AOSHQ COB KT mentions the Gipper’s farewell address in 1989, and his excerpt rang sharply enough in my head that I went looking for a transcript of the whole thing. Which, irony of ironies, I found tucked away in the online archives of…the NYT?!?
It’s stunning how familiar so much of this speech sounds today. Better go download the PDF now, before some NYT trog realizes their blunder and deep-sixes all reference to it.
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 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, and I’ll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the Great Rediscovery: a rediscovery of our values and our common sense.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 am warning of an eradication of that – of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.
Familiar? All too, I’d say. Every word of it was true then, and is equally true today. And the Left still reacts to those eternal truths as a vampire does to a splash of Holy Water in the face—the only difference between then and now being how much more vicious, violent, and just plain bold they’ve become while Real Americans fitfully slumbered.
This is quite heady and essential stuff: music to the American ear, of a tone and timbre we heard no more of in the long, dark years after. Until Trump entered the arena, that is. Is it really any wonder why they hate him so fanatically?