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Ronald Reagan shot

On this day in 1981, in an assassination attempt, John Hinckley Jr. shoots President Ronald Reagan in the left lung as the President left the Washington Hilton hotel. The bullet narrowly misses his heart. Still, the President walks in to George Washington University Hospital under his own power.

Less than two weeks later on April 11, the resilient Reagan returned to the White House. He concluded his diary entry for that day with this powerful statement:

“Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can.”

Equally Beloved

Here’s an earlier, similarly powerful portion of that same diary entry:

“Getting shot hurts. Still my fear was growing because no matter how hard I tried to breathe it seemed I was getting less & less air. I focused on that tiled ceiling and prayed. But I realized I couldn’t ask for God’s help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. Isn’t that the meaning of the lost sheep? We are all God’s children & therefore equally beloved by him. I began to pray for his soul and that he would find his way back to the fold.”

President Ronald Reagan shot

 

Ronald Reagan Billy Graham Presidential Medal of Freedom

On February 23rd, 1983 President Ronald Reagan awarded Billy Graham the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The medal is bestowed by the President and is the highest civilian award of the United States, recognizing those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

As President Ronald Reagan prepared to present the medal to Reverend Graham, he made the following remarks:
“Reverend William “Billy” Graham’s untiring evangelism has spread the word of God to every corner of the globe, and made him one of the most inspirational spiritual leaders of the Twentieth Century. As a deeply committed Christian, his challenge to accept Jesus Christ has lifted the hearts, assuaged the sorrows and renewed the hopes of millions. Billy Graham is an American who lives first and always for his fellow citizens. In honoring him, we give thanks for God’s greatest spiritual gifts—faith, hope, and love.”

He added: “Billy Graham’s contribution to the well-being of mankind is literally immeasurable. Millions of lives across the globe have been enriched because of his good work. The world is a better place because of Billy Graham.”

Honor and humility

In response to receiving this high honor, Billy Graham said this:
“All that I have been able to do I owe to Jesus Christ. When you honor me, you are really honoring Him. Any honors I have received I accept with a sense of inadequacy and humility, and will reserve the right to hand all of these someday to Christ when I see him, face-to-face.”

Finally, Billy Graham is one of just four private citizens to lay in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

Ronald Reagan Billy Graham Presidential Medal of Freedom

Official Portrait of President Reagan

On this day in 1911, Ronald Reagan, the 33rd Governor of California and the 40th President of the United States is born in Tampico, Illinois.

So, to recognize his birthday, here are three of Our posts featuring profound words from “The Great Communicator”:

http://ourlostfounding.com/i-owe-my-life-to-god/

http://ourlostfounding.com/if-we-ever-forget/

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

President Ronald Reagan first inaugural address

Since 1937, Inauguration Day occurs on January 20th following a presidential election. So, here is a collection of quotes from four January 20 inaugural addresses from four different presidents:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, fourth inaugural address, 1945

As I stand here today, having taken the solemn oath of office in the presence of my fellow countrymen–in the presence of our God— I know that it is America’s purpose that we shall not fail.

The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our people stout hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows for freedom and truth. He has given to our country a faith which has become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world.

So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly–to see the way that leads to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow men–to the achievement of His will to peace on earth.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, first inaugural address, 1953

My friends, before I begin the expression of those thoughts that I deem appropriate to this moment, would you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own. And I ask that you bow your heads:
Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment my future associates in the Executive branch of Government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere.

Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race or calling.

May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.

We are summoned by this honored and historic ceremony to witness more than the act of one citizen swearing his oath of service, in the presence of God. We are called as a people to give testimony in the sight of the world to our faith that the future shall belong to the free.

In the swift rush of great events, we find ourselves groping to know the full sense and meaning of these times in which we live. In our quest of understanding, we beseech God’s guidance. We summon all our knowledge of the past and we scan all signs of the future.

It is because we, all of us, hold to these principles that the political changes accomplished this day do not imply turbulence, upheaval or disorder. Rather this change expresses a purpose of strengthening our dedication and devotion to the precepts of our founding documents, a conscious renewal of faith in our country and in the watchfulness of a Divine Providence.

John F. Kennedy, 1961

We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.

Ronald Reagan, first inaugural address, 1981

To a few of us here today this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.

[Y]ou, the citizens of this blessed land. Your dreams, your hopes, your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes, and the goals of this administration, so help me God.

I’m told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and for that I’m deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inaugural Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer.

[B]elieve that together with God’s help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us.

And after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans.

 

Finally, even with no constitutional requirement for a Bible while taking the oath of office, the custom endures. After all, as Abraham Lincoln said “it is the best gift God has given to man.”

President Ronald Reagan first inaugural address

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial MLK

On January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. is born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a Baptist minister.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill designating a federal holiday to recognize Dr. King. We observe it on the third Monday in January so it falls close to his birthday.

Upon signing the bill, Reagan remarked:
“[M]ost important, there was not just a change of law; there was a change of heart. The conscience of America had been touched. Across the land, people had begun to treat each other not as blacks and whites, but as fellow Americans.

But traces of bigotry still mar America. So, each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. And I just have to believe that all of us—if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King’s dream comes true, and in his words, “All of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘… land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.'”

The Guide to a Greater Purpose

In 1955, Dr. King offered sound guidance to protestors then, and now:

“Let conscience be your guide” … [O]ur actions must be guided by the deepest principles of our Christian faith. Love must be our regulating ideal. Once again we must hear the words of Jesus echoing across the centuries: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.”

King’s legacy as a leader endures because of Who he followed:

Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial MLK

Ronald Reagan Farewell Address

On this day in 1989, President Ronald Reagan gives his Farewell Address to the Nation. In doing so, he defined his vision of “the shining city upon a hill.”

“[I]n my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Reagan built on the phrase preached by Puritan pilgrim John Winthrop in perhaps the earliest example of the idea of American exceptionalism. In 1630, while still aboard a ship bound for Massachusetts Bay, Winthrop delivered his sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.”

He said, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.”

Of course, the origin of the phrase is found in Matthew 5: 14-16
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Therefore, this is the ultimate aim of American exceptionalism.

Earlier in his address, Reagan acknowledged “The Great Communicator” nickname.
“I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation—from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries. …[F]or me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery… of our values and our common sense.”

Patriotism, Pilgrims, and Freedom

Then, he asked “are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?

He continued by outlining the fracture that continues to plague our nation:
“We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood… .Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture.”

Then, he charged us all with doing “a better job of getting across that America is freedom-freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.

Bringing this post full circle, he added that “we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important – why the Pilgrims came here...”

Before concluding by saying “goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America” Regan offered “lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ’em know and nail ’em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.”

Great Rediscovery

Of course, the purpose of Our Lost Founding is to help us rediscover “the principles that have guided us for two centuries.”

But why is that important? Ronald Reagan answered that question in his farewell address:
“[A]s long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours….”

Ronald Reagan Farewell Address

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev

On this day in 1984, President Ronald Reagan, long known for his sense of humor, makes a controversial joke while doing a sound check before his weekly Saturday radio address:

“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Reagan was riffing on the actual opening line of his speech, regarding religious freedom:

“I’m pleased to tell you that today I signed legislation that will allow student religious groups to begin enjoying a right they’ve too long been denied — the freedom to meet in public high schools during nonschool hours, just as other student groups are allowed to do. This has been given the shorthand label “equal-access legislation.”

In fact, it was just a couple weeks later on August 23rd that Reagan would deliver his famous line:
“If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” 

Sure, the bombing joke may have been embarrassing, and in poor taste. It even caused at temporary dip in the President’s approval rating. Even so, he went on to win a second term.

Furthermore, even though Reagan had referred to Russia as the “evil empire,” he established a close relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev starting in 1985. His sense of humor may have had something to do with that. They went on to sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987, the Cold War thawed, and the Berlin Wall eventually was torn down.

Our Lost Founding suggests that we, as “fellow Americans” lighten up. Most importantly, let’s heed President Reagan’s warning to not “forget that we’re one nation under God.”

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev

Reagan Berlin Wall

On this day in 1987, President Ronald Reagan delivers his now-famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Germany.

It was in that speech, of course, that the President gave the powerful and prophetic command:
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

That legacy defining line came about halfway through Reagan’s speech. Interestingly, his now iconic phrase did not attract much attention at the time.

Still, the enduring purpose of Reagan’s position shines most brightly as he approaches the conclusion of his remarks:

“In a word, I would submit that what keeps you in Berlin is love–love both profound and abiding.

Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront. Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexander Platz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower’s one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the sun strikes that sphere–that sphere that towers over all Berlin–the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.

As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner: “This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.” Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”

Reagan Berlin Wall

On this day in 2004, Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. President, dies after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Without God…

Despite the withering disease, Reagan’s legacy as “The Great Communicator” endures. His ability is exemplified by the following ever-pertinent remarks from a prayer breakfast in Dallas, TX in August 1984:

“Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure.
If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” (emphasis added)

It’s fitting that as a young man Reagan was a lifeguard, so he knew a thing or two about what it takes to stay afloat.

Ronald Reagan Dallas Prayer Breakfast

Ronald Reagan at Moscow State University

On this day in 1988, Ronald Reagan ended his first trip to Moscow. The trip marked his fourth summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. While there, Regan spoke to an audience of students and faculty at Moscow State University, and mad this statement:

Freedom, it has been said, makes people selfish and materialistic, but Americans are one of the most religious peoples on Earth. Because they know that liberty, just as life itself, is not earned but a gift from God, they seek to share that gift with the world. “Reason and experience,” said George Washington in his Farewell Address, “both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. And it is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” Democracy is less a system of government than it is a system to keep government limited, unintrusive; a system of constraints on power to keep politics and government secondary to the important things in life, the true sources of value found only in family and faith.

Lenin lens

He concluded his remarks with this: “da blagoslovit vas gospod — God bless you.” All of the above is made much more powerful and profound, given the setting in which Reagan spoke, as seen below.

Ronald Reagan at Moscow State University

Ronald Reagan Evil Empire

On this day in 1983, President Ronald Reagan publicly refers to the Soviet Union as “an evil empire.”

This excerpt is from about halfway through the still relevant speech:
Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged. When our Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, they sought to protect churches from government interference. They never intended to construct a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief itself.

The evidence of this permeates our history and our government. The Declaration of Independence mentions the Supreme Being no less than four times. “In God We Trust” is engraved on our coinage. The Supreme Court opens its proceedings with a religious invocation. And the members of Congress open their sessions with a prayer. I just happen to believe the schoolchildren of the United States are entitled to the same privileges as Supreme Court Justices and Congressmen.”

Good and Evil Empire

Then, Reagan famously says “evil empire” in the final third of the speech:

“So, I urge you to speak out against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiority. You know, I’ve always believed that old Screwtape reserved his best efforts for those of you in the church. So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride — the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil. 

I ask you to resist the attempts of those who would have you withhold your support for our efforts, this administration’s efforts, to keep America strong and free, while we negotiate real and verifiable reductions in the world’s nuclear arsenals and one day, with God’s help, their total elimination.”

Our Lost Founding would add that as (a) people this struggle will always plague us, both personally and nationally.

Ronald Reagan Evil Empire