Ronald Reagan

president of the United States from 1981 to 1989

Ronald Wilson Reagan (6 February 19115 June 2004) was an American politician and actor, who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Prior to his presidency, he served as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 to 1975, following a career as a Hollywood actor and union leader. He was the husband of Jane Wyman (1940–1949) and Nancy Davis (married in 1952).

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.

QuotesEdit

 
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
 
So much of our profession is taken up with pretending ... that an actor must spend at least half his waking hours in fantasy.

1960sEdit

 
Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.
 
There's no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.
 
It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.
  • Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.  We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream.  The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it, and then hand it to them with the well fought lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same.  And if you and I don't do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free.
    • Address to the annual meeting of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce (30 March 1961)
    • Later variant: 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.
  • Shouldn't someone tag Mr. Kennedy's "bold new imaginative" program with its proper age? Under the tousled boyish haircut it is still old Karl Marx — first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a government being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his "State Socialism" and way before him it was "benevolent monarchy."
    • In a 1960 letter to the GOP presidential candidate Richard Nixon, quoted in Matthew Dallek's The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan's First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics (2000), p. 38
  • 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.
    • Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine (1961 LP)
  • We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry every night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.
    • Televised speech (27 October 1964), cited in Reagan's Reign of Error (1983) by Mark Green
  • It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas.
    • As quoted in The Fresno Bee (10 October 1965)
  • I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at the point of a bayonet, if necessary.
    • As quoted in The Los Angeles Times (20 October 1965)
  • Some seem to forget that I’ve worked with those on movies and television. I warn you. Television may be exciting, but always take what you watch or read with a grain of salt. The more extreme these people act, the more money they make. They don’t care about us. You should always do your own research using verified primary sources. Editorials or articles published can be exciting, but they are seldom the truth. This country will eventually be destroyed for the sake of a paycheck.
  • So much of our profession is taken up with pretending ... that an actor must spend at least half his waking hours in fantasy.
  • Every morning Nancy and I turn to see what he has to say about people of our respective birth signs.
    • Regarding his friend Hollywood astrologer Carroll Righter, in Where's the Rest of Me? (1965)
  • I would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
    • As quoted in Los Angeles Times (17 June 1966)
  • A tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?
    • Opposing expansion of Redwood National Park, as quoted in Sacramento Bee (3 March 1966)
  • Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.
    • Joke during his 1965 campaign for Governor of California, as quoted by Leo E. Litwak 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 sense of responsibility at the other.
      • As quoted in The Reagan Wit (1981) by Bill Adler, p. 30
  • I have a feeling that we are doing better in the war [in Vietnam] than the people have been told.
    • As quoted in Los Angeles Times (16 October 1967)
  • We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.
    • Speech at the Republican National Convention, Platform Committee Meeting, Miami, Florida" (31 July 1968)
  • No Republican, no matter how liberal, is going to woo a Democratic vote; but a Republican bucking the giveaway trend might re-create some voters who have been staying home.
    • 1960 Letter from Reagan to Richard Nixon, As quoted in The New York Times (27 October 1984) [1]

A Time for Choosing (1964)Edit

A Time for Choosing (27 October 1964) This was a televised speech in support of the presidential campaign of Senator Barry Goldwater; often referred to as "The Speech" which launched Reagan's career as a politician. Reagan gave other versions of this speech throughout the country, at various points during the Goldwater campaign.
 
You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down...
 
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.
  • I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another course. I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines.
  • As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean peace, or do they mean we just want to be left in peace? There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We're at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it's been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well I think it's time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.
  • If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth. And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election. Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.
  • 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 are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down — up to a man's age-old dream; the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.
  • Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us that they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he will forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers.
  • They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer — not an easy answer — but simple.
    • In some published transcripts or quotations of this speech a variant of this statement appears immediately before the quote by Churchill below, but was not said during Reagan's televised address on (27 October 1964). Though he did make variations of the speech elsewhere it is unclear exactly when and where he may have said used these precise words:
They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.
  • Later variant: For many years now, you and I have been shushed like children and told there are no simple answers to the complex problems which are beyond our comprehension. Well, the truth is, there are simple answers, they just are not easy ones.
  • Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one." Let's set the record straight. There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace — and you can have it in the next second — surrender.
  • Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow other than this [surrender], but every lesson in history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face — that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight and surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand — the ultimatum. And what then? When Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we are retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary because by that time we will have weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he has heard voices pleading for "peace at any price" or "better Red than dead," or as one commentator put it, he would rather "live on his knees than die on his feet." And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don't speak for the rest of us. You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin — just in the face of this enemy?
  • The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, it's a simple answer after all. 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. We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.

1970sEdit

 
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...
 
The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom.
 
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.
 
Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.
 
A troubled and afflicted mankind looks to us, pleading for us to keep our rendezvous with destiny; that we will uphold the principles of self-reliance, self-discipline, morality, and, above all, responsible liberty for every individual that we will become that shining city on a hill.
  • Welfare's purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence.
    • Interview, Los Angeles Times (7 January 1970)
  • Balancing the budget is like protecting your virtue , you have to learn how to say no.
  • The demography of happiness, in this study the government found out that young people are happier than old people, and they found out that people that earn more are happier than people that earn less, and they found out that well people are happier than sick people... It took $249,000 to find out that it's better to be rich, young and healthy than old, poor and sick.
    • On US government spending. Interview on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on 01/03/1975 as shown on YouTube The Tonight Show video
  • If it's to be a bloodbath, let it be now. Appeasement is not the answer.
    • On what to do about student disruptions at UC Berkeley, quoted in the Los Angeles Times (8 April 1970); shortly thereafter, Reagan said: "I certainly don't think there should be a bloodbath on campus or anywhere else. It was just a figure of speech." as quoted by United Press International (8 April 1970)
  • 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.
    • Address to the Republican State Central Committee Convention (7 September 1973)
  • 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 ensure 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.
    • Interview published in Reason (1 July 1975)
  • Right now our main effort is directed toward oxides of nitrogen which comes out of automobile tail pipe and cause the photochemical reactions which color the air a muddy brown. There is no question they are a problem in areas like L.A. where we have a more or less constant temperature inversion trapping the air. But Dr. [John] McKetta lists the findings in his field as his no. 3 shock & surprise. Nature it seems also produces oxides of nitrogen. As a matter of fact nature produces 97% of them.
    • Radio commentary (August 1975)
  • 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.
    • Column published in Guns and Ammo (1 September 1975)
  • 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."
    • Time (17 May 1976); Reagan adviser Jude Wanniski has indicated that, in 1933, New Dealers as well as much of the world admired Mussolini's success in avoiding the Great Depression
  • 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.
    • Nationally televised address (6 July 1976)
  • Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.
    • Remarks at a business conference in Los Angeles (2 March 1977)
  • When the commander in chief of a nation finds it necessary to order employees of the government or agencies of the government to do things that would technically break the law, he has to be able to declare it legal in order for them to do that.
  • The smoke from burning marijuana contains many more cancer-causing substances than tobacco. And if that isn't enough it leads to bronchitis and emphysema. If adults want to take such chances that is their business. But surely the communications media ... should let four million youngsters know what they are risking.
    • Taped statement (August 1979); Reagan is on record as opposing legalization of Marijuana: "I also want to applaud you for helping the people of Oregon fight a misguided minority that would legalize marijuana. That would be the worst possible message to send to our young people." Speech (30 July 1986); Reagan's son Michael has disputed the fervor of his opposition: "Of course Dad was for legalization. … He wasn't crazy, he didn't want his kids in jail!"
  • I realize there is a great lack of information about what I did as governor of California and it increases the farther east you go. As a result of this, I know that the minority community has an impression that I have little or no interest in their problems. When I became governor I discovered that after eight years of liberal Democratic rule in Sacramento, very little outside of rhetoric had been done for the minorities. The civil service regulations were such that it was virtually impossible for a black employee of state government to rise above the very lowest job levels. We got those rules changed.
  • My first few years as governor were during the period when people talked of long hot summers to come. We had had the Watts riots just prior to my taking office and racial tensions were very high. Without informing the press, I traveled up and down the state meeting with minority groups and leaders, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in headquarters they had in various community projects. I wanted to know firsthand what their problems were, what was on their minds, and what we could do to change things.
  • They tell us we must learn to live with less, and teach our children that their lives will be less full and prosperous than ours have been; that the America of the coming years will be a place where — because of our past excesses — it will be impossible to dream and make those dreams come true. I don't believe that. And, I don't believe you do either. That is why I am seeking the presidency. I cannot and will not stand by and see this great country destroy itself. Our leaders attempt to blame their failures on circumstances beyond their control, on false estimates by unknown, unidentifiable experts who rewrite modern history in an attempt to convince us our high standard of living, the result of thrift and hard work, is somehow selfish extravagance which we must renounce as we join in sharing scarcity. I don't agree that our nation must resign itself to inevitable decline, yielding its proud position to other hands. I am totally unwilling to see this country fail in its obligation to itself and to the other free peoples of the world.
  • A troubled and afflicted mankind looks to us, pleading for us to keep our rendezvous with destiny; that we will uphold the principles of self-reliance, self-discipline, morality, and, above all, responsible liberty for every individual that we will become that shining city on a hill.
  • If Fascism Ever Comes to America, It Will Come in the Name of Liberalism.
    • 1975 interview with journalist Mike Wallace. (Excerpts from full interview were broadcasted on 60 Minutes on December 14, 1975.)

1980sEdit

 
I believe with all my heart that our first priority must be world peace, and that use of force is always and only a last resort, when everything else has failed, and then only with regard to our national security.
  • All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.
    • As quoted in Burlington Free Press [Vermont] (15 February 1980)
  • And I have to point out that government doesn't tax to get the money it needs, government always needs the money it gets.
    • Bush-Reagan Debate 1980 on Taxes at League of Women Voters. (24 April 1980) · video footage
  • Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.
    • As cited in The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World (2007), Alan Greenspan, Penguin Press, Chapter 4 (Private Citizen), p. 87 : ISBN 15942 01315
  • [Evolution] has in recent years been challenged in the world of science and is not yet believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was believed. But if it was going to be taught in the schools, then I think that also the biblical theory of creation, which is not a theory but the biblical story of creation, should also be taught.
    • Press conference at evangelical event in Dallas, Texas. (22 August 1980)
  • Approximately 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation. So let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards for man-made sources.
    • Ronald Reagan, Sierra (10 September 1980)
  • With regard to the freedom of the individual for choice with regard to abortion, there's one individual who's not being considered at all. That's the one who is being aborted. And I've noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.
  • I have flown twice over Mount St. Helens. I'm not a scientist and I don't know the figures, but I have a suspicion that one little mountain out there, in these last several months, has probably released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind.
    • Ronald Reagan, Time magazine (20 October 1980)
  • There you go again. When I opposed Medicare, there was another piece of legislation meeting the same problem before the Congress. I happened to favor the other piece of legislation and thought that it would be better for the senior citizens to provide better care than the one that was finally passed.
    • Presidential debate, in response to criticism by Carter about Reagan's position on Medicare (28 October 1980)
  • Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls, will stand there in the polling place and make a decision. I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?
  • I believe with all my heart that our first priority must be world peace, and that use of force is always and only a last resort, when everything else has failed, and then only with regard to our national security.

First term of office (1981–1985)Edit

 
Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means.
 
With the destructive power of today's weapons, keeping the peace is not just a goal; it's a sacred obligation. But maintaining peace requires more than sincerity and idealism — more than optimism and good will. As you know well, peace is a product of hard, strenuous labor by those dedicated to its preservation. It requires realism, not wishful thinking.
 
Abraham Lincoln freed the black man. In many ways, Dr. King freed the white man...
 
The only way there could be war is if they start it; we're not going to start a war.
 
This nation fought a terrible war so that black Americans would be guaranteed their God-given rights. Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some could decide whether others should be free or slaves.
 
These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.
 
We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.
  • To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale.
    As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever.
    Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.
    Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.
  • Those [mujahideen] are freedom fighters. Those are people fighting for their own country and not wanting to become a satellite state of the Soviet Union, which came in and established a government of its choosing there, without regard to the feelings of the Afghans.
  • Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.
    • Remarks at the National Conference of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO (30 March 1981)) (source: [2])
  • Honey, I forgot to duck.
    • To his wife, Nancy, while in hospital shortly after he was shot in an assassination attempt (30 March 1981). Reagan is believed to have been quoting the words of boxer Jack Dempsey to his wife after he lost to Gene Tunney in 1926. [3]
  • I hope you're all Republican.
    • Speaking to surgeons as he entered the operating room following a 1981 assassination attempt.[4] To which Dr. Joseph Giordano replied, "We're all Republicans today." An alternative version has Reagan saying "Please tell me you're Republicans." (30 March 1981)
  • This is not the time for political fun and games. This is the time for a new beginning. I ask you now to put aside any feelings of frustration or helplessness about our political institutions and join me in this dramatic but responsible plan to reduce the enormous burden of Federal taxation on you and your family.
  • I never knew anything above Cs.
    • Describing his academic record to Barbara Walters (27 November 1981), cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty.
  • We don't have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven't taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.
    • Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1982


  • I was going to have an opening statement, but I decided that what I was going to say I wanted to get a lot of attention, so I'm going to wait and leak it.
    • News Conference January 19, 1982 [5]
  • Every country and every people has a stake in the Afghan resistance, for the freedom fighters of Afghanistan are defending principles of independence and freedom that form the basis of global security and stability.
  • From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than thirty years to establish their legitimacy. But none — not one regime — has yet been able to risk free elections. Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root....If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly....Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that's now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated.
  • Yes, because for many years I was a Democrat.
    • Response to Sam Donaldson (September 1982), on whether he shared any blame for the ongoing recession
  • By outlawing Solidarity, a free trade organization to which an overwhelming majority of Polish workers and farmers belong, they have made it clear that they never had any intention of restoring one of the most elemental human rights—the right to belong to a free trade union.
  • Well, I learned a lot. ... You'd be surprised. They're all individual countries.
  • Abraham Lincoln freed the black man. In many ways, Dr. King freed the white man. How did he accomplish this tremendous feat? Where others — white and black — preached hatred, he taught the principles of love and nonviolence. We can be so thankful that Dr. King raised his mighty eloquence for love and hope rather than for hostility and bitterness. He took the tension he found in our nation, a tension of injustice, and channeled it for the good of America and all her people.
  • Ben if only it were possible to look into each other's hearts and minds, you would find no trace of prejudice or bigotry in mine. I know that's hard for you to believe and that's too bad because together we could do more for the people you represent than either of us can do alone.
  • Prejudice is not a failing peculiar to one race, it can and does exist in people of every race and ethnic background. It takes individual effort to root it out of one's heart. In my case my father and mother saw that it never got a start. I shall be forever grateful to them.
  • Let us be aware that while they [the Soviet leadership] preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.
    • Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (8 March 1983)
  • So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.
    • Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (8 March 1983)
  • One hundred nations in the UN have not agreed with us on just about everything that's come before them, where we're involved, and it didn't upset my breakfast at all.
  • This country now possesses the strongest credit in the world. The full consequences of a default or even the serious prospect of default by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and on the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The Nation can ill afford to allow such a result. The risks, the cost, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion: the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns.
  • I've been frustrated and angered by the attempts to paint me as a racist and as lacking in compassion for the poor. On the one subject I was raised by a mother and father who instilled in me and my brother a hatred for bigotry and prejudice, long before there was such a thing as a civil rights movement. As for the poor, we were poor in an era when there were no government programs to turn to. I'm well aware of how lucky I've been since and how good the Lord has been to me.
  • The only way there could be war is if they start it; we're not going to start a war.
    • Declaring what he would tell Yuri Andropov, head of the Soviet Union, were he in the room; in an interview for People magazine (12 June 1983)
  • If the big spenders get their way, they'll charge everything on your "Taxpayers Express Card." And believe me, they never leave home without it.
    • Remarks at the Annual Conservative Political Action Conference Dinner [7][8] (Speech delivered varies slightly from transcript) (2 March 1984)
  • Not to the extent of throwing up my hands and saying, "Well, it's all over." No. I think whichever generation and at whatever time, when the time comes, the generation that is there, I think will have to go on doing what they believe is right.
    • Answer to question about whether he's mused about Armageddon.Interview for People magazine (12 June 1983)
  • Until now has there ever been a time in which so many of the prophecies are coming together? There have been times in the past when people thought the end of the world was coming, and so forth, but never anything like this.
    • Ronald Reagan (6 December 1983), cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I'm in a cabinet meeting.
    • Said often during his presidency (1981–1989)
  • America's recovery may have taken Soviet leaders by surprise. They may have counted on us to keep weakening ourselves. They've been saying for years that our demise was inevitable.
  • Neither we nor the Soviet Union can wish away the differences between our two societies and our philosophies, but we should always remember that we do have common interests.
  • Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.
  • I know what I'm about to say now is controversial, but I have to say it. This nation cannot continue turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the taking of some 4,000 unborn children's lives every day. That's one every 21 seconds. One every 21 seconds. We cannot pretend that America is preserving her first and highest ideal, the belief that each life is sacred, when we've permitted the deaths of 15 million helpless innocents since the Roe versus Wade decision. 15 million children who will never laugh, never sing, never know the joy of human love, will never strive to heal the sick, feed the poor, or make peace among nations. Abortion has denied them the first and most basic of human rights. We are all infinitely poorer for their loss. There's another grim truth we should face up to: Medical science doctors confirm that when the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing. This nation fought a terrible war so that black Americans would be guaranteed their God-given rights. Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some could decide whether others should be free or slaves. Well, today another question begs to be asked: How can we survive as a free nation when some decide that others are not fit to live and should be done away with? I believe no challenge is more important to the character of America than restoring the right to life to all human beings. Without that right, no other rights have meaning. "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of God." I will continue to support every effort to restore that protection including the Hyde-Jepsen respect life bill. I've asked for your all-out commitment, for the mighty power of your prayers, so that together we can convince our fellow countrymen that America should, can, and will preserve God's greatest gift.
  • What we have found in this country, and maybe we're more aware of it now, is one problem that we've had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice.
    • Defending himself against charges of callousness on Good Morning America(31 January 1984), cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.
    • Joke at the Gridiron Club annual dinner (24 March 1984)
  • You'd be surprised how much being a good actor pays off.
    • Responding to a question from students at Shanghai's University of Fudan as to which experiences best prepared him for the presidency (30 April 1984), cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • My great-grandfather left here in a time of stress, seeking to better himself and his family. From what I'm told, we were a poor family. But my ancestors took with them a treasure, an indomitable spirit that was cultivated in the rich soil of this county. And today I come back to you as a descendant of people who are buried here in paupers' graves.
  • My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.
    • Joking during a microphone check. The joke was later leaked to the general populace and, upon learning of it, Soviet defenses went on high alert. [9][10] (11 August 1984)
  • Recognizing the equality of all men and women, we are willing and able to lift the weak, cradle those who hurt, and nurture the bonds that tie us together as one nation under God.
    • Address accepting the Republican presidential nomination (23 August 1984)
  • America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in songs of a man so many young Americans admire -- New Jersey's own, Bruce Springsteen.

  • I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.
  • If I still have time, I might add, Mr. Trewhitt, I might add that it was Seneca or it was Cicero, I don't know which, that said, If it was not for the elders correcting the mistakes of the young, there would be no state.
    • Reagan followed up his previous reply with this comment to Baltimore Sun reporter Henry Trewhitt question on Regan´s age and ability to perform the duties as president Debate with Walter Mondale (21 October 1984)
  • If you read the letter, you will find there is nothing wrong with it.
    • Commenting on a letter that Reagan had written to Richard Nixon in 1960 regarding John F. Kennedy, as quoted in The New York Times (27 October 1984). The letter to Nixon said: "Unfortunately, he is a powerful speaker with an appeal to the emotions. He leaves little doubt that his idea of the 'challenging new world' is one in which the Federal Government will grow bigger and do more and of course spend more....One last thought — shouldn't someone tag Mr. Kennedy's bold new imaginative program with its proper age? Under the tousled boyish haircut is still old Karl Marx — first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a Government being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his 'State Socialism' and way before him it was 'benevolent monarchy.'"
  • We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson [of the Holocaust], for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.
  • The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today. The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called "universal jurisdiction." Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.
First Inaugural address (1981)Edit
Washington, D. C. (20 January 1981) - Full text online at American Rhetoric
 
In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle...
 
It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams.
  • To a few of us here today this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.
  • If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay the price.
  • It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We're 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're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look.
    • The third and fourth sentences are a paraphrase of a sentence by G. K. Chesterton: "I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act." Generally Speaking (PDF) (1929), "XX. On Holland", p. 131.
  • Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.
  • 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're not bound by that same limitation? We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow.
  • In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've 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. Well, 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.
    • Some sources indicate the phrase 'government is the problem' was not part of the speech. (E.g. yale.edu). Live recordings of the address demonstrate that Reagan did indeed use the phrase in question. See Ronald Reagan: First Inaugural Address; start at 6:08
  • 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 my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.
    Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work-work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it. 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.
  • Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man, George Washington, father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led Americans out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence. And then, beyond the Reflecting Pool, the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.
    Beyond those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery, with its row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses or Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom. Each one of those markers is a monument to the kind of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, the Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.
    Under one such marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow, who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.
    We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, "My Pledge," he had written these words: "America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone."
    The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds, to believe that together with God's help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And after all, why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans.
Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation (1983)Edit
Full text online
 
We must all educate ourselves to the reality of the horrors taking place.
  • Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution. No serious scholar, including one disposed to agree with the Court's result, has argued that the framers of the Constitution intended to create such a right.
  • The decision by the seven-man majority in Roe v. Wade has so far been made to stick. But the Court's decision has by no means settled the debate. Instead, Roe v. Wade has become a continuing prod to the conscience of the nation.
  • We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life — the unborn — without diminishing the value of all human life.
  • If you don't know whether a body is alive or dead, you would never bury it. I think this consideration itself should be enough for all of us to insist on protecting the unborn.
  • The real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life?
  • The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother's body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being.
  • Regrettably, we live at a time when some persons do not value all human life. They want to pick and choose which individuals have value.
  • As a nation, we must choose between the sanctity of life ethic and the "quality of life" ethic. I have no trouble identifying the answer our nation has always given to this basic question, and the answer that I hope and pray it will give in the future.
  • As a nation today, we have not rejected the sanctity of human life. The American people have not had an opportunity to express their view on the sanctity of human life in the unborn. I am convinced that Americans do not want to play God with the value of human life. It is not for us to decide who is worthy to live and who is not. Even the Supreme Court's opinion in Roe v. Wade did not explicitly reject the traditional American idea of intrinsic worth and value in all human life; it simply dodged this issue.
  • We must all educate ourselves to the reality of the horrors taking place. Doctors today know that unborn children can feel a touch within the womb and that they respond to pain.
  • Late-term abortions, especially when the baby survives, but is then killed by starvation, neglect, or suffocation, show once again the link between abortion and infanticide. The time to stop both is now.
  • It is possible that the Supreme Court itself may overturn its abortion rulings. We need only recall that in Brown v. Board of Education the court reversed its own earlier "separate-but-equal" decision.
  • As we continue to work to overturn Roe v. Wade, we must also continue to lay the groundwork for a society in which abortion is not the accepted answer to unwanted pregnancy. Pro-life people have already taken heroic steps, often at great personal sacrifice, to provide for unwed mothers.
  • We will never recognize the true value of our own lives until we affirm the value in the life of others.
  • We cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide. My Administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land, and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning.
Address on the Strategic Defense Initiative (1983)Edit
 
The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights.
 
Since the dawn of the atomic age, we have sought to reduce the risk of war by maintaining a strong deterrent and by seeking genuine arms control.
 
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.
Address to the Nation on Defense and National Security — the "Star Wars" speech (23 March 1983)
  • There is no logical way that you can say let's spend X billion dollars less. You can only say, which part of our defense measures do we believe we can do without and still have security against all contingencies? Anyone in the Congress who advocates a percentage or specific dollar cut in defense spending should be made to say what part of our defenses he would eliminate, and he should be candid enough to acknowledge that his cuts mean cutting our commitments to allies or inviting greater risk or both.
  • The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression — to preserve freedom and peace.
    Since the dawn of the atomic age, we have sought to reduce the risk of war by maintaining a strong deterrent and by seeking genuine arms control. Deterrence means simply this: Making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States or our allies or our vital interests concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won't attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.
    This strategy of deterrence has not changed. It still works. But what it takes to maintain deterrence has changed. It took one kind of military force to deter an attack when we had far more nuclear weapons than any other power; it takes another kind now that the Soviets, for example, have enough accurate and powerful nuclear weapons to destroy virtually all of our missiles on the ground. Now this is not to say that the Soviet Union is planning to make war on us. Nor do I believe a war is inevitable — quite the contrary. But what must be recognized is that our security is based on being prepared to meet all threats.
    There was a time when we depended on coastal forts and artillery batteries because, with the weaponry of that day, any attack would have had to come by sea. Well, this is a different world and our defenses must be based on recognition and awareness of the weaponry possessed by other nations in the nuclear age.
    We can't afford to believe that we will never be threatened. There have been two world wars in my lifetime. We didn't start them and, indeed, did everything we could to avoid being drawn into them. But we were ill-prepared for both — had we been better prepared, peace might have been preserved.
    The Soviet Buildup For 20 years, the Soviet Union has been accumulating enormous military might. They didn't stop when their forces exceeded all requirements of a legitimate defensive capability. And they haven't stopped now.
  • Some people may still ask: Would the Soviets ever use their formidable military power? Well, again, can we afford to believe they won't? There is Afghanistan, and in Poland, the Soviets denied the will of the people and, in so doing, demonstrated to the world how their military power could also be used to intimidate.
    The final fact is that the Soviet Union is acquiring what can only be considered an offensive military force. They have continued to build far more intercontinental ballistic missiles than they could possibly need simply to deter an attack. Their conventional forces are trained and equipped not so much to defend against an attack as they are to permit sudden, surprise offensives of their own.
  • 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.

Second term of office (1985–1989)Edit

 
I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers: Go ahead, make my day.
 
The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted. It belongs to the brave.
 
We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them — this morning, as they prepared for their journey, and waved goodbye, and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."
 
Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
 
Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity.
 
Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things.
 
A great many reputable scientists are telling us that such a [nuclear] war could just end up in no victory for anyone because we would wipe out the earth as we know it.
 
Blood that has soaked into the sands of a beach is all of one color... Not in spite of but because of our polyglot background, we have had all the strength in the world. That is the American way.
 
America stands unique in the world: the only country not founded on race but on a way, an ideal.
  • A great many reputable scientists are telling us that such a [nuclear] war could just end up in no victory for anyone because we would wipe out the earth as we know it. And if you think back to a couple of natural calamities—back in the last century, in the 1800’s, just natural phenomena from earthquakes, or, I mean, volcanoes—we saw the weather so changed that there was snow in July in many temperate countries. And they called it the year in which there was no summer. Now if one volcano can do that, what are we talking about with the whole nuclear exchange, the nuclear winter that scientists have been talking about?
  • I intend to go right on appointing highly qualified individuals of the highest personal integrity to the bench, individuals who understand the danger of short-circuiting the electoral process and disenfranchising the people through judicial activism.
  • We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them — this morning, as they prepared for their journey, and waved good-bye, and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."
  • We're going forward with research on a new Orient Express that could, by the end of the decade, take off from Dulles Airport, accelerate up to 25 times the speed of sound, attaining low Earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours.
  • With over a billion dollars in Soviet-bloc aid, the Communist government of Nicaragua has launched a campaign to subvert and topple its democratic neighbors. Using Nicaragua as a base, the Soviets and Cubans can become the dominant power in the crucial corridor between North and South America. Established there, they will be in a position to threaten the Panama Canal, interdict our vital Caribbean sealanes, and, ultimately, move against Mexico. [...] Clearly, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact have grasped the great stakes involved, the strategic importance of Nicaragua. The Soviets have made their decision -- to support the Communists. Fidel Castro has made his decision -- to support the Communists. Arafat, Qadhafi, and the Ayatollah Khomeini have made their decision -- to support the Communists.
  • Today we have done what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again. It gives me no pleasure to say that, and I wish it were otherwise... When our citizens are abused or attacked anywhere in the world on the direct orders of a hostile regime, we will respond so long as I'm in this Oval Office. Self-defense is not only our right; it is our duty... Despite our repeated warnings, Qadhafi continued his reckless policy of intimidation, his relentless pursuit of terror. He counted on America to be passive. He counted wrong.
  • I have never given a litmus test to anyone that I have appointed to the bench.... I feel very strongly about those social issues, but I also place my confidence in the fact that the one thing that I do seek are judges that will interpret the law and not write the law. We've had too many examples in recent years of courts and judges legislating. They're not interpreting what the law says and whether someone has violated it or not. In too many instances, they have been actually legislating by legal decree what they think the law should be, and that I don't go for. And I think that the two men that we're just talking about here, Rehnquist and Scalia, are interpreters of the Constitution and the law.
  • The other day, someone told me the difference between a democracy and a people's democracy. It's the same difference between a jacket and a straitjacket.
  • The charge has been made that the United States has shipped weapons to Iran as ransom payment for the release of American hostages in Lebanon, that the United States undercut its allies and secretly violated American policy against trafficking with terrorists.... Those charges are utterly false.... We did not — repeat — did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we.
    • television address (13 November 1986)
  • The simple truth is, 'I don't remember — period.'
  • A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.
  • 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!
  • It's reported that John Adams' last words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives." History tells us, however, that Jefferson had died shortly before John Adams passed away. But Adams was right. All of us stand in tribute to the truth of those words. We proclaim it again and again with our dedication to keeping this a land of liberty and justice for all, and through our deeds and actions, to ensure that this country remains a bastion of freedom, the last best hope for mankind. As long as a love of liberty is emblazoned on our hearts, Jefferson lives.
  • Thomas Jefferson dreamed of a land of small farmers, of shop owners and merchants. Abraham Lincoln signed into law the “Homestead Act” that ensured that the great western prairies of America would be the realm of independent, property-owning citizens-a mightier guarantee of freedom is difficult to imagine.
    I know we have with us today employee-owners from La Perla Plantation in Guatemala. They have a stake in the place where they work and a stake in the freedom of their country. When Communist guerrillas came, these proud owners protected what belonged to them. They drove the Communists off their land and I know you join me in saluting their courage.
    In this century, the United States has evolved into a great industrial power. Even though they are now, by and large, employees, our working people still benefit from property ownership. Most of our citizens own the homes in which they reside. In the marketplace, they benefit from direct and indirect business ownership. There are currently close to 10 million self-employed workers in the U.S.-nearly 9 percent of total civilian employment. And, millions more hope to own a business some day. Furthermore, over 47 million individuals reap the rewards of free enterprise through stock ownership in the vast number of companies listed on U. S. stock exchanges.
    I can't help but believe that in the future we will see in the United States and throughout the western world an increasing trend toward the next logical step, employee ownership. It is a path that befits a free people.
  • Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?
  • Diplomacy, of course, is a subtle and nuanced craft, so much so that it's said that when the most wily diplomat of the nineteenth-century passed away, other diplomats asked, on reports of his death, "What do you suppose the old fox meant by that?"
  • Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuous revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions.
  • You can't be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy.
    • Campaign rally for V.P. George H.W. Bush, San Diego California (7 November 1988), as quoted in Common Sense of an Uncommon Man, Thomas Nelson Inc. (2014), Jim Denney & Michael Reagan, 'Bureaucracy and Bureaucrats'
  • Americans ... are not going to tolerate intimidation, terror and outright acts of war against this nation and its people. And we are especially not going to tolerate these attacks from outlaw states run by the strangest collection of misfits, Looney Tunes and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich ... There can be no place on earth where it is safe for these monsters to rest,or train or practice their cruel and deadly. We must act together – or unilateraly, if necessary – to ensue that these terrorists have no sanctuary, anywhere.
Farewell Address (1989)Edit
Washington, D. C. (11 January 1989) - Full text online at the Reagan Presidential Library
 
I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited.
 
Once you begin a great movement, there's no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.
  • I hope we once again have 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.
  • 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 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.
  • The lesson of all this was, of course, that because we're a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours. And something else we learned: Once you begin a great movement, there's no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.
  • "We the people" tell the government what to do, it doesn't tell us. "We the people" are the driver, the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world's constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which "We the people" tell the government what it is allowed to do. "We the people" are free.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. And so, good-bye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Final speech as President (1989)Edit
Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom as the final speech as President before leaving office in the State Dining Room at the White House (January 19, 1989)
 
Freedom is not the property of one generation; it's the obligation of this and every generation. It's our duty to protect it and expand it and pass it undiminished to those still unborn.
 
We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people -- our strength -- from every country and every corner of the world. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.
  • Well, no, America's freedom does not belong to just one nation. We're custodians of freedom for the world. In Philadelphia, two centuries ago, James Allen wrote in his diary that ``If we fail, liberty no longer continues an inhabitant of this globe.´´ Well, we didn't fail. And still, we must not fail. For freedom is not the property of one generation; it's the obligation of this and every generation. It's our duty to protect it and expand it and pass it undiminished to those still unborn.
  • Yes, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors. It is that lady who gives us our great and special place in the world. For it's the great life force of each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America's triumph shall continue unsurpassed into the next century and beyond. Other countries may seek to compete with us; but in one vital area, as a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws the people of the world, no country on Earth comes close. This, I believe, is one of the most important sources of America's greatness. We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people -- our strength -- from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation. While other countries cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams. We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we're a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost. [...] Even a man from a country at war with the United States, while held here as a prisoner, could fall in love with us. Those who become American citizens love this country even more. And that's why the Statue of Liberty lifts her lamp to welcome them to the golden door.
  • It is bold men and women, yearning for freedom and opportunity, who leave their homelands and come to a new country to start their lives over. They believe in the American dream. And over and over, they make it come true for themselves, for their children, and for others. They give more than they receive. They labor and succeed. And often they are entrepreneurs. But their greatest contribution is more than economic, because they understand in a special way how glorious it is to be an American. They renew our pride and gratitude in the United States of America, the greatest, freest nation in the world -- the last, best hope of man on Earth.

Post-presidency (1989–2004)Edit

 
America's best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.
 
I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.
  • I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen to own guns for sporting, hunting and so forth, or for home defense. But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon.
  • Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders. ... The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip.
    • As quoted in The Guardian [London] (14 June 1989)
  • We have found, in our country, that when people have the right to make decisions as close to home as possible, they usually make the right decisions.
    • Address to the International Committee for the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. (17 September 1990)
  • Although I held public office for a total of sixteen years, I also thought of myself as a citizen-politician, not a career one. Every now and then when I was in government, I would remind my associates that "When we start thinking of government as 'us' instead of 'them,' we've been here too long." By that I mean that elected officeholders need to retain a certain skepticism about the perfectibility of government.
    • Address to the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce (10 July 1991)
  • Well I've said it before and I'll say it again — America's best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.
  • However, our task is far from over. Our friends in the other party will never forgive us for our success, and are doing everything in their power to rewrite history. Listening to the liberals, you'd think that the 1980's were the worst period since the Great Depression, filled with suffering and despair. I don't know about you, but I'm getting awfully tired of the whining voices from the White House these days. They're claiming there was a decade of greed and neglect, but you and I know better than that. We were there.
  • In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that day may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future. I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.
  • Let's close the place down and see if anybody notices.
    • Comments made just before the United States federal government shutdowns of 1995 and 96, as quoted in and article by James C. Miller III, in The Wall Street Journal (18 October 1995), as discussed in Congress via the Congressional Record by Phil Crane. p. 28413
  • Socialists ignore the side of man that is of the spirit. They can provide shelter, fill your belly with bacon and beans, treat you when you are ill, all the things that are guaranteed to a prisoner or a slave. They don't understand that we dream — yes, even of some time owning a yacht.
  • It's true hard work never killed anyone, but I figure, why take the chance?
    • On his relaxed approach to work, as quoted in Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio : a History Illustrated from the Collection of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum (2001) by Lou Cannon
  • I'm not smart enough to lie.
    • Response when asked what qualified him to be President, as quoted in Ronald Reagan : The Power of Conviction and the Success of His Presidency (2003) by Peter J. Wallison, p. 167
  • You get to know people as individuals. The dreams of people may differ, but everybody wants their dreams to come true. And America, above all places, gives us the freedom to do that.
    • On growing up in a small town, as quoted in Who was Ronald Reagan? (2004) by Joyce Milton, p. 9
  • I know it's hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the faint-hearted. It belongs to the brave.
    • As quoted in Who was Ronald Reagan? (2004), by Joyce Milton, p. 85
  • We don't intend to turn the Republican Party over to the traitors in the battle just ended. We will have no more of those candidates who are pledged to the same goals of our opposition and who seek our support. Turning the party over to the so-called moderates wouldn't make any sense at all.

An American Life (1990)Edit

  • A lot has been written about college students and other young people who rebelled against society during the 1960s. But there was another, quieter revolution sweeping across the land during the same decade. It was a rebellion of ordinary people. A generation of middle-class Americans who had worked hard to make something of their lives was growing mistrustful of a government that took an average of thirty-seven cents of every dollar they earned and still plunged deeper into debt. There was a growing sense of helplessness and frustration across the country over a government that was becoming a separate force of its own, a master of the people, not the other way around.
  • We had many contingency plans for responding to a nuclear attack. But everything would happen so fast that I wondered how much planning or reason could be applied in such a crisis. The Russians sometimes kept submarines off our East Coast with nuclear missiles that could turn the White House into a pile of radioactive rubble within six or eight minutes. Six minutes to decide how to respond to a blip on a radar scope and decide whether to unleash Armageddon! How could anyone apply reason at a time like that? There were some people in the Pentagon who thought in terms of fighting and winning a nuclear war. To me it was simple common sense: A nuclear war couldn't be won by either side. It must never be fought.
  • Looking back at the recent history of the world, I find it amazing how far civilization has retrogressed so quickly. As recently as World War I — granted the rules were violated at times — we had a set of rules of warfare in which armies didn’t make war against civilians: Soldiers fought soldiers. Then came World War II and Hitler’s philosophy of total war, which meant the bombing not only of soldiers but of factories that produced their rifles, and, if surrounding communities were also hit, that was to be accepted; then, as the war progressed, it became common for the combatants simply to attack civilians as part of military strategy. By the time the 1980s rolled around, we were placing our entire faith in a weapon whose fundamental target was the civilian population.
  • I'd learned a few lessons about negotiating: You're unlikely to ever get all you want; you'll probably get more of what you want if you don't issue ultimatums and leave your adversary room to maneuver; you shouldn't back your adversary into a corner, embarrass him, or humiliate him; and sometimes the easiest way to get some things done is for the top people to do them alone and in private.
  • I think growing up in a small town is a good foundation for anyone who decides to enter politics. You get to know people as individuals, not as blocs or members of special interest groups.
  • I learned that hard work is an essential part of life — that by and large, you don’t get something for nothing — and that America was a place that offered unlimited opportunity to those who did work hard. I learned to admire risk takers and entrepreneurs, be they farmers or small merchants, who went to work and took risks to build something for themselves and their children, pushing at the boundaries of their lives to make them better. I have always wondered at this American marvel, the great energy of the human soul that drives people to better themselves and improve the fortunes of their families and communities. Indeed, I know of no greater force on earth.
  • For more than five years, I'd made little progress with my efforts at quiet diplomacy — for one thing, the Soviet leaders kept dying on me.
  • Whatever his reasons, Gorbachev had the intelligence to admit Communism was not working, the courage to battle for change, and, ultimately, the wisdom to introduce the beginnings of democracy, individual freedom, and free enterprise. As I said at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987, the Soviet Union faced a choice: Either it made fundamental changes or it became obsolete. Gorbachev saw the handwriting on the Wall and opted for change.
  • On the streets of Moscow, looking into thousands of faces, I was reminded once again that it’s not people who make war, but governments — and people deserve governments that fight for peace in the nuclear age.

Dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (1991)Edit

 
My optimism comes not just from my strong faith in God, but from my strong and enduring faith in man.
Reagan's remarks at the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California (4 November 1991)
 
I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and that there is purpose and worth to each and every life.
  • I was lucky. If I ever tired all I had to do was look over my shoulder. Age has its privileges and on this day of memory and reflection I hope you will indulge me in recalling some very special people.
    I remember a small woman with auburn hair and unquenchable optimism. Her name was Nellie Reagan and she believed with all her heart that there was no such thing as accidents in this life, everything was part of God's plan. If something went wrong you didn't wring your hands, you rolled up your sleeves.
    And I remember a story-telling salesman with the Irish gift of laughter and a certain American restlessness. In the spirit of this forebearers who had settled on the endless sea of grass that was the Illinois prairie before the turn of the century, Jack Reagan took his family to many new beginnings. Perhaps that was the route of my belief shared with Thomas Paine, that we Americans of all people were uniquely equipped to begin the world over.
  • I grew up in a town where everyone cared about one another because everyone knew one another, not as statistics in a government program but as neighbors in need. Is that nostalgic? I don't think so.
  • America itself is no accident of geography or political science, but part of God's plan to preserve and extend the sacred fire of human liberty.
    I, too, have been described as an undying optimist, always seeing a glass half full when some see it as half empty. And yes, it's true; I always see the sunny side of life. And that's not just because I've been blessed by achieving so many of my dreams, my optimism comes not just from my strong faith in God, but from my strong and enduring faith in man.


AttributedEdit

  • I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the US Congress.
    • Quoted as an attribution in Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (2013), p. 268
  • The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.
    • Viguerie, Richard A.. Conservatives betrayed: how George W. Bush and other big government republicans hijacked the Conservative cause. Bonus Books. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-56625-285-0. 
  • If we fail to instruct our children in justice, religion and liberty, we will be condemning them to a world without virtue, a life in the twilight of a civilization, where the great truths have been forgotten.
    • Zig Ziglar. The Goals Program. How to Stay Motivated, Volume III, chapter 5. 
  • Conservation means freezing in the dark.


MisattributedEdit

  • A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
    • Attributed to Reagan from informal remarks to reporters 10 October 1984,and to students and faculty at St. John's University 28 March 1985.[citation needed] The statement was made a decade earlier by Gerald Ford in an address to a Joint Session of the Congress, 12 August 1974. It is sometimes attributed to Thomas Jefferson and Barry Goldwater.
    • Variant: A government that is big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take everything you have.
    • Similar assertions have often been attributed to Barry Goldwater. Some of the inspiration for such expressions may lie in "The Criminality of the State" by Albert Jay Nock in American Mercury (March 1939) where he stated: "You get the same order of criminality from any State to which you give power to exercise it; and whatever power you give the State to do things for you carries with it the equivalent power to do things to you."
  • Trust, but Verify.
    • This was a signature phrase of Ronald Reagan — he used it dozens of times in public, although he was not the first person known to use it. When Reagan used this phrase, he was usually discussing relations with the Soviet Union and he almost always presented it as a translation of the Russian proverb "doveriai, no proveriai". See also Trust, but verify at Wikipedia.
  • Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.
    • Known as "The Eleventh Commandment" this statement was made famous by Reagan, but was actually created by California Republican Party Chairman Gaylord Parkinson.
  • George [H. W. Bush] brought his ne'er-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job.
    • Cited to a Reagan diary entry in 1986, but actually from a parody written by Michael Kinsley in June 2007.
  • There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit.
    • Reagan reportedly displayed a plaque with this proverbial aphorism on his Oval Office desk (Michael Reagan, The New Reagan Revolution (2010), p. 177). Harry S. Truman is reported to have repeated versions of the aphorism on several occasions. This exact wording was in wide circulation in the 1960s, and the earliest known variant has been attributed to Benjamin Jowett (1817–1893).

Quotes about ReaganEdit

Alphabetized by author
 
Under Reagan, corporations transformed from providers of stability for employees and their families to fear-juiced stress engines. Reagan's legacy to America and modern man is not victory in the Cold War, where he simply got lucky; it is instead one of the most shocking wealth transfers in the history of the world, all under the propaganda diversion of "making America competitive" and "unleashing the creative energies of the American worker". ~ Mark Ames
 
From day one his standard operating procedure … was a blend of ignorance, amnesia, and dissembling. ~ Mark Green
 
When you meet the President you ask yourself, "How did it ever occur to anybody that he should be governor, much less President?" ~ Henry Kissinger
 
Reagan's boys called Jimmy Carter a weanie and a wuss although Carter wouldn't give an inch to the Ayatollah. Reagan, with that film-fantasy tough-guy con in front of cameras, went begging like a coward cockroach to Khomeini, pleading on bended knee for the release of our hostages. ~ Greg Palast
 
He won the cold war without firing a shot. ~ Margaret Thatcher
 
When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can’t be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989. ~ Lech Walesa
  • The rage murder is new. It appeared under Reagan, during his cultural economic revolution, and it expanded in his aftermath. Reaganomics has ruled America ever since. For all of the Right's hysterical attacks on Clinton as a left-winger, the fact is that it was Clinton who administered a lethal injection to the welfare system with his Orwellian-named Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Under Clinton, Wall Street floruished with greater deregulation, globalization accelerated as never before, downsizings soared, and the anti-union, pro-shareholder corporate culture that Reagan launched went from being a radical experiment to a way of life. By the time George W. Bush took office, the cultural-economic transformation had become so deeply entrenched that what once would have been considered extreme and unacceptable was cheered and praised, even by those who suffered. The change was radical and traumatic, so much so that historians may look back at this time and wonder why there weren't more murders and rebellions, just as it is shocking today to consider how few slave rebellions there were.
    • Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 87
  • Under Reagan, corporations transformed from providers of stability for employees and their families to fear-juiced stress engines. Reagan's legacy to America and modern man is not victory in the Cold War, where he simply got lucky; it is instead one of the most shocking wealth transfers in the history of the world, all under the propaganda diversion of "making America competitive" and "unleashing the creative energies of the American worker".
    • Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion, From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 87
  • Presumably, all of this obscene wealth concentration in the hands of a tiny oligarchy is for everyone's good. At least that's what we were told the beginning of the Reagan Revolution, and what we've come to implicitly, almost genetically believe in the years since, as all challenges to the Reaganomics theory have been squeezed out of the mainstream discourse. The Reaganomics theory, when they still needed to sell it to America, was that we were all supposed to be people in our own unique boats, with the sea representing wealth, and as the rich got richer, the sea would rise, and supposedly our humble boats would rise along with theirs, as though the polar ice caps themselves would melt for the benefit of all mankind. Moreover, somehow only the people with the huge yachts were capable of raising the level of water for all of us. The rising-boat metaphor always struck me as strange, because it implied that the land would become submerged, and those of us not in the QE2 cruise ship would be forced to row around the high seas for the rest of our lives, bailing out water as fast as we could. Which is exactly what happened.
    • Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 99
  • Who ever decided that Americans were so bad off in the seventies anyway? From the right-wing revisionist propaganda that has become accepted as fact, you'd think that Americans under President Carter were suffering through something like the worst of the Weimar Republic combined with the Siege of Leningrad. The truth is that on a macroeconomic level, the difference between the Carter era and the Reagan era was minimal. For instance, economic growth during the Carter Administration averaged 2.8 percent annually, while under Reagan, from 1982 to 1989, growth averaged 3.2 percent. Was it really worth killing ourselves over that extra .4 percent of growth? For a lucky few, yes. On the other key economic gauge, unemployment, the Carter years were actually better than Reagan's, averaging 6.7 percent annually during his "malaise-stricken" term as compared to an average 7.3 percent unemployment rate during the glorious eight-year reign of Ronald Reagan. Under Carter, people worked less, got far more benefits, and the country grew almost the same average annual rate as Reagan. On the other hand, according to the Statistical Abstract of the United States for 1996, under Reagan life got worse for those who had it worse: the number of people below the poverty line increased in almost every year from 1981 (31.8 million) to 1992 (39.3 million). And yet, we are told America was in decline until Reagan came to power and that the country was gripped by this ethereal malaise. Where was this malaise? Whose America was in decline? The problem with the 1970s wasn't that America was in decline, it was that the plutocracy felt itself declining. And in the plutocrats' eyes, their fortunes are synonymous with America's.
    • Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 99
  • When Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers in 1981, he told America he was literally willing to kill us all if we didn't give in to his wealth-transfer plan. It was so shocking that it worked. The air controller's union broke- and so did a whole way of life. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, we are all miserable wage slaves, or schoolyard wretches being pressed and prepared for life in the office world. There is no other choice but that, or death. The way this country supplicated before Reagan's corpse, elevating him to a kind of Khomeini status with the seven-day funeral and the endless orations about his humanity, his intelligence, and how wonderfully simple life was under his reign, only reinforced the most disturbing conclusion that I was reaching as I wrote this book: that Americans have become the perfect slaves, fools and suckers, while a small elite is cackling all the way to the offshore bank.
    • Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion, From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 241-242
  • Trump is not the only president in the modern era to have switched sides. Ronald Reagan famously changed from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, but the change was driven by principle, and the change stuck. He didn't sway back and forth, again and again. It would be tough for anyone to claim Donald Trump flipped parties on "principle" like Reagan. Some have sought to dig into Trump's ideological evolution, figuring out what changed or who inspired him to become a Republican. I'll spare them the needless waste of effort. Donald Trump became a conservative when it became politically convenient for him. I have no doubt he would have become the raucous rising star of the Democratic Party, too, if that looked like a shorter path to the Oval Office. Either way, he did with his belief system what he did with any Trump product. He outsourced it for low-cost manufacturing to someone else, then slapped his name on it. A handful of hired minions gave him the bare-bones requirements of a "conservative" platform. And he covered it with gaudy gold plating to make it his own.
    • Anonymous, A Warning (2019), p. 97
  • Ronald Reagan is the first modern President whose contempt for the facts is treated as a charming idiosyncrasy.
  • Reagan finally won the nomination by promoting "Reaganomics", an economic program based on the theory that the government could lower taxes while increasing spending and at the same time actually reduce the federal budget by sacrificing a live chicken by the light of a full moon. Bush charged that this amounted to "voo-doo economics," which got him into hot water until he explained that what he meant to say was "doo-doo economics." Satisfied, Reagan made Bush his vice-presidential nominee. The turning point in the election campaign came during the October 8 debate between Reagan and Carter, when Reagan's handlers came up with a shrewd strategy: No matter what Carter said, Reagan would respond by shaking his head in a sorrowful manner and saying: "There you go again." This was brilliant, because (a) it required the candidate to remember only four words, and (b) he delivered them so believably that everything Carter said seemed like a lie. If Carter had stated that the Earth was round, Reagan would have shaken his head, saying, "There you go again," and millions of voters would have said: "Yeah! What does Carter think we are? Stupid?"
    • Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989), p. 167
  • Another foreign policy triumph for Reagan was his 1984 visit to China, where he met for more than three hours with Mao Zedong before realizing that Mao was dead. Aides described the talks as "frank." This was exactly the kind of firm leadership that Americans had been yearning for, so Reagan was extremely popular when the 1984 presidential election campaign lumbered into view. And once again the Republicans got a lot of help from the Democrats, who by this point were acting as though they were conducting an experiment to see if it was possible to run a major presidential campaign without winning a single state.
    • Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989), p. 171
  • Older people, if they play their cards right, can get away with anything. The all-time examples of this is, of course, Ronald Reagan. Here's a man who was twice elected to the most powerful position on Earth despite needing a TelePrompTer to correctly identify what year it was. But no matter out-of-it he seemed to be, the people loved him. It was if we were in an airplane, and the pilot got sick, so our kindly old Uncle Bob had to take the controls. We didn't expect as much from President Uncle Bob. We considered it a major triumph if he didn't crash. Remember how he handled the Iran-contra Never-Ending Scandal from Hell? He went on national television, the President of the United States, and said it wasn't his fault, because he was not aware, at the time, of what his foreign policy was. In fact he had to appoint a Distinguished Commission to find out what his foreign policy was, and get back to him.
    Now if he'd been a young President, some little Mister Competence right-on-top-of-everything jogging fact-spouting pissant whippersnapper like Jimmy Carter, his own wife would have called for his impeachment. But with Ronald Reagan, the voters, who have also never had the vaguest idea what our foreign policy was, were very forgiving. "Yeah," they said, "How's he supposed to remember every darned time he authorizes the sale of weapons to enemy nations? Why don't you medias leave him alone?!" And Ron went right on grinning and being popular and pretty much limiting his executive actions to signing stuff and having polyps removed until the end of his wildly successful term in office.
    • Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns 40 (1990). New York: Crown Publishers, p. 175-176
  • Joe constantly points out that Trump started his campaign with racism, riding down the escalator, attacking Mexicans. Joe thinks this illustrates a difference. Ronald Reagan also started his presidential campaign with racism. He chose to make his kick-off speech in the heart of the Solid South, in Mississippi, quite near where three civil rights workers had been murdered. He said, "I believe in states' rights." It was the biggest dog whistle of the day, code for segregation, and the crowd cheered. He continued: "... we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment." It had been the Republican Party that had tried to impose integration after the Civil War. Reagan was making it clear that his party was completely divorcing itself from Lincoln's vision. It was not a one-off. Reagan ran against the "welfare queens" and against "the strapping bucks" who stood in front of you at the supermarket, buying steaks with food stamps, while you made do with hamburger helper, earned by the honest sweat of your brow. It was a brilliant strategy that turned government programmes into handouts to minorities with money stolen - through taxes - from good white people. It was called the Southern Strategy. Reagan did not invent it. But he sold it with warmth, charm, and a smile.
  • What he brought to the presidency that was really original was making up stories and never being embarrassed that they were not true. He made up a tale about a mysterious stranger who gave the Founding Fathers the courage to sign the Declaration of Independence. He loved the tale of a bomber pilot who decided not to parachute from his shot-up plane in order to stay and comfort a wounded member of his crew as they plunged to the ground and received the Congressional Medal of Honor ... posthumously ... and told it often, although it had only happened in a movie. He said that he had been present at the liberation of a concentration camp during World War II, though he had never left Hollywood. It used to be that being caught in a lie harmed your credibility, but Reagan, for the most part, got away with it. In doing so he set a new standard that opened the tarnished road that Trump rides down on today.
  • Reagan was what John F. Kennedy had been to an earlier generation: an inspirational figure who shaped my worldview. Reagan had his faults, like JFK, but he was optimistic and gentlemanly. He was pro-free trade and pro-immigration. He believed in limited government at home and American leadership abroad. That's what I believed in too — and that's what I thought the Republican Party stood for.
  • The task of watering the arid desert between Reagan's ears is a challenging one for his aides.
    • David Broder, "A Sorry Display of Ignorance", Washington Post, September 1, 1985
  • Reykjavik did not sour the Reagan—Gorbachev relationship. Indeed Gorbachev trusted Reagan more from that time onwards, and the way he spoke about him was much more respectful after Reykjavik than before. Chernyaev cites an instance not long before the Reykjavik summit in which a prominent Western politician, in a meeting with Gorbachev, described Reagan as "fool and a clown", to which Gorbachev responded that it was pity that such a person should be at head of a superpower. After Reykjavik, Chernyaev never heard Gorbachev even in private express or agree with such sentiments concerning Reagan.
  • The Florida Conservative Union hosted a dinner under Mike Thompson's leadership. Representatives came from all over the state and from other states as well. It was a tremendous gathering that brought together some of Florida's outstanding conservative leaders and individuals, both democrat and republican, who believe that by banding together they can better inform themselves of activities important to the state and country at both the congressional and at the state-legislative levels. Their support was of great value to us.
    They had invited Ronald Reagan also as special guest, and Mike Thompson introduced him by saying, "Anita, we flew in a fruit picker from California. Would you come up here so we can make a presentation?" Ronald presented me with some California oranges and said, "Because of the orange freeze here in Florida, we figured you could use these." Of course it brought down the house. "Really now, how can you do this to me?" I replied. "It's really to show appreciation, Anita," he answered. "But you know I can't eat them," I countered. "I understand," he laughed, "but don't eat them, just squeeze 'em!"
    • Anita Bryant, The Anita Bryant Story: The Survival of Our Nation's Families and the Threat of Militant Homosexuality (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977), p. 95
  • It's too early to say how most of my decisions will turn out. As president, I had the honor of eulogizing Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. President Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, once regarded as one of the worst mistakes in presidential history, is now viewed as a selfless act of leadership. And it was quite something to hear the commentators who had once denounced President Reagan as a dunce and a warmonger talk about how the Great Communicator had won the Cold War.
  • They told stories about how inattentive and inept the President was.... They said he wouldn't come to work — all he wanted to do was to watch movies and television at the residence.
    • Jim Cannon (an aide to Howard Baker) reporting what Reagan's underlings told him, Landslide: The Unmaking of the President: 1984-88
  • President Reagan doesn't always check the facts before he makes statements, and the press accepts this as kind of amusing.
    • President Jimmy Carter, March 6, 1984, cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • It was this idea (Be nice!) that fueled liberals' rage at Reagan when he vanquished the Soviet Union with his macho "cowboy diplomacy" that was going to get us all blown up. As the Times editorial page hysterically described Reagan's first year in office: "Mr. Reagan looked at the world through gun sights." Yes, he did! And now the Evil Empire is no more.
  • In the Reagan years, more federal debt was added than in the entire prior history of the United States.
    • Richard Darman (Reagan adviser), Who's in Control? Polar Politics and the Sensible Center
  • He has the ability to make statements that are so far outside the parameters of logic that they leave you speechless.
    • Patti Davis (formerly Patricia Ann Reagan) talking about her father, The Way I See It
  • I'd heard my parents [Ronald and Nancy Reagan] read their horoscopes aloud at the breakfast table, but that seemed pretty innocuous to me. Occasionally, I read mine, too — usually so I can do the exact opposite of what it says. But my parents have done what the stars suggested — altered schedules, changed travel plans, stayed home, cancelled appearances."
    • Patti Davis (formerly Patricia Ann Reagan), The Way I See It
  • When someone says, "But he [Reagan] was giving arms to people he knew had killed our Marines," it's hard to respond to that.
    • House Republican Robert Dornan, previously one of Reagan's most ardent supporters (11 December 1986), as cited in The Clothes Have No Emperor by Paul Slansky
  • Reagan pulled together the Republican Party’s free-market optimists, ultraright libertarians, family-values moralists, and America Firsters. As had Nixon earlier, he won the votes of disappointed ex-Democrats disturbed by urban crime and resentful about stretching the aims of civil rights from nondiscrimination to corrective preference. Aided by superior speechmakers, Reagan had a fine ear for a divided country that relished partisan conflict while longing to feel good about itself as a nation. He appealed to both the left and right wings of American liberalism: New Deal Democrats and tight-money, big business Republicans. A divorced, nonchurchgoer, Reagan could tell a fundamentalist Christian audience with apparent sincerity that everyone was “enjoined by scripture and the Lord Jesus” to oppose “sin and evil.” He made the gospel of American liberty ring for latter-day Jeffersonians and Jacksonians across the West and Midwest proudly convinced of their self-reliance. He made it ring for whites in the South disturbed by dogooding liberal Northerners intruding once again on a society, it seemed, they did not understand, as well as for clever young libertarians scattered across the nation in its graduate schools. A good ear alone was not responsible for Reagan’s success. A thematic umbrella under which the factions of the right could gather was hostility to government. Reagan rocked audiences with jibes at the expense of “big government” so skillfully that they forgot that big 336 chapter 9 government was what he was asking them to let him run. He spoke out against government spending and waste but watched deficits soar, boasting that he might be old but was not stupid, and never once sent Congress a balanced budget. No matter. In the antigovernment gospel, the right under Reagan found a thematic unifier that it had lately lacked. For each of the right’s factions, a convenient villain was big government: for business and banks, with its credit, work-safety, and consumer and environmental regulations; for moral conservatives, with ever greater liberal permissiveness of the law; for America Firsters, with its ruinous war in Vietnam, its foreigner-coddling multilateralism, and its boneless on-off flirtation with Soviet détente.
    • Edmund Fawcett, Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition (2020), pp. 335-336
  • Reagan’s success owed less to luck as such than to recognizing and using luck. He inherited a defense buildup started under his predecessor Jimmy Carter as well as a burst of high-tech creativity which that buildup nourished. In Paul Volcker he inherited a head of the Federal Reserve who had pushed interest rates to double digits a year before Reagan took office, a brutal recession-causing step that by early in the new presidency had cut inflation to 3.5 percent, so clearing a path to the long economic boom that lasted into the new century. Reagan inherited a superpower rivalry that the United States was on course to win as its Soviet adversary, mired in its own failures and shadowed by a rising China, began to implode. With practiced grace and skill, Reagan made the most of those opportunities. He knew when to push at an open door, calling out dramatically in Berlin in June 1987, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Reagan left office (January 1989) at a moment of American contentment and strategic success that would have shone credit on a lesser politician. As it was, skill, luck, and timing confirmed him among contemporaries as a historic figure. On the American right, all factions could claim Reagan for their own. By contrast, Republicans who later followed him in the White House, George W. Bush (2001–9) and Donald Trump (elected 2016) divided their own party as successfully as they held off the Democrats.
    • Edmund Fawcett, Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition (2020), p. 336
  • With only six months remaining in his presidency (and still under the cloud of the Iran-Contra scandal), the US president made his first- and extraordinarily remarkable- visit to Moscow. With no treaties to sign, it was nonetheless a gala event, with the Soviet capital lavishly adorned to greet its seventy-seven-year-old adversary. Reagan met with human rights activists and delivered an address to students at Moscow State University, calling for "freedom [to] blossom forth at last in the rich fertile soil of your people and culture" and for a "new world of reconciliation, friendship, and peace." He also strolled with Gorbachev in the Red Square, where, responding to a reporter's query about the "evil empire," he announced: "I was talking about another time, another era." Yet despite all the signs of geniality, Reagan underscored the power imbalance by refusing to issue a joint statement that endorsed the Kremlin's old creed: "Equality of the states, noninterference in internal affairs, and freedom of sociopolitical choice [are] inalienable and mandatory standards of international relations."
    • Carole C. Fink, Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 230
  • Every place I go and everything I hear, there is a growing, growing sentiment that Governor Reagan cannot win the election. We don't want, can't afford to have a replay of 1964. A very conservative Republican can't win in a national election.
  • This loathing for government, this eagerness to prove that any program to aid the disadvantaged is nothing but a boondoggle and a money gobbler, leads him to contrive statistics and stories with unmatched vigor.
  • From day one his [Reagan's] standard operating procedure ... was a blend of ignorance, amnesia, and dissembling. Like a panicky passenger lunging for a life preserver, he would, under stress, concoct almost any fact or anecdote to advance his ideological beliefs. Ronald Reagan brought to mind Will Rogers' comment that "It's not what he doesn't know that bothers me, it's what he knows for sure that just ain't so."
  • Reagan's theory was really "trickle down" economics borrowed from the Republican 1920s (Harding-Coolidge-Hoover) and renamed "supply side." Cut tax rates for the wealthy; everyone else will benefit. As Reagan's budget director David Stockman confided to me at the time, the supply-side rhetoric "was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate." Many middle-class and poor citizens figured it out, even if reporters did not.
  • Reagan's only contribution [to the subject of the MX missile] throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he'd watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from WarGames, the movie. That was his only contribution.
    • Lee Hamilton (Representative from Indiana) interviewed by Haynes Johnson, Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years
  • I really believe Reagan is fundamentally a decent and honest man. His politics? When the Government of the United States borrows a large part of the savings of the world, the consequence is that capital must become scarce and expensive in the whole world. That's a problem.
    • Friedrich Hayek, quoted in Tom Wicker, "IN THE NATION; A Deliberate Deficit", The New York Times (July 19, 1985)
  • During Mr. Reagan's trip to Europe ... members of the traveling press corps watched him doze off so many times — during speeches by French President Francois Mitterrand and Italian President Alessandro Pertini, as well as during a one-on-one audience with the Pope — that they privately christened the trip "The Big Sleep."
  • The fox, as has been pointed out by more than one philosopher, knows many small things, whereas the hedgehog knows one big thing. Ronald Reagan was neither a fox nor a hedgehog. He was as dumb as a stump. He could have had anyone in the world to dinner, any night of the week, but took most of his meals on a White House TV tray. He had no friends, only cronies. His children didn't like him all that much. He met his second wife — the one that you remember — because she needed to get off a Hollywood blacklist and he was the man to see. Year in and year out in Washington, I could not believe that such a man had even been a poor governor of California in a bad year, let alone that such a smart country would put up with such an obvious phony and loon.
  • His [Reagan's] errors glide past unchallenged. At one point ... he alleged that almost half the population gets a free meal from the government each day. No one told him he was crazy. The general message of the American press is that, yes, while it is perfectly true that the emperor has no clothes, nudity is actually very acceptable this year.
  • Reaganomics. Based on the belief that the rich had too little money and the poor had too much. That's classic Reaganomics. They believe that the poor had too much money and the rich had too little money so they engaged in reverse Robin Hood - took from the poor and gave to the rich, paid for by the middle class. We cannot stand four more years of Reaganomics in any version, in any disguise.
  • Reagan, who more than any president in history railed against government benefits and spending, set the standard for all members of his administration. In addition to his presidential pension of $99,500 a year for life and his annual pension as a former governor of California of $30,800 ... he received Secret Service protection from forty full-time agents and other security at a cost to the government estimated at $10 million annually, more than double that of other living presidents. A suite of offices atop a new thirty-four-story office building twenty minutes from his home, commanding a view that extended from the Pacific Ocean to the towers of downtown Los Angeles, cost the government $173,000 a year to lease.
    • Haynes Johnson, Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years
  • That I am lesbian is my usual awareness. My close people are almost all lesbians, mostly not Jewish. I live in Santa Fe, among gentiles; and though I am lonely for Jews, I don't go to shul, and never did; and don't pray, or even know the prayers. I think Israel a boiling contradiction; and besides, they don't give queers citizenship. But the rise of Klan activity, Reagan and his white-on-white cabinet, synagogues bombed in France, have me in a sweat. Dreams of the camps. I need to know the network I may be forced to count on. I want to know the tradition, what binds us besides danger.
    • Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, "Some Notes on Jewish Lesbian Identity" (Summer 1980-Winter 1981) in Nice Jewish Girls: A Lesbian Anthology
  • Ironically, it was a former Hollywood star who came to embody Rocky Balboa in real life; and at the same time, to embody the racist backlash to Black Power in politics. This real-life Rocky decided to challenge incumbent Gerald Ford for the presidential seat on the Republican ticket in 1976. Ronald Reagan fought down all those empowerment movements fomenting in his home state of California and across the nation. Hardly any other Republican politican could match his law-and-order credentials, and hardly any other Republican politician was more despised by antiracists. When Reagan had first campaigned for governor of California in 1966, he had pledged "to send the welfare bums back to work." By 1976, he had advanced his fictional welfare problem enough to attract Nixon's undercover racists to his candidacy, gaining their support in cutting social programs that helped the poor. On the presidential campaign trail, Reagan shared the story of Chicago's Linda Taylor, a Black woman charged with welfare fraud. "Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000," Reagan liked to say. Actually, Taylor had been charged with defrauding the state of $8,000, an exceptional amount for something that rarely happened. But truth did not matter to the Reagan campaign as much as feeding the White backlash to Black power.
    • Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017). New York: Bold Type Books, p. 424
  • Days earlier, on August 3, 1980, the press did show up in full force when the former California governor more or less opened his presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair. The event was just a few miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights activists had been killed in 1964. It was a clever strategy that improved on the tactics Nixon had mastered before him. Reagan never mentioned race when he looked out at some of the descendants of slaveholders and segregationists, people who had championed "states' rights" to maintain White supremacy for nearly two centuries since those hot days in the other Philadelphia, where the US Constitution had been written. Reagan promised to "restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them." He then dodged Carter's charges of racism. Thanks in part to southern support, Reagan easily won the presidency.
    • Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017). New York: Bold Type Books, p. 430-431
  • Reagan wasted little time in knocking down the fiscal gains that middle- and low-income people had made over the past four decades. Seemingly as quickly and deeply as Congress allowed and the poor economy justified, Regan cut taxes for the rich and social programs for middle- and low-income families, while increasing the military budget. Reagan seemingly did offscreen what Sylvester Stallone had done on-screen, first knocking out elite Blacks the way Rocky had knocked out his opponent Apollo Creed in Rocky II (1979). And then, amazingly, Reagan befriended these Creeds- these racist or elite Blacks he had knocked down in previous fights- and used them to knock down the menacingly low-income Blacks, as represented by Rocky's opponent in Rocky III (1982), Clubber Lang, popularly known as Mr. T. During Reagan's first year in office, the median income of Black families declined by 5.2 percent, and the number of poor Americans in general increased by 2.2 million. In one year, the New York Times observed, "much of the progress that had been made against poverty in the 1960s and 1970s had been wiped out."
    • Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017). New York: Bold Type Books, p. 431
  • When you talk to Reagan, you sometimes wonder why it occurred to anyone that he should be president, or even governor. But what you historians have to explained is how so un unintellectual a man could have dominated California for eight years, and Washington already for nearly seven.
    • Henry Kissinger, addressing a small group of scholars at the Library of Congress, unaware of the presence of a reporter (April 1986), cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • It was, and to some extent is, fashionable to mock Ronald Reagan. I suspect that the verdict of history will be that he was America's most effective post-war President. When he entered the White House US power was in decline, its people demoralized and its currency distrusted. When he left it, America had become the world's only remaining superpower, and its people had rediscovered their pride.
    • Nigel Lawson, The View from No. 11: Memoirs of a Tory Radical (1992), p. 525
  • Ronald Reagan: Turns out that God really doesn't have that much of a problem with racism. He doesn't even remember slavery, except in February. Personally, I hate black people, Ruckus. That's why I did everything I could to make their lives miserable. Crack? Me. AIDS? Me. Reaganomics? (chuckles) C'mon. I'm in the name.
  • Huey Freeman: Excuse me. Everyone, I have a brief announcement to make. Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the government is lying about 9-11. Thank you for your time and good night.
  • I'm trying to explain to you that Ronald Reagan was the devil! Ronald Wilson Reagan? Each of his names have six letters? 666? Man, doesn't that offend you?
  • Former aides say Ronald Reagan was a man who read his horoscope and the "funnies" before the rest of the paper. They say he wasn't only indulging his wife — that the former president also believed in astrology.
  • As perhaps the chief public face of American science during this period, Carl Sagan wasn’t merely a popularizer but a fierce advocate for the proper use of science in the real world. During the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan necessarily became his chief foe, for Reagan brought anti-science into the American political mainstream as never before.
    • Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future (2009), Chapter 3, “From Sputnik to Sagan” (p. 37)
  • I have gradually, over the course of many years, come to the conclusion that he was a great president. More interesting to me than greatness, however, is that he was throughout his life such a strange combination. Innocence and wisdom; charm and hard force; gregariousness and aloofness; egocentricity without conceit; aggression without cruelty; imaginativeness and cultural ignorance; sentimentality and emotional coolness; I could go on for a quarter of an hour and not exhaust his contrary opposites. He is also – to finish with a simple statement – the bravest and most incorrupt figure I've ever studied.
    • Edmund Morris, Reagan's biographer, Newsweek magazine, 4 October 1999
  • It shows you how a man [Reagan] of limited mental capacity simply doesn't know what the Christ is going on in the foreign area.
    • President Richard Nixon, in a taped conversation with his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger (17 November 1971)
  • If you can control the access of the press to [Reagan], you have a hell of a lot better chance of him not screwing up.
    • Lyn Nofziger (Reagan's campaign press secretary) interviewed by Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency
  • He [Reagan] demonstrated for all to see how far you can go in this life with a smile, a shoeshine and the nerve to put your own spin on the facts.
    • David Nyhan, Boston Globe columnist, cited in Reagan's Reign of Error (1983) by Mark Green
  • Pride in our country, respect for our armed services, a healthy appreciation for the dangers beyond our borders, an insistence that there was no easy equivalence between East and West — in all this I had no quarrel with Reagan. And when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, I had to give the old man his due, even if I never gave him my vote.
  • He knows less about the budget than any president in my lifetime. He can't even carry on a conversation about the budget. It's an absolute and utter disgrace.
  • The deaths lie on him [Reagan] and the defeat in Lebanon lies on him and him alone.... The trouble with this fellow is he tries to be tough rather than smart.
    • House Speaker Tip O'Neill (April 1984), as quoted in The Clothes Have No Emperor by Paul Slansky
  • The New York Times, in its canned obit, wrote that Reagan projected, "faith in small town America" and "old-time values." "Values" my ass. It was union-busting and a declaration of war on the poor and anyone who couldn't buy designer dresses. It was the New Meanness, bringing starvation back to America so that every millionaire could get another million. "Small town" values? From the movie star of the Pacific Palisades, the Malibu mogul? I want to throw up.
    • Greg Palast, in "Reagan, fact and fantasy", The Observer (13 June 2004)
  • Reagan's boys called Jimmy Carter a weanie and a wuss although Carter wouldn't give an inch to the Ayatollah. Reagan, with that film-fantasy tough-guy con in front of cameras, went begging like a coward cockroach to Khomeini, pleading on bended knee for the release of our hostages.
    • Greg Palast, in "Reagan, fact and fantasy", The Observer (13 June 2004)
  • Reagan...was most definitely a global empire builder, a servant of the corporatocracy. At the time of his election, I found it fitting that he was a Hollywood actor, a man who had followed orders passed down from moguls, who knew how to take direction. That would be his signature. He would cater to the men who shuttled back and forth from corporate CEO offices to bank boards and into the halls of government. He would serve the men who appeared to serve him but who in fact ran the government — men like Vice President George H . W. Bush, Secretary of State George Shultz, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Richard Cheney; Richard Helms, and Robert McNamara. He would advocate what those men wanted: an America that controlled the world and all its resources, a world that answered to the commands of that America, a U.S. military that would enforce the rules as they were written by America, and an international trade and banking system that supported America as CEO of the global empire.
  • Like the overwhelming majority of America's Cold War presidents, Ronald Reagan entered the White House in January 1981 with almost no background in national security affairs. Before entering the political arena, he had been in movies and in television. His only direct military experience occurred during World War II, when he served in the armed forces making training and documentary films. His first and only elected political position prior to the presidency was the governorship of California, a position he held from 1966 to 1974. However, unlike most of his predecessors, Reagan was not particularly eager to master national security issues. This was demonstrated repeatedly during his presidency by his inability to explain them in any detail.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 231
  • The fact that, for all practical purposes, the Cold War ended during Ronald Reagan's presidency has led some to conclude that he was primarily responsible for the U.S. "victory" over the Soviet Union. The so-called Reagan victory school holds that his administration's military and ideological assertiveness during the 1980s was primarily responsible for the end of the Cold War, the demise of Communism in Europe, and ultimately the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. As the president put it on December 16, 1988, the changes taking place in the Soviet Union were in part the result of U.S. firmness, a strong defense, healthy alliances, and a willingness to use force when necessary. Moreover, as he boasted, he had been more than willing to point out the differences in the American and Soviet political systems at every opportunity. In addition, his supporters have asserted that the "full-court press" launched by the administration during Reagan's first term, which included a military buildup capped by SDI, the denial of technology to the Soviet Union, and the administration's counteroffensive in the Third World, delivered the "knock-out punch" to a system that was internally bankrupt "and on the ropes."
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 260
  • Others attribute the end of the Cold War to Reagan's desire to prevent a nuclear conflagration. This view asserts that the president never liked nuclear weapons as offensive instruments and that with his SDI program he demonstrated his disdain for deterrence, at least deterrence based on the mutual assured destruction doctrine (MAD). Reagan's goal to eliminate all offensive nuclear weapons, his supporters argue, made possible the INF treaty. Reagan failed to conclude a START treaty before he left office only because the Soviets refused to accept a defensive deterrent strategy, the basis of SDI, as a better alternative to MAD. However, not everyone, including this author, accepts the argument that the Reagan administration was primarily responsible for the end of the Cold War. In fact, probably no one, especially the president, expected that the administration's policies ultimately would cause the disintegration of the Soviet empire, at east not as quickly as it occurred. Said Reagan: "We meant to change a nation [the United States], and instead, we changed a world... All in all, not bad, not bad at all." More important as the cause of the Cold War's demise was the internal weakness of the Soviet Union, which, to be sure, the policies pursued by the Reagan administration exacerbated. By the time Reagan entered the White House, the Soviet economy had sunk into such a state of stagnation that it was obvious that communism had failed and a radically new approach was required.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 260-261
  • While Reagan was willing to improve relations with the Soviet Union, George Shultz must be given credit for the hard work and skill that was required to bring it off, in the face of much opposition from hard-liners within the administration. Yet it was neither Shultz nor Reagan, but rather Gorbachev, who made the major concessions that were needed to achieve success. The INF negotiations, for example, were concluded successfully primarily because of the concessions Gorbachev made, in the face of considerable opposition from hard-liners within his own government and military.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 261
  • Reagan may have had a genuine revulsion for nuclear weapons, but it was not at all obvious in the policies he adopted and pursued during his first and much of his second term. His disinclination to embrace détente was due to his own limited knowledge of nuclear weapons technology and strategy as well as his reluctance to offend the hard-liners in his administration, who had the expertise that the president lacked but not the same revulsion for nuclear weapons. Reagan had to be encouraged into running the risks of negotiating with the Soviets by his wife, Nancy Reagan, and by Secretary of State George Schultz. Public and congressional opinion also had much to do with Reagan's turnabout. The Democratic-controlled Congress made its continued support of pet administration military programs contingent on Reagan's willingness to negotiate seriously with the Soviets. The Congress, in turn, was influenced by an American public that was increasingly susceptible to the warnings of the anti-nuclear weapons movement about the perils of the Reagan military buildup. Neither Congress nor the American people gave much support to Reagan's crusade was weakened even more during his last two years in office by waning public and congressional support for large-scale defense increases and, above all, by the Iran-Contra affair, which threatened to destroy Reagan's presidency. In other words, Reagan needed a new approach to the Soviet Union. While he did not need a new U.S.-Soviet relationship as much as Gorbachev did, the revival of détente late in his presidency did win Reagan public accolades he sorely needed in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra affair. The Reagan-Gorbachev love-in was, in fact, an example of how necessity can make the strangest of bedfellows. Thanks to détente, and the unwillingness of Congress to press ahead with impeachment proceedings, Reagan left office as one of the most popular presidents in this century.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 261-262
  • Still, the price the United States paid during the Reagan years to "win" the Cold War was high. His decision to cut taxes while initiating the largest and most expensive peacetime military buildup in U.S. history, combined with Congress' refusal to cut domestic spending, contributed to an enormous increase in the national debt. Moreover, pressing domestic problems- the decline of the nation's infrastructure, the increase in crime, educational inequity, and others too numerous to list here- were ignored. Future generations will have to pay the bill for Reagan's "victory" in the Cold War.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 262
  • The frustration of dealing with a situation in which the schedule of the President of the United States was determined by occult prognostications was very great — far greater than any other I had known in nearly forty-five years of working life.
    • Donald Regan (Reagan's Chief of Staff) regarding what it was like having to make adjustments to President Reagan's schedule based on the advice of San Francisco astrologist Joan Quigley, For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington
  • Virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House Chief of Staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise.
    • Donald Regan, For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington

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  • Emerging from a particularly credulous Southern California culture, Nancy and Ronald Reagan relied on an astrologer in private and public matters — unknown to the voting public. Some portion of the decision-making that influences the future of our civilization is plainly in the hands of charlatans.
  • [the proposal [would force literally hundreds of thousands of students to disrupt their graduate education.
  • They better not do it. If we are going to be Ronald Reagan's Shining City on the Hill, we don't get to torture. We don't do it.
  • [A] lapse into fiscal indiscipline on a scale never before experienced in peacetime.
    • David Stockman (Reagan's budget director) describing the Reagan years, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed
  • What do you do when your President ignores all the palpable, relevant facts and wanders in circles?
    • David Stockman, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed
  • In America the 1980s were supposedly a rightward lurch, yet Reagan signed social security into law, established MLK day as a national holiday, heavily strengthened firearm restrictions, and did not curtail America’s public spending—choosing instead to use military spending as a form of economic stimulus. By standards of the previous era, Reagan was a consensus liberal—hardly a conservative. He shifted the Republican party towards the centreline of “acceptable politics,” and as such, narrowed what was and was not permissible on the political right.
  • He won the cold war without firing a shot.
    • Margaret Thatcher, at a 1991 Heritage Foundation dinner, as quoted With Reagan : The Inside Story (1992) by Edwin Meese, p. 173; this is often paraphrased "Ronald Reagan won the cold war without firing a shot."
  • Poor dear, there's nothing between his ears.
    • Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, speaking to one of her officials about President Reagan, cited by Peter Jenkins, Mrs. Thatcher's Revolution
  • The concept of Ronald Reagan as a master Mole for the Aryan Nation has not taken hold yet, in the centers of political power. Even his closest people still see him as a profoundly talented old man from Hollywood who will go down in history as perhaps the greatest salesman of his time.... But not as a philosopher-king or a serious political think, like all of those other presidents that he frequently quotes. They view him more or less as they would view Willie Loman if he had wandered through the looking glass and became president of the United States.
  • The epitaph of the Reagan presidency will be: "When Ronald Reagan became President, the United States was the largest creditor nation. When he left the presidency, we were the world's largest debtor nation."
    • Lester Thurow, MIT professor of economics, as quoted in Reagan's Reign of Error (1983) by Mark Green
  • I understand and embrace the wisdom of Ronald Reagan's big tent within the party, big, big tent, remember? Ronald Reagan, great man, great guy. Remember he included Reagan Democrats and Independents and Republicans, a lot of people. We're going to have the same thing. There a lot of Democrats perhaps in this room, are there a lot of Democrats? Raise your hands. I mean, I don't think we need too many to be honest with you, but -- so I embraced the wisdom that my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy, Ronald Reagan. Stated by Ronald Reagan, pretty good.
  • When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can’t be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989.
    • Lech Wałęsa, former president of Poland, as quoted in "A Tribute to Ronald Reagan" (2004)
  • The 1980s were a curious time — a time of realization that a new age was upon us. Now, from the perspective of our time, it is obvious that like the pieces of a global chain of events, Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher and even Mikhail Gorbachev helped bring about this new age in Europe. We at Solidarity like to claim more than a little credit, too, for bringing about the end of the Cold War. In the Europe of the 1980s, Ronald Reagan presented the vision. For us in Central and Eastern Europe, that meant freedom from the Soviets. As I say repeatedly, we owe so much to all those who supported us. Perhaps in the early years, we didn’t express enough gratitude. We were so busy introducing all the necessary economic and political reforms in our reborn country. Yet President Ronald Reagan must have realized what remarkable changes he brought to Poland, and indeed the rest of the world.
    And I hope he felt gratified. He should have.
    • Lech Wałęsa, former president of Poland, as quoted in "A Tribute to Ronald Reagan" (2004)
  • Ronald Reagan plays with fire. He doesn't care about international peace. He sees the world like the theater.... Reagan is mad. If he were here, I would tell him the truth about us. He hears about us only through hostile sources.
    • [who?], quoted in UPI (1986-08-08) "Moammar Gadhafi, the man the world loves to hate", Lodi News-Sentinel
  • The biggest threat to America today is not communism. It's moving America toward a fascist theocracy, and everything that's happened during the Reagan administration is steering us right down that pipe … I really think that. … When you have a government that prefers a certain moral code derived from a certain religion and that moral code turns into legislation to suit one certain religious point of view, and if that code happens to be very, very right wing, almost toward Attila the Hun...
  • I am thinking that Ronald Reagan is the same age as my father. They have some things in common. They are both young in spirit, buoyant, well-preserved, and optimistic. Beyond that, I can find only outstanding differences. The President is either ignorant of, or unconcerned by the ills of the world about which my father and I have been speaking. He is particularly immune to any part America may have in engendering these ills, as he dislikes the inconvenience of thinking beyond his own definitions of good-guys/bad-guys, and also doesn't like to be depressed. His pleasant, bumbling demeanor is preferable to the murderous efficiency of Kissinger and Kirkpatrick, but on the other hand, he is involved in the same dark and bloody deeds, all done under the same vast, all-encompassing and convenient banner of anticommunism. He feels that God is on his side, and that he really can do no wrong. What piques me is how this man and his followers can write off someone like my father. Because of my father's protestations about the raping of the Amazon forests, the pollution of our rivers, the misuse and depletion of natural energy, and the poisoning our children's air, people like my father are explained away with the flick of a wrist as a doomsayer, a depressive, a pessimistic liberal.

EulogiesEdit

 
History will give Reagan great credit for standing for principles. ~ George H. W. Bush
 
An excellent leader of our nation during challenging times at home and abroad. ~ Gerald Ford
Quotes from some of the tributes by world leaders on the death of Reagan. Many world leaders lauded him for how he contributed greatly to the end of the Cold War, others admired him for his help in restoring America's pride. News of Reagan's death put the ongoing presidential election on hold because it was considered disrespectful to have campaigns during a time of mourning. In Canada, their ongoing election was put on hold as well.
  • This is a sad hour in the life of America … Ronald Reagan won America's respect with his greatness, and won its love with his goodness … he leaves behind a nation he restored and a world he helped save … because of his leadership, the world laid to rest an era of fear and tyranny.
  • The dialogue that President Reagan and I started was difficult. To reach agreement, particularly on arms control and security, we had to overcome mistrust and the barriers of numerous problems and prejudices.
    I don't know whether we would have been able to agree and to insist on the implementation of our agreements with a different person at the helm of American government. True, Reagan was a man of the right. But, while adhering to his convictions, with which one could agree or disagree, he was not dogmatic; he was looking for negotiations and cooperation. And this was the most important thing to me: he had the trust of the American people.
 
I recall with deep gratitude the late president's unwavering commitment to the service of the nation and to the cause of freedom as well as his abiding faith in the human and spiritual values which ensure a future of solidarity, justice and peace in our world. ~ Pope John Paul II
  • During the arduous period of the Cold War, President Reagan showed great leadership and contributed tremendously to the advancement of democracy and free-market economy. In addition, President Reagan always placed a top priority on the maintenance of a sound Japan-U.S. alliance.
  • President Reagan's leadership served to define an era of sweeping geo-political change … He helped lay the foundations for the end of the Cold War … His wit, warmth and unique capacity to communicate helped to make him one of the most influential figures in the second half of the 20th century.
 
Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired. ~ Margaret Thatcher
  • He was great president who led the Cold War against communism to the victory of freedom and democracy... He was a good friend of the Japanese people as he respected Japan and its culture. The foundation of the Japan-U.S. alliance that now serves as a driving force to solve international issues with other countries was built during President Reagan's era.
  • He will be missed not only by those who knew him and not only by the nation that he served so proudly and loved so deeply, but also by millions of men and women who live in freedom today because of the policies he pursued. Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired. ... a truly great American hero.

See alsoEdit

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