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In this podcast, we’ll look back to a few addresses delivered by President Reagan in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. As you recall, beginning almost immediately after King’s assassination in April 1968, members of Congress proposed that his birthday ought to be a national holiday, but bills mandating the occasion went nowhere. The effort received more publicity when, after about a decade, shortly after the failure of a bill that was introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan in September of 1979, Stevie Wonder released a song called “Happy Birthday.” Despite its cheery title, it was specifically meant to make a case for the holiday, calling out anyone who didn’t support the idea. In 1982, Coretta Scott King and Stevie Wonder presented a petition with more than six million signatures in support of the holiday to the then speaker of the house. In November 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill establishing the third Monday of January as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday.
Delivering a warm New Year’s greeting to the American people was always an important tradition for President Reagan. And these greetings reflected more than the extension of glad tidings and joy. By January 1982, 40 years ago, he had been in office 11 months, he already witnessed the successful passage of his economic agenda and, interestingly, began to transition to a global strategy with speeches throughout the year, echoing his intentions.
As we approach a new year, let’s throw a Hail Mary pass to one of President Reagan’s favorite sports….football. So in this podcast, we’ll cover his thoughts on sports, his New Years Address, 40 years ago on January 1, 1982 when he focused on the Rose Bowl competitors, Iowa and the Washington Huskies, we’ll catch his Remarks at the opening of the Champions of America exhibit, and we’ll listen to his interview with Tom Brokaw at Superbowl 20 in 1986.
In June of 1982, President Reagan delivered a prophetic address to British members of Parliament at Westminster on June 8, 1982. In that speech, he said that the Soviet Union, the home of Marxist Leninism, was gripped by a great Revolutionary crisis. And the pivot of that crisis was…Poland, which was still under martial law in 1982, first imposed in December 1981. 40 years ago this month.
There’s a lot of talk about the environment these days – climate change of course – but also many other issues. With those issues top of mind, let’s take another look at those seminal radio addresses, written in the late 70’s. Initially, when he set out to write these essays, there was no special plan to cover particular issues. From 1975-1979, he chose various topics week by week, choosing ones that he thought were timely. The result was nonetheless a blueprint for the policy issues that were important to Reagan from 1975-1979.
You may recall a recent gubernatorial election in the state of Virginia where a virtual unknown Republican by the name of Glenn Youngkin prevailed. Basically, the pundits hailed his win as a victory for parental rights in education. 45 years ago, the same concern was expressed by Governor Reagan in a radio address to the nation. Actually, he wrote a number of essays on what was wrong with American education and today, you’ll have a chance to listen to a few of these. You’ll note a strong theme running throughout all his writings…which is the desirability of local control and the dangers of interference by the federal government.
Today, when most of us think about Venezuela, the former socialist President Hugo Chavez comes to mind. He led the nation from 2002 until his death in 2013. While initially a “populist” leader, he implemented a socialist revolution, fueled by massive oil revenues and made the country resemble an authoritarian state. After his death, President Nicolas Maduro succeeded him along with Juan Guaido, and the net result has been dismal. The South American country has been caught in a downward spiral for years with growing political discontent further fuelled by skyrocketing hyperinflation, power cuts, and shortages of food and medicine. More than 5.6 million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years. But in 1981, 40 years ago, when our 40th President came into office, Venezuela’s leader was an advocate of democracy. With a desire to solidify the relationship with this important South American ally, President Reagan held a state dinner in November 1981 for President Luis Herrera Campins and welcomed him to the White House.
1981 was a year of firsts: Ronald Reagan’s first year as President and the Space Shuttle’s first mission in April and second mission in November. From Space Shuttle Columbia’s first journey in 1981 to the last journey of Endeavour in June 2011 the Space Shuttle program inspired many Americans in many different ways. Today, we’re focused on the Space Shuttle Columbia, know as the First in the Fleet.
During the assassination attempt of President Reagan in March 1981, his Press Secretary James Brady was severely wounded and permanently disabled by Hinckley’s random shots. The wound left him with slurred speech and partial paralysis that required the full-time use of a wheelchair. Never able to return to work, President and Mrs. Reagan honored his contribution by renaming the Press Briefing Room as the Brady Press Briefing Room, 40 years ago on November 9th, 1981. In this podcast, we’ll learn about this remarkable man, James Brady, we’ll learn a little about the history of the White House Press Room and we’ll catch the President’s remarks with some fun banter from Mr. Brady and Mrs. Reagan, along with a few members of the press, like Sam Donaldson and Helen Thomas.
40 years ago this month, President Reagan was delighted to accept an award, presented to him at the 84th Annual Dinner of the Irish-American Society in New York City. He was introduced by Dr. Kevin Cahill, president of the Society, who presented the President with a medal representing the Society's highest award. Now of course, it’s an honor receive an award. But what the President truly enjoyed was a chance to celebrate his Irish heritage and tell a few stories himself.
So today the subject is Presidential Libraries because this month we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. But wait, here’s a question for ya – who was the first President to have a Presidential Library by leaving his papers to the Federal Government? The answer is FDR who not only left his papers, but ultimately, his Hyde Park residence. So, that’s why we hear about George Washington’s or Thomas Jefferson’s or Lincoln’s papers in private collections because earlier, when a President left office, he just packed up the work product and went home. So, after FDR left his to the government, President Truman followed suit, leaving his papers to the government at which point Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act, providing Federal Funding for the preservation of the work product of the White House.
When a President enters office, he inherits unfinished business from the prior administration. 40 years ago, one of the bits of dicey business he inherited was a promise made by President Carter to sell AWACS or Advance Radar Surveillance Aircraft to Saudi Arabia.