Remarks Before the Reagan Centennial Dinner, Dulles, VA
(Michael Giere worked in both the 76/80 Reagan Campaigns, and served in the Reagan Administration from 1981-85.)
Reagan vs. the “Sound bite” Conservative
In 1946, Winston Churchill and Harry Truman traveled by
train to Fulton, Missouri. It was there that Mr. Churchill first
warned of a new, hostile and evil threat to Western
civilization; Soviet communism.
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,” Mr.
Churchill famously said,” an iron curtain has descended across the Continent [of Europe.]”
A little more than 30 years later, the reality of Mr. Churchill’s
warning reached critical mass, as the unrelenting
aggression from the Soviet empire seemed destined
to over-run the West, and drag the democracies by stealth and
deceit into the very darkness they had so narrowly escaped in
the Second World War.
At the most crucial hour, at the last moment, and with
providential grace, two great leaders came to power; Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher, and President Ronald
Reagan. It is no exaggeration to state that they, with Pope John
Paul and others, saved the Western World as we know it.
Human Liberty lives for another generation; this stands as
their enduring historical legacy.
Now, literally as we speak, the living memory of the great
leaders of World War 11 fades from memory as
that generation passes on. Those of us here tonight
stand as keepers of the living memory of the Reagan era. We
are the touchstones for history; and as these great leaders
stood guard in the darkest hours of the last century, the task
now falls to us to help the emerging generations of this young
century by recalling, reminding and building upon the
greatness we were honored to have witnessed and in which we
were privileged to have had a small part.
President Reagan stands among us today, two decades after his
presidency, as a continuing inspiration for this nation, an
enduring force in our politics, and still a significant part of
our national conversation.
And try as some might, Ronald Reagan in death, as in his life,
still defies the attempts by so many to redefine and dismiss
who he was.
They can’t, and the reason is not really complicated.
Ronald Reagan stood on the foundational principles of life,
liberty, property, and Constitutional order. He did not waver,
he did not pander, he did not flinch. He never apologized for
the greatness and the richness of the American experiment in
self-government, and he did not question for one second that
the Divine mapmaker of human destiny had a special place for
this nation and her people.
He had what we miss the most today; a powerful confidence in
the American people and willingness to fight for what was
right, even when the wrong solution was temporarily more
Tonight, I can tell you that the Reagan Revolution is alive, the
Reagan Revolution is in fighting form, and that in 2010, the
Reagan Revolution’s first born child, the Tea Party, changed
the face of American politics again.
To my mind, the most important Reagan lesson for us today is
simple – yet its simplicity is overlooked time and again by
today’s “sound bite” conservatives: Ronald Reagan was a man
who sought to teach others about the foundational first
principles of the conservative cause – he was a man of the story
– the “narrative.”
This means, as an example, that he didn’t just promote the
idea that you should have control of your own money for
practical economic reasons, as important as that might be. It
means he educated a generation that economic freedom was a
moral issue crucial to all of our liberties. He attached the trail dust of politics to the nobility of human dignity and freedom.
In plain words, he connected the line from high principle to
how we live our lives.
When he took the podium, Ronald Reagan became the
expositor – the narrator – of the American story, the
Constitutional epic; the exceptionalism and goodness of our
nation was the context of his politics.
I have no doubt Ronald Reagan would tell conservatives today that if we if we want to lead our nation, then we will abandon the politics of the sound bite and the politics of convenience for the hard stuff of defending and explaining our national story. We will join the debate with deep substance and treat our fellow citizens as our partners, not our subjects. We will use the first principals of life, liberty and property as a cornerstone, not a distraction.
My friends, if today we conservatives would
simply tell the American story with confidence in our
exceptional culture; if we would stand firmly and proclaim the
dignity of life, the inseparable moral importance of liberty
to both our spiritual and material prosperity; if
we would stand boldly on the truth, no matter the political
storms; then when we are gone a future gathering such as
this will look back and say; they preserved liberty for another
I judge our time is short, our nation is in grave danger from
within and without. Where will we stand, my friends, where
will we stand? For me, I stand on the same enduring truth as
our 40th president, Ronald Reagan. I choose liberty.