Ronald Reagan served as the 40th President of the United States from 1981-1989. Prior to that he served as the 33rd Governor of California from 1967-1975. Although earlier in his life, he lived as a registered Democrat, he became a Conservative and switched to the Republican party in 1962.
His landslide re-election over Walter Mondale in 1984 still stands as the largest electoral college victory in history, 525 out of a possible 538, while also carrying 58.8% of the popular vote. When he left the presidency he held a high approval rating of 68 percent.
Presented here are selected quotes from speeches and writings by Reagan on the Constitution, freedom and liberty, dating from before his first term as governor to after he left the nation’s highest office.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” Mar 30, 1961
“If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth. And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.” Oct 27, 1964
“You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down — up to a man’s age-old dream; the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.” Oct 27, 1964
“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” Jan 5, 1967
“There are those in America today who have come to depend absolutely on government for their security. And when government fails they seek to rectify that failure in the form of granting government more power. So, as government has failed to control crime and violence with the means given it by the Constitution, they seek to give it more power at the expense of the Constitution. But in doing so, in their willingness to give up their arms in the name of safety, they are really giving up their protection from what has always been the chief source of despotism — government. Lord Acton said power corrupts. Surely then, if this is true, the more power we give the government the more corrupt it will become. And if we give it the power to confiscate our arms we also give up the ultimate means to combat that corrupt power.” Sept 1, 1975
“I’m convinced that today the majority of Americans want what those first Americans wanted: A better life for themselves and their children; a minimum of government authority. Very simply, they want to be left alone in peace and safety to take care of the family by earning an honest dollar and putting away some savings.” Jul 6, 1976
“Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay the price.” Jan 20, 1981
“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” Mar 30, 1981
“It’s reported that John Adams’ last words were, Thomas Jefferson survives. History tells us, however, that Jefferson had died shortly before John Adams passed away. But Adams was right. All of us stand in tribute to the truth of those words. We proclaim it again and again with our dedication to keeping this a land of liberty and justice for all, and through our deeds and actions, to ensure that this country remains a bastion of freedom, the last best hope for mankind. As long as a love of liberty is emblazoned on our hearts, Jefferson lives.” Jul 3, 1987
“We the people tell the government what to do, it doesn’t tell us. We the people are the driver, the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world’s constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which We the people tell the government what it is allowed to do. We the people are free.” Jan 11, 1989
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Scott D. Welch is a senior consultant to IC Liberty Films LLC, the distribution and marketing company of the historic Educational Dramatic Comedy movie In Search of Liberty. In the family-friendly movie, a captivating statesman from America’s past takes a modern-day family on a series of wild adventures. With a spicy mix of humor, magic and logic, he opens their eyes to the origins and importance of the U.S. Constitution, the degree to which it is under attack today and what can and must be done to save it.