By Mary Miller Cullins
On January 11, 1989, Ronald Reagan gave his farewell address to the American people after serving eight years as the 40th President of the United States.
I wasn’t old enough to vote for Ronald Reagan the first time, but he has always been one of my favorite presidents. In his speech, Reagan declared that America “rediscovered” its commitment to world freedom in the 1980′s. The United States was “respected again in the world and looked to for leadership.” According to the president, the key was a return to “common sense” that “told us to preserve the peace, we’d have to become strong again after years of weakness.” Reagan was always enthusiastic when it came to foreign policy.
His foreign policy successes include: achieving peace in the Persian Gulf, forcing the Soviets to start leaving Afghanistan, and negotiating for the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia and Cuban forces in Angola. All these efforts were waged against communism, the ideology that Reagan believed was the main threat to freedom. ”Nothing, he said, “is less free than pure communism.”
But I would like to add, Reagan’s Cold War record was a bit more complicated than he described. One of the costs of America’s renewed “strength” was a vastly increased defense expenditure, which helped create a national debt of over one trillion dollars. Peace in the Persian Gulf was temporary, as the Gulf War–which erupted during the presidency of Reagan’s successor George Bush–later demonstrated. Finally, the Iran-Contra scandal revealed that the Reagan administration employed some questionable means to reach its anticommunist ends-specifically, a complicated scheme involving covertly selling weapons to Iran and illegally supplying the Contra forces in Nicaragua.
The achievements of the Reagan administration gained him much favor with the American public, and he left office as one of the most popular modern U.S. presidents. Recently, I re-watched Knute Rockne, All American, starring Ronald Reagan. He’s not the only president we’ve had who is a pretty good actor, eh?
February 6, 1911-June 5, 2004