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Ronald Wilson Reagan
1911 - 2004

40th President of the United States (1981-1989), Republican governor of California (1966-1974), actor and president of the Screen Actors Guild. Reagan's accomplishments as President came to be known as the "Reagan Revolution". Skillful in his dealings with Congress, Reagan's legislation and speeches helped stimulate economic growth, curb inflation, and increase employment. Believing in "peace from strength" he strengthened the American military and effectively reduced terrorism and communist threats throughout the world. President Reagan overhauled the tax code, reduced government spending in many areas, and implemented other common-sense fiscal policies in a program of economic management that was often called "Reaganomics". His administration started the longest recorded period of peacetime prosperity without recession or depression in U.S. history.

Books by Ronald Wilson Reagan
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A Shining City (1998)
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Reagan: In His Own Hand (2001)
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Click here for essays by Ronald Wilson Reagan
Our whole system of government is based on "We the people," but if we the people don't pay attention to what's going on, we have no right to bellyache or squawk when things go wrong.

1990 - from An American Life
I consider all proposals for government action with an open mind before voting "no."

quoted in Ronald Reagan: An American Hero, by William F. Buckley and Nancy Reagan
In the Soviet Union, if you want to buy an automobile, there is a ten year wait. And you have to put the money down ten years before you get the car. So, there was this young fellow there that had finally made it, and he was going through all the bureaus and agencies that he had to go through, and signing all the papers, and finally got to the last agency where they put the stamp on it. And then he gave them his money, and they said, "Come back in ten years and get your car." And he said, "Morning or afternoon?" And the man that had put the stamp on says, "We're talking about ten years from now. What difference does it make?" He said, "The plumber is coming in the morning."

one of Reagan's favourite jokes
[Normandy American Cemetery in France] Too many of these and other such graves are the final resting places of teenagers who became men in the roar of battle. Look what they gave to us who live. Never would they see another sunlit day glistening off a lake or river back home or miles of corn pushing up against the open sky of our plains. The pristine air of our mountains and the driving energy of our cities are theirs no more. Nor would they ever again be a son to their parents or a father to their own children. They did this for you, for me, for a new generation to carry our democratic experiment proudly forward. Well, that's something I think we're obliged to honor, because what they did for us means that we owe as a simple act of civic stewardship to use our freedom wisely for the common good.

Sep. 14, 1986 - from an address to the nation
Every dollar the Federal Government does not take from us, every decision it does not make for us, will make our economy stronger, our lives more abundant, our future more free.

1985 - from his State of the Union address
Let us resolve that we will stop spreading dependency and start spreading opportunity; that we will stop spreading bondage and start spreading freedom.

1985 - from his State of the Union address
Without a vision the people perish.

1985 - from his State of the Union address
We believe faith and freedom must be our guiding stars, for they show us truth, they make us brave, give us hope, and leave us wiser than we were.

1985 - from his State of the Union address
Those who want to do away with the electoral college really mean they want the President elected in a national referendum with no reference as to how each state votes. Thus a half-dozen rural states could show a majority for one candidate and be outvoted by one big industrial state opting for his opponent. Presidential candidates would be tempted to aim their campaigns and their promises at a cluster of metropolitan areas in a few states and the smaller states would be without a voice.

Apr. 13, 1977 - from his radio address, warning of a problem that is familiar to Canadians
All systems are capitalist. It's just a matter of who owns and controls the capital - ancient king, dictator, or private individual. We should properly be looking at the contrast between a free market system where individuals have the right to live like kings if they have the ability to earn that right and government control of the market system such as we find today in socialist nations.

Sep. 21, 1976 - from his radio address
Someone once said that every form of government has one characteristic peculiar to it and if that characteristic is lost the government will fall. In a monarchy it is affection and respect for the royal family. If that is lost the monarch is lost. In a dictatorship it is fear. If the people stop fearing the dictator he'll lose power. In a representative government such as ours it is virtue. If virtue goes the government fails. Are we choosing paths that are politically expedient and morally questionable? Are we in truth losing our virtue? ... If so we may be nearer the dustbin of history than we realize.

Jul. 9, 1979 - from his radio address
Why is it inflationary if the people keep their own money, and spend it the way they want to, [but] not inflationary if the government takes it and spends it the way it wants to?

1981 - from a speech at a White House reception, quoted in The Quotable Conservative by Rod Evans and Irwin Berent
The one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period [is] contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development.

The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.

We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.

An informed patriotism is what we want. ... 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 ... well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven't reinstitutionalized it. We've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom--freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs protection.

1989 - from his Farewell Address
You can never underestimate the ability of the Democrats to wet their finger and hold it to the wind.

Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation [with the communists].

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or the next. It was the deep knowledge - and pray God we have not lost it - that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.

Jun. 06, 1984 - from a speech in Normandy, France
Four years ago we said we would invigorate our economy by giving people greater freedom and incentives to take risks and letting them keep more of what they earned. We did what we promised, and a great industrial giant is reborn.

1985 - from his fourth State of the Nation address
We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
Specificity is the soul of credibility.

quoted by Peggy Noonan in What I Saw at the Revolution
History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.

Jan. 16, 1984 - from an address to the nation
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. Well, I'll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense.

1989 - from his Farewell Address
Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did everything that could be done. We finished the race; we kept them free; we kept the faith.

1984 - from his third State of the Nation address
[Leadership success] Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere.

Sep. 15, 1986 - quoted in FORTUNE Magazine
This is the issue of this election [1964]: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

Government growing beyond our consent had become a lumbering giant, slamming shut the gates of opportunity, threatening to crush the very roots of our freedom. What brought America back? The American people brought us back -- with quiet courage and common sense; with undying faith that in this nation under God the future will be ours, for the future belongs to the free.

Feb. 04, 1986 - from his State of the Union Address
It isn't that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so much that isn't so.

This idea that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

Oct. 1, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
The size of the federal budget is not an appropriate barometer of social conscience or charitable concern.

Oct. 05, 1981 - from a speech to the National Alliance of Business
We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him. . . . But we cannot have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
Without God there is not virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience, without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.

quoted in "The Forgotten Roots of American Freedom" by Brad Chaver
Our task is far from over. Our friends in the other party will never forgive us for our success, and are doing everything in their power to rewrite history. Listening to the liberals, you'd think that the 1980's were the worst period since the Great Depression, filled with suffering and despair. I don't know about you, but I'm getting awfully tired of the whining voices from the White House these days. They're claiming there was a decade of greed and neglect, but you and I know better than that. We were there.

Feb. 03, 1994 - from a speech at the Republican National Congress annual gala
Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Aug. 15, 1986 - from remarks to the White House Council on Business
A friend of mine was asked to a costume ball a short time ago. He slapped some egg on his face and went as a liberal economist.

Feb. 11, 1988
Government is like a big baby - an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.

1965 - quoted in the Saturday Evening Post
... the march of freedom and democracy ... will leave Marxism- Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.

1982 - from a speech to Britain's Parliament
Many other countries have made the mistake of mandating costly [employment] benefits, and they have mandated their citizens right out of jobs.

Mar. 05, 1987 - from testimony to the House Education and Labor Committee
Any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we're always "against," never "for" anything.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
The taxpayer--that's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination.

You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by his way of eating jelly beans.

Go to the polls and make your voice heard. It is your world. You have to take the reins of government.

Dec. 1988 - from a speech to students at the University of Virginia
You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream - the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order - or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
[Of people criticizing his programs] They sort of remind me of the fellow who was asked which was worse, ignorance or apathy, and he said, 'I don't know and I don't care.'

Government is the people's business and every man, woman and child becomes a shareholder with the first penny of tax paid.

Jan. 14, 1982 - from a speech to the New York City Partnership Association
It is not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work - work with us, not over us; stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.

Jan. 20, 1981 - from his First Inaugural Address
Welfare's purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence.

Jan. 07, 1990 - column in The Los Angeles Times
We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success - only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free. Trust the people.

Sep. 29, 1981
We don't have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven't taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.

Mar. 28, 1982 - from a speech to the National Association of Realtors
Let us so conduct ourselves that two centuries from now, another Congress and another President, meeting in this Chamber as we are meeting, will speak of us with pride, saying that we met the test and preserved for them in their day the sacred flame of liberty--this last, best hope of man on Earth.

1982 - from his first State of the Nation address
Heaven help us if the government ever gets into the business of protecting us from ourselves.

Apr. 12, 1973
Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor's fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can't socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. ... It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, 'What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power.' But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.

Mar. 2, 1977 - from a speech delivered in Los Angeles
We believe faith and freedom must be our guiding stars, for they show us truth, they make us brave, give us hope, and leave us wiser than we were.

1985 - from his fourth State of the Nation address
Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? ... Today [1964] in our country the tax collector's share is 37 cents of every dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp. [The Tax Foundation in the U.S. reported that in 1994 the average share paid in taxes was 49 cents.]

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.

Jun. 06, 1984 - from a speech in Normandy, France
We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.

Where there is liberty art succeeds. In societies that are not free, art dies.

Aug. 1, 1990 - quoted in the Washington Post
We hear much of special interest groups. Our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and our factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we are sick - professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truckdrivers. They are, in short, 'We the people' ...

Jan. 20, 1981 - from his First Inaugural Address
We are a nation that has a governmentónot the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.

... we've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion but what's important ...

1989 - from his Farewell Address
[Re: deficit financing of social programs] You canít drink yourself sober, you canít spend yourself rich.

Our mission is what it has always been - to lift the world's dreams beyond the short limits of our sights and to the far edges of our best hopes.

In an ironic sense, Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis - a crisis where the demands of the economic order are colliding directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet Union.... [Communism will be] left on the ash heap of history.

Jun. 01, 1982
We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him. . . . But we cannot have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure.

When you see all that rhetorical smoke billowing up from the Democrats, well ladies and gentleman, I'd follow the example of their nominee [Bill Clinton]; don't inhale.

1992 - speech at the Republican National Convention
'We the People' tell the government what to do, it doesn't tell us. 'We the People' are the driver - the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast.

There are no such things as limits to growth, because there are no limits on the human capacity for intelligence, imagination and wonder.

Sep. 20, 1983 - from a speech at the University of South Carolina
Although the political landscape has changed, the bold ideas of the 1980's are alive and well. Republican candidates swept every major election across the country last year [1993]... and as a result, it seems that our opponents have finally realized how unpopular liberalism really is. So now they're trying to dress their liberal agenda in a conservative overcoat.

[Communism in 1964] We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
No arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.

Jan. 20, 1981 - from his First Inaugural Address
Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.

1989 - from his Farewell Address
Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future.

I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer, just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals ... The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom, and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Jul. 01, 1975 - from an interview published in Reason Magazine
The founding fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.

Oct. 27, 1964 - speech at the Republican National Convention
No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth.

Government has an important role in helping develop a country's economic foundation. But the critical test is whether government is genuinely working to liberate individuals by creating incentives to work, save, invest, and succeed.

Oct. 30, 1981
Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuous revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions.

May. 31, 1988 - address to students at Moscow State University