Ronald Reagan’s Inaugural Address

In 1980 America was faced with an economic crisis for the ages and they chose Ronald Reagan to deal with it. By the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidency the interest rate was 15. 26 percent, inflation was at 12. 5 percent and unemployment at 7. 1 percent and these rates were still on the rise. [1] Coupled with an economy that was not growing, these rates pushed the United States into a recession. Due to the current situation President Jimmy Carter had put us in, Ronald Reagan was elected in a landslide victory and at 69 he was the oldest elected president.

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Reagan was faced with a task comparable to Franklin Roosevelt and his inaugural address needed to reestablish confidence in the American economy. As well as the economic crisis, Reagan was handed a continuing crisis in the Middle East. This crisis not only included a hostage situation at the United States embassy in Iran but also growing tensions between Iraq and Iran. It was Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address that would cover these issues and give the American people the confidence they needed to get itself out of the current recession.

He would call each and every American person a “hero” and speak to them as a whole group being affected by the current crisis. [2] He would look to make Americans “dream heroic dreams” and forget about the pessimistic views about the Carter administration. [3] Reagan knew that he was going to have to make an impact very quickly otherwise the American people would quickly turn on him and question their decision to elect him as president. In a sense, Reagan’s address is the beginning of the most vital part of American History in the late 20th century, which saved America from economic disaster.

Just as Herbert Hoover was blamed for the Great Depression, Jimmy Carter had been blamed for the terrible situation our economy was in at the end of his term in 1980 and especially the Iran hostage crisis. Due to the nations woes at the time, President Carter was viewed as a weak leader and it was suggested that only new leadership would solve these problems. [4] The Republican Party used this as a large part of their platform for the presidential race. After being elected as the Republican nominee in July handily over George H. W.

Bush, Ronald Reagan would soon go to work on building his platform on his ability to solve the economic crisis as well as the continuing situation in Iran. These two issues would quickly be the downfall of Jimmy Carter’s campaign, as Ronald Reagan would preach to America as a whole with his solutions to the hole that many believed Carter had dug. Reagan would run his economic platform deeply rooted in supply side economics. This school of economics was admired by Reagan and was explained that people would work more and be more efficient if taxes were lower and they were getting more money out of their paychecks.

His version of this economic policy would soon be recognized as Reaganomics. Reaganomics was based on four basic principles, a budget reform plan to cut the rate of growth in federal spending, reduction in marginal taxes, a program of regulatory relief and a monetary policy that would restore stable currency. [5] He argued that if Americans paid a higher percentage of their income to taxes as their incomes increased, they would lose the incentive to work and save. This lost of incentive would hurt the economy due to lack of money to invest in American business. 6] As well as this focus on incentive in the private sector, Reaganomics also wanted to reduce government spending. Reagan would talk about cutting big government programs and said he would deliver a balanced budget for the first time in 11 years. He wanted to cut social programs and was a big advocate for states’ rights. He would continue to say he would “restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them. ” Some of his remarks during his campaign some believe would hurt him but Jimmy Carter would continually be burdened by the worsening economic crisis.

Many middle class white Americans thought that the government under Carter was giving too much of their tax money to poor minorities. Even more detrimental to Carter’s campaign was the blacks that helped him win the election 1976 were beginning to turn on him in 1980 when the rise in unemployment directly effected them. [7] Along with the loss of voters due to economic policy, many Americans blamed Carter for the Iran hostage crisis that begun in November of 1979. The newly formed government of Iran believed that America was not in support of this change and would plan for a government of their choosing to be put in place.

It was believed that this was being planned in the American embassy. To prevent this situation from happening, an invasion planned by Iranian politician Ebrahim Asghazadeh was carried out early in the morning of November 4th 1979. Around 400 Muslim Students were gathered and overran the security and took the embassy hostage. The situation escalated during Carter’s continuing presidency as he approved a rescue mission known as Operation Eagle Claw. This mission would soon fail due to numerous problems ith the helicopters and eight American servicemen would loose their lives and many would be injured. The failed mission would soon become public and as Carter would tell the American people about the attempt his political popularity would take a large hit and re-election did not seem possible for Carter. The crisis would go on to be resolved after Carter had already lost the presidency. During the final days of Carter’s presidency negotiations were reopened and an agreement was reached that the United States would not become involved in Iranian affairs.

The release of the hostages proved to be a day of American joy as it was also the same day as President Reagan’s inauguration. This would take away from Carter’s achievement but Reagan would not let it go unnoticed as he made mention of it during his lunch after inauguration. He personally would have liked to see Carter make the announcement but he had already been on a plane back home to Georgia and his “heart went out to him” as he writes in one of his autobiographies. 8] These two issues proved to be the main downfall of Carter’s campaign for re-election and Reagan would find that winning the presidency proved to be relatively easy. The election of 1980 would prove to be a turning point in American politics, as the parties would realign with many liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats either leaving politics or switching to the other party and the Republicans gained control of the Senate for the first time in 28 years. Reagan would carry 44 states on his way to a landslide victory as he received 489 out of a total 538 electoral votes.

He realized that this landslide victory was due to the realization of the American people that the Democratic Party had lost faith in the American people as well as the future of the United States. Reagan was very aware of the country’s eagerness for change, especially in the economy and on January 20th, 1981, he would go on to consciously devote a good deal of the address to satisfy the American people’s anxiety as to what he planned to do. [9] He would stress that the ills suffered by our economy would not go away immediately but they would go away.

He would continually try to gain the support and confidence to the American people by speaking to them as one group, one group of which he was apart. He spoke as if no one was excluded and that the problems faced by the country were to be faced together as a whole. During the beginning part of the speech Reagan began to identify the problem, as he saw it, with the current economic situation. He recognized inflation, which blinded our economic decisions, as well as idle industries, which have been the reason for the high unemployment rates and discouragement among the American people.

He also begins to talk about the deficit spending that has piled up stating that America was “mortgaging our future as well as our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present. ” Reagan finishes recognizing the problem by stating that action would need to be taken immediately in order to preserve tomorrow. He than states that he would begin to act, “beginning today. ” [10] It is during this next part of the speech that Reagan would famously say “In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem. A big part of what he would outline as his agenda as president would be the continual stress on how much society should be able to self rule and that the influence and power of the federal government needed to be lessened. His was a strong believer in that if one cannot govern oneself than how can one govern someone else not to mention an entire country. As the speech would continue he spoke about granting power back to the states because “the federal government did not create the states, the states created the federal government. Reagan would later in the speech go on to talk about the growth of government power as one of the main reasons for the countries’ woes. He states that the government is in place to “work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. ” [11] Reagan would continue to address the American people as a whole saying that all people in government and out must bear the current burden of our issues and that solutions cannot leave any group of people out. He states his clear objective to have the American economy be vigorous, healthy and growing with equal opportunity for employment.

He states that each and every American must do their part to make the country successful again and to drive down inflation, interest and unemployment rates, that “All must share in the productive work of this “new beginning,” and all must share in the bounty of a revived economy. ” It is in this area of his speech that the American people are called heroes and are asked to dream big. He also asks for patience with his economic policy. He says that our progress will be slow but that America will soon be back to the place that it belongs, as an industrial giant.

A unification of all citizens is also called for as he asks, “How can we love our country and not love our countrymen; and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they’re sick, and provide opportunity to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory? ”[12] During the final parts of his speech Reagan quotes two major figures in history to continue to instill a belief, that although hard times are upon the country, we will pull through like we always have.

These two quotes are of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and president of the Massachusetts Congress, Dr. Joseph Warren. Along with using these quotes he begins to talk about three of the most important presidents to ever take office, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. To end his first inaugural address, Reagan told the story of a deceased veteran named Martin Treptow. He states how he left his barbershop in 1917 to go fight in France during World War I and was killed in action as he was delivering a message. We’re told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading “My Pledge,” he had written these words: “America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone. “” [13] Reagan used this as an example that although today’s crisis did not call for the same kind of sacrifice as Martin Treptow, we need to make our best effort as a whole to perform great deeds and with God’s help we could resolve the problem in front of us.

He ends by saying “…why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans. ” and thanks his audience. The aftermath of the speech would quickly be realized as Reagan took action almost immediately. In his first official act as president, Reagan signed a bill directly after giving the speech that would eliminate price controls on oil and gasoline, a move he believed would begin the liberation of the economy from excess government regulation. [14] Soon after in February of the same year Reagan proposed his economic program, which would prove to be the largest since Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Named America’s New Beginning: A Program for Economic Recovery, it focused on three main ideas. These were a new budget to cut back the growth of government spending, initiatives reducing personal income tax 10 percent over three years and business tax 30 percent over the same period, and a reform of Social Security and the reducing or eliminating of many welfare programs. [15] The only mistake in Reagan’s initial economic program proved to be his attempt at reform on Social Security. He made the mistake of assuming it was a corrupt program susceptible to fraud, waste and abuse.

He also believe that it created a reason for the American people to not take care of themselves by investing their own money out of their paychecks for retirement. He believed that the system was collapsing due to the increasing numbers of those retiring early and living longer. The reform requested to raise the retirement age to 67 with a 25 percent reduction in benefits. After receiving no support from Congress, the bill was repealed and never again did Reagan attempt to reform Social Security. 16] During September of 1981 Reagan experienced his first setback as the country stepped into deep recession that would last until December of 1982. During the previous month the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) would break a no strike clause in their contract and refused to go to work. Assuming they were irreplaceable they figured they would receive what they asked for. Instead Reagan said that those that did not report back to work within 48 hours they would be fired and brought in military personnel to keep commercial air traffic flowing.

When the majority of workers refused to report back they were all fired and domestic and foreign people alike immediately looked at Reagan as a man who would stick to his work and was filled with confidence. [17] By the end of his second term Reagan had decreased the interest rate to 9. 32 percent, inflation to 4. 4 percent and unemployment to 5. 5 percent. The gross national product was nearly doubled, per capita income raised by around $2,000 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 2235. 36, a 1300-point increase from when first inaugurated.

When comparing the numbers to what he was walking into, President Reagan is considered to have done a wonderful job. A poll taken at the end of his presidency showed that most Americans believed themselves better off as a result of the Reagan presidency, which proved to be his delight as his “battle cry” when he won was “Are you better off now than you are four years ago? ” [18] In delivering his first inaugural address, President Ronald Reagan was facing a time that no president had faced since the days of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression.

He was to set the stage for a period of great change in America set forth by his policies and all business style of leadership. His address is considered the beginning of one of the most important periods in American History. We saw the great change, which included economic growth and a peaceful end to the Cold War, during his years in office as promised in his first address. The American people were united under a cause to save the economy and although policies were not always particular popular, his task to increase economic growth was done extremely well.

It is due to this that Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address can be considered the start to a much-needed turning point in American History that would prevent another economic crisis. Bibliography Boller, Paul F. , and Ronald Story, Eds. A More Perfect Union. 6th ed. Vol. 2. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. Boyarsky, Bill. Ronald Reagan: His Life and Rise to Presidency. New York: Random House, 1981. Cannon, Lou. President Reagan: the Role of a Lifetime. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000. Diggins, John P. Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom and the Making of History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.

Grafton, John. 28 Great Inaugural Addresses: From Washington to Reagan. Dover Publications, 2006. “People & Events: Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” Speech. ” PBS Online. 23 Apr. 2008 . Reagan, Ronald. An American Life. New York: Pocket Books, 1992. Reagan, Ronald. Speaking My Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. Reagan, Ronald. The Reagan Diaries. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. ———————– [1] Lou Cannon, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime (New York: PublicAffairs), 5 [2] John P. Diggins, Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History (New York: W. W.

Norton & Company), xviii [3] Cannon, 7 [4] People & Events: Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence Speech. . 22 April 2008 [5] Cannon, 199 [6] Diggins, 175 [7] Bill Boyarsky, Ronald Reagan: His Life and Rise to the Presidency (New York: Random House), 198 [8] Ronald Reagan, An American Life (New York: Pocket Books), 227 [9] Ronald Reagan, Speaking My Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster), 59 [10] Paul F. Boller, A More Perfect Union (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company), 245-247 [11] Ibid. [12] Ibid. [13] Ibid. [14] Reagan, An American Life, 227 [15] Diggins, 178 [16] Ibid. , at 179. [17] Ibid at 180 [18] Cannon, 5

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