15. Editorial Note
In a November 3, 1980, televised address, Republican Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan reiterated his vision for the United States on the eve of the 1980 election. Reagan noted that the decisions voters made on November 4 would impact the United States “through what promises to be one of the most perilous decades in our history.” After outlining various domestic reform initiatives, Reagan asserted that he wanted to talk “not about campaign issues—but America, about us, you and me.” He continued: “Not so long ago, we emerged from a world war. Turning homeward at last, we built a grand prosperity and hoped—from our own success and plenty—to help others less fortunate.
“Our peace was a tense and bitter one, but in those days the center seemed to hold.
“Then came the hard years: riots and assassinations, domestic strife over the Vietnam War and in the last four years, drift and disaster in Washington.
“It all seems a long way from a time when politics was a national passion and sometimes even fun.
“A popular novel of the ’60s ended prophetically with its description of a ‘kindly, pleasant, greening land about to learn whether history still has a place for a nation so strangely composed of great ideals and uneasy compromise as she.’
“That is really the question before us tonight: for the first time in our memory many Americans are asking: does history still have a place for America, for her people, for her great ideals? There are some who answer ‘no;’ that our energy is spent, our days of greatness at an end, that a great national malaise is upon us. They say we must cut our expectations, conserve and withdraw, that we must tell our children . . . not to dream as we once dreamed.”
Reagan then discussed heroism, using religious faith and patriotism, before returning to the issue of malaise. Noting that he had spent the year canvassing the United States and meeting a cross-section of citizens, Reagan asserted: “I find no national malaise, I find nothing wrong with the American people. Oh, they are frustrated, even angry at what has been done to this blessed land. But more than anything they are sturdy and robust as they have always been.”
Reagan cautioned any country that discerned “softness in our prosperity or disunity” to understand that Americans would “put aside in a moment” prosperity and disagreement “if the cause is a safe and peaceful future for our children.”[Page 59]
He continued: “Let it always be clear that we have no dreams of empire, that we seek no manifest destiny, that we understand the limitations of any one nation’s power.
“But let it also be clear that we do not shirk history’s call; that America is not turned inward but outward—toward others. Let it be clear that we have not lessened our commitment to peace or to the hope that someday all of the people of the world will enjoy lives of decency, lives with a degree of freedom, with a measure of dignity.
“Together, tonight, let us say what so many long to hear: that America is still united, still strong, still compassionate, still clinging fast to the dream of peace and freedom, still willing to stand by those who are persecuted or alone.
“For those who seek the right to self-determination without interference from foreign powers, tonight let us speak for them.
“For those who suffer for social or religious discrimination,
“For those who are victims of police states or government induced torture or terror,
“For those who are persecuted,
“For all the countries and people of the world who seek only to live in harmony with each other, tonight let us speak for them.
“And to our allies—who regard us with such constant puzzlement and profound affection—we must also speak tonight.
“To our Canadian neighbors who so recently rescued Americans in Teheran, to the people of Great Britain to whom ties of blood, language and culture bind so closely, to the people of France who midwifed our birth as a nation, to the people of Germany and Japan with whom we bound up the wounds of war, to the people of Ireland and Italy and all the ethnic communities whose national heritages have enriched this nation and become our own, to the people of Israel with whom we enjoy the closest of friendships, to the people of Latin America, Australia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea—to all our allies great and small, we say tonight: at last the sleeping giant stirs and is filled with a resolve—a resolve that we will win together our struggle for world peace—our struggle for the human spirit.
“And to the people of Africa, we say that we seek a lasting, just and close relationship.
“To the people of China, with whom we have begun the first important steps to friendship—let it be known to them that we mean for that friendship to bring our peoples closer together.
“To the people of Russia—if only we could speak to them without their government intervening, they would know our willingness to [Page 60] build an enduring peace.” Reagan concluded his remarks with a series of questions that he suggested voters might ask themselves the next day at the polls and an exhortation that Americans “resolve tonight that young Americans will always see those Potomac lights; that they will always find there a city of hope in a country that is free. And let us resolve they will say of our day and of our generation that we did keep faith with our God, that we did act ‘worthy of ourselves;’ that we did protect and pass on lovingly that shining city on a hill.” (Undated Reagan-Bush Committee News Release; Reagan Library, White House Office of Speechwriting, Research Office, 1980 Campaign File, Campaign and Pre-Presidential Speeches, 1979–1981, 11/03/1980 Reagan TV Address—A Vision for America)