S. 13 originals. Or three to. At 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on the winter Wednesday of January 11th, 1989, Ronald Reagan, less than a month shy of his seventy eighth birthday, sat down to deliver his third, fourth and final Oval Office speech to the American people. A farewell address. My fellow Americans, this is the third or fourth time I'll speak to you from the Oval Office and the last we've been together eight years now and soon it'll be time for me to go.
Before I do, I wanted to share some thoughts, some of which I've been saving for a long time. At the time the speech was noted for its characteristic eloquence, Reagan had, after all, catapulted to political fame a quarter century before in 1964 with a television address on behalf of Republican nominee Barry Goldwater, known ever after in conservative circles as simply the speech. The farewell address of 1989, though, was seen as little more than a grace note to a long and largely popular presidency.
History, however, has a wonderful way of changing how we view things in real time, people and events that are dismissed or derided can come to look better and loom larger. In retrospect, Harry Truman and George H.W. Bush, for instance, or presidents whose stature has grown since they left the White House. Conversely, Woodrow Wilson's historical stock has fallen amid renewed attention to his views on race and civil liberties. The sophisticated term for this phenomenon is revisionism, but it can also be understood as commonsensical since we should know that snap judgments are not always the right judgments.
Humility, too, ought to teach us that there's always more to learn. And the past, as Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote, can serve as a lantern on the stern, shedding light on the route we've traveled. I've spoken of a 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, windswept God, blessed and teeming with people of all kinds, living in harmony and peace, a city with 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.
I'm Jon Meacham, and this is it was said Episode five, Ronald Reagan's farewell address.
When he was running for president, a lot of notables in the press thought he was just not that smart. He was shallow, he was an actor. He was just faking it. That was so. The American people so took to his optimism and his message and his personality that it was hard not to like the guy. He was the first president since John Kennedy that a lot of Americans actually loved. And they loved getting up in the morning knowing that Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States.
Given the forty fifth president's persistent anti-immigration posture and policies, the Reagan farewell address deserves reconsideration and merits elevation, I believe, to the ranks of the closing words of George Washington, who warned against foreign entanglements and the destructive spirit of party, and of Dwight Eisenhower, who advised Americans to beware of the military industrial complex. To begin with, the Reagan speech is reflective and honest about the nature of the presidency, about what it's really like to sit behind that desk.
And after all, reflection and candor are in vanishingly short supply in the life of the incumbent. President Reagan told the country. 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 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. By acknowledging the distance between the people and the powerful, Reagan closed it, bringing his listeners into his orbit in rather the way his old hero, Franklin Roosevelt used to do with his fireside chats.
Neither Reagan nor FDR turned red in the face or bullied or blustered.
They spoke to us neighbor to neighbor, affirming the nature of self-government. And Reagan's speech is modest determinedly. So I've been asked if I have any regrets.
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.
No, I alone can fix it for the Gipper. The words composed by the Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who consulted closely with President Reagan in those closing weeks of his reign, are as different in spirit and in substance from Donald Trump's as words could be and still be rendered in the same tongue. Reagan invoked the Puritan John Winthrop, who in 16 30, drew on Jesus's Sermon on the Mount when speaking of America as a city upon a hill. That's manifestly not how President Trump sees it from his announcement speech allusion to rapists coming in from Mexico to his lament about American carnage to his manufacturing of a crisis at the border that requires a wall.
The 45th president has long spoken in the vernacular of darkness, not of light, of exclusion, not of inclusion and whatever his faults. And he had many. Ronald Reagan believed in the possibilities of a country that was forever reinventing itself.
He knew, too, that the nation had grown stronger the more widely it had opened its arms, and the more generously it had interpreted Thomas Jefferson's assertion of equality expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Ladies and gentlemen, Ronald Reagan that evening, I'm here tonight to announce my intention to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States. I'm sure that each of us has seen our country from a number of viewpoints, depending on where we've lived and what we've done.
For me, it's been as a boy growing up in several small towns in Illinois, as a young man in Iowa trying to get a start in the years of the Great Depression. And later in California, for most of my adult life, I've seen America from the stadium press box as a sportscaster, as an actor, officer of my labor union soldier officeholder and as both Democrat and Republican.
The rise and reign of the mysterious and elusive Ronald Reagan is one of the great American sagas suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Toward the end in the late 1990s, Reagan could only remember the beginning. As his memory faded, the decade seemed to fall away. The presidency, the governorship, Hollywood sportscasting. Among his sharpest recollections was his youth in Illinois in chats with guests in his Los Angeles office and in bits of conversation with his family at home in Bel Air, Reagan would talk about learning to read newspapers on the front porch with his mother about playing with his older brother Neil, about setting off for the picture perfect little campus of Eureka College.
And there were his early days on the Rock River, where he swam in the summers and ice skated in the winter. A picture of the river hung in his retirement office in Century City, and visitors would ask him about it again and again.
He would tell the story. You know, that's where I used to be a lifeguard. I saved 77 lives. There had been a log, he went on, where he carved a notch for every swimmer he rescued.
It was obviously an important part of his life, something he cherished. An aide recalled being a lifeguard was ever present in his memory. The image lingered when everything else was disappearing.
The lifeguard would grow up to seduce and shape America. When Reagan became president in January 1981, the country was suffering from what his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, described as a crisis of confidence. After triumph in World War two and the boom of the 1950s, postwar American optimism seemed to peak just before John F.. Kennedy's assassination. After Dallas came Vietnam, then Watergate. On Carter's watch, inflation spiked, deficits soared, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and Islamic militants took 52 U.S. diplomats hostage in Iran.
Serious people began to wonder whether the presidency was too big a job for any one person.
We've never made progress in this country in the last two hundred and four years by weakness or cowardice about avoiding an issue just because it was difficult. And when we faced the energy problem and when we tried to do something about high interest rates, we would try to do something about inflation or unemployment or trade. That's not a sign of weakness.
It's a sign of strength. So don't be concerned about the United States of America.
Then along came Ronald Reagan, nearly 70, the emotionally distant son of an alcoholic Midwestern shoe salesman and a pious theatrical mother, a former movie actor who gave his only critically acclaimed performance before Pearl Harbor. He was a sunny Californian who amiably ducked his head while talking tough on bureaucracy at home and on communism abroad.
Pushing the nation's political conversation to the right, we must put an end to the arrogance of a federal establishment which accepts no blame for our condition, cannot be relied upon to give us a fair estimate of our situation and utterly refuses to live within its means. I will not accept the supposed wisdom which has it that the federal bureaucracy has become so powerful that it can no longer be changed or controlled by any administration. As president, I would use every power at my command to make the federal establishment respond to the will and the collective wishes of the people.
We must force the entire federal bureaucracy to live in the real world of reduced spending, streamline function and accountability to the people it serves. What does 20-20 mean for small businesses? You have to do more with less suddenly every single hire is critical, but there are fewer resources to find the right people indeed is here to help. Indeed, Dotcom is the number one job site in the world because indeed gets you the best people fast, unlike other sites, indeed gives you full control and payment flexibility over your hiring.
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In the White House, Reagan proved a maddeningly contradictory figure, an eloquent advocate of traditional values, he divorced his first wife and was often estranged from his children. A fierce advocate of balanced budgets, he never proposed one, a dedicated anti-communist. He reached out to the Soviet Union and helped end the Cold War. An icon of buttoned down morality, he led an administration beleaguered by scandals, a man capable of nuanced thinking. He strongly believed in Armageddon.
You never get the feeling sometimes that if we don't do it now, if we let this be another Sodom and Gomorrah, but maybe we might be the generation that sees Armageddon.
He mangled facts, caricatured welfare recipients, opened his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in the county where three civil rights workers had been murdered for trying to overthrow Jim Crow.
Presided over a dark recession in 1982, 83 seemed uncaring about the emerging HIV AIDS crisis and in the Iran-Contra scandal, came perilously close to and may have committed impeachable offenses.
My fellow Americans, I thought long and often about how to explain to you what I intended to accomplish. But I respect you too much to make excuses. The fact of the matter is that there's nothing I can say that would make the situation right. I was stubborn in my pursuit of a policy that went astray.
Reagan then should have been a divisive politician, a man about whom the nation was closely and bitterly split. And while many people were consistently critical of him, Reagan still left office with a 63 percent approval rating. The roots of our own ages attack politics and ideological divisions lie in the Reagan years. Yet the man himself seemed to dwell just above the arena, escaping widespread political immunity. What was the secret? His personal gifts were enormous and helped smooth the rough edges of his rhetoric and of his policies.
I look back and think that as a reporter, I will never again cover a presidential candidate who won 44 states in his first election. Forty nine in his reelection.
This is the long time ABC News correspondent Ann Compton.
Ronald Reagan told us after his birthday. After his second inaugural, we said, Mr. President, what would you like for your birthday? He said Minnesota would be nice.
The one state he lost the American people so took to his optimism and his message and his personality that it was hard for reporters not to like the guy on a very personal level. Ronald Reagan on a one on one basis was incredibly generous and not only to strangers, he would write them checks when he heard of a hard luck case. I lay in a hospital bed on one of the busiest days of Ronald Reagan's presidency. The American embassy in Beirut had been blown up that our CIA section wiped out.
And I'm lying in a hospital bed in Washington, D.C., watching all of this on television and the phone rings. And it's President Reagan saying congratulations on the birth of your little daughter. And then I couldn't get him off the phone. There was a sense that he seemed to enjoy personal contact, whether it's the press or the general public.
Reagan was witty, eloquent and bold, wheeled into the operating room after being shot in the chest on March 30th, 1981, the president looked up at the doctors and murmured, Please tell me you're all Republicans coming to you. After the surgery, he whispered to Nancy, Honey, I forgot to duck. At the Brandenburg Gate in 1987, he stood in the heart of divided Berlin and cried, Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. And eventually it was gone when he left the presidency in 1989, the Soviet Union was on its way to what Reagan had called the ash heap of history. The American economy, though riven with deficits, hummed. He felt more at home in the White House than any president since FDR. His uncommon public grace and mastery of television in which he had made his living long before he entered politics, largely redefined the role of chief executive.
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 good byes, 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. But 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 eight 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 80s 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, freed a man, a small moment with a big meaning a moment. The sailor who wrote it in the letter couldn't get out of his mind. And when I saw it, neither could I. It was a fascinating switch in the, quote, elite view of Reagan in 1980 when he was running for president. A lot of know it alls in the press and I include myself in this thought. He was a dummkopf and he was just not that smart.
He wasn't clever. He was shallow. He was an actor. He was just faking it. That was so wrong.
This is the journalist, author and historian Evan Thomas.
And it was fascinating to watch the press come around. They did it in 1980. They were wrote a lot of stories about his verbal gaffes and how he made things up and his little slips. And there was a kind of sniggering and conceited laughter towards Reagan. The journalist soon had egg on their faces because it it turned out that one thing, he was inspirational country, really listen to him. And he was inspirational at a time when the country needed him.
In the early 80s, we were in a really bad recession. Inflation was high, unemployment was high, country was in a bad way. And we sort of lost our sense of purpose. The Iran hostage crisis was going on and and he had this way of lifting up Americans and the press.
It took him a while, took me a while. But the so-called elite press somewhat grudgingly got it. The audience loved him. Even his foes conceded his charm. His political strength, however, came from more than theatrics. For all his tough guy, go ahead, make my day rhetoric. Reagan was far more of a pragmatist than either his fans or his critics like to acknowledge. His words were stark, his deeds less so. In part, this can be traced to one of the little noticed eras of his long life, his years as president of the Screen Actors Guild in Hollywood, where, like all good union negotiators, he learned to make expansive, even excessive opening bids, knowing that in the end he would have to make a deal for less than what he had initially asked for.
And so the Soviet Union was an evil empire. In 1983, by nineteen eighty six, Reagan at Reykjavik would consider eliminating all nuclear weapons if he could keep his beloved yet impractical Star Wars space shield. And by nineteen eighty seven he had signed the first genuine arms reduction treaty in Cold War history. The old SAG president had gotten the contract he wanted.
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 rebuild our defenses. And this New Year, we toasted the new peacefulness around the globe. Not only of the superpowers actually begun to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons and hope for even more progress is bright. But the regional conflicts that wrecked the globe are also beginning to seize. The myth of the triumphant Gipper is a powerful one, but Reagan was more complex than his legend suggests.
The man on horseback who rode to the rescue of a dispirited country started out as a shy child, the Manichaean Cold Warrior was driven by a sentimental yearning for peace. The captivating charmer and public had little interest in the lives of other people and almost no close friends. You know, when he talks about in the farewell address about going buying a car and catching a child, waving to him and too late to do something about it, I immediately thought about his days sitting in the train, going across America as he was giving his speeches for GE.
This is the author and historian, Craig Shirley. When he signed the contract with GE, there was a portion in there which said he did not have to fly. He was a white knuckle flyers whole life. And as a matter of fact, he didn't fly for maybe almost 20 years from nineteen forty five to nineteen sixty five. I believe he was on a bond drive during World War Two. And it was a plane load full of Hollywood actors and actresses.
And they were landing in Chicago and it was a terrible snowstorm and they barely landed and he crawled out and kissed the ground as we are flying. This was such an important development because it gave him time that he otherwise wouldn't have had, because on those long, lonely train trips, as he was speaking at a G.E. factories in Syracuse or Batavia or Buffalo or Boston or all across the country, he took steamer trunks with him full of books and articles, and he would get a private compartment.
He didn't go to the the club car, knocked back drinks with the other businessmen to get a private car, and he would be there by himself for maybe three or four days on end as the train went its way across the country. And I think part of being on those trains was kind of a lonely experience, but also it was very, very a deepening experience. And I think also traveling across the length and width of America, he came to understand, especially the West, what freedom really meant to the American psyche, the spiritual, the real.
Reagan was a romantic at heart. He saw the world as a cosmic struggle between good and evil. But he did not think it would all end in doom and destruction. Quite the opposite. He fervently held that everything would turn out for the best and that he was destined to make it so. I think he was the first president since John Kennedy that a lot of Americans actually loved and they loved getting up in the morning knowing that Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States.
And there aren't many presidents who have that effect on the American psyche. I think certainly FDR, John Kennedy and Reagan. And going forward, I think there were some people who felt that way about President Obama. But these men are few and far between. They touch a fiber. They touch, for lack of a better phrase, the soul of America. They touch the psyche. And I think what strings all these men together is that they're all romantics.
And I think most people, most Americans are still romantics. And they believe that America is a great country because America is a good country.
The boy who had been a lifeguard in the 1920s became the man who believed he would save the world from both totalitarianism and nuclear war. He thought he could, by personal persuasion, convince Moscow that it was on the wrong side of history. He would talk of taking a Soviet prime minister on a helicopter tour over the republic, pointing out the backyard swimming pools and second cars and boats in ordinary Americans driveways. Reagan would say wistfully, If I can just get through to him about the difference between our two systems, I really think we could see big changes in the Soviet Union.
There it all was in that single bit of fantasy, a starring role and a dream of saving the 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 1980s 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.
He learned how to act and dream early on in the winter of nineteen twenty two, when Dutch was 11 years old, he found his father, Jack passed out on the front porch. He was drunk, dead to the world, Reagan recalled in his revealing 1965 memoir, Where's the Rest of Me? The boy's first instinct was to rearrange reality to pretend he wasn't there. Something else, though, began to stir and Reagan's heart. On that cold evening, he realized it was time to take charge.
Later, he understood this was his first moment of accepting responsibility. So instead of stepping over Jack Reagan and slipping into bed, leaving the problem to his mother or to his brother, Reagan saved his dad, he recalled. I bent over him, smelling the sharp odor of whiskey from the speakeasy. I got a fistful of his overcoat opening the door. I managed to drag him inside and get him to bed, and everything worked out, at least in Reagan's mind.
In a few days, he recalled. Jack was the bluff hardy man I knew and loved and will always remember. Confronted by a chaotic childhood, Reagan sought refuge in a world of legendary exploits.
This is not uncommon in the boy hoods of great men. Winston Churchill, long and painfully ignored by his parents, constructed an elaborate imaginary life as he grew up.
The future British prime minister collected thousands of toy soldiers and devoured stories of great English military heroes.
The young Reagan voraciously read Edgar Rice Burroughs Tales of Adventure in Outer Space Seeking Order. Reagan also joined his mother's church, The Disciples of Christ. Some very, very important about Reagan that people need to notice is that although he was Protestant, his father was Catholic, and I believe he Reagan grew up with what I call parish perspective, is that he rarely used, especially in his public speeches. He didn't use the pronouns I, me and my but rather we, us and ours.
Reagan spoke like a Catholic. And if you close your eyes, you can hear the faint memories of John Kennedy, this government, your government, our government. It was never my administration, my cabinet, my military. It was never first person. And Reagan, in his speech, even when he does get into kind of self-congratulatory, is still those kind of a modest thing where he talks about the Reagan revolution said, well, they call it that.
I'll accept that. But you could see that he was kind of uncomfortable with 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 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, 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.
Like any great speaker, Reagan was effective in part due to his delivery. A theatrical instinct which predated his acting career originating with his mother, who was an organizer of readings and performances in Illinois.
She urged him to declaim a speech one night before the local crowd. But the shy Duch was reluctant. Another streak in his character, his competitiveness, pushed him forward.
My brother had already given several and been a hit, Reagan recalled, so he would do it to summoning up my courage. I walked up to the stage that night, cleared my throat and made my theatrical debut, Reagan recalled. I don't remember what I said, but I'll never forget the response.
People laughed and applauded.
Suddenly, a new world opened before him on stage. Jack's drinking didn't matter and Reagan shyness, born of nearsightedness and his family's frequent moves melted away in the warmth of the audience's approval. That was a new experience for me, and I liked it, Reagan said. For a kid suffering childhood pangs of insecurity, the applause was music. He would spend the rest of his long life seeking to hear just those notes, first in Hollywood and then from Orange County to Red Square.
The delivery of a speech can be just as important as the speech itself. That's why I highly recommend checking out the art of public speaking on the great courses, plus because most of us have to speak in public at some point, get tips from the truly great, like Abraham Lincoln, who always respected his audience's sense of reason and its openness to argument, or Marie Curie, who explained the discovery of radium by telling a story, or Winston Churchill, who mastered the use of his voice and of his body to reinforce his opinions, plus many more.
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I want to tell you about another history podcast that explores how moments in history continue to shape our world today. History This Week is a podcast that explores events big and small, that change the course of history. And one episode, you'll find out how a flood of molasses changed public policy forever. In another, you'll hear profound stories of the human spirit from Holocaust survivors themselves. History this week comes out every Monday. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.
What drove him what gave him the serenity and sense of security to force himself forward through life's storms with a smile and a wave?
Partly it was his belief that he was destined to become one of the heroes he loved to read about, a hero for whom everything would work out. Reagan went from strength to strength.
He had an unreliable father, but succeeded in high school and college. He entered the wider world in the depths of the Depression, but found jobs with comparative ease. He lost to loves, but in 1952 married Nancy Davis, a woman who became his anchor. His movie career sputtered, but he made a living in television.
He then spent eight years as a genial visitor in Americans living rooms every Sunday night as the host of General Electric Theater. Progress put him out of a job bonanza, a color Western swamped his black and white show in 1962 for the first time since he had stepped in front of his mother's theatrical group. As a child, Reagan was looking for a role. He found one in politics by his own account, he had idolized FDR during the 1930s and he had campaigned for Harry Truman, but anticommunism, high taxes.
And while he was working for GE, worries about government regulation pushed Reagan to the right. In October 1964, Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign was going nowhere and the National Republican Party asked Reagan to give a half hour national address. Viewed today, decades later, he seems so young, so crisp, so sure of himself and of his beliefs. 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. He wouldn't change much in the ensuing twenty five years of his public life, Lyndon Johnson crushed Goldwater. But in nineteen sixty six, a group of California moneymen bankrolled a Reagan campaign for governor against the formidable Democratic incumbent, Edmund Pat Brown.
Brown was the first politician to make a mistake. Many others would repeat he underestimated Ronald Reagan, the Gipper. He couldn't resist adopting his screen persona from Newt Rockne. All American was an emblem and an architect of a new force in American politics. The rise of the suburban conservatives. In nineteen sixty eight, he nearly stopped Nixon's nomination in Miami. After less than two years as governor, he would spend the next few years honing his message and building toward another run for the White House.
Like many political coalitions, Reagan's was eclectic. He brought together country club Republicans interested in lower taxes, evangelical Christians and traditional Democrats disaffected by the chaos of the 1960s, and especially in the South, he would inherit the fruits of Nixon's southern strategy of coded racial appeals. Yet Reagan didn't want a wall. He believed in America as a refuge for those seeking to escape the Iron Curtain. He was about hope, not fear.
And that's another reason the farewell address should be more widely appreciated.
It's a kind of final testament of an American president who had a genuine faith in the future. Reagan was a practical man, and he knew, as he put it, 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 be ours or so we can hope. His last words on that long ago Wednesday bear hearing and pondering. 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 on 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, pilgram and 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, windswept God, blessed and teeming with people of all kinds, living in harmony and peace, a city with 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 is 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 returning to the darkness toward home. They hurtled through that darkness, even now, Reagan would have us light the lamp and open our arms, for that's what cities on a hill do. On the next episode of it was said a demagogic politician, exaggerated claims, an insatiable thirst for attention and controversy, a national climate of fear and anxiety.
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