The 1960s and 70s were a time of high tension and upheaval in America. Socially, economically, and militarily, the nation was challenged at every turn. The radio addresses and speeches of Ronald Reagan did much to bring to light the tumultuous issues of the time, as well as provide a path out of the morass. Through the scholarly efforts of Kiron Skinner, Annelise Anderson and Martin Anderson, these words of Reagan are once more delivered to a needful world. Reagan, In His Own Hand, reveals this leader to be a prolific writer, one who placed great stock in the power of language to move a nation. Reagan not only listened to people, but when he spoke, he truly spoke – not to the faceless masses, but to individual men and women across all strata of society.
A firm believer in America as the “shining city on a hill,” Reagan was alarmed at the current trend in thought where this grand image was tarnished and attacked. For Reagan greatness was not something to be ashamed of, but rather, something to cultivate, cherish, and advance to the next generation. A healthy pride in her political system was something America desperately needed.
A polarizing issue of the day was the increasing presence of communism on the world scene. Reagan was unabashed in his hostility to this system. He viewed it as destructive, not only to the political and economic freedom of mankind, but ultimately lethal to the soul. It was not a matter of live-and-let-live; evil was not a passive force, its very nature was expansive and encroaching. Rather than retreat into fear, like many around him, Reagan asserted America’s right to military superiority. He urged that his fellow citizens regain pride in their free market economy, for it was this system that “unleashed the individual genius of man,” thereby making possible great industry and prosperity.
Through his writings one comes to a deeper understanding of this man and his many admirable qualities: his humor, supreme good sense, his faith in his country and its people, his gratitude and joy. His imagination, perseverance, and determination are a testimony to the spirit of America, however much she may swerve from that original, animating spirit.
To the end Reagan believed in the greatness of the American citizen. This greatness was inherent in all men, but within easy reach of the American. Such a blessing was not to be taken for granted. Reagan believed that “true freedom is the freedom of self-discipline.” Great responsibility attended great gifts. If America was entrusted by God with a historically significant mission, as Reagan believed, then sacrifices must be made, and made continually, to ensure the flame of freedom was never extinguished.
Reagan’s willingness to speak up for America was for him an honored privilege; and it begs the question, who will speak up now that this great voice is silent? The legacy of Reagan is one of truth – despite the harsh realities – one of moral courage and optimism, and above all, an abiding love for his country. To him America truly was a beacon of hope. The loss of this vision would be a loss for the world.
Through these essential writings, some of which were saved gallantly from the trash bin, we now have a treasured piece of this great man and American leader. Like his friend John Wayne, Ronald Reagan has become a figure of an older time, a wiser time, yet not a forgotten, irrevocable era. These writings are an invitation, in Reagan’s own hand, to come to know him better, and also to know America better. For in knowing her we can better save and strengthen her for the generations ahead.