Ronald Wilson Reagan (6 February 1911 – 5 June 2004) was an American politician and actor, who served as the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Prior to his presidency, he served as the 33rd Governor of California from 1967 to 1975, following a career as a Hollywood actor and union leader. He was the husband of Jane Wyman (1940–1949) and Nancy Davis (married in 1952).
- 1 Quotes
- 1.1 1960s
- 1.2 1970s
- 1.3 1980s
- 1.4 Post-presidency (1989–2004)
- 2 Attributed
- 3 Misattributed
- 4 Quotes about Reagan
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it, and then hand it to them with the well fought lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same. And if you and I don't do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when 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.
- California Gubernatorial Inauguration Speech (5 January 1967)
- 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? 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 Socialism" and way before him it was "benevolent monarchy."
- In a 1960 letter to the GOP presidential candidate Richard Nixon, quoted in Matthew Dallek's The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan's First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics (2000), p. 38
- 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.
- 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 (1961 LP)
- 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.
- Televised speech (27 October 1964), cited in Reagan's Reign of Error (1983) by Mark Green
- 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.
- As quoted in The Fresno Bee (10 October 1965)
- I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at the point of a bayonet, if necessary.
- As quoted in The Los Angeles Times (20 October 1965)
- So much of our profession is taken up with pretending ... that an actor must spend at least half his waking hours in fantasy.
- Where's the Rest of Me? (1965)
- Every morning Nancy and I turn to see what he has to say about people of our respective birth signs.
- Regarding his friend Hollywood astrologer Carroll Righter, in Where's the Rest of Me? (1965)
- I would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- As quoted in Los Angeles Times (17 June 1966)
- A tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?
- Opposing expansion of Redwood National Park, as quoted in Sacramento Bee (3 March 1966)
- Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders.
- As quoted in Sacramento Bee (28 April 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
- Americans don't go around carrying guns with the idea they're using them to influence other Americans. There's no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.
- California Legislature Stunned By Invasion Of Armed "Black Panthers", Gettysburg Times (3 May 1967)
- I have a feeling that we are doing better in the war [in Vietnam] than the people have been told.
- As quoted in Los Angeles Times (16 October 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.
- Speech at the Republican National Convention, Platform Committee Meeting, Miami, Florida" (31 July 1968)
- No Republican, no matter how liberal, is going to woo a Democratic vote; but a Republican bucking the giveaway trend might re-create some voters who have been staying home.
- 1960 Letter from Reagan to Richard Nixon, As quoted in The New York Times (27 October 1984) 
A Time for Choosing (1964)
- 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.
- 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 final 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.
- 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)
- 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."
- 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)
- 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)
- When the commander in chief of a nation finds it necessary to order employees of the government or agencies of the government to do things that would technically break the law, he has to be able to declare it legal in order for them to do that.
- 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!"
- 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.
- Official Announcement of being a candidate for U.S. President (13 November 1979)
- 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.
- Official Announcement of being a candidate for U.S. President (13 November 1979)
- All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.
- As quoted in Burlington Free Press [Vermont] (15 February 1980)
- I am paying for this microphone!
- At a Republican primary debate in Nashua, New Hampshire (23 February 1980). The moderator had ordered the soundman to turn off Reagan's microphone, as Reagan was about to explain that as his campaign was paying for the debate which had originally been arranged by the Nashua Telegraph and that he had invited Bob Dole, Howard Baker, John B. Anderson, and Phil Crane, to be in it as well.
- Video footage
- 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.
- [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)
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Presidential debate with Jimmy Carter (28 October 1980)
First term of office (1981–1985)
- To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale.
As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever.
Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.
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.
- Thomas Jefferson made a comment about the Presidency and age. He said that one should not worry about one's exact chronological age in reference to his ability to perform one's task. And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.
- Remarks at the Annual Salute to Congress Dinner (4 February 1981)
- 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.
- 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: )
- Honey, I forgot to duck.
- I hope you're all Republican.
- Speaking to surgeons as he entered the operating room following a 1981 assassination attempt. 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.
- The size of the Federal budget is not an appropriate barometer of social conscience or charitable concern.
- 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
- Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty.
- The New Republic (16 December 1981) ; as cited in War and Conflict Quotations, eds. Michael & Jean Thomsett, McFarland (1997), p. 105
- 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.
- Referring to groups who who were resisting Soviet rule of Afghanistan, with U.S. support, in Proclamation 4908 — Afghanistan Day (10 March 1982)
- Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means.
- 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.
- When the chips are down and the decisions are made as to who the candidates will be, then the 11th commandment prevails and everybody goes to work, and that is: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.
- Remarks in New York City at a Reception for Delegates to the State Republican Convention (17 June 1982), this is a restatement of "The Eleventh Commandment" by California Republican Party Chairman Gaylord Parkinson, which Reagan first used in 1966
- With the destructive power of today's weapons, keeping the peace is not just a goal; it's a sacred obligation. But maintaining peace requires more than sincerity and idealism—more than optimism and good will. As you know well, peace is a product of hard, strenuous labor by those dedicated to its preservation. It requires realism, not wishful thinking.
- 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
- By outlawing Solidarity, a free trade organization to which an overwhelming majority of Polish workers and farmers belong, they have made it clear that they never had any intention of restoring one of the most elemental human rights—the right to belong to a free trade union.
- Radio Address to the Nation on Solidarity and United States Relations With Poland (1982-10-09). Compare with an earlier Reagan speech: "... where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost. They remind us that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." Labor Day Speech at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey, September 1, 1980 
- 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.
- 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)
- Small business is the gateway to opportunity for those who want a piece of the American dream. [...] Well, wouldn't it be nice to hear a little more about the forgotten heroes of America-those who create most of our new jobs, like the owners of stores down the street; the faithfuls who support our churches, synagogues, schools, and communities; the brave men and women everywhere who produce our goods, feed a hungry world, and keep our families warm while they invest in the future to build a better America? That's where miracles are made, not in Washington, D.C.
- Some people work an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world. But the Marines don't have that problem.
- 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.
- Letter to Majority Leader Howard Baker, urging an increase in public debt ceiling (16 November 1983)
- The only way there could be war is if they start it; we're not going to start a war.
- 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)
- History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.
- Address to the nation from the White House (16 January 1984)
- Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.
- State of the Union address (25 January 1984)
- I know what I'm about to say now is controversial, but I have to say it. This nation cannot continue turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the taking of some 4,000 unborn children's lives every day. That's one every 21 seconds. One every 21 seconds. We cannot pretend that America is preserving her first and highest ideal, the belief that each life is sacred, when we've permitted the deaths of 15 million helpless innocents since the Roe versus Wade decision. 15 million children who will never laugh, never sing, never know the joy of human love, will never strive to heal the sick, feed the poor, or make peace among nations. Abortion has denied them the first and most basic of human rights. We are all infinitely poorer for their loss. There's another grim truth we should face up to: Medical science doctors confirm that when the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing. This nation fought a terrible war so that black Americans would be guaranteed their God-given rights. Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some could decide whether others should be free or slaves. Well, today another question begs to be asked: How can we survive as a free nation when some decide that others are not fit to live and should be done away with? I believe no challenge is more important to the character of America than restoring the right to life to all human beings. Without that right, no other rights have meaning. "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of God." I will continue to support every effort to restore that protection including the Hyde-Jepsen respect life bill. I've asked for your all-out commitment, for the mighty power of your prayers, so that together we can convince our fellow countrymen that America should, can, and will preserve God's greatest gift.
- 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
- 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.
- Speech at Pointe du Hoc on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day (6 June 1984)
- We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.
- Speech at Omaha Beach on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day (6 June 1984)
- 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.
- 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.
- Speech in Hammonton, N.J. (19 September 1984)
- 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.
- Debate with Walter Mondale (21 October 1984)
- 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.
- Speech to Temple Hillel and Community Leaders in Valley Stream (26 October 1984)
- The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today. The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called "universal jurisdiction." Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.
First Inaugural address (1981)
- Washington, D. C. (20 January 1981) - Full text online at American Rhetoric
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.
- We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.
It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.
Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work-work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it. It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government.
- 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 or 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.
Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation (1983)
- 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.
Address on the Strategic Defense Initiative (1983)
- There is no logical way that you can say let's spend X billion dollars less. You can only say, which part of our defense measures do we believe we can do without and still have security against all contingencies? Anyone in the Congress who advocates a percentage or specific dollar cut in defense spending should be made to say what part of our defenses he would eliminate, and he should be candid enough to acknowledge that his cuts mean cutting our commitments to allies or inviting greater risk or both.
- 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.
Since the dawn of the atomic age, we have sought to reduce the risk of war by maintaining a strong deterrent and by seeking genuine arms control. Deterrence means simply this: Making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States or our allies or our vital interests concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won't attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.
This strategy of deterrence has not changed. It still works. But what it takes to maintain deterrence has changed. It took one kind of military force to deter an attack when we had far more nuclear weapons than any other power; it takes another kind now that the Soviets, for example, have enough accurate and powerful nuclear weapons to destroy virtually all of our missiles on the ground. Now this is not to say that the Soviet Union is planning to make war on us. Nor do I believe a war is inevitable — quite the contrary. But what must be recognized is that our security is based on being prepared to meet all threats.
There was a time when we depended on coastal forts and artillery batteries because, with the weaponry of that day, any attack would have had to come by sea. Well, this is a different world and our defenses must be based on recognition and awareness of the weaponry possessed by other nations in the nuclear age.
We can't afford to believe that we will never be threatened. There have been two world wars in my lifetime. We didn't start them and, indeed, did everything we could to avoid being drawn into them. But we were ill-prepared for both — had we been better prepared, peace might have been preserved.
The Soviet Buildup For 20 years, the Soviet Union has been accumulating enormous military might. They didn't stop when their forces exceeded all requirements of a legitimate defensive capability. And they haven't stopped now.
- Some people may still ask: Would the Soviets ever use their formidable military power? Well, again, can we afford to believe they won't? There is Afghanistan, and in Poland, the Soviets denied the will of the people and, in so doing, demonstrated to the world how their military power could also be used to intimidate.
The final fact is that the Soviet Union is acquiring what can only be considered an offensive military force. They have continued to build far more intercontinental ballistic missiles than they could possibly need simply to deter an attack. Their conventional forces are trained and equipped not so much to defend against an attack as they are to permit sudden, surprise offensives of their own.
- 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.
Second term of office (1985–1989)
- 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.
- Speech to the annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Conference, New York, speaking of the rebels (or Contras) seeking to overthrow the Nicaraguan Government (1 March 1985); reported in "Reagan Terms Nicaraguan Rebels 'Moral Equal of Founding Fathers'" in The New York Times (2 March 1985)
- I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers: Go ahead, make my day.
- Speech threatening to veto legislation raising taxes (13 March 1985)
- 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.
- Remarks During a White House Briefing for United States Attorneys (21 October 1985)
- 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."
- Speech about the Space Shuttle disaster(28 January 1986)
- 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.
- State of the Union address, 1986-02-26, quoted in Michael Kilian (1986-03-05). "Hypersonic flight just a hyperbolic Reagan rhapsody". The Evening Independent.
- 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.
- Interview with LA Times (23 June 1986)
- Too much SALT isn’t good for you.
- Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
- Remarks to the White House Conference on Small Business (15 August 1986)
- 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.
- Remarks at Human Rights Day event (10 December 1986)
- 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!
- Speech at the Brandenburg Gate. (12 June 1987)
- 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.
- Remarks Announcing America's Economic Bill of Rights (3 July 1987)
- If a tax hike makes it to my desk, I'll veto it in less time than it takes Vanna White to turn the letters V-E-T-O!
- Speech regarding planned Democratic tax hikes (16 July 1987)
- Thomas Jefferson dreamed of a land of small farmers, of shop owners and merchants. Abraham Lincoln signed into law the “Homestead Act” that ensured that the great western prairies of America would be the realm of independent, property-owning citizens-a mightier guarantee of freedom is difficult to imagine.
I know we have with us today employee-owners from La Perla Plantation in Guatemala. They have a stake in the place where they work and a stake in the freedom of their country. When Communist guerrillas came, these proud owners protected what belonged to them. They drove the Communists off their land and I know you join me in saluting their courage.
In this century, the United States has evolved into a great industrial power. Even though they are now, by and large, employees, our working people still benefit from property ownership. Most of our citizens own the homes in which they reside. In the marketplace, they benefit from direct and indirect business ownership. There are currently close to 10 million self-employed workers in the U.S.-nearly 9 percent of total civilian employment. And, millions more hope to own a business some day. Furthermore, over 47 million individuals reap the rewards of free enterprise through stock ownership in the vast number of companies listed on U. S. stock exchanges.
I can’t help but believe that in the future we will see in the United States and throughout the western world an increasing trend toward the next logical step, employee ownership. It is a path that befits a free people.
- Speech on Project Economic Justice (The White House, 3 August 1987)
- 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?
- Address to United Nations General Assembly (21 September 1987)
- 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?"
- Address to United Nations General Assembly (21 September 1987)
- 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.
- Remarks in Arlington, Virginia (25 September 1987)
- 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.
- Moscow State University (31 May 1988)
- The nine most terrifying words in the English language are "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhYJS80MgYA (12 August 1986)
- The ten most dangerous words in the English language are "Hi, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."
- Remarks to Future Farmers of America (28 July 1988)
- 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.
- Facts are stupid things — stubborn things, I should say.
- Address to Republican National Convention. (15 August 1988)
- You can't be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy.
- Campaign rally for V.P. George H.W. Bush, San Diego California (7 November 1988), as quoted in Common Sense of an Uncommon Man, Thomas Nelson Inc. (2014), Jim Denney & Michael Reagan, 'Bureaucracy and Bureaucrats'
- 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.
- You know, I received an invitation that said "Please come to Ellis Island July 4th for the hundredth birthday celebration of an American institution". Somebody goofed. My birthday is not until February.
Farewell Address (1989)
- Washington, D. C. (11 January 1989) - Full text online at the Reagan Presidential Library
- 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.
- Let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.
- 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.
- I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen to own guns for sporting, hunting and so forth, or for home defense. But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon.
- At the University of Southern California (February 6, 1989) when asked his opinion on gun control after the January 17, 1989 Cleveland Elementary School shooting that killed five schoolchildren in Stockton (Becklund, Laurie (February 7, 1989). "`Saddled Up' Reagan Vows to Speak on Issues". Los Angeles Times: p. 1. ).
- 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)
- 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  (4 November 1991), the inscription on Reagan's tomb
- When you see all that rhetorical smoke billowing up from the Democrats, well ladies and gentleman, I'd follow the example of their nominee; don't inhale.
- Republican National Convention (17 August 1992)
- 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.
- Republican National Convention (17 August 1992)
- This fellow they've nominated claims he's the new Thomas Jefferson. Well let me tell you something; I knew Thomas Jefferson. He was a friend of mine and Governor... You're no Thomas Jefferson!"
- 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.
- Speech at 1994 Gala for 83rd Birthday (3 February 1994)
- 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.
- Letter announcing Alzheimer's diagnosis (5 November 1994)
- Let's close the place down and see if anybody notices.
- Comments made just before the United States federal government shutdowns of 1995 and 96, as quoted in and article by James C. Miller III, in The Wall Street Journal (18 October 1995), as discussed in Congress via the Congressional Record by Phil Crane. p. 28413
- Socialists ignore the side of man that is of the spirit. They can provide shelter, fill your belly with bacon and beans, treat you when you are ill, all the things that are guaranteed to a prisoner or a slave. They don't understand that we dream — yes, even of some time owning a yacht.
- As quoted in Stories in His Own Hand: The Everyday Wisdom of Ronald Reagan (2001) edited by Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Graebner Anderson, and Martin Anderson. p. 91
- 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
- Liberals fought poverty and poverty won.
- As quoted in The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America (2004) by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, p. 10
- 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.
- On growing up in a small town, as quoted in Who was Ronald Reagan? (2004) by Joyce Milton, p. 9
- I know it's hard 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.
- As quoted in Who was Ronald Reagan? (2004), by Joyce Milton, p. 85
- We don't intend to turn the Republican Party over to the traitors in the battle just ended. We will have no more of those candidates who are pledged to the same goals of our opposition and who seek our support. Turning the party over to the so-called moderates wouldn't make any sense at all.
- As quoted in Exit with Honor: The Life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan(2015) by William E Pemberton. p. 64
Quotes about Reagan
- Alphabetized by author
- The rage murder is new. It appeared under Reagan, during his cultural economic revolution, and it expanded in his aftermath. Reaganomics has ruled America ever since. For all of the Right's hysterical attacks on Clinton as a left-winger, the fact is that it was Clinton who administered a lethal injection to the welfare system with his Orwellian-named Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Under Clinton, Wall Street floruished with greater deregulation, globalization accelerated as never before, downsizings soared, and the anti-union, pro-shareholder corporate culture that Reagan launched went from being a radical experiment to a way of life. By the time George W. Bush took office, the cultural-economic transformation had become so deeply entrenched that what once would have been considered extreme and unacceptable was cheered and praised, even by those who suffered. The change was radical and traumatic, so much so that historians may look back at this time and wonder why there weren't more murders and rebellions, just as it is shocking today to consider how few slave rebellions there were.
- Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 87
- Under Reagan, corporations transformed from providers of stability for employees and their families to fear-juiced stress engines. Reagan's legacy to America and modern man is not victory in the Cold War, where he simply got lucky; it is instead one of the most shocking wealth transfers in the history of the world, all under the propaganda diversion of "making America competitive" and "unleashing the creative energies of the American worker".
- Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion, From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 87
- Who ever decided that Americans were so bad off in the seventies anyway? From the right-wing revisionist propaganda that has become accepted as fact, you'd think that Americans under President Carter were suffering through something like the worst of the Weimar Republic combined with the Siege of Leningrad. The truth is that on a macroeconomic level, the difference between the Carter era and the Reagan era was minimal. For instance, economic growth during the Carter Administration averaged 2.8 percent annually, while under Reagan, from 1982 to 1989, growth averaged 3.2 percent. Was it really worth killing ourselves over that extra .4 percent of growth? For a lucky few, yes. On the other key economic gauge, unemployment, the Carter years were actually better than Reagan's, averaging 6.7 pervent annually during his "malaise-stricken" term as compared to an average 7.3 percent unemployment rate during the glorious eight-year reign of Ronald Reagan. Under Carter, people worked less, got far more benefits, and the country grew almost the same average annual rate as Reagan. On the other hand, according to the Statistical Abstract of the United States for 1996, under Reagan life got worse for those who had it worse: the number of people below the poverty line increased in almost every year from 1981 (31.8 million) to 1992 (39.3 million). And yet, we are told America was in decline until Reagan came to power and that the country was gripped by this ethereal malaise. Where was this malaise? Whose America was in decline? The problem with the 1970s wasn't that America was in decline, it was that the plutocracy felt itself declining. And in the plutocrats' eyes, their fortunes are synonymous with America's.
- Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 99
- When Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers in 1981, he told America he was literally willing to kill us all if we didn't give in to his wealth-transfer plan. It was so shocking that it worked. The air controller's union broke- and so did a whole way of life. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, we are all miserable wage slaves, or schoolyard wretches being pressed and prepared for life in the office world. There is no other choice but that, or death. The way this country supplicated before Reagan's corpse, elevating him to a kind of Khomeini status with the seven-day funeral and the endless orations about his humanity, his intelligence, and how wonderfully simple life was under his reign, only reinforced the most disturbing conclusion that I was reaching as I wrote this book: that Americans have become the perfect slaves, fools and suckers, while a small elite is cackling all the way to the offshore bank.
- Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion, From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 241-242
- Ronald Reagan is the first modern President whose contempt for the facts is treated as a charming idiosyncrasy.
- In 1980 the Democrats were pretty much stuck with Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, who ran under the slogan "Four More Years?" The Republicans, meanwhile, had a spirited primary campaign season, which came down to a duel between Reagan and George Herbert Walker Norris Wainright Armoire Vestibule Pomegranate Bush IV, who had achieved a distinguished record of public service despite havig a voice that sounded like he had just inhaled an entire blimp-load of helium.
- Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989), p. 167
- Reagan finally won the nomination by promoting "Reaganomics", an economic program based on the theory that the government could lower taxes while increasing spending and at the same time actually reduce the federal budget by sacrificing a live chicken by the light of a full moon. Bush charged that this amounted to "voo-doo economics," which got him into hot water until he explained that what he meant to say was "doo-doo economics." Satisfied, Reagan made Bush his vice-presidential nominee. The turning point in the election campaign came during the October 8 debate between Reagan and Carter, when Reagan's handlers came up with a shrewd strategy: No matter what Carter said, Reagan would respond by shaking his head in a sorrowful manner and saying: "There you go again." This was brilliant, because (a) it required the candidate to remember only four words, and (b) he delivered them so believably that everything Carter said seemed like a lie. If Carter had stated that the Earth was round, Reagan would have shaken his head, saying, "There you go again," and millions of voters would have said: "Yeah! What does Carter think we are? Stupid?"
- Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989), p. 167
- Another foreign policy triumph for Reagan was his 1984 visit to China, where he met for more than three hours with Mao Zedong before realizing that Mao was dead. Aides described the talks as "frank." This was exactly the kind of firm leadership that Americans had been yearning for, so Reagan was extremely popular when the 1984 presidential election campaign lumbered into view. And once again the Republicans got a lot of help from the Democrats, who by this point were acting as though they were conducting an experiment to see if it was possible to run a major presidential campaign without winning a single state.
- Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989), p. 171
- I am Emperor Ronald Reagan
Born again with fascist cravings
Still, you made me president
Human rights will soon go 'way
I am now your Shah today
Now I command all of you
Now you're going to pray in school
I'll make sure they're Christian too
You'll go quitely to boot camp
They'll shoot you dead, make you a man
Don't you worry, it's for a cause
Feeding global corporations' claws
Die on our brand new poison gas
El Salvador or Afghanistan
Making money for President Reagan
And all the friends of President Reagan
- Ronald Reagan has done a great job for California, although in all fairness to Pat Brown, when Pat was governor, we didn't have earthquakes.
- Jack Benny on The Dean Martin Show, Celebrity Roast: Ronald Reagan (13 September 1973)
- Reagan was what John F. Kennedy had been to an earlier generation: an inspirational figure who shaped my worldview. Reagan had his faults, like JFK, but he was optimistic and gentlemanly. He was pro-free trade and pro-immigration. He believed in limited government at home and American leadership abroad. That's what I believed in too — and that's what I thought the Republican Party stood for.
- 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.
- It's too early to say how most of my decisions will turn out. As president, I had the honor of eulogizing Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. President Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, once regarded as one of the worst mistakes in presidential history, is now viewed as a selfless act of leadership. And it was quite something to hear the commentators who had once denounced President Reagan as a dunce and a warmonger talk about how the Great Communicator had won the Cold War.
- George W. Bush, Decision Points (2010), p. 476
- 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
- It was this idea (Be nice!) that fueled liberals' rage at Reagan when he vanquished the Soviet Union with his macho "cowboy diplomacy" that was going to get us all blown up. As the Times editorial page hysterically described Reagan's first year in office: "Mr. Reagan looked at the world through gun sights." Yes, he did! And now the Evil Empire is no more.
- 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 (11 December 1986), as cited in The Clothes Have No Emperor by Paul Slansky
- With only six months remaining in his presidency (and still under the cloud of the Iran-Contra scandal), the US president made his first- and extraordinarily remarkable- visit to Moscow. With no treaties to sign, it was nonetheless a gala event, with the Soviet capital lavishly adorned to greet its seventy-seven-year-old adversary. Reagan met with human rights activists and delivered an address to students at Moscow State University, calling for "freedom [to] blossom forth at last in the rich fertile soil of your people and culture" and for a "new world of reconciliation, friendship, and peace." He also strolled with Gorbachev in the Red Square, where, responding to a reporter's query about the "evil empire," he announced: "I was talking about another time, another era." Yet despite all the signs of geniality, Reagan underscored the power imbalance by refusing to issue a joint statement that endorsed the Kremlin's old creed: "Equality of the states, noninterference in internal affairs, and freedom of sociopolitical choice [are] inalienable and mandatory standards of international relations."
- Carole C. Fink, Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 230
- Every place I go and everything I hear, there is a growing, growing sentiment that Governor Reagan cannot win the election. We don't want, can't afford to have a replay of 1964. A very conservative Republican can't win in a national election.
- I have nothing to say to him [Reagan], because he is mad. He is foolish. He is an Israeli dog.
- 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.
- Mark Green, Reagan's Reign of Error (1983)
- 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 (1983)
- 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.
- William Greider, "The Gipper's Economy", The Nation (28 June 2004)
- 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.
- I really believe Reagan is fundamentally a decent and honest man. His politics? When the Government of the United States borrows a large part of the savings of the world, the consequence is that capital must become scarce and expensive in the whole world. That's a problem.
- Friedrich Hayek, quoted in Tom Wicker, "IN THE NATION; A Deliberate Deficit", The New York Times (July 19, 1985)
- 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."
- Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency
- 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.
- Christopher Hitchens, "Not Even a Hedgehog: The Stupidity of Ronald Reagan", Slate (7 June 2004)
- 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.
- Simon Hoggart, The Observer [London] (1986)
- 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
- Ronald Reagan: Turns out that God really doesn’t have that much of a problem with racism. He doesn’t even remember slavery, except in February. Personally, I hate black people, Ruckus. That’s why I did everything I could to make their lives miserable. Crack? Me. AIDS? Me. Reaganomics? (chuckles) C'mon. I'm in the name.
- The Boondocks (TV series) The Passion of Reverend Ruckus Aaron McGruder & Rodney Barnes
- Huey Freeman: Excuse me. Everyone, I have a brief announcement to make. Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the government is lying about 9-11. Thank you for your time and good night.
- I'm trying to explain to you that Ronald Reagan was the devil! Ronald Wilson Reagan? Each of his names have six letters? 666? Man, doesn't that offend you?
- 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.
- Andrea Mitchell, NBC News (1989)
- I have gradually, over the course of many years, come to the conclusion that he was a great president. More interesting to me than greatness, however, is that he was throughout his life such a strange combination. Innocence and wisdom; charm and hard force; gregariousness and aloofness; egocentricity without conceit; aggression without cruelty; imaginativeness and cultural ignorance; sentimentality and emotional coolness; I could go on for a quarter of an hour and not exhaust his contrary opposites. He is also – to finish with a simple statement – the bravest and most incorrupt figure I've ever studied.
- Edmund Morris, Reagan's biographer, Newsweek magazine, 4 October 1999
- 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 (17 November 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 in Reagan's Reign of Error (1983) by Mark Green
- 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 in "The Audacity of Hope", p. 289
- He knows less about the budget than any president in my lifetime. He can't even carry on a conversation about the budget. It's an absolute and utter disgrace.
- 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 New York Times, in its canned obit, wrote that Reagan projected, "faith in small town America" and "old-time values." "Values" my ass. It was union-busting and a declaration of war on the poor and anyone who couldn't buy designer dresses. It was the New Meanness, bringing starvation back to America so that every millionaire could get another million. "Small town" values? From the movie star of the Pacific Palisades, the Malibu mogul? I want to throw up.
- Greg Palast, in "Reagan, fact and fantasy", The Observer (13 June 2004)
- Reagan's boys called Jimmy Carter a weanie and a wuss although Carter wouldn't give an inch to the Ayatollah. Reagan, with that film-fantasy tough-guy con in front of cameras, went begging like a coward cockroach to Khomeini, pleading on bended knee for the release of our hostages.
- Greg Palast, in "Reagan, fact and fantasy", The Observer (13 June 2004)
- Like the overwhelming majority of America's Cold War presidents, Ronald Reagan entered the White House in January 1981 with almost no background in national security affairs. Before entering the political arena, he had been in movies and in television. His only direct military experience occurred during World War II, when he served in the armed forces making training and documentary films. His first and only elected political position prior to the presidency was the governorship of California, a position he held from 1966 to 1974. However, unlike most of his predecessors, Reagan was not particularly eager to master national security issues. This was demonstrated repeatedly during his presidency by his inability to explain them in any detail.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 231
- The fact that, for all practical purposes, the Cold War ended during Ronald Reagan's presidency has led some to conclude that he was primarily responsible for the U.S. "victory" over the Soviet Union. The so-called Reagan victory school holds that his administration's military and ideological assertiveness during the 1980s was primarily responsible for the end of the Cold War, the demise of Communism in Europe, and ultimately the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. As the president put it on December 16, 1988, the changes taking place in the Soviet Union were in part the result of U.S. firmness, a strong defense, healthy alliances, and a willingness to use force when necessary. Moreover, as he boasted, he had been more than willing to point out the differences in the American and Soviet political systems at every opportunity. In addition, his supporters have asserted that the "full-court press" launched by the administration during Reagan's first term, which included a military buildup capped by SDI, the denial of technology to the Soviet Union, and the administration's counteroffensive in the Third World, delivered the "knock-out punch" to a system that was internally bankrupt "and on the ropes."
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 260
- Others attribute the end of the Cold War to Reagan's desire to prevent a nuclear conflagration. This view asserts that the president never liked nuclear weapons as offensive instruments and that with his SDI program he demonstrated his disdain for deterrence, at least deterrence based on the mutual assured destruction doctrine (MAD). Reagan's goal to eliminate all offensive nuclear weapons, his supporters argue, made possible the INF treaty. Reagan failed to conclude a START treaty before he left office only because the Soviets refused to accept a defensive deterrent strategy, the basis of SDI, as a better alternative to MAD. However, not everyone, including this author, accepts the argument that the Reagan administration was primarily responsible for the end of the Cold War. In fact, probably no one, especially the president, expected that the administration's policies ultimately would cause the disintegration of the Soviet empire, at east not as quickly as it occurred. Said Reagan: "We meant to change a nation [the United States], and instead, we changed a world... All in all, not bad, not bad at all." More important as the cause of the Cold War's demise was the internal weakness of the Soviet Union, which, to be sure, the policies pursued by the Reagan administration exacerbated. By the time Reagan entered the White House, the Soviet economy had sunk into such a state of stagnation that it was obvious that communism had failed and a radically new approach was required.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 260-261
- While Reagan was willing to improve relations with the Soviet Union, George Shultz must be given credit for the hard work and skill that was required to bring it off, in the face of much opposition from hard-liners within the administration. Yet it was neither Shultz nor Reagan, but rather Gorbachev, who made the major concessions that were needed to achieve success. The INF negotiations, for example, were concluded successfully primarily because of the concessions Gorbachev made, in the face of considerable opposition from hard-liners within his own government and military.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 261
- Reagan may have had a genuine revulsion for nuclear weapons, but it was not at all obvious in the policies he adopted and pursued during his first and much of his second term. His disinclination to embrace détente was due to his own limited knowledge of nuclear weapons technology and strategy as well as his reluctance to offend the hard-liners in his administration, who had the expertise that the president lacked but not the same revulsion for nuclear weapons. Reagan had to be encouraged into running the risks of negotiating with the Soviets by his wife, Nancy Reagan, and by Secretary of State George Schultz. Public and congressional opinion also had much to do with Reagan's turnabout. The Democratic-controlled Congress made its continued support of pet administration military programs contingent on Reagan's willingness to negotiate seriously with the Soviets. The Congress, in turn, was influenced by an American public that was increasingly susceptible to the warnings of the anti-nuclear weapons movement about the perils of the Reagan military buildup. Neither Congress nor the American people gave much support to Reagan's crusade was weakened even more during his last two years in office by waning public and congressional support for large-scale defense increases and, above all, by the Iran-Contra affair, which threatened to destroy Reagan's presidency. In other words, Reagan needed a new approach to the Soviet Union. While he did not need a new U.S.-Soviet relationship as much as Gorbachev did, the revival of détente late in his presidency did win Reagan public accolades he sorely needed in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra affair. The Reagan-Gorbachev love-in was, in fact, an example of how necessity can make the strangest of bedfellows. Thanks to détente, and the unwillingness of Congress to press ahead with impeachment proceedings, Reagan left office as one of the most popular presidents in this century.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 261-262
- Still, the price the United States paid during the Reagan years to "win" the Cold War was high. His decision to cut taxes while initiating the largest and most expensive peacetime military buildup in U.S. history, combined with Congress' refusal to cut domestic spending, contributed to an enormous increase in the national debt. Moreover, pressing domestic problems- the decline of the nation's infrastructure, the increase in crime, educational inequity, and others too numerous to list here- were ignored. Future generations will have to pay the bill for Reagan's "victory" in the Cold War.
- Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 262
- 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.
- 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.
- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World
- They better not do it. If we are going to be Ronald Reagan's Shining City on the Hill, we don't get to torture. We don't do it.
- [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 (1983) 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
- The biggest threat to America today is not communism. It's moving America toward a fascist theocracy, and everything that's happened during the Reagan administration is steering us right down that pipe … I really think that. … When you have a government that prefers a certain moral code derived from a certain religion and that moral code turns into legislation to suit one certain religious point of view, and if that code happens to be very, very right wing, almost toward Attila the Hun...
- Frank Zappa, Crossfire debate on censorship (1986).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in a tribute "A President Who Listened" in The New York Times (7 June 2005)
- 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.
- Canadian Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper, "Canadian and U.S. leaders honour Ronald Reagan" in CTV News (6 June 2004)
- 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.
- Australian Prime Minister John Howard, "Reagan greatest post-WWII president" in Sydney Morning Herald (6 June 2004)
- 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.
- British Conservative Party Leader Michael Howard, "Queen and Thatcher Lead Tributes to Ex-President Reagan" in Free Republic (5 June 2004)
- 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.
- First of all, I should like to express from the very bottom of my heart condolences for the passing of President Ronald Reagan who was deeply respected by the people of the United Sates and who left many important achievements.
- 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.
- Official statement from Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's office, "Ronald Reagan: Tributes" in BBC News (7 June 2004)
- 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.
- Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, "Tributes continue for Ronald Reagan" at CBC News (7 June 2004)
- Ronald Reagan was a transformational president who made an enormous difference in our lives by leading the West to victory in the Cold War and allowing all free peoples to watch the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
- Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, as quoted in Mulroney praises former president as "a giant" and "great friend of Canada" by Eilis Quinn, in Free Dominion (5 June 2004)
- 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.
- Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, as quoted in "Nakasone mourns 'friend of Japan'" in Japan Times (7 June 2004)
- Hungary and Europe do not forget Ronald Reagan's help and his support for the former Communist countries.
- Former Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, as quoted in "It is due to him that we are free" by William J. Kole, in Associated Press (7 June 2004)
- His commitment to overcoming the East-West conflict and his vision of a free and united Europe helped pave the way for those developments that ultimately enabled Germany also to regain its unity.
- He's a big idol of mine. … I campaigned for him. I handed out leaflets. I made phone calls in his behalf. This was at a time I wasn't even a citizen here. He made a tremendous impact on our country. … It is easy to see how profoundly President Reagan changed the world. He made it safer, more free and gave hope and opportunity to millions.
- 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.
- Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, "Statement on the death of President Ronald Reagan" (5 June 2004)
- President Ronald Reagan will be remembered in the hearts of all Latvians as a fighter for freedom, liberty, and justice worldwide.
- When he saw injustice, he wanted to do away with it. He saw communism, and he wanted to put an end to it.
- Former Polish President Lech Wałęsa, "Reactions",South Florida Sun-Sentinel (7 June 2004)
- Major Speeches of Ronald Reagan, at the Reagan Presidential Library
- President Reagan, part of the The American Experience: The Presidents at PBS
- Public Papers of Ronald Reagan at the University of Texas
- A collection of Reagan's quotes
- Ronald Reagan Quotes at Liberty-Tree.ca
- "Ronald Reagan in His Own Words", audiovideo from NPR
- Links to pre- and post- presidential speeches