President Reagan and Nancy, Barbara and I are just delighted to be here on this 11th anniversary of your election as President. My special greeting, of course, to your fellow Californians, President and Mrs. Nixon; also President and Mrs. Ford; President and Mrs. Carter. Mrs. Johnson, you're so sweet to be here. Members of the Reagan, Kennedy, Johnson, and Roosevelt families.
As I listen to these talks I got to thinking: Wouldn't Fred Travalina, Rich Little, Dana Carvey have a wonderful time here today? [Laughter] And I was so moved by Chuck Heston's opening comments; and Lod Cook, congratulations, sir. Once again, you've stepped up and done a superb job. Reverend Donn Moomaw, thank you, sir, for the invocation. And, of course, being with my trusted adviser and military leader, General Colin Powell, is a treat. And then, deja vu, as Sergeant Alvie Powell sang "The Star-Spangled Banner." He did that at my inauguration, and I'll never forget it. Ambassador Annenberg and all who worked so hard on this library, our profound thanks to you.
This marks an historic occasion. For the first time, five Presidents and six First Ladies, past and present, have gathered together in the same locale. The four former Presidents, dedicated public servants, and these wonderful First Ladies, each has played a significant part in the American story.
We begin with the 37th President, Richard Nixon, and the woman we know and love as Pat. Mr. President, you were an innovator at home, a peacemaker and groundbreaker abroad. We'll never forget it. Here, too, are Betty Ford and America's 38th President, Gerald Ford. To this son of Michigan we say: We are very grateful for your quiet strength of character, your vigor, and your just plain innate decency.
Next, we thank the 39th President, Jimmy Carter, and his wife Rosalyn. America applauds your life-long commitment, sir, to peace, to human rights, to helping others. And it was most gracious of you to make such an extra effort to be here today.
And I feel very badly that you haven't met a Democratic President yet, but please don't do anything about that. [Laughter] And Lady Bird, Mrs. Johnson, we salute you for your dedication to our natural beauty and also for your love of family that shines through every single day.
Today, we're here to honor "An American Life," which is the title of his autobiography. We also honor an American original. Ronald Reagan was born on February 6th, but his heart is the Fourth of July.
And with his disarming sense of humor, President Reagan was something refreshingly different in Washington: A politician who was funny on purpose. [Laughter] And he also was, though, a visionary, a crusader, and a prophet in his time.
He was a political prophet, leading the tide toward conservatism. He was also a Main Street prophet. He understood that America is great because of what we are, not what we have. Politics can be cruel, can be mean and ugly and uncivil. And unfailingly, Ronald Reagan was strong and gentle. And he ennobled public service. He embodied the American character. He came from the heart of America geographically and culturally. Not even a bullet from the gun of a would-be assassin could stay his spirit.
I remember the terrible day in March of '81. He looked at the doctors in the emergency room and said, "I hope you're all Republicans." [Laughter] Well, Republicans or Democrats, his courage and humor made us all proud, proud to be Americans. And for 8 years, I was very proud to be his Vice President. And I saw a man who was thoughtful, sentimental, sending money to strangers who touched him, writing letters on yellow legal paper, and asking that they be retyped because he wanted to make it easier for the recipients to read.
As President, Ronald Reagan was unmoved by the vagaries of intellectual fashion. He treasured values that last, values that endure. And I speak of patriotism and civility and generosity and kindness, values etched in the American character. Once asked who he admired most in history, he simply responded, "The man from Galilee."
Mr. President, your faith is what is true and good, and that helped reaffirm our faith in the United States of America. Ronald Reagan believes in returning power to the people, and so he helped the private sector create more than 16 million jobs. He sought to enlarge opportunity, not Government. So, he lowered taxes and spending and cut inflation and helped create the longest peacetime boom in American history.
How ironic that the oldest President of the United States would prove as young as the American spirit. Here, as in Washington -- [applause] -- here, as in Washington, he was aided by the true love of his life. As First Lady, Nancy championed the Foster Grandparents Program, heightened breast cancer awareness. She refurbished the White House with the dignity that is her legacy. She sure left us a nice, cozy place to live, I might say. [Laughter] And to the scourge of drugs, she urged America's children to "Just Say No." And Nancy, for these things, and many more, all Americans salute you.
And finally, the President was a global prophet. Today, we've heard this, but the world is safer because he believed that we who are free to live our dreams have a duty to support those who dream of living free.
He predicted that communism would land in the dustbin of history, and history proved him right. And he knew that when it comes to national defense, finishing second means finishing last. So he practiced what he preached, supporting a strong military and pioneering the Strategic Defense Initiative. And his vision paid off for every American in the sea and sands of the Gulf. And America thanks him for that, too.
Mr. President, history will record the 1980's were not only among America's finest hours, they became perhaps democracy's finest era. Our friend, the Iron Lady, as usual, said it best. I speak of Margaret Thatcher, your fellow liegeman of liberty. Recently, she spoke of how great leaders are summed up in a sentence. Here's a quote: "Ronald Reagan won the cold war without firing a shot. He had a little help. At least that's what he tells me." [Laughter] And looking here at men and women from Presidencies of the last three decades, it occurs to me that help came largely from the American people and you.
Here's part of what the historians will say of Ronald Reagan: He was the Great Communicator and also the Great Liberator. From Normandy to Moscow, from Berlin to the Oval Office, no leader since Churchill used words so effectively to help freedom unchain our world.
You were prophet and President, and I want to thank you for your many, many kindnesses to Barbara and to me. You love this country. You know America. And you have blessed America as few men ever have. Now, it is my distinct privilege and honor to introduce the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.