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The subject of today’s podcast is inflation…yes, just like the song, everything old is new again. What we’re going to hear today are two angles: a radio address he delivered on Inflation and Recession in 1975 and in the second half of the podcast, we’ll hear the president report directly after leaving Washington on how he handled the problem of inflation.
The place is…Berlin and the date is June 1982, FIVE years before he delivered his historic speech at the Brandenburg gate, demanding that the wall be torn down. This was during the Brezhnev years, long before Gorbachev and Glasnost were in the picture. It’s easy to forget how clearly President Reagan expressed his disgust with the Soviets and the Berlin Wall, many years before the so-called climax at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987.
Constructed in the early hours on August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was characterized by the Soviets as “a democratic anti-fascist protective structure.” Now isn’t that an interesting statement? Today Putin is using the same angle, claiming their intrusion into Ukraine is an anti-fascist gesture. The Berlin wall was built to end the flow of East Germans into the West. The Wall was built and within hours, friends and family were divided by barbed wire and concrete. Fast forward to the Spring of 1987. Negotiations from the Reykjavik Summit in 1986 had stalled and Gorbachev noted after visiting the Berlin Wall….get this…. that “At the Brandenburg Gate, one can clearly see how much strength and true heroism the defense of the first socialist state on German soil requires against the attacks of the class enemy.” Aware of such language, President Reagan was ready to level stronger demands which would echo throughout the West, reverberate behind prison gates in the East and ignite a resolve to fight for freedom. By 1987, President Reagan was ready to take freedom on the offensive, into the heart of the disintegrating Soviet empire.
If one thinks about Ronald Reagan’s signature causes, the things that come to mind are peace through strength, economic opportunity, individual liberty, and national pride. What many people have forgotten is his campaign for democracy – yes, a global campaign for democracy – which was launched 40 years ago on June 8, 1982. The setting for that speech? The British Parliament and the speech came to be known as his “Westminster Speech.” He became the first American President to deliver an address before British Parliament and stood in a grand and regal setting, speaking at the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords, with paintings of British military victories lining the walls and guards in their red beefeater uniforms standing behind him.
The Statue of Liberty was designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, as a gift to the United States from France. She arrived in 1885 on our shores in pieces after floating across the Atlantic in 214 crates. All the pieces were assembled on Liberty Island the following year. But by 1984, after welcoming immigrants to New York for almost 100 years, she was in bad shape. In this podcast, we’ll learn about how President Reagan in May 1982, 40 years ago, took action to return Lady Liberty to pristine condition. He called upon Lee Iacocca to create the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation to raise the funds necessary for the restoration, and by the 4th of July 1986, she was ready for her debut. In the second half of this podcast, we’ll focus on the final result.
Armed Forces Day is upon us – it’s the 3rd Saturday in May. And right now, there’s an historic exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley - running through October 9th – called the Secrets of World War II honoring those brave men and women who served and supported our troops. Our curators have assembled hundreds of artifacts from museums and private collections - never before seen together – which reveal compelling stories of technological advancement, creative problem solving, and incredible human persistence under the backdrop of world’s largest and most destructive war in history. If you have a chance to visit the Reagan Library to see this exhibit, you’ll love it. And we’re mentioning this in our podcast, because President Reagan always remembered to honor those men and women currently wearing the cloth of our nation in a radio address to the nation on Armed Forces Day. It was created by President Harry Truman in August, 1949, to those all serving as well as those who sacrificed to defend our freedom.
It turns out that Presidents like to visit schools and deliver remarks. President George HW Bush told a group of junior high students, “I’m not here to tell you what to do or what to think. Maybe you’re accustomed to adults talking about you and at you; well, today, I’m here to talk to you and challenge you. Education matters, and what you do today, and what you don’t do can change your future.”
In 1988, President Reagan told Junior High students they were living in a “time of unlimited possibilities, bounded only by the size of your imagination, the depth of your heart, and the character of your courage.” But earlier, in 1982, he went a step further. The President visited Providence-St. Mel’s High School in Chicago, and actually answered questions. The kids didn’t mince words – they asked him tough questions…from the meaning of the Falkland Island crisis, to the economy to nuclear weapons to gun control.
It’s commencement address season and like all American presidents, our 40th delivered quite a few. One of his most memorable was at his Alma Mater, Eureka College on May 9, 1982, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his class of ’32. So in this podcast, we’ll listen to an excerpt from that historic Commencement address in which he used the occasion to launch the START program for reducing nuclear weapons for both the United States and Russia. In the second half of the podcast, we’ll hear his speech after he had been inducted into Eureka College’s Athletic Hall of Fame – get ready to smile and laugh. It’s a classic.
By May, 1982, the President’s economic reforms were just starting to kick in, slowly. Once his economic reform package passed in August 1981, he relied on Republican Congressional support to reassure their constituents to have faith that the reforms would eventually kick the economy into full gear. As you might recall, Republicans were in the minority in the House with Tip O’Neill as the Speaker. In the Senate, Republicans held a small majority, only 53, seats with Howard Baker as Majority Leader.
As you perhaps recall, in the late 1970's, the energy crisis was in full swing. The price of gasoline and oil were soaring as we waited hours in gas lines and worried about a shortage of heating oil in the winter. Demands for more energy ran up against serious environmental concerns. Sound familiar? Over a 5 year period, Governor Reagan, then out of office, delivered 85 broadcasts on the energy problem and environment – we’ll listen to two of them today…one entitled OIL I and the other entitled OPEC.
40 years ago on April 15, 1982, President Reagan met with reporters in the Oval Office to announce his plans to speak to the United Nations’ Arms Limitation Conference in June. He also suggested that General Secretary Brezhnev of the Soviet Union would do the same. And he hoped he could meet with the elusive Soviet Leader during the Conference. Ultimately, Brezhnev did not attend the Conference but sent Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet Foreign Minister, in his place. Rumors were that Brezhnev was in poor health, and yes, ultimately confirmed by his death five months later in November 1982. But just a few days after President Reagan met with those reporters in the Oval Office in April, he felt compelled to report to the American people his approach and his strong beliefs on the subject of nuclear war and delivered this radio address on April 17th.
As the world watches the Soviet Union march through Ukraine, terrorizing and pillaging, we’ll go back to the words of Ronald Reagan in his autobiography when he noted that in the 70’s, the Soviets interpreted our hesitation and reluctance to act, along with our reduced sense of National self-confidence, as a weakness and exploited it to the fullest, to create a communist dominated world.