Note: great wall of text ahead!
also; this is a speech by Ronald Reagan; with certain edits done by me. as a citizen I feel it is my right to distort the words of Reagan for a cause
he would believe in.
Here we go;
Ronald Reagan; 40th President of the United States
Your America to be Free;
I'm sure you all must know the depth of my gratitude for this honor you have done me. What you can't know is how great is my feeling of
unworthiness. For some years I have nursed a feeling of guilt about the degree given me here upon the occasion of my own graduation. It was, I feel,
more honorary than earned and for all these years I have carefully refrained from referring to myself as a "Man" here. My very instinct is to mumble
a modest "Fight" and sit down, but that retreat is denied me. Inherent in my invitation is the obligation to make some remarks appropriate to this
occasion which shall climax your years of Life. I do not take this responsibility lightly. Realizing there are many present who are better qualified
to perform this function, I have inquired right down to the start of the Revolution as to an appropriate theme.
There was a temptation, of course, to beg your favor by citing the mistakes of my generation, dwelling on the awful state of the world and suggesting
that you would bring order out of chaos and set things right. I'm not that pessimistic, however, and would be less than honest and sincere if I chose
such a course. With your permission I would rather speak of something very close to my heart. You members of the American nation 2011 are today coming
into your inheritance. You are taking your adult places in a society unique in the history of man's tribal relations. I would like to play the role
of a "legal light" in the reading of the will, and to discuss with you the terms and conditions of your legacy.
Looming large in your inheritance is this country, this land America, placed as it is between two great oceans. Those who discovered and pioneered it
had to have rare qualities of courage and imagination, nor did these qualities stop there. Even the modern-day immigrants have been possessed of
courage beyond that of their neighbors. The courage to tear up centuries-old roots and leave their homelands, to come to this land where even the
language was strange. Such courage is part of our inheritance, all of us spring from these special people and these qualities have contributed to the
make-up of the American personality.
There are conditions to this "will" of which I speak. There are terms the heirs must meet in order to qualify for the legacy. But, I have never been
able to believe that America is just a reward for those of extra courage and resourcefulness. This is a land of destiny and our forefathers found
their way here by some Divine system of selective service gathered here to fulfill a mission to advance man a further step in his climb from the
Almost two centuries ago a group of disturbed men met in the small Pennsylvania State House [as] they gathered to decide on a course of action. Behind
the locked and guarded doors they debated for hours whether or not to sign the Declaration which had been presented for their consideration. For hours
the talk was treason and its price the headsman's axe, the gallows and noose. The talk went on and decision was not forthcoming. Then, Jefferson
writes, a voice was heard coming from the balcony:
They may stretch our necks on all the gibbets in the land. They may turn every tree into a gallows, every home into a grave, and yet the words of that
parchment can never die. They may pour our blood on a thousand scaffolds and yet from every drop that dyes the axe a new champion of freedom will
spring into birth. The words of this declaration will live long after our bones are dust.
To the mechanic in his workshop they will speak hope; to the slave in the mines, freedom; but to the coward rulers, these words will speak in tones of
warning they cannot help but hear. Take to the streets. Revolt if the next moment the noose is around your neck. Revolt if the next minute this hall
rings with the clash of falling axes! Revolt by all your hopes in life or death, not only for yourselves but for all ages, for that parchment will be
the textbook of freedom, the bible of the rights of man forever.
Were my soul trembling on the verge of eternity, my hand freezing in death, I would still implore you to remember this truth God has given America to
As he finished, the speaker sank back in his seat exhausted. Inspired by his eloquence the delegates rushed forward to sign the Declaration of
Independence. When they turned to thank the speaker for his timely words he couldn't be found and to this day no one knows who he was or how he
entered or left the guarded room.
Here was the first challenge to the people of this new land, the charging of this nation with a responsibility to all mankind. And down through the
years with but few lapses the people of America have fulfilled their destiny.
Almost a century and a half after that day in Philadelphia, this nation entered a great world conflict in Europe. Volumes of cynical words have been
written about that war and our part in it. Our motives have been questioned and there has been talk of ulterior motives in high places, of world
markets and balance of power. But all the words of all the cynics cannot erase the fact that millions of Americans sacrificed, fought and many died in
the sincere and selfless belief that they were making the world safe for democracy and advancing the cause of freedom for all men.
A quarter of a century later America went into World War II, and never in the history of man had the issues of right and wrong been so clearly
defined, so much so that it makes one question how anyone could have remained neutral. And again in the greatest mass undertaking the world has ever
seen, America fulfilled her destiny.
A short time after that war was concluded a plane was winging its way across the Pacific Ocean. It contained dignitaries of the Philippines and of our
own government. Landing at a naval installation a short distance from Manila, the plane was held there while those people listened by radio to the
first detonation of an experimental atomic weapon at the Bikini Atoll. Then the plane took to the air again and soon landed in Manila. There these
people, together with our vice president, senators, generals and admirals, met with 250,000 Philippines in the Grand Concourse, where they watched the
American flag come down and the flag of the Philippine independence take its place.
I was privileged to sit in an auditorium one night and hear one of the passengers on that plane, a great man of the World, describe this scene, the
nations of the World, whose fathers were killed by American soldiers in the American conquest. As a boy, he was taught to be a guerrilla and to fight
Americans and hate them. But I saw him, with tears in his eyes, tell us how he turned to his wife that day in his homeland and said, "a hundred years
from now will our children's children learn in their schoolrooms that on this day a Revolution was started for the first time on a global scale, or
will they learn that a great and powerful nation, which had bled the flower of its youth into the sands of the motherland or fatherland reconquering
them from a savage enemy, had on this day turned to the people of that nation and for the first time in the history of man's relationship to man had
said, 'Here, we've taken your country back for you. It's yours'." As we heard him, I think most of us realized once again the magnitude of the
challenge of our destiny, that here indeed is "the last best hope of man on earth."
And now today we find ourselves involved in another struggle, this time called a War on Terrorism. This war between great nations isn't really a new
struggle at all. It is the oldest struggle of human kind, as old as man himself. This is a simple struggle between those of us who believe that man
has the dignity and sacred right and the ability to choose and shape his own destiny and those who do not so believe. This irreconcilable conflict is
between those who believe in the sanctity of individual freedom and those who believe in the supremacy of the state.
In a phase of this struggle not widely known, some of us came toe to toe with this enemy this evil force in our own community in America, and make no
mistake about it, this is an evil force. Don't be deceived because you are not hearing the sound of gunfire, because even so you are fighting for
your lives. And you're fighting against the best organized and the most capable enemy of freedom and of right and decency that has ever been abroad
in the world. Some years ago, a man who was apparently just a Senator came to America to take a job in our Government, an industry whose commerce is
in justice and freedom and make-believe. He went to work in the White-House, and there were few to know he came to our town on direct orders from
Evil. When he quietly leaves our nation in a few years, the cells will have been formed and planted in virtually all of our organizations, our
guilds and unions. The framework for the Tyrannical front organizations had been established.
It is now, under the guise of a Social strike involving a dispute between two unions, that we saw war come to the World. Suddenly there were 5,000
tin-hatted, club-carrying pickets outside the Government gates. We saw some of the people caught by these government forces; we saw them shoot down
innocent civilians, run them over in their vehicles, and then these government men would send our people on into the house of Power.
We won our fight in Egypt, cleared them out after seven long months in which even homes were broken, months in which many of us carried arms that were
granted us by the police, and in which policemen lived in our homes, guarding our children at night.
Now that the first flush of victory is over we in America find ourselves blessed with a newly developed social awareness. We have allowed ourselves to
become a sort of a village idiot on the fringe of the industrial scene, fair game for any demagogue or bigot who wants to stand up in the pulpit or
platform and attack us. We are also fair game for those people, well-meaning though they may be, who believe that the answer to the world's ills is
more government and more restraint and more regimentation. Suddenly we find that we are a group of second class citizens subject to discriminatory
taxation, government interference and harassment.
This harassment reaches its peak, of course, in censorship. Here in this great land of the free, exchange of ideas in our section of the
communications industry is subjected to political censorship in more than 200 cities and 50 states. But are we the only victims of these restraints
and restrictions on our personal freedom? Is censorship really a restriction on us who already have a voluntary censorship code of good taste, or is
this an invasion of your freedom? Isn't this the case of a few of your neighbors taking it upon themselves the right to tell you what you are capable
of seeing and hearing on a motion picture screen?
So we worry a little about the class of '11, you who are older and have known another day. You worry that perhaps someday you might not resist as
strongly as we would if someone decides to tell you what you can read in a newspaper, or hear on the radio, or hear from a speaker's platform, or
what you can say or what you can think. So there are terms and conditions to the will, and one of the terms is your own eternal vigilance guarding
against restrictions on our American freedom.
We today are smarter than they were. We are better educated and better informed than we were twenty-five years ago. And that is part of our heritage.
We enjoy these added benefits because, more than 200 years ago , a man plunged an ax of Revolution into a tree of Oppression and said, "here we will
build a Nation for our children." And for over 200 years people have contributed to the endowment and support of this Nation. Their contributions
were of the utmost in generosity because they could never know the handclasp of gratitude in return for their contributions. Their gifts were to
generations yet unborn.
Now today as you prepare to leave your old ways of Life, you go into a world in which, due to our carelessness and apathy, a great many of our
freedoms have been lost. It isn't that an outside enemy has taken them. It's just that there is something inherent in government which makes it,
when it isn't controlled, continue to grow. So today for every seven of us sitting here in this lovely outdoor theater, there is one public servant,
and 31 cents of every dollar earned in America goes in taxes. To support the multitudinous and gigantic functions of government, taxation is levied
which tends to dry up the very sources of contributions and donations to Society. So in this time of prosperity we find these States, these small
independent states and even the larger ones, hard put to maintain themselves and to continue doing the job they have done so unselfishly and well for
all these years. Observe the contrast between these small states and our government, because, as I have said before, these have always given far more
than was ever given to them in return.
People of 2011, it will be part of the terms of the will for you to take stock in the days to come, because we enjoy a form of government in which
mistakes can be rectified. The dictator can never admit he was wrong, but we are blessed with a form of government where we can call a halt, and say,
"Back up. Let's take another look." Remember that every government service, every offer of government financed security, is paid for in the loss of
personal freedom. I am not castigating government and business for those many areas of normal cooperation, for those services that we know we must
have and that we do willingly support. It is very easy to give up our personal freedom to drive 90 miles an hour down a city street in return for the
safety that we will get for ourselves and our loved ones. Of course, that might not be a good example, it seems sometimes that this is a thing we have
paid for in advance and the merchandise hasn't yet been delivered. But in the days to come whenever a voice is raised telling you to let the
government do it, analyze very carefully to see whether the suggested service is worth the personal freedom which you must forego in return for such
There are many well-meaning people today who work at placing an economic floor beneath all of us so that no one shall exist below a certain level or
standard of living, and certainly we don't quarrel with this. But look more closely and you may find that all too often these well-meaning people are
building a ceiling above which no one shall be permitted to climb and between the two are pressing us all into conformity, into a mold of standardized
mediocrity. The tendency toward assembly-line education in some of our larger institutions, where we are not teaching but training to fulfill certain
specific jobs in the economic life of our nation, is a part of this same pattern.
We have a vast system of public education in this country, a network of great state universities and colleges and none of us would have it otherwise.
But there are those among us who urge expansion of this system until all freedoms are expunged. Today we enjoy academic freedom in America as it is
enjoyed nowhere else in the world. But this pattern was established by the independent people of our Land. Down through the years these colleges and
universities have maintained intellectual freedom because they were beholden to no political group, for when politics control the purse strings, they
also control the policy. No one advocates the elimination of our tax-supported universities, but we should never forget that their academic freedom is
assured only so long as we have the leavening influence of hundreds of privately endowed colleges and universities throughout the land.
So you should resolve, here and now, that you will not only accept your heritage but abide by the terms and conditions of the will. You should firmly
resolve that these freedoms will not just be a part of America's past, but that they will continue to be a part of America's great future. Democracy
with the personal freedoms that are ours we hold literally in trust for that day when we shall have fulfilled our destiny and brought mankind a great
and long step from the swamps. Can we deliver it to our children? Democracy depends upon service voluntarily rendered, money voluntarily
These institutions which have contributed so much to us, from which we have received so much of our heritage, were here for our benefit only because
our forefathers preferred voluntarily to support institutions of their choice in addition to sharing taxation for the support of governmental
institutions. The will provides, people of 2011, not only that you receive this heritage and cherish it, but that you voluntarily tax your own time
and your own money and contribute to these free institutions so that generations not yet born in this country and in the rest of the world, may
benefit from this same heritage of freedom.
It will be very easy for you to say, "Well, I will do something, some day. When I can afford it, I am going to." But would you let an old "grad"
tell you one thing now? Revolution and Freedom is a habit. Get into the habit now, because you will never be able to afford to contribute, thus to
repay the obligation you owe to those people who made this nation possible, if you wait until you think you can afford it. Start now regardless of how
small, and in the days to come when you are confronted with demands for many worthwhile causes and charities I think you will find that you will give
dutifully to all the worthy ones. But here and there you will pick one or two that will be favorites, you will be making your contribution to the
very process which has made and continues to keep America great.
This democracy of ours which sometimes we've treated so lightly, is more than ever a comfortable cloak, so let us not tear it asunder, for no man
knows once it is destroyed where or when he will find its protective warmth again.
Stand up America! for Liberty, for Justice, for All!