Now, for those of you who think politics has never been more mean-spirited, never been more divisive, for those of you who think politics is worse than it’s ever been and that partisanship is worse than it’s ever been and the country is more divided than it’s ever been, you have forgotten the 80s. The divisions in the 80s were just as profound as they are today. The hatred for a sitting president was just as profound then as it is today. The catcalls and the criticisms and the accusations that George Bush hears, Ronald Reagan heard them at all. But one thing that was different is that Reagan had multiple-state landslide victories propelling him, and he had thus a mandate. He had his eternal optimism and confidence and his faith in God — all of which George W. Bush possesses, it seems to me, other than that electoral landslide. There’s also something else, and I want to say this again. Back when Reagan was president, there was no Rush Limbaugh Show; there was no Fox News; there was no meaningful conservative media at all. It was the three networks, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Newsweek, TIME magazine, the local newspapers in big cities, and CNN. They ruled the roost.
Don’t believe what you’re seeing on TV this weekend about how much love and respect there was for Ronald Reagan. There was none. They wanted to impeach Reagan, and they tried with the Iran-Contra affair. They wanted to impeach him. It was vicious back then. A testament to the man is how he overcame it with no media friends, or very few. The media he had that was friendly was local. But national media still ran the show, ruled the roost, had their monopoly back then — and they were all aligned against Reagan. There were exceptions, of course (George Will, columnists), but I’m talking about the mainstream partisan media back then was oppressive and he overcame it. So again — and he overcame it with the force of his personality. But it can be done is the point. The common theme, I try to constantly remind all of you of here, on this program. So yeah, we have divisions and those who say, “We can’t be great.” Well, we were great in the 80s with all these divisions we were great in the 80s with all that acrimony — and there was acrimony. There was real dislike — I’ll go so far as to say hatred — for Reagan, and yet it was (sigh) one of the greatest periods. They’ve tried to rewrite how great it was to make it seem pitiful and poor and unhappy and miserable.
But it wasn’t, and they are going to fail those who are trying to rewrite the decade of the 80s and the Reagan presidency. They’re going to fail because there are too many now with the power to stop them. But if we could be great then, coming out of a malaise of a Jimmy Carter presidency with double-digit inflation, double-digit unemployment — it was so bad we created a misery index as a means of calculating it! We had gasoline lines. We had home mortgage interest rates. What were they, twelve or thirteen percent? It was unbelievable. Imagine that today. What’s your mortgage today? Six or seven percent, if that? Inflation, double-digit. Reagan brought inflation down while growing the economy. There are economists today still don’t believe it’s possible. One of the tools was the recession of ’81-’82, but there’s for another time. So honoring the memory of President Reagan, to me means being great as a nation, being great individually, doing what he always knew we could do, be the best we can. If obstacles are in our way, get ’em out. Don’t complain. Don’t whine. Obstacles happen. Work around them, go over them, or sweep them out of the way. Just do it. We’re Americans. The greatest nation on earth.
We’re human beings like everybody else on earth. Doesn’t mean we’re better human beings. This is key. Doesn’t mean we are better human beings than anybody else. Reagan never said it. He never meant it. We are Americans because of our freedom, and Ronald Reagan understood that it was God-given and it was a natural part of our creation, and this is the one lone outpost on the face of the earth where it has a chance, for freedom to run unbridled and it is freedom that allows people to do whatever, to be the best, to be the worst, to be whatever they wish to be. Most of the people in the world have never had freedom nor anywhere near the kind of that we enjoy. Those born here take it for granted. Some don’t even think it’s worth fighting for because they don’t think they’ll ever it, because to them it’s just what’s natural. It’s the easiest thing to the world to lose because the natural tendency of men, human beings to dominate, control and rule others. We had Founding Fathers who understood this, set up a constitutional limited republic that makes it as tough for a dictatorship to form as possible. That’s why the Constitution must always be given fealty. That’s why we must always teach it, never forget it, learn it, live it and understand it.
Well, Reagan instinctively knew all of this. It wasn’t that we were better human beings. It was that we had the full blessings of God. Other human beings on the planet do not and did not. How do we honor this? The first thing we do is fight to keep it. First thing we do is fight to maintain it and understand how precious it is. Second thing we do is to ensure that our circumstances are only as good as our willingness to help others achieve it as well. Will the Baby Boom generation, of which I am a semi-proud member depending on who I’m talking to, will the Baby Boom generation ask itself how they can be the greatest generation? Right now the greatest generation is said to be that of World War II. Nobody is going to say that about the Baby Boom generation, folks, any time soon, unless we do something about it. Will the Gen X, the Gen Y generations, will they be the next greatest generation? Because I’m going to tell you something: We Need One. We need a next “greatest generation.” I look at the people of the armed forces serving around the world and in Iraq and Afghanistan, think, “Well, maybe we found it.”
It’s not just defined by military, though. It’s not. That’s not it. It’s who they are. It’s why they’re doing what they’re doing. They’re not being forced, not being told to. They’re volunteering to because — for some reason, thank God — they understand what’s at stake. Many in the Baby Boom generation — and I’m exempting, I don’t want to include… Somebody wrote me the other day, said, “I’m a Vietnam vet and I really resent you…” I’m not talking about Vietnam vets. I’m talking the Baby Boom generation as a whole has never really had to face what’s at stake. They might cite Vietnam, but… They may have a point to an extent but Vietnam is a sore spot and unfortunately has served as the prism through which much of the Baby Boom generation looks at the future, which is a horrible thing. Got to wipe that out, too, but nevertheless.. Thought the Gulf War had done it but it didn’t. It never will for the left because most of the left today came of age during the Vietnam War, and they wish to validate their youth, saying everything they were doing then was important. So they continue to live it through every other war and every other social contract and every he other experience they have as Americans, but it’s time to get serious because we face great challenges.
We always will face great challenges, must have the courage to recognize that they’re great challenges. The next thing we have to do is ask ourselves, “All right, how will we define our greatness?” What will we do? What will we set out to accomplish that if we succeed, will define our greatness — and so, a call to greatness. The death of Ronald Reagan: the reliving of his life, the remembrances of his presidency, the calling into public vogue again of the qualities and characteristics of his life. The Call to Greatness summons us again, I believe. We’re in a moment of desperation, and as Reagan said in 1964 in that famous speech (video || text) for Barry Goldwater, “We are in a rendezvous with destiny, and it is up to us to meet our destiny.” So how are going to define our greatness in the future? Are we going to define our greatness because we fixed health care? Are we going to define our greatness because we raised the minimum wage whenever somebody said raise it? Are we going to define our greatness because we dealt with the horrible practice of outsourcing? Are we going to define our greatness because we put CEOs in jail? Are we going to define our greatness by electing people who assume the worst of us? Are we going to meet our greatness by having as leaders those who have no trust or faith in us?
Will we be great because we have stopped or advanced gay marriage? Will we be great because we have passed a prescription drug entitlement? Will our kids think that we were great because of what we did with welfare? Will future generations of America proclaim American greatness and cite the American presidents who supported abortion? Are these the areas that we want to delve into so that we define our greatness in this manner? I think not, because once again, ladies and gentlemen, we are faced with a challenge to our survival, and if our survival as we’ve come to know it doesn’t continue, all the rest of these things I mentioned are academic — and engaging in solving all those problems will not secure our destiny unless we protect ourselves and rise to the challenge which faces us. The challenge is no different than the challenges we have faced throughout the Twentieth Century. Nazism, communism, all of the -isms, socialism, all of the tyrannical forms of government that we faced are no different than militant Islamism.
There are people — Jacques Chirac said it over the weekend, “We’ve got to find a way to get along and co-exist with the militant Islamists.” I reject that. He says it because, “It’s a great religion.” Oh, yeah, can’t go stamping out people’s religions. I disagree. I don’t think terrorism is a “religion.” I don’t know of a religion on earth that teaches what militant Islam teaches. Al-Qaeda is not a religion. Saddam Hussein was not a religion. Zarqawi is not a religion. None of these disparate groups are. These are ideologies. These are ways of life. These are forms of government, forms of life that enslave people. They seek to enslave us, or wipe us out. The question for our generation is, “What do we want to do about this?” Do we want to try to find a way to co-exist with it and fool ourselves, and say, “Well, it’s a religion. We can’t really do much about that,” or do we want to be honest with ourselves about the threat facing us — which is no longer a “threat;” 9/11 took the “threat” out of the equation. It’s a reality — or do we want to eliminate another evil for the free peoples of the world? We want to destroy it. We want to stamp it out. Do we want to be Jimmy Carter and Neville Chamberlain, or do we want to be Reagan and Churchill?