Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Twenty-five years ago this evening, January 11, 1989, Ronald Wilson Reagan*, the 40th President of the United States, gave his Farewell Address from the Oval Office in the West Wing at the White House.
The President's address, carried live on national radio and television, marked
the 34th time Mr. Reagan had spoken to the American people from the Oval Office.
The President began by saying:
"It's been the honor of my life to be your President. Nancy and I are grateful for the opportunity you gave us to serve."
The things that Mr. Reagan said he was proudest of during eight years of service included...
"the economic recovery....(and) the recovery of our morale."
"America is respected again in the world and looked to for leadership."
While the President went on to acknowledge the nickname "The Great Communicator," which had been applied to him because of his skills as an orator dating back to his days in radio, television and motion pictures,
he said ...
"I never thought it was my....words...that made a difference, it was the content."
The President continued:
"As long as we believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours. We meant to change a nation and instead we changed a world."
On the negative side, Mr. Reagan admitted that some things had changed for the worse in the 1980s.
"Young parents aren't sure that an unambivalent approval of America is the right thing to teach modern children....(but) we've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom--and freedom is special & and rare."
"We've got to teach history based on not what's in fashion but what's important--why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant."
Mr. Reagan advised:
"Let's start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual."
As was his style, however, President Reagan finished on a positive note.
"My friends. We did it. We made a difference. We made the city (on a hill) stronger; we made the city freer and we left her in good hands."**
*Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004) was born in Tampico, Illinois and educated at Eureka College. He worked as a radio broadcaster in Iowa before pursuing an acting career in Hollywood.
He starred in the 1940s films "Knute Rockne, All-American," and "Kings Row."
Mr. Reagan served in the United States Army Air Force from 1937 to 1945 and entered politics as a Democrat in the 1950s.
In 1962, he became a Republican and served as Governor of California from 1967 to 1975.
After leaving the White House, the former president was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
**reference to John Winthrop's "A City on the Hill" sermon that argued that the Pilgrim settlement in America would be a shining example for the world.