Tag archives: Ronald Reagan

Forgetting Who We Are

by Robert Morrison

June 7, 2010

If we forget what we did, we will forget who we are. So said President Reagan in his Farewell Address to the Nation in 1989. That year would see the collapse of the evil empire that Reagan fought all his adult life. When confronted by the fact that the Catholic Church would surely oppose his occupation and rule over Poland, Soviet dictator Joe Stalin had cynically asked: How many divisions has the Pope? In 1989, the world found out how many divisions the Pope had. Millions of Poles cried out We want God. Poland became the fulcrum for Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and the Polish Pope John Paul II to move the world.

The good folks in Bedford, Virginia, are trying desperately to make a go of their troubled D-Day Memorial. They have just put up a statue to Josef Stalin. They claim, defensively, that they are merely trying to complete a quartet of Second World War leaders which includes Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Charles de Gaulle.

Minus the frosty Frenchman, the Big Three did meet—at Tehran, at Yalta—to map out grand strategy for the allied victory against Hitler. The Anglo-American allies worried all the while they dealt with dictator Stalin that he might change sides once again and team up with Hitler. Stranger things had happened. It was Stalins 1939 Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, after all, that allowed Hitler to launch the Second World War just weeks after the pact signatures had dried. It was at that time that the young Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, fleeing eastward with his ailing father, would turn back to live under the Nazi occupation rather than risk life under the Soviets. Stalins NKVD henchmen captured some 22,000 Polish army officers and shot them, each one with a single bullet to the back of his skull, and buried their bodies in the Katyn Forest.

And this was just the beginning. FDRs ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies was all-out for Stalin. He even made a Hollywood propaganda movie titled Mission to Moscow. When he lived in Moscow, Davies tried to quiet his wifes concerns. Housed in their elegant embassy residence, Mrs. Davies could hear the sharp crack-crack-crack all night. Davies said it was heroic Soviet workers, using jackhammers, eager to meet their production quotas. In truth. was Stalins NKVD execution squads, working through the nights, eager to meet a different kind of quota.

We do need to remember our unholy alliance with Stalin during World War II. It was necessary for the survival of the West to make a marriage of convenience with this most brutal of dictators.

The Russian proverb says when you go to dine with the devil, make sure you take a long spoon.

Churchill carried a long spoon and, typically, said it better: If Hitler invaded hell, I would at least make favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons. When Hitler invaded Stalins empire built on bones, he did indeed invade hell.

The D-Day Memorial folks in Bedford might have remembered the wartime alliance with a photo of FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. They might even have rendered the photo as a sculpture.

But in erecting a bust of the beast, they have dishonored themselves and the United States of America.

It was President Reagan who spoke in Normandy at Pointe-du-Hoc in 1984, praising the Airborne Rangers who reclaimed a continent for freedom:

Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause.

And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what were about to do. Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgeway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: I will not fail thee or forsake thee.

Thus did Ronald Reagan teach us how to remember D-Day and the Boys of Pointe-du-Hoc. Thus he led us in holding aloft the torch of freedom.

One year ago, President Barack Obama stood at Normandy D-Day observances and, in the words of Newsweeks Evan Thomas, hovered above the nations, like a sort of God. What did Mr. Obama say there? Can even his strongest advocates recall a single line the President delivered there? Erecting a bust of Stalin in America—anywhere in America—would only be possible because we are now forgetting what we did, forgetting who we are.

The Challenge of the Challenger

by Robert Morrison

January 29, 2010

My good friend Tom McClusky had the wit and the heart to remind us all of Ronald Reagans speech on the occasion of the Challenger disaster in 1986. Tom circulated the video clip of Reagan speaking to the nation that very night.

The morning had been clear and cold—in Washington as it was in Florida. I was working at the U.S. Department of Education then. We were all watching on TV as the rocket launched the Space Shuttle into the skies over Cape Kennedy. We were more interested in this flight than in many shuttle flights because a teacher was on board. In fact, we had seen Krista McAuliffe and her fellow astronauts in the elevators of F.O.B. 6—our departments office building. Thats because NASA occupied the top three floors of our building.

I remember the sickening, sinking feeling we all felt that day. It was almost like the time that President Kennedy was shot in broad daylight. We instantly thought of the millions of schoolchildren across the country who had been watching in their classrooms. Would they be scarred the rest of their lives by this horror broadcast in dying color?

No they would not. Nor would we. Thats because that very night, President Reagan came on national television to comfort, console, and communicate with all Americans. His stately words and reassuring demeanor calmed a nervous people. He was a tough Irish cop soothing us and telling us to come in off the ledge. Here is what he said that frigid night.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

In just hours, the pall of gloom was lifted and the nation strode forward, resolved, and encouraged.

What a contrast to President Obamas State of the Union Address, or to his speech at the Fort Hood memorial service, or, for that matter, to his Inaugural Address. Two million people came to Washington for that great and historic event. What did he say to them? I cannot recall.

This is not a partisan commentary. It is not because Reagan was a conservative Republican and Obama is a liberal Democrat that I find the words of one powerful and moving and the other incredibly insubstantial.

John F. Kennedy was a liberal Democrat, but no one who heard him could forget Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. Facing the dread prospect of nuclear war over endangered access to West Berlin, Kennedy said: Any spot is tenable if brave men will make it so. These are not googled quotes. Kennedys words are engraved on our memories. And when he was cut down, it was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, another liberal Democrat, who said: Whats the use of being Irish if you dont know the world will one day break your heart?

Middle of the road Republican Everett Dirksen provided the indispensable votes for the passage of the great Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dirksen said then: Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

For those of us who love politics, there is a love of ideas. And those ideas are best expressed in unforgettable words. Is it only because we who love words best love the Word most?

Jon Favreau is President Obamas 28-year old speechwriter. He has been idolized by TIME Magazine as one of Americas 100 most powerful. Worse, hes been lionized by People as one of Americas most beautiful. Its not quite as bad as the worshipful praise heaped upon his chief. But it hasnt done him any good. He is paid $172,000 a year as a wordsmith. What enduring words has he smithed?

Question: Can anyone remember anything this youngster has written? The State of the Union Address is barely 48 hours old. It was embargoed lest a syllable of its deathless prose leak out to a waiting world. It was received with rapt attention by the Vice President and Speaker, and interrupted a hundred times by applause. OK, most of the applause came from his Amen corner; still, it was lusty applause.

But what did he say that any of us can remember? Liberals grumblingly conceded that Reagan was a Great Communicator, as if that was all there was to his connection with the American people. Reagan, in his Farewell Address, demurred, saying he had the privilege of communicating great ideas.

What great idea did President Obama communicate on Wednesday night? I will not quit! Is that it? Hold the mallets. Hold the chisels. House the marble.

Spindrift is a wonderful word. It describes that frothy combination of sea and salt and strong wind that scuds along the crest of the waves in a storm. Spindrift is a part of the lore and life of the sea. When the waters calm, however, spindrift disappears. It evanesces. Like the words of Barack Obama.

Dont Be Afraid to See What You See

by Robert Morrison

January 12, 2010

This week marks the 21st anniversary of President Reagans Farewell Address to the Nation. Its especially appropriate to recall it today, for the wisdom he shared, for the good feeling he evoked. There are many parts to the address I could recommend. I especially liked the part where he warned about a loss of national memory. He wanted Americans to remember their history. If we forget what we did, we will forget who we are.

One part of that January 11, 1989 address jumps out at usor should. That decade began with great tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Reagan was heavily criticized. Liberals feared he would get us into a war. They feared World War III. They didnt want him to take tough action against the Soviets and their aggression. They nearly wilted when he called the Soviet Union an evil empire. Yet, at the end of the decade, the Cold War was over. The tensions had eased. And everyone breathed a great sigh of relief. President Reagan had a warning here too:

We must keep up our guard, but we must also continue to work together to lessen and eliminate tension and mistrust. My view is that President Gorbachev is different from previous Soviet leaders. I think he knows some of the things wrong with his society and is trying to fix them. We wish him well. And we’ll continue to work to make sure that the Soviet Union that eventually emerges from this process is a less threatening one.

What it all boils down to is this. I want the new closeness to continue. And it will, as long as we make it clear that we will continue to act in a certain way as long as they continue to act in a helpful manner. If and when they don’t, at first pull your punches. If they persist, pull the plug. It’s still trust but verify. It’s still play, but cut the cards. It’s still watch closely. And don’t be afraid to see what you see.

Dont be afraid to see what you see. How many times have we recently heard people from the current administration referring to Abdulmutallab as the suspect, or the accused. They say he allegedly tried to bomb the incoming Northwest Flight 253 on its final approach to Detroit.

Allegedly? Do we think someone else put explosives in his BVDs? Can you imagine this announcement in an airport waiting area? Please watch your carry-on luggage closely and if anyone tries to give you anything to take on boardor puts something in your underwearmake sure to report it to security.

This administration is afraid to see what it sees. President Obamabelatedly in the view of many of usacknowledged last week that we are at war with Al Qaeda. If thats the case, then why is Abdulmutallab being given a government-paid lawyer and being allowed to clam up? Before that, he was singing like a canary.

Ronald Reagans combination of strong defense and clear-eyed diplomacy brought us all safely through the dangers of the 1980s. The left wing supporters here and in Europe were frozen in terror. Thats why they wanted a Nuclear Freeze. But Reagans firm hand on the tiller brought the ship of state safely into port. Let us all pray that our beloved nation will not have to re-learn those lessons. If were really at war, lets not be afraid to see what we see.

Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down this Wall!

by Robert Morrison

November 9, 2009

Ronald Reagan brought two things to Washington that were very much out of fashion, I enjoy telling student interns at Family Research Council: brown suits and freedom for a hundred million people in Eastern Europe. When Reagan swept into office in a landslide in 1980, the reigning view of Washingtons foreign policy elites toward Eastern Europe was that expressed in the Sonnenfeldt Doctrine. State Department Counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt in the 1970s was a disciple of Henry Kissinger. TIME Magazine explained Sonnefeldts ideas:

He was quoted as saying that U.S. policy in Eastern Europe should “strive for an evolution that makes the relationship between the Eastern Europeans and the Soviet Union an organic one.” The use of the word organic seemed to imply that he was advocating that the Soviet Union and its satellites should form one wholea position calculated to infuriate not only G.O.P. conservatives but also ethnic groups with roots in Eastern Europe.

In simple American English, the U.S. policy toward Eastern Europe should not rock the boat.

Ronald Reagans view could not be further from those espoused by the Kissingers, Sonnenfeldts, and the foreign policy establishments of both political parties. Reagan had told Richard Allen, who would one day serve in the White House as Reagans National Security Adviser, that his idea of East-West relations was simple: We win. They lose.

To say such a thing about the Soviet Union seemed stupid. Clark Clifford, one of the certified Wise Men of the Democratic Party, called Reagan an amiable dunce. Others thought him dangerous. The USSR had hundreds of heavily armed divisions, tens of thousands of rumbling tanks, artillery pieces without number, not to mention 27,000 nuclear warheads atop intercontinental ballistic missiles ready to launch against Western Europe and the U.S. Was Reagan insane, they asked?

Of course, the actual acronym for U.S. strategic deterrence in those days was MADMutual Assured Destruction. An entire cult of arms control had grown up since the 1960s designed to manage the East-West relationship by having both sides agree not to defend themselves from nuclear attack. Both sides had to know that their cities and countries would be utterly laid waste, that a nuclear winter following World War III could extinguish all life on earth. Only if such was the alternative, the deep thinkers thought, could a nuclear holocaust be averted. By all means, nothing should be done by the West to incite rebellion behind the Iron Curtain.

In those years, it was always East-West, as if the argument between freedom and Marxist totalitarianism was simply a dispute over directions. Using terms like the Free World horrified the sophisticates of Georgetown cocktail party circuit. They shuddered at the naivete of the rubes who spoke of captive nations in Eastern Europe, and satellites of the Soviet Union.

Ronald Reagan came to Washington widely viewed by this set of people as a political Neanderthal. Reagan, they shuddered, actually believed in God and talked about freedom. He thought in terms of black and white. He had not forgotten the incident in 1962, for example, when 17-year old Peter Fechter was shot by East German border guards as he made his escape attempt from the Soviet-occupied zone that the New York Times referred to as the German Democratic Republic. Young Fechter lay bleeding to death in the minefield leading up to the ugly wall built by the East German Communists in 1961 to complete their imprisonment of their own people. As the young man whimpered, East German Volkspolizei shot at his would-be rescuers.

Reagan thought such a system was evil. And he said so. He called the Soviet bloc an evil empire. When he spoke to Britains House of Commons in 1982, he said that Marxism was even then fated to wind up on the ash heap of history, a bizarre chapter in human history.

Reagan was the first President since JFK to speak of the Soviet Union and Communism as evil.

And Reagan was the first President ever to use humor as a battering ram against the inhuman Berlin Wall. Asked if Communism might work, President Reagan said it might work in Heaven, but they dont need it. And it surely would work in Hell, but they already have it.

When he went to West Berlin in June, 1987, President Reagan overruled his own Secretary of State George P. Schultz and National Security Advisor, Gen. Colin Powell. They did not want him to challenge the reforming Soviet ruler, Mikhail Gorbachev, directly. Dont embarrass Gorbachev and make our negotiations harder, they and the foreign policy establishment said.

But Reagan was determined. He had seen how the liberal media had swooned over the charismatic Gorbachev. It was Gorbachev, not the 77-year old Reagan, whom Western reporters saw as the hope for the future.

Reagan was having none of it. He knew that a hundred million people in Eastern Europe were still enslaved by the Soviet system. He knew that if Gorbachevs reformed Communism worked, it would still mean decades before the peoples of Poland, E. Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and a dozen other statesincluding the Baltics and Russia itself—could breathe free.

Reagan knew there was one place on earth to test the sincerity of Gorbachevs liberalizing claims: the Berlin Wall. So Ronald Reagan went to the Wall and threw down his famous challenge. He made it personal and pointed:

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Today, twenty years after the Fall of the Wall, we can remember Reagans brave words.

We can thank God that courage and determination brought down this monument to Communist inhumanity.

Dare to Risk: Take the Dinner Conversations Public

by Benjamin Scott

July 28, 2009

In Ronald Reagans 1989 farewell speech he inspired the youth in America to dream of change and pursue active leadership for the good of America. All great change in America begins at the dinner table, Reagan told America. And he was right.

Yet as a college student, I am aware of how many of my contemporaries across this nation see little reason to devout themselves in the world of politics. Millions of college students around the country would rather stay in their comfortable safe havens of youthful apathy then dare to engage the complex political world surrounding them.

Many young American intellectuals are scared. Scared to engage in a fearless way in the world of politics, for the sake of the future of our country. A temptation for college students is to keep the dinner conversations, merely dinner conversations. To keep the transformative ideas and dreams of what America could become, only in term papers and research assignments. College students are tempted to keep the questions they raise in classrooms about their stake in Americas future only to themselves, their peers, and their professors.

Yet if the transformative fortieth president, The Great Communicator Ronald Reagan was still with us today, he would demand of us to take our dreams for Americas future and to cast ourselves into the world of politics. Reagan himself lived this out when he dared to take the conversations he had around his dinner table concerning ending the evil empire of the Soviet Union, and pursued the presidency fighting for the freedom of those in political bondage.

Aspiring conservatives ought to learn from current President Barack Obama who wisely saw former president Reagan as one of the greatest transformative presidents of modern time. Reagan still matters. His message still matters. His legacy still matters. And most importantly his optimistic spirit, his grand yet specific dreams for his country still matter. Leading conservatives have urged Republicans nation wide to forget the dreams Ronald Reagan spoke of and move on into the future with a spirit of fear and compromise. This is unwise and will lead to political death.

Aspiring leaders of our country can only change America in a more responsible way when they understand that America needs their ideas to be expressed not only in the safe comfortable world surrounding the kitchen table, but in the scary, complex world of local, state, and national politics.

If young leaders with a vision for the future of America would take the risk to express their ideas publicly and throw themselves into the world of politics, America would once again be lead into her future as Winthrops city on a hill.

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