Saturday, January 11, 2014

On this day 25 years ago: Reagan's farewell speech

Tampico, Illinois
As Stephen F. Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute reminds us, today is the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's farewell address.
Reagan's farewell includes several traits and images that appeared in almost all Reagan speeches stretching back to the 1950s, especially his favorite "City on a Hill" metaphor. Much of the speech was like other farewells, boasting of positive accomplishments—in Reagan’s case, a revived economy and renewed confidence and patriotism. He engaged in some partisan argumentation in his typically gentle way:
Some pundits said our programs would result in catastrophe. Our views on foreign affairs would cause war. Our plans for the economy would cause inflation to soar and bring about economic collapse. I even remember one highly respected economist saying, back in 1982, that "The engines of economic growth have shut down here, and they're likely to stay that way for years to come." Well, he and the other opinion leaders were wrong. The fact is, what they called “radical” was really "right." What they called "dangerous" was just "desperately needed."
Notice that Reagan here omits mentioning his Democratic opponents by name; he singles out "pundits" instead. But he also displayed a trait that often gets overlooked: modesty. Reagan bestowed full credit on the American people rather than himself. The contrast with the current president couldn't be more stark:
And in all of 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. 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.
Oh, do we need someone like Reagan now--enough of the current narcissist-in-chief.

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