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Reagan Addresses British Parliament

Reagan Addresses British Parliament


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On June 8, 1982, in the first speech by an American president to a meeting of both houses of the British Parliament, President Ronald Reagan presents his hope for a future that would "leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history."


The Enduring Relevance of Reagan’s Speech to the British Parliament

COMMENTARY BY

Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy

Reagan said it was time for the West to begin a worldwide crusade for Democracy that would leave "Marxism, Leninism, on the ash heap of history." Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

President Ronald Reagan’s speech to the British Parliament at Westminster, delivered on June 8, 1982, continues to inspire in its vision and relevance.

When Reagan gave his eloquent review of the Cold War and prediction about its final decade, he famously stated that the Soviet Union and its ideas would end up on the “ash heap of history.” Which they did.

Democracy, Reagan predicted, would be on the march around the globe. The following year, Reagan created the National Endowment for Democracy to move that vision forward.

Today, the endowment is active in 90 countries, and many nations formerly oppressed by Soviet communism are enjoying a freedom and prosperity their parents’ generation could only dream of.

The Berlin Wall fell, and so did the Soviet Empire, under pressure from the West and the internal demands of its own citizens.

Yet, today, neither international bad actors nor bad ideas have disappeared from the face of the earth. We did not arrive at the “end of history” with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The freedoms that so many fought and died for during the Cold War must be defended continuously. Accordingly, Reagan’s Westminster speech bears rereading again and again.

This week’s state visit of President Donald Trump to Britain has aimed to cement trade and political ties in the “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K. The British royal family put on a good show, and outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May did the same.

But the British elites, the U.K. media, and the left were up in arms. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to attend the state dinner with the queen in Trump’s honor, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan accused Trump of being the “poster boy” for the far right.

In 1982, a time of great turmoil over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces in Europe, Reagan reminded the Brits of the two countries’ “special relationship.”

“Speaking for all Americans, I want to say how very much at home we feel in your house. Every American would, because this is, as we have been so eloquently told, one of democracy’s shrines,” he said. “Here the rights of free people and the processes of representation have been debated and refined.”

Today, Russia seeks to exploit every possible crack in the West, just as the Soviets did during the Cold War. Most recently, Russian efforts to undermine faith in our democratic institutions and media met with overwhelming success in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In 1982, Reagan spoke of the evils of totalitarianism.

“We’re approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention—totalitarianism. Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less vigorous, but because democracy’s enemies have refined their instruments of repression,” he said. “Yet optimism is in order, because day-by-day democracy is proving itself to be a not-at-all-fragile flower. … Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.”

Today, bad actors like Cuba and Russia are wreaking havoc on the international stage. The devastation of Venezuela is a case in point. Iran continues its pursuit of nuclear capability and its support of Middle Eastern terrorism aimed at Israel and moderate Arab states. China seeks regional domination and has global ambitions.

In 1982, Reagan spoke of confronting the enemy.

“At the same time, we see totalitarian forces in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their barbarous assault on the human spirit,” he said. “What, then, is our course? Must civilization perish in a hail of fiery atoms? Must freedom wither in a quiet, deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil?”

Today, most troubling of all, socialism is promoted by certain politicians as an actual alternative to free-market democracy.

While socialism is not the same as communism, there is merely a difference of degrees. Understandably, free education, free health care, and all of socialism’s other promises appeal to younger voters, who have more college debt than property and income.

Furthermore, they have zero firsthand experience of socialism’s trade-off between government handouts and soul-crushing state control. If they did, they would think again.

In 1982, this is what Reagan had to say:

The decay of the Soviet experiment should come as no surprise to us. Wherever the comparisons have been made between free and closed societies … it is the democratic countries that are prosperous and responsive to the needs of their people. And one of the simple but overwhelming facts of our time is this: Of all the millions of refugees we’ve seen in the modern world, their flight is always away from, not toward, the communist world.

May this—the most important lesson of the 20 th century—never be forgotten.


TEXT OF REAGAN'S ADDRESS TO PARLIAMENT ON PROMOTING DEMOCRACY

Following is the text of President Reagan's speech today to the British Parliament, as made public by White House officials:

The journey of which this visit forms a part is a long one. Already it has taken me to two great cities of the West - Rome and Paris - and to the Economic Summit at Versailles. There, once again, our sister democracies have proved that, even in a time of severe economic strain, free peoples can work together freely and voluntarily to address problems as serious as inflation, unemployment, trade and economic development in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity.

Other milestones lie ahead later this week. In Germany, we and our NATO allies will discuss measures for our joint defense and America's latest initiatives for a more peaceful, secure world through arms reductions.

Each stop of this trip is important but, among them all, this moment occupies a special place in my heart and the hearts of my countrymen - a moment of kinship and homecoming in these hallowed halls.

Feeling at Home in Britain

Speaking for all Americans, I want to say how very much at home we feel in your house. Every American would, because this is one of democracy's shrines. Here the rights of free people and the processes of representation have been debated and refined.

It has been said that an institution is the lengthening shadow of a man. This institution is the lengthening shadow of all the men and women who have sat here and all those who have voted to send representatives here.

This is my second visit to Great Britain as President of the United States. My first opportunity to stand on British soil occurred almost a year and a half ago when your Prime Minister graciously hosted a diplomatic dinner at the British Embassy in Washington. Mrs. Thatcher said then that she hoped that I was not distressed to find staring down at me from the grand staircase a portrait of His Royal Majesty, King George III.

She suggested it was best to let bygones be bygones and - in view of our two countries' remarkable friendship in succeeding years - she added that most Englishmen today would agree with Thomas Jefferson that 'ɺ little rebellion now and then is a very good thing.'' Looking at Eastern Europe

From here I will go to Bonn, and then Berlin, where there stands a grim symbol of power untamed. The Berlin Wall, that dreadful gash across the city, is in its third decade. It is the fitting signature of the regime that built it.

And a few hundred kilometers behind the Berlin Wall there is another symbol. In the center of Warsaw there is a sign that notes the distances to two capitals. In one direction it points toward Moscow. In the other it points toward Brussels, headquarters of Western Europe's tangible unity. The marker says that the distances from Warsaw to Moscow and Warsaw to Brussels are equal. The sign makes this point: Poland is not East or West. Poland is at the center of European civilization. It has contributed mightily to that civilization. It is doing so today by being magnificently unreconciled to oppression.

Poland's struggle to be Poland and to secure the basic rights we often take for granted demonstrates why we dare not take those rights for granted. Gladstone, defending the Reform Bill of 1866, declared: ''You cannot fight against the future. Time is on our side.'' It was easier to believe in the inevitable march of democracy in Gladstone's day - in that high noon of Victorian optimism.

We are approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention - totalitarianism. Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less vigorous but because democracy's enemies have refined their instruments of repression. Yet optimism is in order because, day by day, democracy is proving itself to be a not-at-all fragile flower.

From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than 30 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.

The strength of the Solidarity movement in Poland demonstrates the truth told in an underground joke in the Soviet Union. It is that the Soviet Union would remain a one-party nation even if an opposition party were permitted - because everyone would join that party.

America's time as a player on the stage of world history has been brief. I think understanding this fact has always made you patient with your younger cousins. Well, not always patient. I do recall that on one occasion Sir Winston Churchill said in exasperation about one of our most distinguished diplomats, ''He is the only case I know of a bull who carries his china shop with him.''

Witty as Sir Winston was, he also had that special attribute of great statesmen: the gift of vision, the willingness to see the future based on the experience of the past.

It is this sense of history, this understanding of the past, that I want to talk with you about today, for it is in remembering what we share of the past that our two nations can make common cause for the future.

We have not inherited an easy world. If developments like the Industrial Revolution, which began here in England, and the gifts of science and technology have made life much easier for us, they have also made it more dangerous. There are threats now to our freedom, indeed, to our very existence, that other generations could never even have imagined. Threat of Global War

There is, first, the threat of global war. No President, no Congress, no Prime Minister, no Parliament, can spend a day entirely free of this threat. And I don't have to tell you that in today's world, the existence of nuclear weapons could mean, if not the extinction of mankind, then surely the end of civilization as we know it.

That is why negotiations on intermediate range nuclear forces now under way in Europe and the Start talks - Strategic Arms Reduction Talks - which will begin later this month, are not just critical to American or Western policy they are critical to mankind. Our commitment to early success in these negotiations is firm and unshakable and our purpose is clear: reducing the risk of war by reducing the means of waging war on both sides.

At the same time, there is a threat posed to human freedom by the enormous power of the modern state. History teaches the danger of government that overreaches: political control takes precedence over free economic growth secret police, mindless bureaucracy - all combining to stifle individual excellence and personal freedom. Inhumanities of Our Time

Now I am aware that among us here and throughout Europe there is legitimate disagreement over the extent to which the public sector should play a role in a nation's economy and life. But on one point all of us are united: our abhorrence of dictatorship in all its forms but most particularly totalitarianism and the terrible inhumanities it has caused in our time: the great purge, Auschwitz and Dachau, the Gulag and Cambodia.

Historians looking back at our time will note the consistent restraint and peaceful intentions of the West. They will note that it was the democracies who refused to use the threat of their nuclear monopoly in the 40's and early 50's for territorial or imperial gain. Had that nuclear monopoly been in the hands of the Communist world, the map of Europe, indeed, the world, would look very different today. And certainly they will note it was not the democracies that invaded Afghanistan or suppressed Polish Solidarity or used chemical and toxin warfare in Afghanistan or Southeast Asia.

If history teaches anything, it teaches: self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly. We see around us today the marks of our terrible dilemma - predictions of doomsday, antinuclear demonstrations, an arms race in which the West must for its own protection be an unwilling participant. At the same time, we see totalitarian forces in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their barbarous assault on the human spirit. What Should the West Do?

What, then, is our course? Must civilization perish - in a hail of fiery atoms? Must freedom wither - in a quiet, deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil? Sir Winston Churchill refused to accept the inevitability of war or even that it was imminent. He said: ''I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. But what we have to consider here today while time remains, is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries.''

This is precisely our mission today: to preserve freedom as well as peace. It may not be easy to see, but I believe we live now at a turning point.

In an ironic sense, Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis - a crisis where the demands of the economic order are colliding directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet Union. Soviet Failings

It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying freedom and human dignity to its citizens. It also is in deep economic difficulty. The rate of growth in the Soviet gross national product has been steadily declining since the 50's and is less than half of what it was then. The dimensions of this failure are astounding a country which employs one-fifth of its population in agriculture is unable to feed its own people.

Were it not for the tiny private sector tolerated in Soviet agriculture, the country might be on the brink of famine. These private plots occupy a bare 3 percent of the arable land but account for nearly one-quarter of Soviet farm output and nearly one-third of meat products and vegetables.

Overcentralized, with little or no incentives, year after year the Soviet system pours its best resource into the making of instruments of destruction. The constant shrinkage of economic growth combined with the growth of military production is putting a heavy strain on the Soviet people. The Result of Comparisons

What we see here is a political structure that no longer corresponds to its economic base, a society where productive forces are hampered by political ones.

The decay of the Soviet experiment should come as no surprise to us. Wherever the comparisons have been made between free and closed societies - West Germany and East Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, Malaysia and Vietnam - it is the democratic countries that are prosperous and responsive to the needs of their people.

And one of the simple but overwhelming facts of our time is this: of all the millions of refugees we have seen in the modern world, their flight is always away from, not toward, the Communist world. Today on the NATO line, our military forces face east to prevent a possible invasion. On the other side of the line the Soviet forces also face east - to prevent their people from leaving.

The hard evidence of totalitarian rule has caused in mankind an uprising of the intellect and will. Whether it is the growth of the new schools of economics in America or England or the appearnce of the so-called new philosophers in France, there is one unifying thread running through the intellectual work of these groups: rejection of the arbitrary power of the state, the refusal to subordinate the rights of the individual to the superstate, the realization that collectivism stifles all the best human impulses.

Since the Exodus from Egypt, historians have written of those who sacrificed and struggled for freedom: the stand at Thermopylae, the revolt of Spartacus, the storming of the Bastille, the Warsaw uprising in World War II.

More recently we have seen evidence of this same human impulse in one of the developing nations in Central America. For months and months the world news media covered the fighting in El Salvador. Day after day, we were treated to stories and film slanted toward the brave freedom fighters battling oppressive Government forces in behalf of the silent, suffering people of that tortured country.

PICK UP FIRST ADD Revelation of an Election

Then one day those silent suffering people were offered a chance to vote to choose the kind of Government they wanted. Suddenly the freedom fighters in the hills were exposed for what they really are: Cuban-backed guerrillas who want power for themselves and their backers, not democracy for the people.

They threatened death to anyone who voted and destroyed hundreds of buses and trucks to keep people from getting to the polling places. But on election day, the people of El Salvador, an unprecedented 1.4 million of them, braved ambush and gunfire, trudging miles to vote for freedom.

They stood for hours in the hot sun waiting for their turn to vote. Members of our Congress who went there as observers told me of a woman wounded by rifle fire who refused to leave the line to have her wound treated until after she had voted.

A grandmother, who had been told by the guerrillas she would be killed when she returned from the polls, told the guerrillas, ''You can kill me, kill my family, kill my neighbors, but you can't kill us all.'' The real freedom fighters of El Salvador turned out to be the people of that country, the young, the old and the in-between. Strange, but there has been little if any news coverage of that war since the election. Other Fights Today

Perhaps they'll say it's because there are newer struggles now. On distant islands in the South Atlantic, young men are fighting for Britain. And, yes, voices have been raised protesting their sacrifice for lumps of rock and earth so far away. But those young men aren't fighting for mere real estate.

They fight for a cause, for the belief that armed aggression must not be allowed to succeed, and that people must participate in the decisions of government under the rule of law. If there had been firmer support for that principle some 45 years ago, perhaps our generation wouldn't have suffered the bloodletting of World War II.

In the Middle East, the guns sound once more, this time in Lebanon, a country that for too long has had to endure the tragedy of civil war, terrorism and foreign intervention and occupation. The fighting in Lebanon on the part of all parties must stop and Israel must bring its forces home. But this is not enough. We must all work to stamp out the scourge of terrorism that in the Middle East makes war an ever-present threat. Some Signs of Hope

But beyond the trouble spots lies a deeper, more positive pattern. Around the world today, the democratic revolution is gathering new strength. In India, a critical test has been passed with the peaceful change of governing political parties. In Africa, Nigeria is moving in remarkable and unmistakable ways to build and strengthen its democratic institutions. In the Caribbean and Central America, 16 of 24 countries have freely elected governments. And in the United Nations, 8 of 10 developing nations which have joined the body in the past five years are democracies.

In the Communist world as well, man's instinctive desire for freedom and self-determination surfaces again and again. To be sure, there are grim reminders of how brutally the police state attempts to snuff out this quest for self-rule: 1953 in East Germany, 1956 in Hungary, 1968 in Czechoslovakia, 1981 in Poland.

But the struggle continues in Poland, and we know there are even those who strive and suffer for freedom within the confines of the Soviet Union itself. How we conduct ourselves here in the Western democracies will determine whether this trend continues. No Fragile Flower

No, democracy is not a fragile flower still it needs cultivating. If the rest of this century is to witness the gradual growth of freedom and democratic ideals, we must take actions to assist the campaign for democracy.

Some argue that we should encourage democratic change in right-wing dictatorships, but not in Communist regimes. To accept this preposterous notion - some well-meaning people have - is to invite the argument that, once countries achieve a nuclear capability, they should be allowed an undisturbed reign of terror over their own citizens. We reject this course.

As for the Soviet view, Chairman Brezhnev repeatedly has stressed that the competition of ideas and systems must continue and that this is entirely consistent with relaxation of tensions and peace. We ask only that these systems begin by living up to their own constitutions, abiding by their own laws and complying with the international obligations they have undertaken. We ask only for a process, a direction, a basic code of decency - not for instant transformation. Drive to Promote Democracy

We cannot ignore the fact that even without our encouragement, there have been and will continue to be repeated explosions against repression in dictatorships. The Soviet Union itself is not immune to this reality. Any system is inherently unstable that has no peaceful means to legitimize its leaders. In such cases, the very repressiveness of the state ultimately drives people to resist it - if necessary, by force.

While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to clear our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move towards them. We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings. So states the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights -which, among other things, guarantees free elections.

The objective I propose is quite simple to state: To foster the infrastructure of democracy - the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities - which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means. Who Will Welcome It?

This is not cultural imperialism it is providing the means for genuine self-determination and protection for diversity. Democracy already flourishes in countries with very different cultures and historical experiences. It would be cultural condescension, or worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy.

Who would voluntarily choose not to have the right to vote decide to purchase government propaganda handouts instead of independent newspapers prefer government- to worker-controlled unions opt for land to be owned by the state instead of those who till it want government repression of religious liberty, a single political party instead of a free choice, a rigid cultural orthodoxy instead of democratic tolerance and diversity?

Since 1917, the Soviet Union has given covert political training and assistance to Marxist-Leninists in many countries. Of course, it also has promoted the use of violence and subversion by these same forces. A Bipartisan Effort

Over the past several decades, West European and other Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Liberals have offered open assistance to fraternal political and social institutions, to bring about peaceful and democratic progress. Appropriately for a vigorous new democracy, the Federal Republic of Germany's political foundations have become a major force in this effort.

We in America now intend to take additional steps, as many of our allies have already done, toward realizing this same goal. The chairmen and other leaders of the National Republican and Democratic Party organizations are initiating a study with the bipartisan American Political Foundation to determine how the United States can best contribute - as a nation - to the global campaign for democracy now gathering force.

They will have the cooperation of Congressional leaders of both parties, along with representatives of business, labor and other major institutions in our society. I look forward to receiving their recommendations and to working with these institutions and the Congress in the common task of strengthening democracy throughout the world.

It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation - in both the public and private sectors - to assisting democratic development. Enlisting Others' Help

We plan to consult with leaders of other nations as well. There is a proposal before the Council of Europe to invite parliamentarians from democratic countries to a meeting next year in Strasbourg. That prestigious gathering could consider ways to help democratic political movements.

This November, in Washington, there will take place an international meeting on free elections, and next spring there will be a conference of world authorities on constitutionalism and selfgovernment hosted by the Chief Justice of the United States.

Authorities from a number of developing and developed countries - judges, philosophers and politicians with practical experience - have agreed to explore how to turn principle into practice and further the rule of law.

At the same time, we invite the Soviet Union to consider with us how the competition of ideas and values -which it is committed to support -can be conducted on a peaceful and reciprocal basis. For example, I am prepared to offer President Brezhnev an opportunity to speak to the American people on our television if he will allow me the same opportunity with the Soviet people. We also suggest that panels of our newsmen periodically appear on each other's television to discuss major events. The Possible Soviet Reaction

I do not wish to sound overly optimistic, yet the Soviet Union is not immune from the reality of what is going on in the world. It has happened in the past: a small ruling elite either mistakenly attempts to ease domestic unrest through greater repression and foreign adventure or it chooses a wiser course - it begins to allow its people a voice in their own destiny.

Even if this latter process is not realized soon, I believe the renewed strength of the democratic movement, complemented by a global campaign for freedom, will strengthen the prospects for arms control and a world at peace.

I have discussed on other occasions, including my address on May 9, the elements of Western policies toward the Soviet Union to safeguard our interests and protect the peace. What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term - the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.

That is why we must continue our efforts to strengthen NATO even as we move forward with our zero-option initiative in the negotiations on intermediate range forces and our proposal for a one-third reduction in strategic ballistic missile warheads.

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 now going on for 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. Reasons to Hope for Success

The British people know that, given strong leadership, time and a little bit of hope, the forces of good ultimately rally and triumph over evil. Here among you is the cradle of self-government, the mother of parliaments. Here is the enduring greatness of the British contribution to mankind, the great civilized ideas: individual liberty, representative government and the rule of law under God.

I have often wondered about the shyness of some of us in the West about standing for these ideals that have done so much to ease the plight of man and the hardships of our imperfect world. This reluctance to use those vast resources at our command reminds me of the elderly lady whose home was bombed in the blitz as the rescuers moved about they found a bottle of brandy she had stored behind the staircase, which was all that was left standing. Since she was barely conscious, one of the workers pulled the cork to give her a taste of it. She came around immediately and said: ''Here now, put it back. That's only for emergencies.''

Well, the emergency is upon us. Let us be shy no longer - let us go to our strength. Let us offer hope. Let us tell the world that a new age is not only possible but probable.

During the dark days of the Second World War, when this island was incandescent with courage, Winston Churchill exclaimed about Britain's adversaries, ''What kind of a people do they think we are?'' Message for the Future

Britain's adversaries found out what extraordinary people the British are. But all the democracies paid a terrible price for allowing the dictators to underestimate us. We dare not make that mistake again. So let us ask ourselves: What kind of people do we think we are? And let us answer: free people, worthy of freedom and determined not only to remain so but to help others gain their freedom as well.

Sir Winston led his people to great victory in war and then lost an election just as the fruits of victory were about to be enjoyed. But he left office honorably - and, as it turned out, temporarily - knowing that the liberty of his people was more important than the fate of any single leader.

History recalls his greatness in ways no dictator will ever know. And he left us a message of hope for the future, as timely now as when he first uttered it, as opposition leader in the Commons nearly 27 years ago. ''When we look back on all the perils through which we have passed and at the mighty foes we have laid low and all the dark and deadly designs we have frustrated, why should we fear for our future? We have,'' said Sir Winston, 'ɼome safely through the worst.''

The task I have set forth will long outlive our own generation. But together, we, too, have come through the worst. Let us now begin a major effort to secure the best - a crusade for freedom that will engage the faith and fortitude of the next generation. For the sake of peace and justice, let us move toward a world in which all people are at last free to determine their own destiny.


Reagan’s Westminster Address, 30 Years Later

Today is the 30 th anniversary of Reagan’s famous address in Westminster Hall, London, where he outraged fashionable opinion with his argument that it was Communism that would end up “on the ash heap of history.” Kudos to the Washington Post editorial page today, which takes positive note of the anniversary to say:

THIRTY YEARS AGO, on June 8, 1982, President Reagan delivered an address to the British Parliament that stands as one of the greatest of his presidency and a milestone in the final years of the Cold War. At a time when the Soviet Union seemed to be a permanent, if foreboding, presence in the world, Reagan predicted that “the march of freedom and democracy” would “leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.” . . .

Recent events in China, Russia and the Arab world vividly demonstrate that democracy remains a universal aspiration — but also that the forces of repression have powerful means to resist the tide. The National Endowment for Democracy, and like-minded agencies that other democracies subsequently established, have found useful ways to aid and nurture freedom movements. Words, too, are important. Reading the Westminster speech is a good reminder of their power to inspire action, and change history.

I have a strong suspicion that Post editorial board member Anne Applebaum wrote this house piece, but regardless, what is worth mentioning today is that the media and the foreign policy establishment universally dismissed Reagan’s speech at the time. Here’s how I covered it in The Age of Reagan:

Reagan’s rhetorical larceny in the Westminster speech—the idea that it is Soviet Communism, not the capitalist West, that faced a revolutionary crisis—“infuriated the Russians more than anything Reagan had said or done since taking office,” according to [Richard] Pipes. Reagan was delighted “So, we touched a nerve.” The reaction in the Western media was not so far removed from the Soviet’s shock. The New York Times headline read: “President Urges Global Crusade for Democracy: Revives Flavor of the 1950s in a Speech to Britons.” “Reviving the flavor of the 1950s” was not meant as praise. George Ball, one of the elder statesmen of Democratic Party foreign policy figures, was dismissive: “Crusade for democracy? I thought we had gotten over that a long time ago.”

Der Spiegel wrote: “Reagan is synonymous for dangerous atomic helmsmanship, as a cowboy who shoots from the hip, who plays with rockets and bombs, who has the mania to grab the red steer by the horns and drag it to the ground.”

For what it’s worth, here are the key 10 minutes of the speech—in retrospect, 10 of the most sublime minutes of the Reagan years:


Reagan Addresses British Parliament - HISTORY

1/4/71 - Second Inaugural Address, Sacramento, CA

1/25/74 - "City Upon a Hill", speech to the 1st Annual Conservative Political Action Convention, (location not specified)
- text - We Will Be A City Upon A Hill source: Reagan 2020 - Selected Speeches of Ronald Reagan

post-gubernatorial speeches (as presidential candidate, January 5, 1975 to January 19, 1981):

3/1/75 - Let Them Go Their Way, speech to the 2nd Annual Conservative Political Action Conference
- text - Let Them Go Their Way source: Reagan 2020 - Selected Speeches of Ronald Reagan

8/19/76 - "A Shining City on a Hill" - Ronald Reagan's Remarks at the Republican National Convention, Kansas City, MO (after narrow loss to Gerald Ford for the presidential nomination) text - Ronald Reagan: 1976 Convention Speech source: CNBCfix.com/ from CNBC TV
- Reagan's Impromptu Speech at 1976 GOP Convention ("time capsule" - YouTube video with commentary, 3:05 minutes) at www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-p-Nuu8hYQ
- NPR, The Life of Ronald Reagan: A Timeline at www.npr.org/news/specials/obits/reagan/timeline.html scroll down to 1976 for brief audio
- RealClearPolitics, Top 10 Convention Moments - #5, 1976 RNC - Ronald Reagan, www.realclearpolitics.com/lists/Convention_Moments/76_reagan.html

2/6/77 - A New Republican Party, 4th Annual Conservative Political Action Convention, Washington D.C., text only
- text - The New Republican Party source: Reagan 2020 - Selected Speeches of Ronald Reagan

3/17/78 - America's Purpose in the World, 5th Annual Conservative Political Action Convention, Washington D.C., text only
- text - America's Purpose in the World source: Reagan 2020 - Selected Speeches of Ronald Reagan

11/13/79 - Ronald Reagan's Announcement for Presidential Candidacy, New York Hilton, New York, New York, 26:00 text - Ronald Reagan For President 1980 Announcement or
- text - Ronald Reagan-Intent to Run for Presidency source:
- text - Intent to Run for President source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library - speeches

2/23/80 - "I paid for this microphone, Mr. Green!" - Ronald Reagan's debate with George Bush in New Hampshire Primary, Nashua, N.H. hosted by daily newspaper Telegraph of Nashua
-
video (38 sec.) - Listen
- "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!" at YouTube - Reagan's Nashua Moment (audio and video, 1:05)
- YouTube - President Reagan's famous 'I'm paying for this microphone' line, a 1:06 excerpt with commentator at ThePoliticalEagle showing 1948 movie line to this effect

4/24/80 - Ronald Reagan and George Bush Debate, Houston, TX (WHCA R13, 60:00)
- YouTube - Bush-Reagan Debate 1980 on Taxes after Reagan victory in Pennsylvania Republican primary (8:16)

1980 (still looking for exact date): Reagan campaign speech or statement: "A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."

8/18/80 - Ronald Reagan's Speech at the VFW Convention, Chicago, IL (RB80 30:00)

9/1/80 - Ronald Reagan's Speech at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ (RB80 20:00)

9/21/80 - Ronald Reagan and John Anderson Debate, Baltimore, MD (WHCA R19, 60:00) source:

10/19/80 - "A Strategy for Peace in the 80s" Televised Campaign Address, (WHCA R22, 28:00)

10/24/80 - "A Vital Economy: Jobs, Growth, and Progress for Americans", Televised Campaign Address, (WHCA R23, 30:00)

10/28/80 - Presidential Debate with Jimmy Carter - "There you go again!" and "Are you better off than you were four years ago?", Convention Center Music Hall, Cleveland, OH (WHCA R24, 90:00)
- text - Presidential Debate with Jimmy Carter
- YouTube - President Carter - Governor Reagan 1980 Debate (2:22 excerpt) - "There you go again." concluded by "Are you better off . "
- YouTube - The Made-for-TV Election 1980 (1986) Segment XIII (6:46) has analysis of strategy by both Carter and Reagan

10/31/80 - Ronald Reagan Campaign Commercial (Speech, Moody Coliseum, Dallas), (WHCA R28, 29:00)

11/1/80 - Ronald Reagan Campaign Commercial (WHCA R29, 5:00)

11/3/80 - Ronald Reagan Election Eve Address "A Vision for America" Televised Campaign Address, (WHCA R30, 27:00)

First Presidential Term (1/20/81-1/20/85): Top

1/20/81 - First Inaugural Address, "Government Is The Problem", West Portico, U.S. Capitol, (WHCA R42, R83, 20:00) (complete sentence: "Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.")
- text - Inaugural Address - January 20, 1981 source: Reagan Presidential Library major speeches
- text, audio mp3 and video - American Rhetoric Ronald Reagan -- First Inaugural Address source: American Rhetoric Online Speech Bank - Index of Speeches M-R
- text and flash video - First Inaugural Address (January 20, 1981) source: Presidential Speech Archive - Miller Center of Public Affairs
- audio and video - Inaugural Address source: Presidential Audio-Video Archive - Ronald Reagan from The American Presidency Project

2/4/81 - Remarks at the Annual Salute to Congress Dinner, Washington Press Club, The Sheraton Washington Hotel

2/5/81 - Address to the Nation on the Economy, Oval Office, (WHCA R91, WHTV #16, 21:00)

2/18/81 - Address on the Program for Economic Recovery, Joint Session of Congress, (WHCA R100, 40:00)

2/26/82 - The Agenda Is Victory, speech to the 9th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Washington, D.C.
- text - The Agenda is Victory source: Reagan 2020 - Selected Speeches of Ronald Reagan

4/29/82 - Address to the Nation on the Federal Budget, Oval Office (WHCA R784, 18:00)

5/9/82 - Address to Eureka College Graduating Class of 1982, Eureka College, Illinois (WHTV #141, 132, 28:00)

6/8/82 - Address to the British Parliament, "Ash Heap of History", House of Commons, Royal Gallery at the Palace of Westminster, London (WHCA R894, 33:00) Audio in mp3
- text and flash video - Address to the British Parliament (June 8, 1982) source: Presidential Speech Archive - Miller Center of Public Affairs
- text - The Evil Empire (I) (first reference to this term see below under 3/8/83 for second reference) source: Reagan 2020 - Selected Speeches of Ronald Reagan
- text and audio mp3 - Address to British Parliament source: American Rhetoric Online Speech Bank - Index of Speeches M-R
- text - House of Commons Speech (Crusade for Freedom)

9/28/82 - United States Policy in the Middle East (press conference), video - Speaking on United States Policy in the Middle East During News Conference

10/13/82 - Address to the Nation on the Economy,Oval Office, (WHCA R1105, WHTV #511, 20:00)

2/18/83 - We Will Not Be Turned Back, 10th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Washington, D.C., text only
- text - We Will Not Be Turned Back source: Reagan 2020 - Selected Speeches of Ronald Reagan

3/10/83 - Address on Central America and El Salvador,Annual Meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington Hilton Hotel (WHCA R1340, WHTV #708, 30:00)

4/11/83 - Address to the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, Capitol Centre, Landover, MD (WHTV #781, WHTV TWTW, 21:00)

4/18/83 - Remarks to the Press regarding the Bombing in Beirut of the US Embassy, White House Rose Garden, text only: source: Reagan Library
- text - Beirut Embassy Bombing source: Reagan 2020 - Selected Speeches of Ronald Reagan
- text - Bombing in Beirut source: Terry Sullivan, Major Speeches Chronology

4/27/83 - Address on Central America, Joint Session of Congress, (WHCA R1420, 35:00)

11/11/83 - Address before the Japanese Diet, Tokyo, Japan (WHTV #C29, TWTW, 30:00)

11/13/83 - Remarks to the American Troops at Camp Liberty Bell (DMZ), Camp Liberty Bell, Republic of Korea (WHTV TWTW, 13:00)

5/9/84 - Address to the Nation on Central America, Oval Office, (WHCA R1964, 25:00)

8/11/84 - "I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." (radio broadcast blooper)
-
Listen
- scroll down Ronald Reagan, In His Own Words for August 11, 1984 (:09, with background mirth)

8/23/84 - Remarks at an Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast, Reunion Arena, Dallas, Texas, text and audio source: American Rhetoric speech bank

10/12/84 - Remarks during Whistlestop Tour of Ohio (six stops on the train route), (WHTV #27-33)

10/20/84 - Radio Address to the Nation, October 20, 1984 on Foreign Policy, White House Oval Office
- text - Address to the Nation1984_10_20 source: The Reagan Information Page - Speeches

Second Presidential Term (1/20/85-1/20/89): Top

3/13/85 - "Go ahead, make my day.", American Business Conference, Los Angeles, CA Audio - Listen

5/5/85 - Remarks at a Joint German-American Military Ceremony at Bitburg Air Base in the Federal Republic of Germany, (WHCA R2649-2652, WHTV #440-441, TWTW, 13:00)
- Bitburg - The Reagan Speech Controversy - Wikipedia has the context of this public relations fiasco involving Reagan's visit to a German war cemetary that turned out to include both German Army and Nazi S.S. troop gravesites.

5/8/85 - Address to European Parliament ("Soviet Military"), Strasbourg, France, (WHCA R2660, TWTW, 46:00)

5/28/85 - Address to the Nation on Tax Reform,Oval Office, (WHCA R2685, 20:00)

10/24/85 - Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, (40th Anniversary on "Fresh Start" with Soviet Union). United Nations, NYC, (WHCA R2875, WHTV #083, 29:00)

12/16/85 - Remarks at a Memorial Service for 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky (R2969-2972, WHTV #163, 7:00)

2/4/86 - State of the Union Address (Welfare Plan) Joint Session of Congress, (WHCA R3044-3049, 34:00) source: Reagan Library
- text and flash video - State of the Union Address (February 4, 1986) source: Presidential Speech Archive - Miller Center of Public Affairs

3/16/86 - Address to the Nation on the Situation in Nicaragua, Oval Office, (WHCA R3111-3114, WHTV #350, 21:00)

6/24/86 - Address to the Nation on Aid to the Contras, Oval Office, (WHCA R3276, WHTV TWTW, 27:00)

7/3/86 - Address at the Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration, Governors Island, New York Harbor, (WHTV TWTW, WHCA R3286-3288, 21:00)

9/22/86 - Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, (Arms Reduction Progress) United Nations, NYC, (WHCA R3432, WHTV #721, 32:00)

10/1/86 - Address at the Dedication of the Carter Presidential Center, Jimmy Carter Library, Atlanta, (WHTV TWTW, WHCA R3454, 21:00)

12/2/86 - Address to the Nation on the Investigation of the Iran-Contra Affair, White House Oval Office
- audio - Address to the Nation on the Investigation of the Iran Arms and Contra Aid Controversy (Appointment of an Independent Counsel to Investigate the Iran-Contra Affair) source: Presidential Audio-Video Archive - Ronald Reagan from The American Presidency Project

3/ /87 - A Future That Works, CPAC Conference (date is unspecified, but Conference is held each March) source: Reagan 2020 - Selected Speeches of Ronald Reagan

5/22/87 - Remarks at a Memorial Service for crew members of U.S.S. Stark, Jacksonville, Florida, (R4051-4054, WHTV #392, 15:00)

7/3/87 - Fourth of July Address on America's Economic Bill of Rights,Jefferson Memorial, Washington D.C., (WHCA R4291, WHTV TWTW, 25:00)

9/21/87 - Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, (INF Agreement & Iran) United Nations, NYC, (WHCA R4582-4585, WHTV #624, 32:00)

1/25/88 - State of the Union Address ("We're not finished yet"-Budget Process) Joint Session of Congress, (WHCA R4982-4988, WHTV TWTW, 46:00)
- text and flash video - State of the Union Address (January 25, 1988) source: Presidential Speech Archive - Miller Center of Public Affairs

12/13/88 - Address to Administration Officials on Domestic Policy, Constitution Hall, Washington D.C. (WHCA R5903, 5904, 33:00)

Post-presidential speeches (after 1/20/89): Top

11/5/94 - text of letter - Announcement of Alzheimer's disease or Transcript source: CNN

Funeral Eulogies on death of former President Reagan Top

Former President Reagan died on 5 June 2004. Famous for his own televised homage to the seven Challenger astronauts who died on 28 January 1986 (and a formal eulogy of 31 January 1986 at their Houston funeral cited above under that date), Reagan himself was given ample commemoration to wide international attention. Wikipedia has the Death and state funeral of Ronald Reagan for background. Additional Pictures are at BBC News - BBC NEWS In Pictures In pictures Reagan funeral. Following are eulogies from leading American and allied political leaders plus a notable one from Ron Reagan Jr.

6/11/2004 - Reagan 2020 - Reagan Eulogy - Brian Mulroney (former Prime Minister of Canada during the Reagan presidential years) source: Reagan 2020 - Ronald Reagan Eulogies (also see this source for others shown above).

6/11/2004 - Ron Reagan Jr. - "Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference."

Reagan Campaign Commercials Top

Two celebrated Reagan commercials in 1984 made political advertising history. These are "It's Morning Again in America" in June 1984 followed by "Reagan and the Bear" in the October general election campaign. See YouTube - Ronald Reagan TV Ad: Its morning in America again (1:00) and The Bear (31 seconds). Context is cited at Morning in America - Wikipedia and then Bear in the woods - Wikipedia. Creating Reagan's image - S.F. ad man Hal Riney helped secure him a second term, briefly cites how these two celebrated ads were designed (also see Hal Riney - Wikipedia).

All press conference transcripts for 1981 to December 1988 are at Presidential News Conferences from The American Presidency Project. Unlike Roosevelt and Kennedy before him, this venue was not Reagan's forte, so he held them sparingly.


The Americans: Television’s use of Reagan’s most personal speech about the Cold War

The TV show The Americans is a favorite of mine, perhaps unsurprisingly given its setting in the 1980s and strong Cold War themes. In the past, I enjoyed the way it merged the history of the period into the show as it tackled topics like SDI and the School of the Americas. I also like the off the cuff references to Reagan-era officials, for example the season two reference to one character meeting U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick at a party at National Security Advisor Bill Clark’s house. The show represents a nice balance between my research interests and entertainment preferences, and yes, I realize how nerdy this sounds.

The season three finale of the show (no spoilers, I promise) is entitled March 8, 1983 and makes prominent use of Reagan’s speech to the National Association of Evangelicals that occurred on the titular date. The speech, better known as the “Evil Empire” speech, remains one of Reagan’s most famous and provides some of the most personal insights into how Reagan viewed the Cold War. The apocalyptic themes of the speech and the Manichean interpretation of the struggle with the Soviet Union appear prominently throughout Reagan’s political career. In his 1964 speech, entitled “A Time for Choosing,” on behalf of Barry Goldwater he warned that choosing wrong in the election could usher in “one thousand years of darkness.” Similarly, as he closed out the 1976 Republican Nomination Convention he pondered the consequences of failing to win the Cold War, noting that it would mark the end of individual freedom and risk nuclear destruction. He had also previously expressed his feelings about the Communist system, at Notre Dame in 1981, he stated that the west would “transcend communism” and the next year in an address to the British Parliament, he famously stated that communism would end up in the “ash heap of history.” What made the 1983 speech different was that it spoke directly of the origins of Reagan’s anti-communism and his core ideology.

The speech is below, the portion relevant to this post starts at 21:18 (although it unfortunately omits the part of the speech after he refers to the Soviets as an “evil empire.”)

In the speech, shortly after labeling the Soviet Union as “an evil empire,” Reagan references Whittaker Chambers and his book Witness. Chambers ran a spy ring for the Soviet Union in Washington D.C. in the early 1930s. Among the spies in his network were Alger Hiss, a close advisor to Dean Acheson, and Harry Dexter White, who was instrumental in creating the Bretton Woods system. His wife’s pregnancy led Chambers to break with Communism and seek God. He began work with Henry Luce’s Time magazine as foreign policy editor and was the government’s star witness against Hiss, in a case that led to Hiss’ conviction for perjury. In 1953, Chambers released Witness, which chronicled his break with communism. The book came out as Reagan became increasingly politically active and as he began to more closely identify with the Republican Party and anti-communism. It exerted a powerful hold over Reagan, who, thirty years after its publication, would quote passages of it to his staff as they worked on NSDD-32, the definitive strategy document of the Reagan era.

Whittaker Chambers testifies. Source: Brittanica.com

The passage that most resonated with Reagan was Chambers’ description of his final break with Communism. In the passage, Chambers reflects on the news of his wife’s pregnancy and their decision to keep the child. He recognized that in that moment the baby “had begun invisibly, to lead us out of that darkness, which we could not even realize, toward that light, which we could not even see.” Just prior to this, he reacts with joy to the news that his wife not only is pregnant, but also to keep the child. Chambers describes a “wild joy” sweeping over him, and that “the Communist Parties and its theories… crumbled at the touch of a child.” He then notes that his rejection of Communist ideology came “not at the level of the conscious mind, but at the level of unconscious life.” This was the heart of the Cold War for Reagan. America equaled life, while the Soviet Union offered nothing but emptiness and destruction. Chambers went further in the preface of the book, entitled “A Letter to my Children.” In it he argues articulates that “God alone is the inciter and guarantor of freedom” and that “Religion and freedom are indivisible.” This was the part that Reagan referenced in his “Evil Empire” speech, noting that the “Western World exists to the degree in which the West is indifferent to God.”

The speech was part of what Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, termed an “unprecedented new ideological offensive” in the Cold War. Dobrynin’s assessment is accurate, there are few examples of other presidents attacking the Soviet Union in as direct and personal a manner. However, these attacks did not as a result of a calculated political decision, but rather reflected Reagan’s deep and very personal abhorrence of Marxism-Leninism and his sense of communism as an ahistorical force threatening centuries of western progress.


30 Years Later: Reagan’s ‘March of Freedom’ Speech Predicting the Fall of Soviet Communism Still Rings True

(CNSNews.com) – It has been 30 years since President Ronald Reagan made his enduring “Westminster Speech,” but author and Reagan expert Paul Kengor tells CNSNews.com that there is wisdom for today in the speech, in which the Great Communicator predicted the fall of Soviet Communism and laid the foundations for spreading democracy throughout the world.

“That speech is not just a prophetic statement and a policy statement, but there is a statement there of political philosophy, and I would say -- even broader than that -- you see Ronald Reagan’s famous eternal optimism,” said Kengor, author of “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and other books on Reagan.

Saturday, June 8, will mark the 30th anniversary of the speech, in which Reagan contemplated the end of Communism, and said that advances toward freedom and democracy would leave Marxism-Leninism “on the ash-heap of history” – a nod to the same phrase that Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky used in the 1920’s (“the dustbin of history”) to predict capitalism’s demise.

“What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term -- the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people,” Reagan said.

Kengor said Reagan’s speech initiated a long-term transformation towards democracy across the globe, which included the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late 1980s, the collapse of the Soviet Union in the ‘90s, and the fact that by 1994 most of the former Eastern-bloc countries had become democracies.

“We're approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention – totalitarianism,” Reagan told the House of Commons.

“Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less vigorous, but because democracy's enemies have refined their instruments of repression,” Reagan said. “Yet optimism is in order, because day by day democracy is proving itself to be a not-at-all-fragile flower. From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than 30 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.”

Reagan warned that “there is a threat posed to human freedom by the enormous power of the modern state.”

“History teaches the dangers of government that overreaches -- political control taking precedence over free economic growth, secret police, mindless bureaucracy, all combining to stifle individual excellence and personal freedom,” he said.

“Now, I'm aware that among us here and throughout Europe there is legitimate disagreement over the extent to which the public sector should play a role in a nation's economy and life. But on one point all of us are united -- our abhorrence of dictatorship in all its forms, but most particularly totalitarianism and the terrible inhumanities it has caused in our time -- the great purge, Auschwitz and Dachau, the Gulag, and Cambodia.”

Reagan noted the end of the Cold War, and said it was not the free world which threatened the freedom and security of everyone – but totalitarian regimes.

“Historians looking back at our time will note the consistent restraint and peaceful intentions of the West,” Reagan said. “They will note that it was the democracies who refused to use the threat of their nuclear monopoly in the forties and early fifties for territorial or imperial gain. Had that nuclear monopoly been in the hands of the Communist world, the map of Europe -- indeed, the world -- would look very different today. And certainly they will note it was not the democracies that invaded Afghanistan or suppressed Polish Solidarity or used chemical and toxin warfare in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia.”

Reagan said the U.S. and the West were forced to maintain military strength in the face of challenges.

“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,” he said.

Now is the time to heed the lessons of history, the 40 th president told the British.

“If history teaches anything it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly,” Reagan said.

He added: “We see around us today the marks of our terrible dilemma -- predictions of doomsday, antinuclear demonstrations, an arms race in which the West must, for its own protection, be an unwilling participant. At the same time we see totalitarian forces in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their barbarous assault on the human spirit. What, then, is our course? Must civilization perish in a hail of fiery atoms?”

Reagan explained the reasons behind why Communism was doomed to failure.

“In an ironic sense Karl Marx was right,” Reagan told Parliament. “We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis, a crisis where the demands of the economic order are conflicting directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxist-Leninism, the Soviet Union.

“It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens. It also is in deep economic difficulty. The rate of growth in the national product has been steadily declining since the fifties and is less than half of what it was then.”

The Westminster speech occurred one day after Reagan met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican to discuss a plan to work together to undermine Soviet Communism.

“It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation -- in both the public and private sectors -- to assisting democratic development,” the 40th president stated.

“At the same time, we invite the Soviet Union to consider with us how the competition of ideas and values -- which it is committed to support -- can be conducted on a peaceful and reciprocal basis. For example, I am prepared to offer President Brezhnev an opportunity to speak to the American people on our television if he will allow me the same opportunity with the Soviet people. We also suggest that panels of our newsmen periodically appear on each other's television to discuss major events.”

Reagan predicted that the “the task I've set forth will long outlive our own generation.”

Kengor said both Reagan’s speech and the “plan” were roundly dismissed at the time the speech was given.

“[In] 1982, when he made that speech, people thought he was out of his mind,” Kengor told CNSNews.com. “That speech was ridiculed throughout the West. Soviets, of course, were apoplectic. They absolutely excoriated it, and Pravda and all their propaganda publications -- and I think that probably most American conservatives who adored Reagan thought “Well, I loved this but, really, c’mon – the Soviet Union end up on the ash-heap of history? That’s not going to happen for a long, long, long time.”

Kengor, who is also a government professor at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pa., suggested that there is a lesson in the Reagan speech for President Obama and all future U.S. presidents.

“What Obama desperately needs to learn is that the march of freedom is a pro-active process,” Kengor said. “Reagan believed that you shouldn’t just sit back and hope for these things to happen. You need to go out there and identify the freedom fighters, support them, give speeches on their behalf, call out the despots, the evil empires, the evildoers. You identify the freedom fighters in Poland. You identify the contras in Nicaragua. And I don’t think that Obama is doing that at all.”

To be true to Reagan's spirit, Kengor said, the U.S. could easily begin holding a “Captive Nations’ Day,” “Captive Nations’ Week,” or “Captive Nations’ Month.”

“It’s not enough to just say you support democracy,” Kengor said. “You have to come out and call Mahmoud Ahmadinejad names. You’ve got to attack the Iranian mullahs as persecutors of freedom fighters. And that’s not happening,” Kengor said.

(To view a copy of the Westminister Speech directly from the Reagan Archives, you must search the National Archives and Records Administration database.)


Reagan Addresses British Parliament - HISTORY

  • Susan B. Anthony - On Women's Right to Vote (1873)
  • Tony Blair - To the Irish Parliament (1998)
  • Napoleon Bonaparte - Farewell to the Old Guard (1814)
  • George Bush - Announcing War Against Iraq (1991)
  • George W. Bush - After September 11th (2001)
  • Jimmy Carter - Tribute to Hubert Humphrey (1977)
  • Jimmy Carter - "A Crisis of Confidence" (1979)
  • Neville Chamberlain - On the Nazi Invasion of Poland (1939)
  • Winston Churchill - Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat (1940)
  • Winston Churchill - Their Finest Hour (1940)
  • Winston Churchill - "Iron Curtain" (1946)
  • Bill Clinton - "I Have Sinned" (1998)
  • Bill Clinton - "I Am Profoundly Sorry" (1998)
  • Edouard Daladier - Nazis' Aim is Slavery (1940)
  • Frederick Douglass - The Hypocrisy of American Slavery (1852)
  • Edward VIII - Abdicates the throne of England (1936)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower - On the Military-Industrial Complex (1961)
  • Elizabeth I of England - Against the Spanish Armada (1588)
  • William Faulkner - On Accepting the Nobel Prize (1950)
  • Gerald R. Ford - On Taking Office (1974)
  • Gerald R. Ford - Pardoning Richard Nixon (1974)
  • Gerald R. Ford - "A War That is Finished" (1975)
  • St. Francis of Assisi - Sermon to the Birds (1220)
  • Cardinal Clemens von Galen - Against Nazi Euthanasia (1941)
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi - Encourages His Soldiers (1860)
  • William Lloyd Garrison - On the Death of John Brown (1859)
  • Lou Gehrig - Farewell to Yankee Fans (1939)
  • Richard Gephardt - "Life Imitates Farce" (1998)
  • Al Gore - Concedes the 2000 Election (2000)
  • Patrick Henry - Liberty or Death (1775)
  • Harold Ickes - What is an American? (1941)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson - We Shall Overcome (1965)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson - Decides Not to Seek Re-election (1968)
  • Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce - On Surrender to US Army (1877)
  • John F. Kennedy - Inaugural Address (1961)
  • John F. Kennedy - "We choose to go to the Moon" (1962)
  • John F. Kennedy - Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)
  • John F. Kennedy - "Ich bin ein Berliner" (1963)
  • Robert F. Kennedy - On the Death of Martin Luther King (1968)
  • Edward M. Kennedy - "The Cause Endures" (1980)
  • Edward M. Kennedy - Tribute to John F. Kennedy Jr. (1999)
  • Abraham Lincoln - The Gettysburg Address (1863)
  • Abraham Lincoln - Second Inaugural Address (1865)
  • Nelson Mandela - "I am Prepared to Die" (1964)
  • George C. Marshall - The Marshall Plan (1947)
  • Vyacheslav Molotov - On the Nazi Invasion of the Soviet Union (1941)
  • Richard M. Nixon - "Checkers" (1952)
  • Richard M. Nixon - Resigning the Presidency (1974)
  • Richard M. Nixon - White House Farewell (1974)
  • Daniel O'Connell - Justice for Ireland (1836)
  • William Lyon Phelps - The Pleasure of Books (1933)
  • Pope John Paul II - At Israel's Holocaust Memorial (2000)
  • Pope Benedict XVI - "In This Place of Horror" (2006)
  • Ronald Reagan - Address to British Parliament (1982)
  • Ronald Reagan - On the 40th Anniversary of D-Day (1984)
  • Ronald Reagan - On the Challenger Disaster (1986)
  • Ronald Reagan - "Tear Down this Wall" (1987)
  • Maximilien Robespierre - Festival of the Supreme Being (1794)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt - First Inaugural Address (1933)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt - Third Inaugural Address (1941)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt - For a Declaration of War (1941)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt - D-Day Prayer (1944)
  • Gerhard Schröder - "I Express My Shame" (2005)
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton - The Destructive Male (1868)
  • George Graham Vest - Tribute to Dogs (c1855)
  • George Washington - Prevents the Revolt of his Officers (1783)
  • Elie Wiesel - The Perils of Indifference (1999)
  • Woodrow Wilson - The Fourteen Points (1918)

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Remembering the Rhetoric of Ronald Reagan

As he personally drafted his first inaugural address on a yellow legal pad, President-elect Ronald Reagan set as a primary goal restoring America to its former greatness. Reagan saw that America had lost faith in itself, as a result of the Carter years, the Watergate scandal, President Nixon’s forced resignation, and the loss of the Vietnam War and the ensuing communization of South Vietnam and Cambodia. As Reagan would later write in his autobiography, “the lost vision of our founding fathers” had to be recaptured.

To renew America’s self-confidence, his administration would undertake two urgently needed political reforms: one, to initiate a foreign policy of “Peace Through Strength” that would end the Cold War by winning it and two, to jump start the American economy through significant deregulation, reduced federal spending, and across-the-board tax cuts. And he had an instrument in hand that would enable him to achieve these goals—the bully pulpit of the presidency.

Reagan would use inspiring oratory to help the people regain “that unique sense of destiny and optimism that had always made America different from any other country in the world.” But his rhetoric neither pandered nor set impossible utopian goals that lead to exhaustion or resentment. It was built on the intrinsic virtues of the American character which he had reflected on for years and had come to represent in the minds of a majority of the American people.

In his inaugural address, Reagan outlined the severe economic crisis that confronted the country and set forth a series of corrective actions: it is time, he said, “to reawaken this industrial giant, to get government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax burden.” (The highest marginal tax rate then stood at seventy percent.) Building his rhetoric upon American industriousness, Reagan sought to awaken a new spirit of patriotism.

Along with these exhortations, Reagan identified the federal government as the primary cause of the crisis. He had long studied the proper role of government. He knew what most Americans wanted from their government through his many conversations with them in the 1950s as an emissary for General Electric and then as a two-term governor of California. He was the first president since Calvin Coolidge to use blunt, anti-government rhetoric. “In this crisis,” he said, “government is not the solution to our problem government is the problem.” Reagan’s rhetoric was built on his understanding of unique American virtues, like industriousness that had become enervated by four years of Carter’s regulations, taxes and intrusions.

He rejected the oft-expressed liberal notion that “society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule,” or that government by an elite group was superior to “government for, by, and of the people.” With impeccable logic, he asked: “If no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?” He reassured the people he had no intention of doing away with government but rather “to make it work—work with us, not over us to stand by our side, not ride on our back.” Here was no radical libertarian with a copy of Atlas Shrugged on his desk, but a traditional conservative guided by The Federalist. Reagan was a 20th century federalist, echoing Madison’s call for a balance between the powers of the federal and state governments. He tapped into the American spirit of independence, which he knew needed bolstering through presidential rhetoric.

Peace Through Strength

In the realm of foreign policy, Reagan promised to strengthen ties with those who shared a commitment to freedom but to remain ready to act against “the enemies of freedom” in order to preserve national security. He paraphrased the traditional U.S. policy of “peace through strength,” saying, “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.” His words echoed the ancient Latin dictum: “Si vis pacem para bellum.” (“If you want peace, prepare for war.”) Reagan rejected the idea of a Vietnam syndrome that paralyzed the will of the American people. He understood that Americans think of themselves as bold and strong he insisted that the moral malaise from the Carter years was only temporary.

As he approached the end of his address, the president referred to the giants “on whose shoulders we stand”—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln—as well as the servicemen buried in Arlington Cemetery who had sacrificed everything to preserve our freedom. Reagan personalized their sacrifice by reading from the diary of a young soldier Martin Treptow, who had fought and died in World War I. My pledge, wrote Treptow, is that “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.” Reagan sought to connect Americans with the courage and sacrifice of past generations.

The president ended his inaugural address as he began it by appealing to the faith of the American people. While the present crisis does not require the same magnitude of sacrifice as that of Treptow, he said, it does require “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.” Americans were, he believed, connected to one another through a noble history of past and future sacrifice and their participation in great deeds.

“And after all,” he said, “why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans.” In his first major presidential address, Reagan was what he had been throughout his public life: optimistic, confident, faith-filled, inspiring. He eschewed the extraneous adjective, the worn-out metaphor. He employed simple direct language.

The Farewell Address

Eight years later, in his January 1989 Farewell Address to the American people, President Ronald Reagan displayed his sure command of political rhetoric by denying and thereby correcting the simplistic notion that he was just a Great Communicator: “I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference,” he said, “It was the content.” Reagan was not swayed by polls or focus groups, understanding that the most effective political rhetoric was based on lasting ideas not transitory trends. That is, Reagan observed: “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things,” gathered from “our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries.” On an occasion when most politicians would have boasted about themselves, Reagan chose humility.

Ronald Reagan was a superb orator, one of the greatest in American politics at ease with a formal address to the U.S. Congress or the British Parliament, a “fireside chat” with the American people from the Oval Office, or a blunt challenge to a foreign power. The process of becoming an orator had begun many years before.

The Hollywood Years

Reagan readily admitted that he honed his rhetorical abilities during his years in Hollywood. In Speaking My Mind, a collection of his speeches that he personally selected, Reagan said that he had been elected—in part—because he was an actor who knew “how to give a good speech,” who “knows two important things—to be honest in what he’s doing and to be in touch with the audience. That’s not bad advice for a politician either.” He emphasized that it was not just “my rhetoric or delivery” that carried him into the White House but that his speeches contained “basic truths”—like the necessity of preserving individual freedom—that the average American instinctively recognized. “What I said simply made sense to the guy on the street,” he wrote.” Always, Reagan sought to speak to the mind, not merely the impulses of the moment.

Reagan learned to talk to that “guy” as a young radio broadcaster in Des Moines, Iowa, the heartland of America. He conceded that on his first day, he was nervous sitting in a small, windowless room in front of a live microphone. After some stumbles and even awkward silences, it suddenly came to him. He knew many of the people listening. He wasn’t talking to faceless, unknown listeners but to guys in the local barber shop with whom he joked and talked sports and told stories. All alone in that booth, he relaxed and “started talking to the fellows in the barber shop the same way I did during our regular get-togethers.” He had discovered a basic rule of public speaking which he followed all his life: “Talk to your audience, not over their heads or through them. Don’t try to talk in a special language of broadcasting or even politics, just use normal everyday words.” And he learned personal control—he was rarely if ever upset or rattled. He channeled the best in his audiences, especially their optimism and their patriotism. On the eve of his election as president, when a reporter asked Reagan what he thought other Americans saw in him, he replied: “Would you laugh if I told you that I think maybe, they see themselves and that I’m one of them?” He added revealingly, “I’ve never been able to detach myself or think that I, somehow, am apart from them.” He persuaded without pandering he inspired rather than manipulated.

Perhaps surprising those who warn against rhetorical repetition, Reagan said he was a “big believer” in stump speeches because that was the only way your message “will sink into the collective consciousness” of the people. “If you have something you believe in deeply,” he said, “it’s worth repeating time and again until you achieve it. You also get better at delivering it.”

In Speaking My Mind, Reagan explained that his November 1988 speech at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial most represented what he had tried to accomplish as president—to help “restore the spirit and faith of America.” In his talk, he read from a note that he and Nancy left at the Memorial wall in remembrance of those who fought for their country and its safety and “for the freedom of others with strength and courage.” We have faith, he said, “that, as He does all His sacred children, the Lord will bless you and keep you, the Lord will make His face to shine upon you and give you peace, now and forever more.” The words reflected Reagan’s personal faith and America’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

The Power of Words

Reagan believed, and constantly demonstrated, that words have the power to change the course of events. One of his most memorable addresses was his “evil empire” speech in March 1983 at the annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals. Critics warned that “extreme” language about the Soviet Union would accentuate the Soviets’ paranoia and insecurity. Reagan was not concerned: “For too long our leaders were unable to describe the Soviet Union as it actually was…. The Soviet system over the years has purposely starved, murdered, and brutalized its own people. Millions were killed.” Is not a system that practiced such brutality “evil?” he asked. “Then why shouldn’t we say so?” He had always believed, he said, that it was important to define differences, “because there are choices and decisions to be made in life and history.” Reagan had faith that the American people would approve boldness in foreign policy—he paid scant attention to the devotees of conventional wisdom who always counseled compromise. He shrugged off the barbed criticism of the media that accused him of “sleepwalking through history” and dismissed SDI (the Strategic Defensive Initiative) as “Star Wars.” He drew courage from his convictions, and his understanding that the American public respected honesty and forthrightness.

A good speech, for Reagan, must be truthful. It must not pander, nor give in to fear or a selfish preservation of the status quo. It must take into account the audience’s mood, and guide their passions and imagination, while using the language of the common man. Most important of all, a great speech must be concerned with “great things,” with first principles such as liberty, justice, and equality that have shaped America.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Republished with gracious permission from the Intercollegiate Review (December 2014).

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By REP. MARTIN FROST and REP. VIN WEBER

In June 1982, President Ronald Reagan stood before the British Parliament and boldly delivered his “ash heap of history” address, predicting Communism’s demise well before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

But Reagan’s address is also remembered for inspiring the launch of the National Endowment for Democracy, a bipartisan initiative that is now an enduring legacy of his administration.

At a time of searching for common ground between our two political parties, as well as our business and labor communities, the endowment can serve as a model.

But it wasn’t Reagan who conceived the idea. It was Democratic Rep. Dante Fascell of Florida, a first-generation Italian-American, who believed that our national interest could be served by helping other nations develop free democratic institutions. As Reagan’s Westminster speech explained, the “infrastructure of democracy: the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities—which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.”

The initiative endorsed by Reagan built on Fascell’s proposals, as well as ideas developed in previous administrations relating to the Helsinki Accords and later human rights policies of the 1970s.

A year-and-a-half after Reagan’s address, the endowment was privately incorporated under a bipartisan board of directors broadly representative of American society. Since then, it has assisted thousands of grass-roots democrats working to advance democracy in more than 100 countries, with congressional funding and the support of each administration from Reagan to President Barack Obama.

NED’s affiliated institutes—the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the Center for International Private Enterprise and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity—have used their expertise in political development, worker rights and economic reform to help emerging democracies build free and fair elections, strong political parties, functioning legislatures, independent unions and policies that empower the private sector, strengthen the rule of law, increase government transparency and enhance government accountability to citizens.

Through its small grants program, the endowment has helped open political space in authoritarian and closed societies, building civil society groups that promote human rights, empower women, strengthen independent media, nurture youth involvement and foster political participation.

NED identifies and invests in committed and imaginative democratic activists and groups. Over the years, it has supported movements like the Polish Trade Union Solidarity, the coalition that helped end Chile’s military dictatorship, the grass-roots groups that brought civilian rule to Nigeria, the underground video-journalists who chronicled the Burmese monks’ uprising, Chinese dissidents like the Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo and literally scores of others.

Its longtime work in the Middle East has emphasized the development of a strong civil society that can form the foundation for a democratic future for the region.

This work has been demonstrably effective — even in the face of a fierce backlash against civil society over recent years, ranging from outright repression to more subtle efforts to restrict the space pro-democracy forces can operate in. Working through broad activist networks it has helped nurture, the endowment has not only called international attention to this dangerous trend, but also built cross-border coalitions to counter it.

Realizing the stakes, the Obama administration has joined this effort to challenge the crackdown on non-governmental organizations. Secretary Hillary Clinton is making it a high priority for the State Department.

NED offers an opportunity for Americans of diverse political stripes to come together to assist others who aspire to freedoms we cherish and values we share: democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. At a time of financial constraint, the endowment’s track record demonstrates that government funds are most effective when prudently deployed and targeted.

As we celebrate Reagan’s centennial, let us not forget the pivotal role he played in creating an institution that seeks to deliver the promise of a better life to millions throughout the world.

Former Reps. Martin Frost and Vin Weber are members of the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy.


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