Recently I had the enjoyable occasion to revisit the “Farewell Address to the Nation” given by outgoing President Ronald Reagan on January 11, 1989. To be honest, I probably hadn’t heard the speech since he gave it live from the Oval Office and I’m willing to bet most Americans hadn’t either.
Packed full of wonderful American presidential tradition and his deep love for this country, Reagan’s 21-minute speech evoked in me the simultaneous feelings of warm nostalgia for the past and a sad longing for a more promising future than America has currently. More than a farewell, it’s a valuable reminder all Americans should hear and a roadmap Joe Biden would be smart to heed if he truly wants what’s best for America—but will he?
“It’s been the honor of my life to be your president,” Reagan began, as he talked of being “grateful for the opportunity” to serve. How refreshing. How humble. Quite the contrast to the entitled Bidens and their crew of cronies. Giving us a glimpse into his life at the White House, the consummate storyteller said he had a favorite window he liked to look out of with a view “to the Washington Monument, and then the Mall and the Jefferson Memorial” where over the years he often reflected on “a small story about a big ship, and a refugee, and a sailor”:
It was back in the early eighties, at the height of the [Vietnamese] boat people. And the sailor was hard at work on the carrier Midway, which was patrolling the South China Sea. The sailor, like most American servicemen, was young, smart, and fiercely observant. The crew spied on the horizon a leaky little boat. And crammed inside were refugees from Indochina hoping to get to America. The Midway sent a small launch to bring them to the ship and safety. As the refugees made their way through the choppy seas, one spied the sailor on deck, and stood up, and called out to him. He yelled, ‘Hello, American sailor. Hello, freedom man.’
A small story with a big meaning, “the sailor, who wrote it in a letter, couldn’t get out of his mind,” said Reagan. “And, when I saw it, neither could I.” That’s what it was to be an American in the 1980s. We stood for freedom. Reagan knew we always had, but in the “freedom man” story “the world again—and in a way, we ourselves—rediscovered it.” With Biden in the White House, it’s hard to know exactly what America stands for now. It’s doubtful the millions of starving Afghanis and allies Biden callously abandoned in September still see America as standing for their freedom.
In 1980, when Reagan ran for president, many media and political pundits cried that his social “programs would result in catastrophe.” His ideas on “foreign affairs would cause war.” His economic “plans would cause inflation to soar and bring about economic collapse.” Well, obviously they were very wrong. In fact, what pundits called “radical” about Reagan’s policies ended up being exactly “right.” What they called “dangerous” was simply “desperately needed.” Today, even though political pundits gaslight Americans and the media is merely a branch of the Democratic Party, they’re also still very wrong. Biden’s policies are disastrous for America and are only making the economy worse, not better as they did over the Reagan years. While Reagan’s foreign policies ushered in “peace through strength” around the world, Biden’s weakness is causing much saber-rattling, aggression, and chaos in Russia, China, and the Middle East.
The lesson of the Reagan era was, of course, that even though America faced significant and complex challenges, we were still a great nation. “It will always be this way,” explained Reagan. “But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours.” Clearly, Biden and his party have strayed far from the rule of law, unalienable rights, equality, and limited government. As countries across the world turn away from the tyrannical ideologies of the past and toward capitalism and freedom, Biden and his cronies turn toward the very failed ideologies of socialism and communism that Reagan defeated. The “great rediscovery” of the 1980s was “lo and behold, the moral way of government is the practical way of government: Democracy, the profoundly good, is also the profoundly productive.”
One of the things Reagan was most proud of in his eight years in office was the resurgence of national pride that he 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,” warned Reagan. He knew, though, that it must be “an informed patriotism” and that we weren’t “doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world”:
Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions…But now, we’re about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it.
Coming from Hollywood, Reagan understood the popular culture well and that we must do a “better job of getting across that America is freedom—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise.” He knew instinctively that freedom is special, rare, and fragile; it needs protection. Meanwhile, today, Biden allows his leftist pals to do all they can to denigrate and tear down American exceptionalism every chance they get including in our public schools. Reagan said teaching the true history of America was important because “if we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are.” Reagan warned “of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit”–and boy was he right about that.
While I won’t hold my breath waiting for Biden to heed The Great Communicator’s words, if he doesn’t, there’s absolutely no doubt the next Republican nominee for president should. Whether or not that nominee is Donald J. Trump, it’s imperative that the nominee remind Americans of who America is and why it’s important because something else the Reagan era taught us was once we “begin a great movement, there’s no telling where it will end.” In 1980, Republicans “meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world” for the better. Are you listening GOP?
WATCH Reagan’s complete Farewell Address below or read the transcript here: