Reagan’s words relevant, important internationally and at home

Star Parker
Conservative Opinion

Star Parker

Founder & President, Center for Urban Renewal and Education
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America was forced to confront the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal back in the 1980s. Amid that conflict, President Reagan delivered a speech that rings true today.

“I urge you to be aware of the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history, and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourselves from the struggle of right and wrong, good and evil.”

That March 1983 address to the National Association of Evangelicals became known as the “Evil Empire” speech, and, as we watch events unfolding in Ukraine and at home, Reagan’s remarks guide us.

We see a direct correlation within our own borders, in our own country, of the decline in faith in the eternal principles that keep us free and safe. And with this decline, Americans are gradually, but decisively, choosing to abandon our freedoms.  

In a survey published at the end of last year, Gallup reported that 69 percent of Americans self-identified as Christians in 2021 compared to 90 percent who self-identified as Christians in 1971.

In 2021, twenty-one percent of Americans said they have “no religion” compared to only 4 percent in 1971.

In 1965, 70 percent of Americans said religion was “very important” to them. By 2021 this was down to 49 percent.  

Coincident with the decline of the importance that Americans give to religion, Americans now have turned over their lives increasingly to more government – government control.  

In 1950, government at the federal, state, and local level took almost 23 percent of the American economy.  In 2020, that reached almost 45 percent.

So let’s turn back again to what Reagan said.  

Reagan said in that same speech, “We must never forget that no government schemes are going to perfect man.” 

Our struggle, according to Reagan, is about good and evil.

It’s not an accident that as America retreats in this struggle, as Americans increasingly believe that government can perfect man, and as we relinquish our freedoms that despots like Putin will step forward and try to move the world back to a darker time. 

We must not let that happen. We must regain as Americans our moral strength, our moral integrity, our moral character.

Regardless of what any American feels about what steps we should take in response to Vladimir Putin’s aggressive war in Ukraine, for sure most are appalled by what he has done.     

As Putin moves to regain Russian control over nations that once were part of the Soviet sphere, we ought to think about the circumstances under which the Soviet Union collapsed to consider how it all might be reversed.

In March 1983, President Ronald Reagan spoke to the National Association of Evangelicals and delivered what would famously become known as the speech in which he called the Soviet Union the “evil empire.”

Discussing America’s effort to confront the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal, President Ronald Reagan said

 “I urge you to be aware of the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history, and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourselves from the struggle of right and wrong, good and evil.”

Reagan spoke more than powerful words of truth that day.  He spoke almost as a prophet.

In that speech he said that, “While America’s military strength is important, let me add here that I have always maintained that the struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might. The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; it is a test of moral will and faith.”

Some eight years later, the Soviet Union, which for years during the Cold War was thought to be the superpower rival of the United States, collapsed.  

There was no war. There was just Reagan’s unwavering commitment to the principles he articulated that day in 1983. 

Eight years after that speech, in 1991, the Ukraine, now under siege by Putin, was independent and free.

Now, here we are some 30 years later, as Americans watch events unfold in the Ukraine, perhaps we should refocus on what’s going on in our own country.

For if we lose a sense of the importance and relevance of Reagan’s words as they apply at home today, we surely will not know how to relate to events as they transpire in the rest of the world.

And there is plenty of reason to believe we are losing that perspective here at home.  

We see a direct correlation within our own borders, in our own country, of the decline in faith in the eternal principles that keep us free and safe, and, with this decline, Americans are gradually, but decisively, choosing to abandon our freedoms.  

In a survey published at the end of last year, Gallup reported that 69 percent of Americans self-identified as Christians in 2021 compared to 90 percent who self-identified as Christians in 1971.

In 2021, twenty-one percent of Americans said they have “no religion” compared to only 4 percent in 1971.

In 1965, 70 percent of Americans said religion was “very important” to them.  By 2021 this was down to 49 percent.  

Coincident with the decline of the importance that Americans give to religion, Americans now have turned over their lives increasingly to more government – government control.  

In 1950, government at the federal, state, and local level took almost 23 percent of the American economy.  In 2020, that reached almost 45 percent.

So let’s turn back again to what Reagan said.  

Reagan said in that same speech, “We must never forget that no government schemes are going to perfect man.” 

Our struggle, according to Reagan, is about good and evil.

It’s not an accident that as America retreats in this struggle, as Americans increasingly believe that government can perfect man, and as we relinquish our freedoms that despots like Putin will step forward and try to move the world back to a darker time. 

We must not let that happen. We must regain as Americans our moral strength, our moral integrity, our moral character.


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