Ronald Reagan

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Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.

Ronald Wilson Reagan (6 February 19115 June 2004) was an American actor and politician, who became 33rd Governor of California and 40th President of the United States. He was the husband of Jane Wyman (1940–1948) and Nancy Davis (married in 1952).

Quotes[edit]

Pre-presidency[edit]

One legislator accused me of having a nineteenth-century attitude on law and order. That is a totally false charge. I have an eighteenth-century attitude...
  • You get to know people as individuals. The dreams of people may differ, but everybody wants their dreams to come true. And America, above all places, gives us the freedom to do that
    • as quoted in Who was Ronald Reagan?, by Joyce Milton, page 9 (2004)
  • Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
    • Address to the annual meeting of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, (30 March 1961)
    • Later variant : Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.
  • Back in 1927, an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said that the American people would never vote for socialism but he said under the name of liberalism the American people would adopt every fragment of the socialist program.
  • "Shouldn't someone tag Mr. Kennedy's 'bold new imaginative program' with its proper age?" Reagan wondered. "Under the tousled boyish haircut it is still old Karl Marx—first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a government being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his state 'State Socialism', and way before him it was relevant 'benevolant monarchy'."
  • But at the moment I'd like to talk about another way because this threat is with us and at the moment is more imminent. One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It's very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. . . . Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it. We have an example of this. Under the Truman administration it was proposed that we have a compulsory health insurance program for all people in the United States, and, of course, the American people unhesitatingly rejected this.
    • Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine (recording (1961)
  • The doctor begins to lose freedom. . . . First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then doctors aren’t equally divided geographically. So a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him, you can't live in that town. They already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else. And from here it's only a short step to dictating where he will go. . . . All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man's working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it's a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay. And pretty soon your son won't decide, when he's in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do.
    • Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine (recording (1961)
  • Every morning Nancy and I turn to see what he has to say about people of our respective birth signs.
    • 1965, from Reagan's autobiography Where's the Rest of Me?, regarding his "good friend" Hollywood astrologer Carroll Righter
  • It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas.
    • Ronald Reagan, Fresno Bee, October 10, 1965
  • We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry every night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.
    • Ronald Reagan, TV speech, October 27, 1964, cited by Mark Green, Reagan's Reign of Error
  • I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at the point of a bayonet, if necessary.
    • Ronald Reagan, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1965
  • I would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
    • Ronald Reagan, Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1966
  • A tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?
    • California Governor Ronald Reagan, opposing expansion of Redwood National Park, Sacramento Bee, March 3, 1966
  • Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders.
    • California Governor Ronald Reagan, Sacramento Bee, April 28, 1966
  • Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.
    • Joke during his 1965 campaign for Governor of California, as quoted by Leo E. Litwak in The New York Times Magazine (14 November 1965), p. 174
    • Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.
      • As quoted in The Reagan Wit (1981) by Bill Adler, p. 30
  • I have a feeling that we are doing better in the war [in Vietnam] than the people have been told.
    • Ronald Reagan, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1967
  • 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.
    • "Excerpts of a Speech by Governor Ronald Reagan, Republican National Convention, Platform Committee Meeting, Miami, Florida," July 31, 1968
The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom.
  • Welfare's purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence.
    • Interview, Los Angeles Times (7 January 1970)
  • If it's to be a bloodbath, let it be now. Appeasement is not the answer.
    • On what to do about student disruptions at UC Berkeley, quoted in the Los Angeles Times (8 April 1970). Shortly thereafter, Reagan said: "I certainly don't think there should be a bloodbath on campus or anywhere else. It was just a figure of speech." As quoted by United Press International (8 April 1970)
  • One legislator accused me of having a nineteenth-century attitude on law and order. That is a totally false charge. I have an eighteenth-century attitude. That is when the Founding Fathers made it clear that the safety of law-abiding citizens should be one of the government's primary concerns.
    • Address to the Republican State Central Committee Convention, (7 September 1973)
  • If you analyze it 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 — if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. 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. Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to ensure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are traveling the same path.
    • Interview published in Reason (1 July 1975)
  • Right now our main effort is directed toward oxides of nitrogen which comes out of automobile tail pipe and cause the photochemical reactions which color the air a muddy brown. There is no question they are a problem in areas like L.A. where we have a more or less constant temperature inversion trapping the air. But Dr. [John] McKetta lists the findings in his field as his no. 3 shock & surprise. Nature it seems also produces oxides of nitrogen. As a matter of fact nature produces 97% of them.
    • Radio commentary (August 1975)
I'm convinced that today the majority of Americans want what those first Americans wanted: A better life for themselves and their children; a minimum of government authority.
  • There are those in America today who have come to depend absolutely on government for their security. And when government fails they seek to rectify that failure in the form of granting government more power. So, as government has failed to control crime and violence with the means given it by the Constitution, they seek to give it more power at the expense of the Constitution. But in doing so, in their willingness to give up their arms in the name of safety, they are really giving up their protection from what has always been the chief source of despotism — government. Lord Acton said power corrupts. Surely then, if this is true, the more power we give the government the more corrupt it will become. And if we give it the power to confiscate our arms we also give up the ultimate means to combat that corrupt power. In doing so we can only assure that we will eventually be totally subject to it. When dictators come to power, the first thing they do is take away the people's weapons. It makes it so much easier for the secret police to operate, it makes it so much easier to force the will of the ruler upon the ruled.
    • Column published in Guns and Ammo (1 September 1975)
  • Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal. It was Mussolini's success in Italy, with his government-directed economy, that led the early New Dealers to say "But Mussolini keeps the trains running on time."
    • Time (17 May 1976); Reagan adviser Jude Wanniski has indicated that, in 1933, New Dealers as well as much of the world admired Mussolini’s success in avoiding the Great Depression.
Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.
  • I'm convinced that today the majority of Americans want what those first Americans wanted: A better life for themselves and their children; a minimum of government authority. Very simply, they want to be left alone in peace and safety to take care of the family by earning an honest dollar and putting away some savings. This may not sound too exciting, but there is something magnificent about it. On the farm, on the street corner, in the factory and in the kitchen, millions of us ask nothing more, but certainly nothing less than to live our own lives according to our values — at peace with ourselves, our neighbors and the world.
    • Nationally televised address, (6 July 1976)
  • Let it show on the record that when the American people cried out for economic help, Jimmy Carter took refuge behind a dictionary. Well, if it's a definition he wants, I'll give him one. A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.
  • Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.
    • Remarks at a business conference in Los Angeles (2 March 1977)
  • The smoke from burning marijuana contains many more cancer-causing substances than tobacco. And if that isn’t enough it leads to bronchitis and emphysema. If adults want to take such chances that is their business. But surely the communications media ... should let four million youngsters know what they are risking.
    • Taped statement (August 1979). Reagan is on record as opposing legalization of Marijuana: "I also want to applaud you for helping the people of Oregon fight a misguided minority that would legalize marijuana. That would be the worst possible message to send to our young people." Speech (30 July 1986); Reagan's son Michael has disputed the fervor of his opposition: "Of course Dad was for legalization. ... He wasn't crazy, he didn't want his kids in jail!"
A troubled and afflicted mankind looks to us, pleading for us to keep our rendezvous with destiny; that we will uphold the principles of self-reliance, self-discipline, morality, and, above all, responsible liberty for every individual that we will become that shining city on a hill.
  • They tell us we must learn to live with less, and teach our children that their lives will be less full and prosperous than ours have been; that the America of the coming years will be a place where — because of our past excesses — it will be impossible to dream and make those dreams come true. I don't believe that. And, I don't believe you do either. That is why I am seeking the presidency. I cannot and will not stand by and see this great country destroy itself. Our leaders attempt to blame their failures on circumstances beyond their control, on false estimates by unknown, unidentifiable experts who rewrite modern history in an attempt to convince us our high standard of living, the result of thrift and hard work, is somehow selfish extravagance which we must renounce as we join in sharing scarcity. I don't agree that our nation must resign itself to inevitable decline, yielding its proud position to other hands. I am totally unwilling to see this country fail in its obligation to itself and to the other free peoples of the world.
  • A troubled and afflicted mankind looks to us, pleading for us to keep our rendezvous with destiny; that we will uphold the principles of self-reliance, self-discipline, morality, and, above all, responsible liberty for every individual that we will become that shining city on a hill.
  • All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.
    • Ronald Reagan, Burlington (Vermont) Free Press (15 February 1980)
  • And I have to point out that government doesn't tax to get the money it needs, government always needs the money it gets.
    • Bush-Reagan Debate 1980 on Taxes at League of Women Voters. (24 April 1980) - Video footage
  • Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.
    • as cited in The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World (2007), Alan Greenspan, Penguin Press, Chapter 4 (Private Citizen), p. 87 : ISBN 15942 01315
  • [Evolution] has in recent years been challenged in the world of science and is not yet believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was believed. But if it was going to be taught in the schools, then I think that also the biblical theory of creation, which is not a theory but the biblical story of creation, should also be taught.
    • Press conference at evangelical event in Dallas, Texas. (22 August 1980)
  • Approximately 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation. So let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards for man-made sources.
    • Ronald Reagan, Sierra (10 September 1980)
  • With regard to the freedom of the individual for choice with regard to abortion, there's one individual who's not being considered at all. That's the one who is being aborted. And I've noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.
I believe with all my heart that our first priority must be world peace, and that use of force is always and only a last resort, when everything else has failed, and then only with regard to our national security.
  • I have flown twice over Mount St. Helens. I'm not a scientist and I don't know the figures, but I have a suspicion that one little mountain out there, in these last several months, has probably released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind.
    • Ronald Reagan, Time magazine (20 October 1980)
  • There you go again. When I opposed Medicare, there was another piece of legislation meeting the same problem before the Congress. I happened to favor the other piece of legislation and thought that it would be better for the senior citizens to provide better care than the one that was finally passed.
    • Presidential debate, in response to criticism by Carter about Reagan's position on Medicare (28 October 1980)]
  • Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls, will stand there in the polling place and make a decision. I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?
  • I believe with all my heart that our first priority must be world peace, and that use of force is always and only a last resort, when everything else has failed, and then only with regard to our national security.

A Time for Choosing (1964)[edit]

A Time for Choosing (27 October 1964) This was a televised speech in support of the presidential campaign of Senator Barry Goldwater; often referred to as "The Speech" which launched Reagan's career as a politician. Reagan gave other versions of this speech throughout the country, at various points during the Goldwater campaign.
You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down...
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.
  • I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another course. I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines.
  • As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean peace, or do they mean we just want to be left in peace? There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We're at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it's been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well I think it's time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.
  • If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth. And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and 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.
  • The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so.
  • You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down — up to a man's age-old dream; the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.
  • Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us that they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he will forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers.
  • They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer — not an easy answer — but simple.
    • In some published transcripts or quotations of this speech a variant of this statement appears immediately before the quote by Churchill below, but was not said during Reagan's televised address on (27 October 1964). Though he did make variations of the speech elsewhere it is unclear exactly when and where he may have said used these precise words:
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.
  • Later variant: For many years now, you and I have been shushed like children and told there are no simple answers to the complex problems which are beyond our comprehension. Well, the truth is, there are simple answers, they just are not easy ones.
  • Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one." Let's set the record straight. There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace — and you can have it in the next second — surrender.
  • Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow other than this [surrender], but every lesson in history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face — that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight and surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand — the ultimatum. And what then? When Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we are retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary because by that time we will have weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he has heard voices pleading for "peace at any price" or "better Red than dead," or as one commentator put it, he would rather "live on his knees than die on his feet." And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don't speak for the rest of us. You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin — just in the face of this enemy?
  • The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, it's a simple answer after all. You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, "There is a price we will not pay." There is a point beyond which they must not advance. This is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater's "peace through strength." Winston Churchill said that "the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits — not animals." And he said, "There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."
  • 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 last step into a thousand years of darkness. We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.

First term of office[edit]

  • Intelligence reports say he — Castro — is very worried about me. I'm very worried that we can't come up with something to justify his worrying.
    • White House diary, (11 February 1981) (Source: BBC)
  • Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.
    • Remarks at the National Conference of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, (30 March 1981)) (Source: [1])
  • Honey, I forgot to duck.
    • To his wife, Nancy, while in hospital shortly after he was shot in an assassination attempt (30 March 1981). Reagan is believed to have been quoting the words of boxer Jack Dempsey to his wife after he lost to Gene Tunney in 1926. [2]
  • I hope you're all Republican.
    • Speaking to surgeons as he entered the operating room following a 1981 assassination attempt.[3] To which Dr. Joseph Giordano replied, "We're all Republicans today." An alternative version has Reagan saying "Please tell me you're Republicans." (30 March 1981)
  • This is not the time for political fun and games. This is the time for a new beginning. I ask you now to put aside any feelings of frustration or helplessness about our political institutions and join me in this dramatic but responsible plan to reduce the enormous burden of Federal taxation on you and your family.
  • I never knew anything above Cs.
    • Describing his academic record to Barbara Walters (27 November 1981), cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • Every country and every people has a stake in the Afghan resistance, for the freedom fighters of Afghanistan are defending principles of independence and freedom that form the basis of global security and stability.
  • From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than thirty years to establish their legitimacy. But none — not one regime — has yet been able to risk free elections. Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root....If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly....Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that's now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated.
Abraham Lincoln freed the black man. In many ways, Dr. King freed the white man...
  • Yes, because for many years I was a Democrat.
    • Response to Sam Donaldson (September 1982), on whether he shared any blame for the ongoing recession
  • Well, I learned a lot. ... You'd be surprised. They're all individual countries.
  • Abraham Lincoln freed the black man. In many ways, Dr. King freed the white man. How did he accomplish this tremendous feat? Where others — white and black — preached hatred, he taught the principles of love and nonviolence. We can be so thankful that Dr. King raised his mighty eloquence for love and hope rather than for hostility and bitterness. He took the tension he found in our nation, a tension of injustice, and channeled it for the good of America and all her people.
The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor.
  • Let us be aware that while they [the Soviet leadership] preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.
    • Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (8 March 1983)
  • So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.
    • Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (8 March 1983)
  • What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies? I know this is a formidable, technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century. Yet, current technology has attained a level of sophistication where it's reasonable for us to begin this effort. It will take years, probably decades of effort on many fronts. There will be failures and setbacks, just as there will be successes and breakthroughs. And as we proceed, we must remain constant in preserving the nuclear deterrent and maintaining a solid capability for flexible response. But isn't it worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war? We know it is.
  • The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression — to preserve freedom and peace.
The only way there could be war is if they start it; we're not going to start a war.
  • One hundred nations in the UN have not agreed with us on just about everything that's come before them, where we're involved, and it didn't upset my breakfast at all.
  • This country now possesses the strongest credit in the world. The full consequences of a default or even the serious prospect of default by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and on the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The Nation can ill afford to allow such a result. The risks, the cost, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion: the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns.
These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.
  • The only way there could be war is if they start it; we're not going to start a war.
    • Declaring what he would tell Yuri Andropov, head of the Soviet Union, were he in the room; in an interview for People magazine (12 June 1983)
  • Not to the extent of throwing up my hands and saying, "Well, it's all over." No. I think whichever generation and at whatever time, when the time comes, the generation that is there, I think will have to go on doing what they believe is right.
    • Answer to question about whether he's mused about Armageddon.Interview for People magazine (12 June 1983)
  • Until now has there ever been a time in which so many of the prophecies are coming together? There have been times in the past when people thought the end of the world was coming, and so forth, but never anything like this.
    • Ronald Reagan (6 December 1983), cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I'm in a cabinet meeting.
    • Said often during his presidency, 1981–1989
  • Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.
  • What we have found in this country, and maybe we're more aware of it now, is one problem that we've had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice.
    • Defending himself against charges of callousness on Good Morning America(31 January 1984), cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.
    • Joke at the Gridiron Club annual dinner (24 March 1984)
  • You'd be surprised how much being a good actor pays off.
    • Responding to a question from students at Shanghai's University of Fudan as to which experiences best prepared him for the presidency (30 April 1984), cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.
    • Joking during a microphone check. The joke was later leaked to the general populace. [4][5] (11 August 1984)
  • Recognizing the equality of all men and women, we are willing and able to lift the weak, cradle those who hurt, and nurture the bonds that tie us together as one nation under God.
    • Address accepting the Republican presidential nomination (23 August 1984)
  • America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in songs of a man so many young Americans admire -- New Jersey's own, Bruce Springsteen.
  • I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.
  • If you read the letter, you will find there is nothing wrong with it.
    • Commenting on a letter that Reagan had written to Richard Nixon in 1960 regarding John F. Kennedy, as quoted in The New York Times (27 October 1984). The letter to Nixon said: "Unfortunately, he is a powerful speaker with an appeal to the emotions. He leaves little doubt that his idea of the 'challenging new world' is one in which the Federal Government will grow bigger and do more and of course spend more....One last thought — shouldn't someone tag Mr. Kennedy's bold new imaginative program with its proper age? Under the tousled boyish haircut is still old Karl Marx — first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a Government being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his 'State Socialism' and way before him it was 'benevolent monarchy.'"
  • We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson [of the Holocaust], for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.

First Inaugural address (1981)[edit]

Washington, D. C. (20 January 1981) - Full text online
In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle...
It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams.
  • To a few of us here today this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.
  • 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. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay the price.
  • It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We're not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope. We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look.
  • Above all, we must realize that 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. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.
  • In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden.
    • Some sources indicate the phrase 'government is the problem' was not part of the speech. (E.g. yale.edu). Live recordings of the address demonstrate that Reagan did indeed use the phrase in question. See Ronald Reagan: First Inaugural Address; start at 6:08.
  • Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man, George Washington, father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led Americans out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence. And then, beyond the Reflecting Pool, the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.
    Beyond those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery, with its row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses of Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom. Each one of those markers is a monument to the kind of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, the Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.
    Under one such marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow, who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.
    We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, "My Pledge," he had written these words: "America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone."
    The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds, to believe that together with God's help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And after all, why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans.
  • You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we're not bound by that same limitation? We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow.

Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation (1983)[edit]

ISBN 0964112531
We must all educate ourselves to the reality of the horrors taking place.
  • Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution. No serious scholar, including one disposed to agree with the Court's result, has argued that the framers of the Constitution intended to create such a right.
  • The decision by the seven-man majority in Roe v. Wade has so far been made to stick. But the Court's decision has by no means settled the debate. Instead, Roe v. Wade has become a continuing prod to the conscience of the nation.
  • We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life — the unborn — without diminishing the value of all human life.
  • If you don't know whether a body is alive or dead, you would never bury it. I think this consideration itself should be enough for all of us to insist on protecting the unborn.
  • The real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life?
  • The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother's body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being.
  • Regrettably, we live at a time when some persons do not value all human life. They want to pick and choose which individuals have value.
  • As a nation, we must choose between the sanctity of life ethic and the "quality of life" ethic. I have no trouble identifying the answer our nation has always given to this basic question, and the answer that I hope and pray it will give in the future.
  • As a nation today, we have not rejected the sanctity of human life. The American people have not had an opportunity to express their view on the sanctity of human life in the unborn. I am convinced that Americans do not want to play God with the value of human life. It is not for us to decide who is worthy to live and who is not. Even the Supreme Court's opinion in Roe v. Wade did not explicitly reject the traditional American idea of intrinsic worth and value in all human life; it simply dodged this issue.
  • We must all educate ourselves to the reality of the horrors taking place. Doctors today know that unborn children can feel a touch within the womb and that they respond to pain.
  • Late-term abortions, especially when the baby survives, but is then killed by starvation, neglect, or suffocation, show once again the link between abortion and infanticide. The time to stop both is now.
  • It is possible that the Supreme Court itself may overturn its abortion rulings. We need only recall that in Brown v. Board of Education the court reversed its own earlier "separate-but-equal" decision.
  • As we continue to work to overturn Roe v. Wade, we must also continue to lay the groundwork for a society in which abortion is not the accepted answer to unwanted pregnancy. Pro-life people have already taken heroic steps, often at great personal sacrifice, to provide for unwed mothers.
  • We will never recognize the true value of our own lives until we affirm the value in the life of others.
  • We cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide. My Administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land, and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning.

Second term of office[edit]

I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers: Go ahead, make my day.
  • I've spoken recently of the freedom fighters of Nicaragua. You know the truth about them. You know who they're fighting and why. They are the moral equal of our Founding Fathers and the brave men and women of the French Resistance. We cannot turn away from them, for the struggle here is not right versus left; it is right versus wrong.
  • I know it's heard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the faint-hearted. It belongs to the brave.
    • quoted in Who was Ronald Reagan?, by Joyce Milton, page 85 (2004)
The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted. It belongs to the brave.
We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them — this morning, as they prepared for their journey, and waved goodbye, and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."
  • I intend to go right on appointing highly qualified individuals of the highest personal integrity to the bench, individuals who understand the danger of short-circuiting the electoral process and disenfranchising the people through judicial activism.
  • We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them — this morning, as they prepared for their journey, and waved good-bye, and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."
  • We're going forward with research on a new Orient Express that could, by the end of the decade, take off from Dulles Airport, accelerate up to 25 times the speed of sound, attaining low Earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours.
  • Today we have done what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again. It gives me no pleasure to say that, and I wish it were otherwise... When our citizens are abused or attacked anywhere in the world on the direct orders of a hostile regime, we will respond so long as I'm in this Oval Office. Self-defense is not only our right; it is our duty. ... Despite our repeated warnings, Qadhafi continued his reckless policy of intimidation, his relentless pursuit of terror. He counted on America to be passive. He counted wrong.
  • I have never given a litmus test to anyone that I have appointed to the bench.... I feel very strongly about those social issues, but I also place my confidence in the fact that the one thing that I do seek are judges that will interpret the law and not write the law. We've had too many examples in recent years of courts and judges legislating. They're not interpreting what the law says and whether someone has violated it or not. In too many instances, they have been actually legislating by legal decree what they think the law should be, and that I don't go for. And I think that the two men that we're just talking about here, Rehnquist and Scalia, are interpreters of the Constitution and the law.
Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
  • The other day, someone told me the difference between a democracy and a people's democracy. It's the same difference between a jacket and a straitjacket.
Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity.
  • The charge has been made that the United States has shipped weapons to Iran as ransom payment for the release of American hostages in Lebanon, that the United States undercut its allies and secretly violated American policy against trafficking with terrorists.... Those charges are utterly false.... We did not — repeat — did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we.
    • television address (13 November 1986)
  • The simple truth is, 'I don't remember — period.'
    • responding to a question about when he authorized arms shipments to Iran, testimony to the Tower Commission (2 February 1987)
  • A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.
    • television address (4 March 1987)
  • 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!
  • It's reported that John Adams' last words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives." History tells us, however, that Jefferson had died shortly before John Adams passed away. But Adams was right. All of us stand in tribute to the truth of those words. We proclaim it again and again with our dedication to keeping this a land of liberty and justice for all, and through our deeds and actions, to ensure that this country remains a bastion of freedom, the last best hope for mankind. As long as a love of liberty is emblazoned on our hearts, Jefferson lives.
Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things.
  • Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?
  • Diplomacy, of course, is a subtle and nuanced craft, so much so that it's said that when the most wily diplomat of the nineteenth-century passed away, other diplomats asked, on reports of his death, "What do you suppose the old fox meant by that?"
  • How do you tell a Communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin.
  • 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 to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions.


  • Blood that has soaked into the sands of a beach is all of one color. America stands unique in the world: the only country not founded on race but on a way, an ideal. Not in spite of but because of our polyglot background, we have had all the strength in the world. That is the American way.
    • While signing the Bill Providing Restitution for the Wartime Internment of Japanese-American Civilians, quoting himself at the funeral of Kazuo Masuda in December 1945[6] (10 August 1988)
  • Americans "[…]Are not going to tolerate intimidation, terror and outright acts of war against this nation and its people. And we are especially not going to tolerate these attacks from outlaw states run by the strangest collection of misfits, Looney Tunes and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich […] There can be no place on earth where it is safe for these monsters to rest,or train or practice their cruel and deadly. We must act together – or unilateraly, if necessary – to ensue that these terrorists have no sanctuary, anywhere."

Farewell Address (1989)[edit]

Washington, D. C. (11 January 1989) - Full text online
I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited.
Once you begin a great movement, there's no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.
  • I hope we once again have 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.
  • 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 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.
  • The lesson of all this was, of course, that because we're a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours. And something else we learned: Once you begin a great movement, there's no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.
  • "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. "We the people" are free.
  • I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.
  • Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.
  • We've done our part. And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution, the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger. We made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all. And so, good-bye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Post-presidency[edit]

  • Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders. ... The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip.
    • As quoted in The Guardian [London] (14 June 1989)
  • We have found, in our country, that when people have the right to make decisions as close to home as possible, they usually make the right decisions.
    • Address to the International Committee for the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., (17 September 1990)
  • Although I held public office for a total of sixteen years, I also thought of myself as a citizen-politician, not a career one. Every now and then when I was in government, I would remind my associates that "When we start thinking of government as 'us' instead of 'them,' we've been here too long." By that I mean that elected officeholders need to retain a certain skepticism about the perfectibility of government.
    • Address to the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce, (10 July 1991)
America's best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.
  • I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there's purpose and worth to each and every life.
    • At the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California [7] (4 November 1991), the inscription on Reagan's tomb.
I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.
  • Well I've said it before and I'll say it again — America's best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.
  • However, 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.
  • In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that day may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future. I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.
  • It's true hard work never killed anyone, but I figure, why take the chance?
    • On his relaxed approach to work, as quoted in Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio : a History Illustrated from the Collection of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum (2001) by Lou Cannon
  • I'm not smart enough to lie.
    • Response when asked what qualified him to be President, as quoted in Ronald Reagan : The Power of Conviction and the Success of His Presidency (2003) by Peter J. Wallison, p. 167


Attributed[edit]

  • I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the US Congress.
    • Quoted as an attribution in Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (2013), p. 268


Misattributed[edit]

  • A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
    • Attributed to Reagan from informal remarks to reporters 10 October 1984,and to students and faculty at St. John's University 28 March 1985.[citation needed] The statement was made a decade earlier by Gerald Ford in an address to a Joint Session of the Congress, 12 August 1974. It is sometimes attributed to Thomas Jefferson and Barry Goldwater.
    • Variant: A government that is big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take everything you have.
    • Similar assertions have often been attributed to Barry Goldwater. Some of the inspiration for such expressions may lie in "The Criminality of the State" by Albert Jay Nock in American Mercury (March 1939) where he stated: "You get the same order of criminality from any State to which you give power to exercise it; and whatever power you give the State to do things for you carries with it the equivalent power to do things to you."
  • Trust, but Verify.
    • This was a signature phrase of Ronald Reagan — he used it dozens of times in public, although he was not the first person known to use it. When Reagan used this phrase, he was usually discussing relations with the Soviet Union and he almost always presented it as a translation of the Russian proverb "doveriai, no proveriai". See also Trust, but verify at Wikipedia.
  • Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.
    • Known as "The Eleventh Commandment" this statement was made famous by Reagan, but was actually created by California Republican Party Chairman Gaylord Parkinson.
  • George [H. W. Bush] brought his ne're-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job.
    • Cited to a Reagan diary entry in 1986, but actually from a parody written by Michael Kinsley in June 2007
  • There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit.
    • Reagan reportedly displayed a plaque with this proverbial aphorism on his Oval Office desk (Michael Reagan, The New Reagan Revolution (2010), p. 177). Harry S. Truman is reported to have repeated versions of the aphorism on several occasions. This exact wording was in wide circulation in the 1960s, and the earliest known variant has been attributed to Benjamin Jowett (1817–1893).

Quotes about Reagan[edit]

Alphabetized by author
  • Ronald Reagan is the first modern President whose contempt for the facts is treated as a charming idiosyncrasy.
  • The task of watering the arid desert between Reagan's ears is a challenging one for his aides.
    • David Broder, "A Sorry Display of Ignorance", Washington Post, September 1, 1985
  • Reykjavik did not sour the Reagan—Gorbachev relationship. Indeed Gorbachev trusted Reagan more from that time onwards, and the way he spoke about him was much more respectful after Reykjavik than before. Chernyaev cites an instance not long before the Reykjavik summit in which a prominent Western politician, in a meeting with Gorbachev, described Reagan as "fool and a clown", to which Gorbachev responded that it was pity that such a person should be at head of a superpower. After Reykjavik, Chernyaev never heard Gorbachev even in private express or agree with such sentiments concerning Reagan.
  • They told stories about how inattentive and inept the President was.... They said he wouldn't come to work — all he wanted to do was to watch movies and television at the residence.
    • Jim Cannon (an aide to Howard Baker) reporting what Reagan's underlings told him, Landslide: The Unmaking of the President: 1984-88
  • President Reagan doesn't always check the facts before he makes statements, and the press accepts this as kind of amusing.
    • President Jimmy Carter, March 6, 1984, cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • In the Reagan years, more federal debt was added than in the entire prior history of the United States.
    • Richard Darman (Reagan adviser), Who's in Control? Polar Politics and the Sensible Center
  • He has the ability to make statements that are so far outside the parameters of logic that they leave you speechless.
    • Patti Davis (formerly Patricia Ann Reagan) talking about her father, The Way I See It
  • I'd heard my parents [Ronald and Nancy Reagan] read their horoscopes aloud at the breakfast table, but that seemed pretty innocuous to me. Occasionally, I read mine, too — usually so I can do the exact opposite of what it says. But my parents have done what the stars suggested — altered schedules, changed travel plans, stayed home, cancelled appearances."
    • Patti Davis (formerly Patricia Ann Reagan), The Way I See It
  • When someone says, "But he [Reagan] was giving arms to people he knew had killed our Marines," it's hard to respond to that.
    • House Republican Robert Dornan, previously one of Reagan's most ardent supporters, December 11, 1986, cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • This loathing for government, this eagerness to prove that any program to aid the disadvantaged is nothing but a boondoggle and a money gobbler, leads him to contrive statistics and stories with unmatched vigor.
  • From day one his [Reagan's] standard operating procedure ... was a blend of ignorance, amnesia, and dissembling. Like a panicky passenger lunging for a life preserver, he would, under stress, concoct almost any fact or anecdote to advance his ideological beliefs. Ronald Reagan brought to mind Will Rogers' comment that "It's not what he doesn't know that bothers me, it's what he knows for sure that just ain't so."
    • Mark Green, Reagan's Reign of Error
  • Reagan's theory was really "trickle down" economics borrowed from the Republican 1920s (Harding-Coolidge-Hoover) and renamed "supply side." Cut tax rates for the wealthy; everyone else will benefit. As Reagan's budget director David Stockman confided to me at the time, the supply-side rhetoric "was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate." Many middle-class and poor citizens figured it out, even if reporters did not.
  • Reagan's only contribution [to the subject of the MX missile] throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he'd watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from WarGames, the movie. That was his only contribution.
    • Lee Hamilton (Representative from Indiana) interviewed by Haynes Johnson, Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years
  • During Mr. Reagan's trip to Europe ... members of the traveling press corps watched him doze off so many times — during speeches by French President Francois Mitterrand and Italian President Alessandro Pertini, as well as during a one-on-one audience with the Pope — that they privately christened the trip "The Big Sleep."
  • The fox, as has been pointed out by more than one philosopher, knows many small things, whereas the hedgehog knows one big thing. Ronald Reagan was neither a fox nor a hedgehog. He was as dumb as a stump. He could have had anyone in the world to dinner, any night of the week, but took most of his meals on a White House TV tray. He had no friends, only cronies. His children didn't like him all that much. He met his second wife — the one that you remember — because she needed to get off a Hollywood blacklist and he was the man to see. Year in and year out in Washington, I could not believe that such a man had even been a poor governor of California in a bad year, let alone that such a smart country would put up with such an obvious phony and loon.
  • His [Reagan's] errors glide past unchallenged. At one point ... he alleged that almost half the population gets a free meal from the government each day. No one told him he was crazy. The general message of the American press is that, yes, while it is perfectly true that the emperor has no clothes, nudity is actually very acceptable this year.
  • Reagan, who more than any president in history railed against government benefits and spending, set the standard for all members of his administration. In addition to his presidential pension of $99,500 a year for life and his annual pension as a former governor of California of $30,800 ... he received Secret Service protection from forty full-time agents and other security at a cost to the government estimated at $10 million annually, more than double that of other living presidents. A suite of offices atop a new thirty-four-story office building twenty minutes from his home, commanding a view that extended from the Pacific Ocean to the towers of downtown Los Angeles, cost the government $173,000 a year to lease.
    • Haynes Johnson, Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years
  • When you meet the President [Reagan] you ask yourself, "How did it ever occur to anybody that he should be governor, much less President?"
    • Henry Kissinger, addressing a small group of scholars at the Library of Congress (unaware of the presence of a reporter), April 1986, cited by Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor
  • Former aides say Ronald Reagan was a man who read his horoscope and the "funnies" before the rest of the paper. They say he wasn't only indulging his wife — that the former president also believed in astrology.
  • It shows you how a man [Reagan] of limited mental capacity simply doesn’t know what the Christ is going on in the foreign area.
    • President Richard Nixon, in a taped conversation with his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, November 17, 1971
  • If you can control the access of the press to [Reagan], you have a hell of a lot better chance of him not screwing up.
    • Lyn Nofziger (Reagan's campaign press secretary) interviewed by Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency
  • He [Reagan] demonstrated for all to see how far you can go in this life with a smile, a shoeshine and the nerve to put your own spin on the facts.
    • David Nyhan, Boston Globe columnist, cited by Mark Green, Reagan's Reign of Error
  • The deaths lie on him [Reagan] and the defeat in Lebanon lies on him and him alone.... The trouble with this fellow is he tries to be tough rather than smart.
    • House Speaker Tip O'Neill (April 1984), as quoted in The Clothes Have No Emperor by Paul Slansky
  • The frustration of dealing with a situation in which the schedule of the President of the United States was determined by occult prognostications was very great — far greater than any other I had known in nearly forty-five years of working life.
    • Donald Regan (Reagan's Chief of Staff) regarding what it was like having to make adjustments to President Reagan's schedule based on the advice of San Francisco astrologist Joan Quigley, For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington
  • Virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House Chief of Staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise.
    • Donald Regan, For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington
  • Emerging from a particularly credulous Southern California culture, Nancy and Ronald Reagan relied on an astrologer in private and public matters — unknown to the voting public. Some portion of the decision-making that influences the future of our civilization is plainly in the hands of charlatans.
  • [A] lapse into fiscal indiscipline on a scale never before experienced in peacetime.
    • David Stockman (Reagan's budget director) describing the Reagan years, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed
  • What do you do when your President ignores all the palpable, relevant facts and wanders in circles?
    • David Stockman, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed
  • He won the cold war without firing a shot.
    • Margaret Thatcher, at a 1991 Heritage Foundation dinner, as quoted With Reagan : The Inside Story (1992) by Edwin Meese, p. 173; this is often paraphrased "Ronald Reagan won the cold war without firing a shot."
  • Poor dear, there's nothing between his ears.
    • Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, speaking to one of her officials about President Reagan, cited by Peter Jenkins, Mrs. Thatcher's Revolution
  • The epitaph of the Reagan presidency will be: "When Ronald Reagan became President, the United States was the largest creditor nation. When he left the presidency, we were the world's largest debtor nation."
    • Lester Thurow, MIT professor of economics, as quoted in Reagan's Reign of Error by Mark Green
  • When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can’t be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989.
    • Lech Wałęsa, former president of Poland, as quoted in "A Tribute to Ronald Reagan" (2004)
  • The 1980s were a curious time — a time of realization that a new age was upon us. Now, from the perspective of our time, it is obvious that like the pieces of a global chain of events, Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher and even Mikhail Gorbachev helped bring about this new age in Europe. We at Solidarity like to claim more than a little credit, too, for bringing about the end of the Cold War. In the Europe of the 1980s, Ronald Reagan presented the vision. For us in Central and Eastern Europe, that meant freedom from the Soviets. As I say repeatedly, we owe so much to all those who supported us. Perhaps in the early years, we didn’t express enough gratitude. We were so busy introducing all the necessary economic and political reforms in our reborn country. Yet President Ronald Reagan must have realized what remarkable changes he brought to Poland, and indeed the rest of the world.
    And I hope he felt gratified. He should have.
    • Lech Wałęsa, former president of Poland, as quoted in "A Tribute to Ronald Reagan" (2004)
  • Ronald Reagan plays with fire. He doesn't care about international peace. He sees the world like the theater.... Reagan is mad. If he were here, I would tell him the truth about us. He hears about us only through hostile sources.
    • [who?], quoted in UPI (1986-08-08) "Moammar Gadhafi, the man the world loves to hate", Lodi News-Sentinel

Eulogies[edit]

History will give Reagan great credit for standing for principles. ~ George H. W. Bush
An excellent leader of our nation during challenging times at home and abroad. ~ Gerald Ford
Quotes from some of the tributes by world leaders on the death of Reagan. Many world leaders lauded him for how he contributed greatly to the end of the Cold War, others admired him for his help in restoring America's pride. News of Reagan's death put the ongoing presidential election on hold because it was considered disrespectful to have campaigns during a time of mourning. In Canada, their ongoing election was put on hold as well.

US Presidents

  • Pride in our country, respect for our armed services, a healthy appreciation for the dangers beyond our borders, an insistence that there was no easy equivalence between East and West- in all this I had no quarrel with Reagan. And when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, I had to give the old man his due, even if I never gave him my vote.
    • Barack Obama. Quoted in "The Audacity of Hope" - Page 289 - by Barack Obama
  • This is a sad hour in the life of America ... Ronald Reagan won America's respect with his greatness, and won its love with his goodness ... he leaves behind a nation he restored and a world he helped save ... because of his leadership, the world laid to rest an era of fear and tyranny.
  • Hillary and I will always remember President Ronald Reagan for the way he personified the indomitable optimism of the American people, and for keeping America at the forefront of the fight for freedom for people everywhere. It is fitting that a piece of the Berlin Wall adorns the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.

World leaders

  • The dialogue that President Reagan and I started was difficult. To reach agreement, particularly on arms control and security, we had to overcome mistrust and the barriers of numerous problems and prejudices.
    I don't know whether we would have been able to agree and to insist on the implementation of our agreements with a different person at the helm of American government. True, Reagan was a man of the right. But, while adhering to his convictions, with which one could agree or disagree, he was not dogmatic; he was looking for negotiations and cooperation. And this was the most important thing to me: he had the trust of the American people.
  • President Reagan was the Churchill of his era. His commitment to the principles of freedom and democracy and his boundless optimism for humanity will remain an inspiration for us all.
I recall with deep gratitude the late president's unwavering commitment to the service of the nation and to the cause of freedom as well as his abiding faith in the human and spiritual values which ensure a future of solidarity, justice and peace in our world. ~ Pope John Paul II
  • Ronald Reagan, in my view, was the greatest of post-World War II American presidents. More than anybody else, he followed the policies that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the final victory of a more free-market approach to the management of economies over the centrally planned approach in the old Eastern states. ... His greatest legacy will be the end of Soviet communism.
  • This is an enormously sad day. President Reagan was one of the towering figures of our time, and the man who, with Margaret Thatcher, won the Cold War for the West... We, in Great Britain, as in so many other places around the world, owe him an everlasting debt.
  • During the arduous period of the Cold War, President Reagan showed great leadership and contributed tremendously to the advancement of democracy and free-market economy. In addition, President Reagan always placed a top priority on the maintenance of a sound Japan-U.S. alliance.
  • President Reagan's leadership served to define an era of sweeping geo-political change ... He helped lay the foundations for the end of the Cold War ... His wit, warmth and unique capacity to communicate helped to make him one of the most influential figures in the second half of the 20th century.
Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired. ~ Margaret Thatcher
  • There's no doubt that the United States would be a very different country if it hadn't been for Ronald Reagan. It may well be that the Cold War would have been very different if it hadn't been for Ronald Reagan.
  • He was great president who led the Cold War against communism to the victory of freedom and democracy... He was a good friend of the Japanese people as he respected Japan and its culture. The foundation of the Japan-U.S. alliance that now serves as a driving force to solve international issues with other countries was built during President Reagan's era.
  • Hungary and Europe do not forget Ronald Reagan's help and his support for the former Communist countries.
  • He will be missed not only by those who knew him and not only by the nation that he served so proudly and loved so deeply, but also by millions of men and women who live in freedom today because of the policies he pursued. Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired. ... a truly great American hero.

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