In just two days, we will celebrate the 234th anniversary of our republic. To mark the occasion, I’ve been highlighting Ronald Reagan’s speech at the 1980 Republican convention. It’s not because he was a Republican, nor because he was perfect. We saw from 2000 to 2008 the unfriendly reception Republicans in Washington gave to the principles of our founders – and to even the more recent ideals restated by Reagan.
Reagan had more than his share of faults, as do all actors on the American stage. What this last segment of that speech in 1980 points out is that the rare quality that Reagan had (and perhaps the only recent political figure I have seen who has it is a Democrat – Cory Booker), is that he truly loved his country. His love could be sentimental and overwrought, but it was real. He understood the basic values underpinning our republic and he adored them – and because we believed these truths to be self-evident, he really liked us. That is the real reason why he was able to communicate across R, I, D divides.
I hope this series awakened a little of that ol’ amor patriae. Don’t be afraid of it because in our case it is a virtue. It’s not that ugly nationalism you see in other countries, where people insist that they are the best because they were born that way, or because their god is better than our gods. It is because we are free, because we want to be free, and because we want others to be free.
Enjoy the Fourth!
It is impossible to capture in words the splendor of this vast continent which God has granted as our portion of His creation. There are no words to express the extraordinary strength and character of this breed of people we call Americans. Everywhere we’ve met thousands of Democrats, Independents and Republicans from all economic conditions, walks of life bound together in that community of shared values of family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom. They are concerned, yes, they’re not frightened. They’re disturbed, but not dismayed. They are the kind of men and women Tom Paine had in mind when he wrote, during the darkest days of the American Revolution, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”
Nearly 150 years after Tom Paine wrote those words, an American President told the generation of the Great Depression that it had a “rendezvous with destiny.” I believe this generation of Americans today also has a rendezvous with destiny. Tonight, let us dedicate ourselves to renewing the American compact. I ask you not simply to “trust me,” but to trust your values – our values – and to hold me responsible for living up to them. I ask you to trust that American spirit which knows no ethnic, religious, social, political, regional or economic boundaries; the spirit that burned with zeal in the hearts of millions of immigrants from every corner of the earth who came here in search of freedom.
Some say that spirit no longer exists. But I’ve seen it – I’ve felt it – all across the land, in the big cities, the small towns and in rural America. It’s still there, ready to blaze into life if you and I are willing to do what has to be done; we have to do the practical things, the down-to-earth things, such as creating policies that will stimulate our economy, increase productivity and put America back to work. The time is now to limit Federal spending; to insist on a stable monetary reform and to free ourselves from imported oil.
The time is now to resolve that the basis of a firm and principled foreign policy is one that takes the world as it is and seeks to change it by leadership and example, not by harangue, harassment or wishful thinking.
The time is now to say that we shall seek new friendships and expand others and improve others, but we shall not do so by breaking our word or casting aside old friends and allies.
… [T]he time is now to redeem promises once made to the American people…
The time is now, my fellow Americans, to recapture our destiny, to take it into our own hands. And to do this it will take many of us, working together. I ask you tonight, all over this land, to volunteer your help in this cause so that we can carry our message through out the land.
Isn’t it time that we, the people, carry out these unkept promises? That we pledge to each other and to all America on this July day 48 years later, that now we intend to do just that.
… Can we doubt that only a Divine Providence placed this land, this island of freedom, here as a refuge for all those people in the world who yearn to breathe free?