With our country at one of the lowest points in our history, and once again struggling as it did during the Carter Administration, it is important to remember that we came back from disastrous management once, and we can do it again. In fact, President Ronald Reagan left us a blueprint for success. It begins with “We the People”.
In his farewell address to the nation on January 11, 1989 President Reagan spoke of the resurgence of freedom in America and how we had once more become a country that was respected in the world and looked to for leadership; an America that once again stood for freedom. He told the story of a sailor on the carrier Midway on patrol in the South China Sea, who spied a leaky little boat filled with “boat people” refugees from Indochina trying desperately to make it to America. The Midway sent a launch to bring them safely to the ship. Through the choppy seas, one of the refugees spotted the sailor on deck. He stood up and yelled out to the sailor, “Hello American sailor. Hello Freedom man!”
President Reagan talked about what world economic leaders called “The American Miracle”, an economic recovery that had allowed American businesses to create 19 million new jobs and brought about the longest peacetime expansion in our history. Under Reagan’s economic program real family income was up, taxes and the poverty rate were down, entrepreneurship was booming and there was an explosion in research and new technology. US industry became more competitive in trade with other nations.
America became strong again as we rebuilt our defenses, and other nations began to follow our lead in reducing conflict around the world. One of Reagan’s greatest regrets was that under his administration $1.4 trillion was added to the federal debt. In return, however, we got a military build-up that prompted the collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic expansion that created millions of new jobs and raised incomes across the US. Interest rates fell, and by 1989 the value of US assets had increased by $17 trillion…12 times bigger than the amount Reagan borrowed. But President Reagan wanted to make sure that we understood that it was the people of America who were ultimately responsible for these victories. “I never won anything you didn’t win for me,” he said. “You won every battle with every call you made and every letter you wrote demanding action. Well,” hecontinued, “action is still needed.”
One of the things that Reagan was proudest of was the resurgence of national pride. But he warned us that patriotism won’t count for much unless it is an informed patriotism; one grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge. We must teach our children that history is important, and that America is about freedom.
Today we understand all too well how prophetic his words were. We are becoming a nation based on pop culture, sound bite knowledge and ignorance of the history and values that created the freedoms we take for granted. Encroaching government interference in our schools is resulting in a bloated and eroding educational system that concentrates on teaching lip service to contrived and agenda-laden political correctness while ignoring the solid basics of learning…not just reading, writing and arithmetic, but respect, responsibility and hard work.
We are producing fewer thoughtful, informed citizens. Instead we are turning our most precious assets into common, mass-produced, self-absorbed demographic units, ignorant of our history and the value of accomplishment through hard work and sacrifice. Individuality, challenge and personal accomplishment is being replaced by group-think and comfortable mediocrity, and we are the poorer for it. America, that “shining city upon a hill”, that for over 200 years has been a beacon of hope for all who want freedom, needs us to again teach our children what it means to be an American.
President Reagan was our Freedom Man. He brought America back to greatness after it had faltered under poor leadership. Ronald Reagan, a leader who led by example, with wisdom, common sense and adherence to the values upon which America was founded and which have guided us for more than two centuries, has earned a place of honor in our history and our hearts.