"When General Victor `Brute' Krulak asked President Reagan what advice he would give young Marine officers, Reagan didn't hesitate: `Plant your flag.' He meant find those principles, those ideals, that plan or project on which you will stake your reputation, and plant your flag there…." (William J. Bennett, America: The Last Best Hope, Vol. II, p. 480).
Ronald Reagan planted his flag and stood on his principles. He said what he meant and meant what he said. He had three main goals for his administration: smaller government, lower taxes, and stronger defense. He was successful in achieving all three.
As Reagan stepped down from the Inaugural platform, he signed an Executive Order and with his signature destroyed price controls on oil that had been in place for more than a decade. The next day he abolished the Council on Wage and Price Stability and ended an energy crisis that had consumed the Carter administration. This meant that Americans were no longer forced to wait in long lines to buy gasoline.
As Reagan was being sworn in as the 40th President of the United States, 52 Americans were being held captive by Iranian militants. They had been in captivity for 444 days. Some time later on Inauguration Day, President Reagan announced at a luncheon with members of Congress that the American hostages had been freed. Even the militants recognized that Reagan said what he meant and meant what he said.
The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO) went on strike during the summer of 1981. Reagan warned the union members, who were all government employees, that he would fire all of them if they violated federal law by walking off the job. They walked, and he fired all of them.
During the years between 1981 and 1987 Americans enjoyed more labor peace because there were thousands fewer people going on strike. Not only labor unions took note that Reagan said what he meant and meant what he said.
Leaders of foreign nations also watched and marveled. The KGB noted in a background paper for the Soviet Communist leadership that with Reagan "word and deed are the same." When Libya sent Soviet-made MiG jet fighters to threaten U.S. Navy jets in the international waters of the Gulf of Sidra, Reagan ordered his military pilots to shoot them down. He told his military leaders that they could pursue Libyan jets into Libyan territory and even "… follow them into their damned hangers."
Reagan's resolve to build up and strengthen our defense took military morale to new heights. Reagan never wavered from his core principles and stayed committed to his basic beliefs. One of his basic beliefs was that communism was evil. His anti-communism stance began while he served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He recognized that communism had a record of crushing human rights and was guilty of mass murder. He saw its hatred of God, hostility to democracy and its violence. Once he even called the USSR an "evil empire."
In June 1982 Reagan became the first President of the United States to address the British House of Commons. He told them, "In an ironic sense, Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis, a crisis where the demands of the economic order are conflicting directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxist-Leninism, the Soviet Union…. [T]he march of freedom and democracy …will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people." The British leaders recognized Reagan's toughness and his commitment. The relationship between Great Britain and the United States had never been closer than while Reagan was President.
In 1983 the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada - about 51 square miles - was torn with an uprising within its own government. Appeals were made for United States help. Reagan acted quickly because he viewed the situation with suspicion that Granada was the creation of another communist tyranny in the Western Hemisphere. On October 19 United States and allied forces invaded Grenada and quickly overwhelmed the "engineers" from Cuba who were helping island communists build a huge airstrip. It was supposedly being made to land Boeing 747s, but Reagan warned that it could also be used for Soviet long-range missiles. The invasion was cheered by the 100,000 natives of Grenada and rescued American medical students there. It was also an attempt by Reagan to push back at the periphery of the Soviet empire worldwide. Some people believe that Grenada was the turning point of the Cold War just as Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War.
Reagan went to West Germany in June 1987 to speak there as part of Berlin's 750th anniversary celebration. Reagan wanted to make a strong statement about divided Berlin. Reagan's speech writer visited Berlin in preparation for writing the speech. He saw the 60-mile long wall that separated West Berlin and East Berlin. He also saw that the wall separated two different types of existence. He saw that East Berlin was colorless and had buildings which still showed signs of bomb and bullet damage from World War II. In West Berlin he saw life, color, movement, modern architecture, traffic, etc. He talked with people in West Berlin who explained how the wall had separated members of their family. He returned to Washington D.C. determined to write something about the wall coming down. The State Department, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of State didn't want anything about the wall in the speech. They rejected draft after draft of the speech. Each time Reagan put the famous line about the wall coming down back into the speech. Reagan's speech at the Brandenburg Gate is regarded today as one of history's greatest speeches. He said what he wanted to say, and he said it with emphasis. "General Secretary, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Reagan believed that the United States must always negotiate from a position of strength. He was a man who believed in standing firm on true principles.
Reagan was a man of faith in God. He wanted to spend his remaining years doing what God wanted him to do. In a visit to St. George's Hall in the Kremlin, after a nice welcome from Gorbachev and surrounded by the gold, crystal, rich tapestries of the Tsars, and the paintings of saints, Reagan looked Gorbachev in the eye and said, "God bless you." This was the first time in 70 years that the name of God had been uttered aloud in that place. It was heard by every citizen across the Soviet Union. Reagan was a man with faith in God and love for his country. He was a great man and a great President because he stood firm on his principles. He said what he meant and meant what he said.
Ideas, information, and quotes for this blog post came from William J. Bennett, America: The Last Best Hope, Vol. II, pp 480-530.