A History of Our Time: Readings on Postwar America

By William H. Chafe; Harvard Sitkoff et al. | Go to book overview

“The Second American
Revolution” (1985)

Ronald W. Reagan

Whether political observers are hostile or friendly to Ronald Reagan, nearly every political commentator agrees that Reagan possessed extraordinary skill in articulating his point of view and rallying support for it. Although Reagan retained a level of popular backing usually reserved for “consensus” politicians of a moderate persuasion, he presented, and argued effectively for, a singularly partisan definition of America’s purpose and goals. Reagan had clear ideas, many of them in deep conflict with the direction of American government and policies since the New Deal. He wished to dismantle the “welfare state,” cut taxes severely, restore a laissez-faire economy, and simultaneously construct a huge new military machine. In fact, Reagan did seek a new American revolution, one that would alter dramatically the shape and substance of American politics. Here in his State of the Union Address in 1985, the dimensions of that revolution are outlined, suggesting the degree to which Reagan sought publicly to build support for his strong ideas.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, distinguished members of the Congress, honored guests and fellow citizens. I come before you to report on the state of our union. And I am pleased to report that, after four years of united effort, the American people have brought forth a nation renewed—stronger, freer and more secure than before.

Four years ago, we began to change—forever, I hope—our assumptions about government and its place in our lives. Out of that change has come great and robust growth—in our confidence, our economy and our role in the world….

Four years ago, we said we would invigorate our economy by giving people greater freedom and incentives to take risks, and letting them keep more of what they earned.

We did what we promised, and a great industrial giant is reborn. Tonight we can take pride in 25 straight months of economic growth,

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