This year America celebrates the 100th birthday of President Ronald Reagan, the most beloved and respected president of the 20th century. Reagan’s farewell address to the American people is a treasure of wisdom for us today. Like George Washington’s farewell speech in 1796, Reagan’s address should be studied by every American. Reagan’s speech is a prophetic warning to us and a call to a renewal of our first principles.
The Great Rediscovery
In his speech from the oval office, President Reagan focused on a rediscovery of the principles that made America great. Looking back on his eight years as president, he said, “And in all that time I won a nickname – ‘The Great Communicator.’ But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference – it was the content.
I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation – from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries. They called it the Reagan Revolution, and I’ll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the Great Rediscovery: a rediscovery of our values and our common sense. He was optimistic about the future of America, but only if we rediscover our roots and values. As he said, ‘…as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours.”
In his last words to his beloved Americans, Reagan did not choose to address the threat of nuclear war, Islamic terrorism, or even big government. Instead, he stated:
“Finally, there is a great tradition of warning in Presidential farewells, and I’ve got one that’s been on my mind for some time. But oddly enough it starts with one of the things I’m proudest of in the past eight years; the resurgence of national pride that I called ‘the new patriotism.’ This national feeling is good, but it won’t count for much, and it won’t last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge. An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?”
He then said that throughout his life, before the mid-1960s, Americans had “absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country.” The President shared that families and the popular culture had celebrated freedom and well-grounded American patriotism and they knew that freedom was special, rare, and fragile.
Read the rest at World History Institute