Ronald Reagan spent his formative years as a radio announcer and a film actor. Few presidents have demonstrated Reagan’s gift for delivering telling phrases that stuck in the public mind and defined issues in stark, simplified terms. Here is a selection of some of those phrases —some that made Reagan famous and others that he made famous.
‘One for the Gipper’
"Someday when things are tough, maybe you can ask the boys to go in there and win just one for the Gipper." —Portraying football player George Gipp in the film “Knute Rockne, All American,” 1940
'Shining city on a hill'
Let us resolve tonight that young Americans will always ... find there a city of hope in a country that is free.... And let us resolve they will say of our day and our generation, we did keep the faith with our God, that we did act worthy of ourselves, that we did protect and pass on lovingly that shining city on a hill." — Election Eve speech, Nov. 3, 1980
‘We have piled deficit upon deficit’
"For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.
You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?" —Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1981
‘Tear down this wall’
“If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here, to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” —Speech at the Berlin Wall, June 12, 1987
‘Grown beyond the consent of the governed’
"We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed." —Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1981
‘A special interest group that has been too long neglected’
"We hear much of special interest groups. Our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected.
"It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and our factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we are sick—professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truck drivers.
"They are, in short, 'We the people,' this breed called Americans." —Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1981
‘I forgot to duck’
"Honey, I forgot to duck." — 1981, Reagan to his wife, as he recovered gunshot wounds after an assassination attempt by John Hinckley on March 30, 1981
‘A time of reckoning’
"An almost unbroken 50 years of deficit spending has finally brought us to a time of reckoning. We have come to a turning point, a moment for hard decisions. I have asked the Cabinet and my staff a question, and now I put the same question to all of you: If not us, who? And if not now, when? It must be done by all of us going forward with a program aimed at reaching a balanced budget. We can then begin reducing the national debt." —Second inaugural address, Jan. 21, 1985
‘Render nuclear weapons obsolete’
"For decades, we and the Soviets have lived under the threat of mutual assured destruction; if either resorted to the use of nuclear weapons, the other could retaliate and destroy the one who had started it. Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side threatens to kill tens of millions of our people, our only recourse is to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs?
"I have approved a research program to find, if we can, a security shield that would destroy nuclear missiles before they reach their target. It wouldn't kill people, it would destroy weapons. It wouldn't militarize space, it would help demilitarize the arsenals of Earth. It would render nuclear weapons obsolete." —Second inaugural address, Jan. 21, 1985
‘Whatever else history may say’
“Whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears....
“May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance and never lose your natural, God-given optimism.” —Speech to Republican National Convention, Aug. 17, 1992
‘Go ahead, make my day’
"I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers: Go ahead, make my day." —March 13, 1985, in a speech threatening to veto legislation raising taxes.
‘You don't become president of the United States’
"When people tell me I became president on January 20, 1981, I feel I have to correct them. You don't become president of the United States. You are given temporary custody of an institution called the presidency, which belongs to our people." — Address to the Republican national convention. Aug. 15, 1988
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