That Time the President Spoke Truth about Our Enemies
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- While President Barack Obama won't call terrorists "radical Muslims," President Ronald Reagan was known for taking the opposite approach with America's enemies.
During his presidency, he called communism a failed experiment, saying the Soviet Union was an "evil empire."
At the annual Reagan Symposium at Regent University this year, experts discussed how the U.S. worked to spread democracy while Reagan was president compared to U.S. policies today.
"Around the world today, a democratic revolution is gathering new strength," Reagan said in his famous 1982 Westminster speech to the British Parliament.
"How we conduct ourselves here in the Western democracies will determine whether this trend continues. No, democracy is not a fragile flower, still it needs cultivating," he continued.
Republican National Convention: President Reagan's Address at the 1992 RNC, 1992
He challenged the West to help spread democracy around the world, and his Westminster speech stands as one of the greatest of his presidency. At a time when the Soviet Union's presence in the world seemed to be permanent, Reagan predicted the growth of freedom and democracy.
"It was very important, both in mobilizing everybody on the free side of the Iron Curtain, but even more important, I was in several countries, Poland and Hungary and East Germany, where I met people who said, 'We wouldn't be doing what we're doing now and the wall wouldn't be coming down if a leader like Reagan hadn't spoken up, And we knew there was someone who understood and who was behind us on the other side of the wall,'" Aram Bakshian Jr., Reagan's former director of speechwriting, said.
"The march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people," Reagan said in that same Westminster speech.
Those are words Bakshian said Reagan penned himself.
British Parliament: President Reagan's Address to Members of the British Parliament, 1982
The speakers at the Reagan Symposium commented on the stark contrast between Reagan's speeches about communism and President Obama's refusal to use the words "radical Islam" when talking about terrorism.
"The difference between Ronald Reagan and President Obama is that President Obama is politically correct and Reagan was correct," Bakshian said.
Craig Shirley, bestselling author of several books about Reagan and the first Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, said one major difference is consistency.
"There was consistency to Reagan's eight years as president and consistency in his attitude toward the Soviets. Obama seems to be kind of a hodge-podge. He's pro-Israel and then he's questionable on Israel, he's going to re-set with Putin and now he's pulled back from Putin," Shirley explained.
At the 1992 Republican National Convention, Reagan talked about winning the Cold War and the victory over communism, showing that he wasn't afraid to call his enemies exactly what they were.
"It was a world where our leaders told us that standing up to aggressors was dangerous -- that American might and determination were somehow obstacles to peace," Reagan said during that speech.
"But we knew then what the liberal Democrat leaders just couldn't figure out: the sky would not fall if America restored her strength and resolve. The sky would not fall if an American president spoke the truth. The only thing that would fall was the Berlin Wall," he continued.
The panelists at the Reagan Symposium acknowledged that we are now facing deadly enemies, just as Reagan did in the 1980s, in a world hungry for leadership. So what should the United States do now to again promote freedom and democracy?
Perhaps the best advice for our current and future administrations came from Reagan himself in that 1982 Westminster speech.
"Let us be shy no longer, let us go to our strength, let us offer hope," he said. "Let us tell the world that a new age is not only possible, but probable."