Not my intention to do away with government—Reagan's Legacy 30 Years On

A couple years ago, I wrote about President Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address.  Next month is the 100th anniversary of Regan’s birth, and today is the 30th anniversary of his first inaugural.  I think it’s a good day to revisit those thoughts.

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-4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle…

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…

Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it’s 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.

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 that price….

-President Reagan’s First Inaugural Address

Listen to this speech.  Don’t just play it, listen to it.  Listen to it, then compare and contrast with the political tone today.  When we ask “Where is today’s Reagan?”, we’re really asking, “Where is the unbridled optimism in America’s future?”  Where are those who propose as well as oppose?  Offer peace as well as strength?  Build as well as tear down?

I wonder, yet refuse to despair.


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