The Lessons of Reagan's Farewell, 25 Years Later

Today marks the 25th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s farewell address to the nation. I sincerely hope I’m not the only person who’s writing to commemorate the occasion. 

I just watched it again – twenty or so minutes in length – and I recommend you do the same, because each time I watch the speech, it reinvigorates the love I have for my country. 

Over the course of twenty minutes, President Reagan artfully reminds us why America is exceptional and a role model for the rest of the world. Reagan’s optimism has taught me that he will not be the last leader of his kind. Anyone considering a run for president in the future - from either party I might add - should watch this speech and then take some time to ponder what’s sadly happened to the American presidency.

The condition America will be left in by our current president will be very similar to the state of America in 1980. In the speech, President Reagan states of his eight years in office, “I think we have stopped a lot of what needed stopping.” In 2017, whoever the next president is will need to do a lot of stopping. The size and scope of our government is out of control and as a result it is failing at every turn. Reagan went on to say 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.” 

It seems history is repeating itself, as so many Americans – myself included – feel that our God-given liberty is being stolen from us by a government run amok under the control of a president who ignores the Constitution.

The next leader of our country needs to be blessed with the ability to convince Americans once again that our experience on Earth is unique from any other country's in the history of the world because of the principles upon which we as a nation were founded. No one’s done a better job of this than President Reagan, because he believed in what he was saying with every fiber of his being. The following words by Reagan should be considered by all potential future presidents. If they can find a way to articulate these beliefs and feelings in their own way, they will have a leg up on the competition: 

‘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. Almost all the world's constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which ‘We the People’ tell the government what it is allowed to do.”

If it sounds overly simplistic to you, the reason is that that was the intent. If it sounds too good to be true, thankfully you’re mistaken. Reagan believed that in America, the sky is the limit for all free people, because the government simply isn’t allowed to get in your way.

Reagan went on to discuss in his final address as president his appreciation for America’s “resurgence of national pride” that was a result of his leadership and message throughout the 1980s. I believe that America in 2014 is in desperate need of what Reagan called a “new patriotism.” It starts now, as it did in the '80s, at the dinner table, in our schools, and by older generations' passing on to our children the ideals of why America is special and how hard previous generations fought to preserve our precious liberty. Reagan still has it right.

Our next president needs to be a stockholder in “the American miracle” and the idea of our country as “a shining city upon a hill” as President Reagan so proudly put it on January 11, 1989. I hope you take some time to watch and remember Reagan and what the United States of America still has the ability to become.


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