This Sunday will mark the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan. Many will be celebrating his birth, his life, and the legacy he left our country and the conservative movement. To celebrate, take a few minutes to watch two of his speeches -- his 1964 speech in support of Barry Goldwater and his 1987 speech at the Brandenburg Gate -- and you will remember why Reagan was called the Great Communicator, and will notice how his message still resonates with us today.
Both of these Reagan speeches can be found on the Reagan Foundation's YouTube Channel and watched in less than an hour.
He closed his speech supporting Barry Goldwater for president with, "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny." Speaking as president 23 years later at the Brandenburg Gate, he challenged Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!"
His messages provided both inspiration and clarity.
Reagan rose to national prominence on Oct. 27, 1964, by delivering "The Speech," as it became known, in support of the Republican Party's presidential candidate. It was a big risk for the Goldwater campaign to have a little-known spokesman deliver the paid-for half-hour political speech.
The speech, which started with Reagan noting that he had spent most of his life as a Democrat, cited core conservative values: less government, more involvement by the people, less regulation, more personal responsibility. The foundation for Reagan's address had formed while he was a spokesman for General Electric's initiative to promote citizenship among employees.
Reagan clearly delineated who should be included and what was at stake:
"I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines," he said. "There is no such thing as a left or right. There's only an up or down-- (up) man's age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism."
Reagan was a uniter at heart. He believed that individuals rather than government should be in charge, he believed that conservatism was the way to solve our ills as a nation, noting, "A government can't control the economy without controlling people."
"This is the issue of this election," Reagan said. "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."
This very clear articulation of two very different political philosophies is just as applicable today.
Goldwater lost. Reagan went on to hold public office, serving as the governor of California from 1967 to 1975. In 1980, 16 years after delivering "The Speech," Reagan was elected president.
In 1983, in a speech to the annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Fla., Reagan summarized the moral argument against the Soviet Union. "Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged," said Reagan, who added that the problem was not a military one. "The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith."
Reagan also defined what we were against: "Let us be aware that, while they 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."
In his Brandenburg Gate speech, Reagan noted there is "one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor."
Freedom was indeed the victor on Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall was torn down. Just two years later, on Christmas Day 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
These two Reagan speeches, both of which are included in my recent book, "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own" (Regnery, 2010), resonate with us today. They remind us that our country is the last, best hope on earth, that you and I do have a rendezvous with destiny, and finally, that words have incredible power.
We must not be afraid to engage in the great spiritual battle at hand and to use words to support freedom and liberty.
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