Ronald Reagan started on radio, and to radio he returns. America’s 40th president will share his conservative and free-market ideas on some 70 stations from coast to coast. And not a second too soon.
Never mind that President Reagan passed away on June 5, 2004. His presidential library has launched “Ronald Reagan Speaks for Himself,” a selection of 65 of roughly 1,000 commentaries he broadcast on 286 stations between 1975 and 1979. These two-minute viewpoints aired before his 1976 near-defeat of incumbent Gerald Ford and again, prior to his 1980 triumph over President Jimmy Carter. Today’s rebroadcasts exclude dated perspectives, such as those decrying Soviet Communism. Reagan retired that topic by winning the Cold War without flexing his trigger finger.
These relaunched spots, however, remain startlingly relevant, underscoring both the intractability of so many problems and the amazing timelessness of Ronald Reagan’s common sense and uncommon wisdom.
“It’s easy to get mad at the OPEC nations when they raise the price of oil, but maybe we should get mad at ourselves,” he said in January 1979. “OPEC oil is priced in American dollars. In the last few years while our dollar has been going down in value relative to more stable currencies. . . . The OPEC nations have to up the number of dollars they get just to stay even. And it is we who are responsible for reducing the value of the dollar.”
Reagan’s February, 1975 remarks could have been authored this morning. He cited “the need to zero in on inflation and not push the panic button because of recession. Now the leaders in Congress are making it very evident that political considerations will determine what they do — not what is good for the country.” Reagan then warns against “calling for the Federal Reserve Board to loosen the purse strings” and laments that “Sometimes it seems as if Congress will do anything to avoid cutting spending or facing reality. . . . May I suggest that you write and tell them no more tranquilizers. We want a permanent cure for what ails us, and that doesn’t mean printing-press money.”
As though joining today’s debate on expanding atomic power, Reagan explained in 1975, “If you were at the race track and the handicappers told you the odds of a certain horse were 100 to 1, you’d figure his chances of winning were pretty slim.” Experts, Reagan added, “have put the odds on a fatal accident occurring in a nuclear power plant at 300 million to 1. . . . Put another way, it’s about as likely as you being run over by a horse in your bathtub.”
Critiquing the Endangered Species Act in 1977, Reagan asks: “How much do you miss dinosaurs? Would your life be richer if those giant pre-historic flying lizards occasionally settled on your front lawn?” He continues: “We have contributed to the disappearance of some species by destroying habitat or hunting them down for food, fun, and feathers. . . . But shouldn’t we now and then remember nature’s part in the elimination of some species and separate the serious from the silly in our own policy?”
Why Reagan, and why now? Next November, Americans will pick new, 21st-century leaders, so why heed a man who passed away in 2004, left Washington in 1989, and recorded this advice three decades ago?
“Ronald Reagan was prescient about many issues, focused on the big picture, and his values suffused everything he wrote,” says veteran aide Peter Hannaford, who introduces these resurrected radio essays. “As a communicator, he remains the Gold Standard. Much of what he discussed is as timely today as it was then.”
Many of these recordings also are transcribed in Martin and Annelise Anderson’s book, Ronald Reagan in His Own Hand. These Hoover Institution researchers discovered that Reagan hand-wrote at least 670 of these scripts concerning a parade of issues. Facts, figures, lucid arguments, and good humor poured from Reagan’s pen. The Andersons’ meticulous scholarship machine-gunned the lie that Reagan was merely an “amiable dunce,” as the late Democratic luminary Clark Clifford once clucked. In fact, Martin Anderson has dubbed Ronald Reagan “a one-man think tank” whose intellect helped him win the White House.
Oh, to find such clarity of thought, commitment to principle, and raw communications skills today.