absolutely clear on the distinction between freedom and tyranny.
For years we had lived with the Truman Doctrine of containment greatly influenced by George F. Kennan. In the late 1940s, his writings inspired the Truman Doctrine and the U.S. foreign policy of "containing" the Soviet Union, thrusting him into a lifelong role as a leading authority on the Cold War. His "Long Telegram" from Moscow in 1946 and the subsequent 1947 article "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" argued that the Soviet regime was inherently expansionist and that its influence had to be "contained" in areas of vital strategic importance to the United States. These texts quickly emerged as foundation texts of the Cold War, expressing the Truman administration's new anti-Soviet Union policy. Kennan also played a leading role in the development of definitive Cold War programs and institutions, notably the Marshall Plan.
Soon after his concepts had become U.S. policy, Kennan began to criticize the foreign policies that he had seemingly helped launch. Subsequently, prior to the end of 1948, Kennan was confident the state of affairs in Western Europe had developed to the point where positive dialogue could commence with the Soviet Union. His proposals were discounted by the Truman administration and Kennan's influence was marginalized, particularly after Dean Acheson was appointed secretary of state in 1949. Soon thereafter, U.S. Cold War strategy assumed a more assertive and militaristic quality, causing Kennan to lament over what he believed was as an aberration of his previous assessments.
The problem with containment was that the game was rigged. Like the game of chess the USSR kept moving the pieces all over the board while we unable to keep up.
Reagan took a slightly different course. He believed preventing the expansion of Soviet Communism and influence cold best be accomplished by aiding those who wanted to be free, like the Solidarity movement in Poland. Working closely with Margaret Thatcher and the Polish Pope John Paul II he was able to influence and assist these nations with moral and financial support while increasing the defense capabilities of NATO.
The elite universities had given up on any distinction between right and wrong harping that no values were different from any other values. It was just a matter of interpretation and a get along attitude. Evidently Reagan did not get this memo on moral equivalency. He stuck to his principles and beliefs no matter the critics in academia and the media.
At the time of Reagan’s election we had a policy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). This policy was based on the fact the United States and the USSR had more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy one another several times over and that neither nation would be crazy enough to initiate a nuclear war in Europe or anywhere else. This gave the Soviets an advantage as they would go about the world initiating little brush fire war of independence while we were muscle-bound with nukes and could do little to prevent them from fomenting trouble around the globe. Reagan needed a game changer.
He thought MAD was madness so in 1983 he came up with something called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) otherwise known as “Star Wars.” On March 23, 1983 Reagan gave a nationally televised address to the American people announcing this new initiative:
“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.
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.”
This speech sent shockwaves not only through the USSR but also through our allies. SDI) was proposed to use ground-based and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was set up in 1984 within the United States Department of Defense to oversee the Strategic Defense Initiative.
The ambitious initiative was widely criticized as being unrealistic, even unscientific as well as for threatening to destabilize MAD and re-ignite "an offensive arms race". In light of Reagan's vocal criticism of MAD, the Strategic Defense Initiative was an important part of his defense policy intended to offset MAD. It was soon derided, largely in academia and the mainstream media, as "Star Wars," after the popular 1977 film by George Lucas. In 1987, the American Physical Society concluded that a global shield such as "Star Wars" was not only impossible with existing technology, but that ten more years of research was needed to learn whether it might ever be feasible. Of course the academics and universities soon changed their tune as federal grant money began flowing from the Department of Defense and National Science Foundation for research and development. To them this was the new space program.
Today the United States holds a significant advantage in the field of comprehensive advanced missile defense systems through years of extensive research and testing; many of the obtained technological insights were transferred to subsequent programs and would find use in follow-up programs.
Under the administration of President Bill Clinton in 1993, its name was changed to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and its emphasis was shifted from national missile defense to theater missile defense; and its scope from global to more regional coverage. It was never truly developed or deployed, though certain aspects of SDI research and technologies paved the way for some anti-ballistic missile systems of today. BMDO was renamed to the Missile Defense Agency in 2002.
Many of Reagan’s critics missed the point with his SDI program. It did not matter if our science was not able to keep up with his initiative, what mattered is that the USSR believed we could do it. They knew it would not only take the best brains in physics, space technology, and computer science it would also take billions of dollars of which they had neither. Reagan was now playing chess with the Soviets and they were losing.
In 1987 Reagan gave his famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Although strongly advised by the State Department Eagan edited the prepared speech and added these famous lines:
“There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
These lines echoed around the globe and within two years the wall was down and the Soviet Union was collapsing under its own corrupt weight. On the night of November 9, 1989 the wall began to come down and freedom was making its way back to the nations of Eastern Europe.
I was in East Germany prior to the wall coming down and shortly after. I saw the total corruption of the socialist state and how it had suppressed the people for 44 years. The only regret I had was that I could not have taken the scores of academics, who touted the wonders of the socialist state, with me and rubbed their noses in the despair it fostered on the peoples of these nations.
In Reagan’s Farewell Address delivered from the Oval Office on January 11, 1989 he gave us a warning for the future — warning we are ignoring today.
“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.
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 eight 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 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, four years ago on the 40th anniversary of D-day, I read a letter from a young woman writing of 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 eight 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 eight 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”
Yes Ronald Reagan was a great communicator, but more importantly he communicated great ideas that resonated with the American people.
Who will be the next person to authentically wear the mantle of Ronald Reagan? Will it be Mario Rubio or Rand Paul? Will it be Ted Cruz or Mile Lee? Perhaps it’s Scott Walker or Susana Martinez? After reading this long profile of the Reagan Revolution Perhaps the person has yet to emerge on the public stage yet, but when he or she does you will recognize him or her and I am sure the media and academia will just as vicious towards them as they were to Reagan. The question will be can that person withstand the slings and arrows and convince the American people the right now our world is upside down and we need to take a new course. It’s our time for choosing.