This week marked the 99th birthday of our beloved President, Ronald Wilson Reagan. President Reagan (1911-02-06 – 2004-06-05) was an American actor and politician, who became 33rd Governor of California and 40th President of the United States; He was the husband of Jane Wyman (1940–1948) and Nancy Reagan (married in 1952).
Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois in an apartment on the second floor of a commercial building to John Edward “Jack” Reagan and Nelle Wilson Reagan, As a boy, Reagan’s father nicknamed his son “Dutch”, due to his “fat little Dutchman”-like appearance, and his “Dutchboy” haircut, the nickname stuck.
Mr. Reagan moved to Los Angeles, California in the 1930s. He began a career as an actor, first in films and later television, appearing in 52 movie productions and enough so to become a household name. Though often described as a B film actor, he starred in “Knute Rockne,” “All American” and “Kings Row.” I personally remember watching “Death Valley Days” as a young boy, and being raised by a former cowboy, it was one of my favorite shows.
Mr. Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and later spokesman for General Electric.(He might change his mind if asked to do that now) Originally a member of the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party in 1962. After delivering a rousing speech in support of Barry Goldwater’s presidential candidacy in 1964, he was persuaded to seek the California governorship, winning two years later and again in 1970. He was defeated in his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 as well as 1976, but won both the nomination and election in 1980.
As president, Ronald Reagan implemented sweeping new political and economic initiatives. His supply-side economic policies, dubbed “Reaganomics”, advocated reduced business regulation, controlling inflation, reducing growth in government spending, and spurring economic growth through tax cuts.
In his first term he survived an assassination attempt, took a hard line against labor unions (Most notably the Air traffic Controllers), and ordered military actions in Grenada. He was reelected in a landslide in 1984, proclaiming it was “Morning in America”. I can remember its high ideals and promise of the future spirit as the ad said;
“It’s morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. Its morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”
His second term was primarily marked by foreign matters, namely the ending of the Cold War, the bombing of Libya, and the revelation of the Iran-Contra affair. Publicly describing the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”, he supported anti-Communist movements worldwide and spent his first term forgoing the strategy of détente by ordering a massive military buildup in an arms race with the USSR. Reagan negotiated with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, culminating in the INF Treaty (The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty) and the decrease of both countries’ nuclear arsenals. Who can forget his speech at the Berlin Wall’s Brandenburg Gate, in which he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”
President Reagan left office in 1989. In 1994 he told us all the bad news, that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He died ten years later at the age of 93. I personally miss President Reagan very much and even with all of the ups and downs of his Presidency, he gave us all hope and showed us that our dreams are still within reach.
So much could be said about great American. But I will leave you with some of his own words.
“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.”
Address to the annual meeting of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, (1961-03-30).
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on 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.”
A Later variant California Gubernatorial Inauguration Speech (1967-01-05).
“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.”
Interview published in Reason Magazine (1975-07-01).
“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals — if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is. Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are traveling the same path.”
Nationally televised address, (1976-07-06).
“I’m convinced that today the majority of Americans want what those first Americans wanted: A better life for themselves and their children; a minimum of government authority. Very simply, they want to be left alone in peace and safety to take care of the family by earning an honest dollar and putting away some savings. This may not sound too exciting, but there is something magnificent about it. On the farm, on the street corner, in the factory and in the kitchen, millions of us ask nothing more, but certainly nothing less than to live our own lives according to our values — at peace with ourselves, our neighbors and the world.”
Time Magazine (1976-05-17).
Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal. It was Mussolini’s success in Italy, with his government-directed economy, that led the early New Dealers to say “But Mussolini keeps the trains running on time.”
Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine (1961).
“Back in 1927, an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said that the American people would never vote for socialism but he said under the name of liberalism the American people would adopt every fragment of the socialist program….
But at the moment I’d like to talk about another way because this threat is with us and at the moment is more imminent. One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. . .. Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it. We have an example of this. Under the Truman administration it was proposed that we have a compulsory health insurance program for all people in the United States, and, of course, the American people unhesitatingly rejected this…
The doctor begins to lose freedom. . . . First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then doctors aren’t equally divided geographically. So a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him, you can’t live in that town. They already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else. And from here it’s only a short step to dictating where he will go. . . . All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it’s a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay. And pretty soon your son won’t decide when he’s in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do.
Joke during his 1965 campaign for Governor of California, as quoted in The New York Times Magazine (14 November 1965), p. 174
“Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.”
Address to the Republican State Central Committee Convention, (1973-09-07).
“One legislator accused me of having a nineteenth-century attitude on law and order. That is a totally false charge. I have an eighteenth-century attitude. That is when the Founding Fathers made it clear that the safety of law-abiding citizens should be one of the government’s primary concerns.”
Column published in Guns and Ammo (1975-09-01)
“There are those in America today who have come to depend absolutely on government for their security. And when government fails they seek to rectify that failure in the form of granting government more power. So, as government has failed to control crime and violence with the means given it by the Constitution, they seek to give it more power at the expense of the Constitution. But in doing so, in their willingness to give up their arms in the name of safety, they are really giving up their protection from what has always been the chief source of despotism — government. Lord Acton said power corrupts. Surely then, if this is true, the more power we give the government the more corrupt it will become. And if we give it the power to confiscate our arms we also give up the ultimate means to combat that corrupt power. In doing so we can only assure that we will eventually be totally subject to it. When dictators come to power, the first thing they do is take away the people’s weapons. It makes it so much easier for the secret police to operate, it makes it so much easier to force the will of the ruler upon the ruled.”
In response to Jimmy Carter’s assertion that Reagan misuses the word depression
“Let it show on the record that when the American people cried out for economic help, Jimmy Carter took refuge behind a dictionary. Well, if it’s a definition he wants, I’ll give him one. A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”
Remarks at a business conference in Los Angeles (1977-03-02)
“Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”
I could go on and on, but let me end it with this, for November of this year, “sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.”