Ronald Reagan Delivers Last Major Address at the 1992 Republican National Convention
Thank you, Paul for that kind introduction.
And Mr. Chairman, delegates, friends, fellow Americans, thank you so very much for that welcome. You've given Nancy and me so many wonderful memories, so much of your warmth and affection, we cannot thank you enough for the honor of your friendship.
Over the years, I've addressed this convention as a private citizen, as a governor, as a presidential candidate, as a president and now, once again tonight, as private citizen Ronald Reagan.
Tonight is a very special night for me. Of course, at my age, every night's a very special night. After all, I was born in 1911. Indeed, according to the experts, I have exceeded my life expectancy by quite a few years. Now this a source of great annoyance to some, especially those in the Democratic party.
But, here's the remarkable thing about being born in 1911. In my life's journey over these past eight decades, I have seen the human race through a period of unparalleled tumult and triumph. I have seen the birth of communism and the death of communism. I have witnessed the bloody futility of two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. I have seen Germany united, divided and united again. I have seen television grow from a parlor novelty to become the most powerful vehicle of communication in history. As a boy I saw streets filled with model-Ts; as a man I have met men who walked on the moon.
I have not only seen, but lived the marvels of what historians have called the "American Century." Yet, tonight is not a time to look backward. For while I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future. So this evening, for just a few minutes, I hope you will let me talk about a country that is forever young.
There was a time when empires were defined by land mass, subjugated peoples, and military might. But the United States is unique because we are an empire of ideals. For two hundred years we have been set apart by our faith in the ideals of democracy, of free men and free markets, and of the extraordinary possibilities that lie within seemingly ordinary men and women. We believe that no power of government is as formidable a force for good as the creativity and entrepreneurial drive of the American people.
Those are the ideals that invented revolutionary technologies and a culture envied by people everywhere. This powerful sense of energy has made America synonymous for opportunity the world over. And after generations of struggle, America is the moral force that defeated communism and all those who would put the human soul itself into bondage.
Within a few short years, we Americans have experienced the most sweeping changes of this century: the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of the global economy. No transition is without its problems, but as uncomfortable as it may feel at the moment, the changes of the 1990's will leave America more dynamic and less in danger than at any time in my life.
A fellow named James Allen once wrote in his diary, "many thinking people believe America has seen its best days." He wrote that July 26, 1775. There are still those who believe America is weakening; that our glory was the brief flash of time called the 20th Century; that ours was a burst of greatness too bright and brilliant to sustain; that America's purpose is past.
My friends, I utterly reject those views. That's not the America we know. We were meant to be masters of destiny, not victims of fate. Who among us would trade America's future for that of any other country in the world? And who could possibly have so little faith in our America that they would trade our tomorrows for our yesterdays?
I'll give you a hint. They put on quite a production in New York a few weeks ago. You might even call it slick. A stone's throw from Broadway it was, and how appropriate. Over and over they told us they are not the party they were. They kept telling us with straight faces that they're for family values, they're for a strong America, they're for less intrusive government.
And they call me an actor.
To hear them talk, you'd never know that the nightmare of nuclear annihilation has been lifted from our sleep. You'd never know that our standard of living remains the highest in the world. You'd never know that our air is cleaner than it was 20 years ago. You'd never know that we remain the one nation the rest of the world looks to for leadership.
It wasn't always this way. We mustn't forget--even if they would like to-- the very different America that existed just 12 years ago; an America with 21 percent interest rates and back to back years of double digit inflation; an America where mortgage payments doubled, paychecks plunged, and motorists sat in gas lines; an America whose leaders told us it was our own fault; that ours was a future of scarcity and sacrifice; and that what we really needed was another good dose of government control and higher taxes.
It wasn't so long ago that the world was a far more dangerous place as well. It was a world where aggressive Soviet communism was on the rise and American strength was in decline. It was a world where our children came of age under the threat of nuclear holocaust. It was a world where our leaders told us that standing up to aggressors was dangerous -- that American might and determination were somehow obstacles to peace.
But we stood tall and proclaimed that communism was destined for the ash heap of history. We never heard so much ridicule from our liberal friends. The only thing that got them more upset was two simple words: "Evil Empire."
But we knew then what the liberal Democrat leaders just couldn't figure out: the sky would not fall if America restored her strength and resolve. The sky would not fall if an American president spoke the truth. The only thing that would fall was the Berlin Wall.
I heard those speakers at that other convention saying "we won the Cold War" -- and I couldn't help wondering, just who exactly do they mean by "we"? And to top it off, they even tried to portray themselves as sharing the same fundamental values of our party! What they truly don't understand is the principle so eloquently stated by Abraham Lincoln: "You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."
If we ever hear the Democrats quoting that passage by Lincoln and acting like they mean it, then, my friends, we will know that the opposition has really changed.
Until then, we see all that rhetorical smoke, billowing out from the Democrats, well ladies and gentlemen, I'd follow the example of their nominee. Don't inhale.
This fellow they've nominated claims he's the new Thomas Jefferson. Well, let me tell you something. I knew Thomas Jefferson. He was a friend of mine. And governor, you're no Thomas Jefferson.
Now let's not dismiss our current troubles, but where they see only problems, I see possibilities -- as vast and diverse as the American family itself. Even as we meet, the rest of the world is astounded by the pundits and finger pointers who are so down on us as a nation.
Well I've said it before and I'll say it again -- America's best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead. America remains what Emerson called her 150 years ago, "the country of tomorrow." What a wonderful description and how true. And yet tomorrow might never have happened had we lacked the courage in the 1980's to chart a course of strength and honor.
All the more reason no one should underestimate the importance of this campaign and what the outcome will mean. The stakes are high. The presidency is serious business. We cannot afford to take a chance. We need a man of serious purpose, unmatched experience, knowledge and ability. A man who understands government, who understands our country and who understands the world. A man who has been at the table with Gorbachev and Yeltsin. A man whose performance as commander-in-chief of the bravest and most effective fighting force in history left the world in awe and the people of Kuwait free of foreign tyranny. A man who has devoted more than half of his life to serving his country. A man of decency, integrity and honor.
And tonight I come to tell you that I -- warmly, genuinely, wholeheartedly support the re-election of George Bush as president United States.
We know President Bush. By his own admission, he is a quiet man, not a showman. He is a trustworthy and levelheaded leader who is respected around the world. His is a steady hand on the tiller through the choppy waters of the '90s, which is exactly what we need.
We need George Bush! Yes, we need Bush.
We also need another fighter, a man who happens to be with us this evening, someone who has repeatedly stood up for his deepest convictions. We need our vice president, Dan Quayle.
Now it's true: a lot of liberal democrats are saying it's time for a change; and they're right; the only trouble is they're pointing to the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue. What we should change is a Democratic congress that wastes precious time on partisan matters of absolutely no relevance to the needs of the average American. So to all the entrenched interests along the Potomac -- the gavel-wielding chairmen, the bloated staffs, the taxers and takers and congressional rule makers, we have a simple slogan for november 1992: clean house!
For you see, my fellow Republicans, we are the change! For 50 of the last 60 years the Democrats have controlled the Senate. And they've had the House of Representatives for 56 of the last 60 years.
It's time to clean house. Clean out the privileges and perks. Clean out the arrogance and the big egos. Clean out the scandals, the corner-cutting and the foot-dragging. What kind of job do you think they've done during all those years they've been running the Congress?
You know, I used to say to some of those Democrats who chair every committee in the House: "You need to balance the government's checkbook the same way you balance your own." Then I learned how they ran the House bank, and I realized that was exactly what they had been doing! Now, just imagine what they would do controlled the executive branch, too!
This is the 21st presidential election in my lifetime, the 16th in which I will cast a ballot. Each of those elections had its shifting moods of the moment, its headlines of one day that were forgotten the next. There have been a few more twists and turns this year than in others, a little more shouting about who was up or down, in or out, as we went about selecting our candidates. But now we have arrived, as we always do, at the moment of truth -- the serious business of selecting a president.
Now is the time for choosing.
As it did 12 years ago, and as we have seen many times in history, our country now stands at a crossroads. There is widespread doubt about our public institutions and profound concern, not merely about the economy but about the overall direction of this great country.
And as they did then, the American people are clamoring for change and sweeping reform. The question we had to ask 12 years ago is the question we ask today: What kind of change can we Republicans offer the American people?
Some might believe that the things we have talked about tonight are irrelevant to the choice. These new isolationists claim that the American people don't care about how or why we prevailed in the great defining struggle of our age -- the victory of liberty over our adversaries. They insist that our triumph is yesterday's news, part of a past that holds no lessons for the future.
Well nothing could be more tragic, after having come all this way on the journey of renewal we began 12 years ago, than if America herself forgot the lessons of individual liberty that she has taught to a grateful world.
Emerson was right. We are the country of tomorrow. Our revolution did not end at Yorktown. More than two centuries later, America remains on a voyage of discovery, a land that has never become, but is always in the act of becoming.
But just as we have led the crusade for democracy beyond our shores, we have a great task to do together in our own home. Now, I would appeal to you to invigorate democracy in your own neighborhoods.
Whether we come from poverty or wealth; whether we are Afro-American or Irish-American; Christian or Jewish, from big cities or small towns, we are all equal in the eyes of God. But as Americans that is not enough we must be equal in the eyes of each other. We can no longer judge each other on the basis of what we are, but must, instead, start finding out who we are. In America, our origins matter less than our destinations and that is what democracy is all about.
A decade after we summoned America to a new beginning, we are beginning still. Every day brings fresh challenges and opportunities to match. With each sunrise we are reminded that millions of our citizens have yet to share in the abundance of American prosperity. Many languish in neighborhoods riddled with drugs and bereft of hope. Still others hesitate to venture out on the streets for fear of criminal violence. Let us pledge ourselves to a new beginning for them.
Let us apply our ingenuity and remarkable spirit to revolutionize education in America so that everyone among us will have the mental tools to build a better life. And while we do so, let's remember that the most profound education begins in the home.
And let us harness the competitive energy that built America, into rebuilding our inner cities so that real jobs can be created for those who live there and real hope can rise out of despair.
Let us strengthen our health care system so that Americans of all ages can be secure in their futures without the fear of financial ruin.
And my friends, once and for all, let us get control of the federal deficit through a Balanced Budget Amendment and line item veto.
And let us all renew our commitment. Renew our pledge to day by day, person by person, make our country and the world a better place to live. Then when the nations of the world turn to us and say, "America, you are the model of freedom and prosperity." We can turn to them and say, "you ain't seen nothing, yet!"
For me, tonight is the latest chapter in a story that began a quarter of a century ago, when the people of California entrusted me with the stewardship of their dreams.
My fellow citizens -- those of you here in this hall and those of you at home -- I want you to know that I have always had the highest respect for you, for your common sense and intelligence and for your decency. I have always believed in you and in what you could accomplish for yourselves and for others.
And whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way.
My fondest hope for each one of you -- and especially for the young people here -- is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism. May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will make the world a little better for your having been here.
May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism.
And finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill.
Before I go, I would like to ask the person who has made my life's journey so meaningful, someone I have been so proud of through the years, to join me. Nancy
My fellow Americans, on behalf of both of us, goodbye, and God bless each and every one of you, and God bless this country we love.