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Time for Reagan's American Optimism

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Happy New Year! Welcome to one of the most critical years in America's history. The economy continues to limp along. Many citizens are unemployed or underemployed; even more are at the end of their financial rope. Polls indicate that both the president and congress have lost the trust of most Americans. Many are equally frustrated with the slate of Republican candidates who are emerging in the primaries. But in 2012, we will elect a president to lead us into an uncertain future fraught with both challenges and opportunities. Will the coming years be the new "good old days" for America or is America destined for decline?


While President Obama and his potential challengers try to convince us to put our confidence in them, it may be time to take inspiration from one of America's most beloved presidents.

On a recent trip to the Reagan Presidential Library I was struck over and over again by the confidence President Ronald Reagan had in Americans--in American workers, leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, the young and the old. Quote after quote leaped off the walls and from the video clips. Any candidate today would do well to embrace and adopt his unflappable American optimism.

Though adapted from many disconnected quotes, here is a New Year's letter true to his words that he might write to us today...

My Fellow Americans,

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day you will spend your sunset years telling your children and your children’s children what it was once like in the United States when you were free.

Once again America faces difficult times and an important election. May I remind you that “status quo" is Latin for “the mess we are in.” A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. Recovery is when President Obama loses his.


Now, I’m not taking your time to ask you to trust me or any leader. Instead, I ask you to trust yourself. That is what America is all about. It’s the power of millions of people like you who will determine what will make America great again.

For the solutions America seeks must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price. All must contribute to the turnaround, but don't fear. You still have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that you’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look. They’re the individuals and families whose taxes support the government and those whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art and education. Their patriotism is deep, and their values sustain our national life.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. You must have the courage to do what you know is morally right. You have a rendezvous with destiny. In 2012, you will make a choice that will preserve for your children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or you will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.

But who among you would trade America’s future for that of any other country in the world? And who could possibly have so little faith in the American people that they would trade your tomorrow’s for your yesterdays?


When I was your president, I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence not your doubts. I implore you not to put your confidence in big government or any leader; have confidence in yourself. That's what has always made America strong, and, God willing, you will do so again.

Humbly Yours,

Ronald Reagan

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