Remembering Reagan and His Legacy
With the 100 Anniversary of the birth of President Ronald Reagan and 30 years since his first inauguration this year, I am reminded of the great leader whose optimism and patriotism continue to inspire me.
When Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980, America faced an anemic economy, high unemployment, and a sense of malaise emanated from Washington.
But President Reagan never doubted America’s potential was unlimited. During his second inaugural address he said America “can out-produce, out-compete, and out-sell anybody, anywhere in the world.” He understood that we were a nation of hope and achievement. The “ Reagan Revolution” was fueled by the understanding that, given the opportunity, Americans would dream, create, and build. He also knew that the road to greatness was through an individual’s effort, not through expanded government.
So President Reagan set about reinvigorating the stagnant economy. He cut government spending. He reduced government regulation. He ended the practice of wage and price controls. And he passed tax cuts for all Americans. He famously noted: “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” The American economy responded with sustained growth, and a new era of economic prosperity was ushered in.
Reagan’s vision of the greater good also extended beyond our shores. He was a fierce advocate for freedom. With our Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union, imposing the tight grip of communism on much of the world, President Reagan launched a resurgence of American military might through the Strategic Defense Initiative. As he said: “Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.” It was his firm resolve to negotiate from a position of strength that led to successful arms talks with the Soviets and ultimately to the downfall of the Soviet empire. During his first inaugural address he clearly stated where America stood: “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 itnow or ever.”
President Reagan understood that all people, regardless of where they live, long for freedom and liberty. He believed that America was a beacon of hope to the oppressed peoples of the world-a “shining city on the hill.” As Jeffrey Bell wrote in the Weekly Standard, Reagan “believed that people all over the world craved self-government just as much as Americans did.” Even today, he is still being proven right. He said that “concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty.” These words still echo in today’s tumultuous times, as we witnessed the poignant photographs of women in Iraq voting and joyously holding up their purple-stained thumbs, to the footage of the marchers in Egypt calling for free elections for the first time in 30 years. He also understood the importance of information in promoting freedom, calling it the “oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire; it wafts across the electrified borders.” His words are as true today as when he uttered them in 1989.
Freedom and individual liberty are America’s greatest assets. They are the core of our national identity. They are the foundation of our economic prosperity. And these precious assets have been protected by the service and sacrifice of patriots in every generation from the beginning of America’s history to today. Reagan understood and appreciated the duty we all have to preserve these American ideals. As he said, “Democracy is worth dying for, because it is the most deeply honorable form of government devised by man.”
When President Reagan died in 2004, there was a spontaneous, worldwide outpouring of grief and tribute that caught some seasoned political pundits by surprise. Throughout his political career, Reagan was underestimated by these “establishment” political intellectuals of the day and sometimes dismissed by the media. But when he spoke, the American people listened, and they understood. They agreed with this down-to-earth but very profound man - and so did the world. We all remember him both fondly and with great respect.
Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas