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By Jamil Jaffer & Roger Zakheim

In 2019, the Reagan Institute Strategy Group (RISG) was founded on the principle that a strong Americaleaning forward in the world and leading by example based on timeless principlesis indispensable to preserving the free and open political and economic system that has led to more than five decades of peace and prosperity. While debates about America’s role in the world can quickly become removed from practical reality, RISG is committed to the idea that our nation’s foreign policy and national security strategy must be guided by the values that animated the founders of our republic more than two centuries ago and that many on the right have lost sight of in recent years, especially regarding America’s role in the world. 

While the world we face today is different than that of the 1980s, there are also key similarities to the challenges that Reagan faced. Today, aspiring American leaders encounter a populace weary after many years of war and altogether too many lives lost. They seek to lead a nation challenged by a rising Communist power accompanied by a coalition of authoritarian states looking to spread their virulent philosophy across the globe. And they face an America unsure of its place in the world, one that has become accustomed to leaders that are at times unreliable, self-aggrandizing, and fundamentally untrustworthy, and at other times too cautious, too self-conscious, and too hesitant to act.

President Reagan’s lesson for these aspiring leaders is not to try to “read” the American people, playing to their worries and fears as others might, but rather to lead the nationto guide the American people on a path grounded in the fundamental truth that Reagan recognized: America is a nation called to leadership. Reagan recognized that the American people crave a positive vision, both for their opportunities at home and for our nation’s role in the world, and Americans know that no challenge is too great for them. They know that our values are universal. They know, and feel deeply in their hearts, that freedom and human dignity are the birthright of all people and that America’s global leadership is crucial to the survival of the free world itself. Americans want our nation to be an example to the world: a shining city on a hill, a beacon for all those who yearn for human freedom and economic opportunity.

The Reagan Institute is dedicated to promoting these timeless principles at the heart of Ronald Reagan’s philosophy. They are, for RISG members, the key lens through which we can understand and tackle the very real challenges we face today. That is why in July 2023, the Institute gathered a group of leading foreign policy and national security thinkers and practitioners to debate the way forward for our nation. The essays collected here reflect the discussions that took place at the fourth RISG summer retreat in Snowmass, Colorado.

As it has in prior years, a shared set of beliefs guided these deliberations: that American leadership, including military strength and economic engagement, is the best guarantor of peace, security, and prosperity; that America’s national success is inextricably linked to the that of the free world; and that American values are universal, as freedom and human dignity are the birthright of all peoples regardless of their country of birth. These beliefs animate RISG members as they seek to bring back Reagan’s positive view of our nation and its role in the world. Pressing for a robust foreign policy and an America-centered view of our national security is not only politically viable, but it is the only answer for the free world. 

Ahead of a set of primary and general election battles that will inevitably present stark choices about who we are as a nation, the participants in this summer’s RISG gathering knew that both America and the world needed fresh thinking based on Reagan’s timeless principles. Our hope is that the following essays will serve as a key part of an ongoing conversation about the national policies that will promote a world in which peace, freedom, and opportunity will flourish, and where America will once again stand as a beacon to the world. 

Fundamentally, RISG seeks to build on the timeless values and vision of our 40th President in order to create policies and enable America to lead, at once ensuring that our modern era is one of freedom and opportunity for America and for the world.