Ronald Reagan picture

Address to the Nation on the Eve of the Presidential Election

November 05, 1984

My fellow citizens:

The final hours of the campaign are upon us, and tomorrow America's future will be in your hands. I urge all of you, please, take time to vote. You are the guardians of this great democracy.

Tonight I want to share with you my views about the issues that directly concern our future, the future of our children, and the future of this dream we call America. This election offers us the clearest choice in many years: whether we go forward together with courage, confidence, and common sense, making America strong again; or turn back to policies that weakened our economy, diminished our leadership in the world, and reversed America's long-revered tradition of progress.

Four years ago tonight I asked you to join us in a great national effort to free America from leadership that said we suffered from a malaise, that told us we must learn to live with less, and that our children could no longer dream as we once had dreamed. And, yes, that inflation, taxes, no growth at home, and the steady loss of freedom and respect for America abroad were all beyond our control.

I told you what I'd believed all my life: The greatness of America doesn't begin in Washington; it begins with each of you—in the mighty spirit of free people under God, in the bedrock values you live by each day in your families, neighborhoods, and work-places. Each of you is an individual worthy of respect, unique and important to the success of America. And only by trusting you, giving you opportunities to climb high and reach for the stars, can we preserve the golden dream of America as the champion of peace and freedom among the nations of the world.

Beginning the era of national renewal we promised on Inauguration Day hasn't always been easy. The professional politicians of Washington are set in their ways. As you worked harder to keep up with inflation, they had raised your taxes. When our industries staggered, they piled on more regulations. When educational quality slumped, they piled on more bureaucratic controls. They watched crime terrorize our citizens and responded with more lenient judges, sentencing, and parole. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, they punished our farmers with a grain embargo and neglected to rebuild our defenses. Those who spent a career doing these things made one thing plain: They didn't care how the American people had voted. They ridiculed our new ideas. House Speaker Tip O'Neill even warned us that things might not move as fast as we think they should because, "You're in the big leagues now."

But then we did something that shocked the old guard here in Washington—we took our case to you, the people. And you gave us your support. You told those "big leaguers" how double-digit inflation, high taxes, and outrageous interest rates had made it so difficult to buy homes, raise children, live on pensions, start businesses, or even find jobs. You said that our defenses had become dangerously weak, and you felt less secure. You made democracy work by sending one message to Washington loud and clear. The message was: We want a change, and we want it now.

You got their attention. Together we took command of a rudderless ship, adrift in a sea of confusion. We reduced the growth of spending from 17 percent to 6 percent, reduced regulations and paperwork, cut your income taxes by 25 percent, and indexed the rates so government can't profit by driving you into higher tax brackets when you get a cost-of-living pay raise. We provided incentives to modernize older industries and start up new ones, reduced estate taxes for family farms and small businesses, reduced the marriage tax penalty, and increased the child-care credit, the rate of return for small savers, and incentives for IRA's and Keogh contributions. We began to rebuild your defenses, which strengthened our alliances.

We still have much to do—to make our families more secure, to help many of you on our farms and in our inner cities, or working in older industries not yet back on their feet. There will be no final victory until we meet those challenges, until every American who wants a job can find a job, so that all of us are going forward together.

But we can and will, because one fact is not debatable: America has made an amazing comeback. Four years ago inflation, taxes, interest rates, and crime were all going up; tonight, they're coming down. Confidence, jobs, investment, growth, and achievement in our schools were all going down; now they're going up. The United States economy was dragging the world into recession, America was falling back, the Soviets were advancing—and all of that made peace less secure.

Tonight our expansion is leading the world into recovery, our alliances are stronger, we're deterring aggression, the Soviets are no longer advancing—and all of that makes peace more secure. As President Eisenhower once said, "Everything is booming but the guns."

On election eve 4 years ago I mentioned those who said America was in her fading years, that she had no more heroes, and I noted the news coverage about the death of my friend, John Wayne. One headline read, "The Last American Hero." I said then that no one would be angrier than Duke Wayne at the suggestion that he was America's last hero. Just before he died, he said in his unforgettable way, "Just give the American people a good cause, and there's nothing they can't lick." And you've proven he was right.

If anyone is looking for heroes, let them look at Main Street America—all of you who during these past 4 years proved that the big leagues aren't with the Washington establishment. The big leagues are out in the heartland with you—small business men and women, teachers, farmers, ranchers, blue-collar workers, homemakers, and high-tech entrepreneurs. You brought America back, and you're making us great again. All we did was get government out of your way.

But our opponents have a very different vision for your future. Where we look at a problem and see opportunity, they look at opportunity and see a problem. We believe in knowing when opportunity knocks; they seem determined to knock opportunity. We work to increase your take-home pay; they're working overtime to tax it away. Despite their good intentions, I don't believe they place enough faith in people.

Rather than encourage you to dream great dreams and provide opportunities to help America grow, they keep trying to make government grow. They do everything they can to save us from prosperity. And they keep right on giving us the same medicine that made us sick in the first place. They fought the idea of giving you a tax cut. If they'd had their way, average families would be paying over $900 more in taxes today. They've tried to repeal indexing, which protects working people from higher tax brackets. Indexing doesn't help the rich; they're already in the high brackets.

Well, we stopped them, but they kept predicting disaster. They said our tax reduction would be murderously inflationary. That was just before inflation was reduced from 12.4 to around 4 percent. They said there would be no recovery—just before recovery took off. Then they said it couldn't last—and now we have the best economic expansion in 30 years.

Their team has a plan that will raise taxes the equivalent of more than $150 per household every single month. They have a knee-jerk addiction to tax increases. And every time their knee jerks, we get kicked.

What has happened to the Democratic Party's concern for protecting the earnings of working people and promoting economic growth? Unlike today's Democratic leadership, President John F. Kennedy's program cut personal income taxes by 22 percent-just about what ours did. Then he coupled that with new incentives for industry, which led to a surge in investment, productivity, jobs, real wages, and economic growth. Sounds like what's going on today, doesn't it? Well, sadly, our opponent's team is not in the tradition of President Kennedy and his predecessors, Truman and Roosevelt. Their policies never sent out an S.O.S. They proudly proclaimed U.S.A.!

Tomorrow we can vote to go forward with an America of momentum, or back to an America of malaise; go forward with an economy that's robust, or back to an economy that went bust; go forward with morale up, jobs up, and inflation and taxes down, or back to seeing things the other way around.

Why raise our taxes, when we can raise our sights? Why accept policies that ration our strength, when we can vote for policies that build our strength? Let's walk together on the new path of hope and opportunity and work in a new spirit of patriotism to improve our neighborhoods and communities and build a better America.

If the dream of America is to be preserved, we must not waste the genius of one mind, the strength of one body, or the spirit of one soul. Let us encourage all Americans—men and women, young and old, individuals of every race, creed, and color—to succeed and to be healthy, happy, and whole. Our goal is a society of unlimited opportunity which will reach out to lift the weak and nurture those who are less fortunate. And in spite of what you've heard in this campaign, we are giving more help to more people who need our help than ever in our history.

But the vision we outlined in 1980 does not come to an end simply because 4 years have passed. Our work is not finished. We must continue not only into the next 4 years, but into the next decade and beyond to meet our goal of sustained economic growth without inflation, a strong country prepared for peace.

We need your support for two long-overdue reforms resisted by the House leadership: a constitutional amendment to balance our budget and a line-item veto, giving a President authority to veto individual pork barrel items within appropriations bills. Forty-three State Governors today have such authority. The President of the United States does not.

Lowering everybody's personal tax rates helped create the strongest economic expansion in 30 years. We shouldn't stop there. We can simplify our tax system, bring your tax rates down further, and keep the United States the undisputed leader for jobs, innovation, growth, and a better life for years to come.

A strong America will continue to push back frontiers of science and space, and discover wonders of the unknown, and achieve breakthroughs in medicine, technology, and communication that will enable the world to make great new leaps in human progress. We're going to maintain our leadership in space, go forward with our space shuttle program, and meet our challenge of building a permanently manned space station within a decade. We lead the world in advanced technology. We can use our knowledge and economic power to modernize our older industries. If we give our workers the tools they need, they can outproduce, outcompete, and outsell anybody, anytime, anywhere in the world.

Going forward together also means rebuilding the most distressed areas of our country, and that begins with getting your help to force that stubborn leadership in the House of Representatives to free our enterprise zone legislation it's had bottled up in committee for 3 years now. Then they should pass our youth opportunity wage to help teenagers learn skills and start climbing the economic ladder.

We'll keep moving forward with our grassroots drive to restore in our schools needed discipline, emphasis on basics, merit pay for teachers, greater involvement by parents, and standards of excellence that again seek the best for America. Young Americans are trying harder, and test scores show they are doing better for the first time in 20 years. Their improvement should give us confidence America will become more productive and competitive in this fast-changing world.

Our crackdown on crime, thanks to energetic support from citizens groups and local law enforcement agencies, has produced the sharpest drop ever in the history of the crime index. We intend to keep cracking down until your families and friends can walk your streets again without fear. And let's make a national commitment to save our children from the drug abuse that poisons their minds and bodies.

We have always followed two tracks in our defense and national security policies. One is to reverse the decline in our military defenses and restore respect for America. The other, equally important, is to search for peace through the negotiation of real arms reductions. We're proud to say that in the past 4 years, not 1 inch of soil has been lost to Communist aggression. By rebuilding our strength and making ourselves reliable again we can keep this nation strong enough to protect freedom and peace for us, for our children and our children's children. And one day, all nations can begin to reduce nuclear weapons and ultimately banish them from the face of the Earth.

This is our plan for the future. If you believe that America has made a new beginning, that we're moving forward again but could move much faster and farther by ending the obstruction in that Congress, will you support us by sending us a Congress we can work with?—one that believes in the same principles you do; a Congress that won't increase your taxes and spend our revenues uncontrollably.

We can strengthen our economy, our security, and the values that bind us. We can build an America even greater in science, literature, and the arts, and improve the quality of life for all our people. We can keep faith with the God who has made and blessed us as no other people have ever been blessed.

This is the world that can be for each child born November 6th, 1984: a world at peace and alive with freedom; a society of growth, opportunity, and progress.

In speaking tonight of America's traditional values and philosophy of government, we must remember the most distinctive mark of all in the American experience: To a tired and disillusioned world, we've always been a New World and, yes, a shining city on a hill where all things are possible.

Our alliances, the strength of our democratic system, the resolve of free people-all are beginning to hold sway in the world. We've helped nourish an enthusiasm that grows each day, a burning spirit that will not be denied: Mankind was born to be free. The tide of the future is a freedom tide.

This, then, is our historic task—it always has been—to present to the world an America that is not just strong and secure, but an America that has a cause and a vision of a future where all peoples can experience the warmth and hope of individual liberty.

Today America travels again the road of increased self-government and personal freedom. What a change from only those few years ago when patriotism seemed out of style.

I'm not sure anyone really knows when this new patriotism began or how it grew so quickly. Was its seed first planted that day our POW's, who had braved a horrendous captivity in North Vietnam, came home and said, "God bless America," and then actually thanked us for what we had done for them? Or maybe it was that unforgettable moment when after 444 days of captivity, our hostages came home from Iran to breathe American freedom again.

We've known great joy—as when we welcomed back our soldiers and those students from Grenada—but also enduring grief from the loss of brave men—on the Grenada rescue mission and on our peacekeeping mission in Beirut. Each gave his life for a noble cause. Each must be remembered and honored—forever.

I treasure a memory of a visit to Normandy, where I met the boys of Pointe du Hoe. And later, at Omaha Beach, I read from the letter of a loving daughter who had promised her father, a Normandy veteran, that someday she would go back there for him. She would see the beaches and visit the monuments and place flowers at the graves of his fallen comrades. 'I'll never forget what you went through," she wrote. And, "Dad, I'll always be proud."

We should pray that as much as we honor those who died to make us free, we also fervently pray such sacrifice will never again be required; that there will be a day when new battlefields are never again created.

This and every election is what they sacrificed for. They gave everything to preserve and protect the vote you are free to exercise tomorrow. Regardless of how you choose, you must take the time to make that choice.

I'm profoundly thankful to all of you for giving me the privilege of serving you these last 4 years. I ask for your vote again for one purpose only—to complete the task we began together 4 years ago.

Along with George Bush—the strongest and finest Vice President in my memory-I've traveled all across our country this year. We've both seen our young people-your sons and daughters and grandchildren-tens of thousands of them. We've met them on college and university campuses, and younger ones in schoolrooms and playgrounds.

For me, a vivid recollection of them will be from a whistle-stop train tour through Ohio in that historic ear that once carried Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower across America. America had a smile in her heart that day. At each stop and through each community, whether gathered on their sidewalks, back lawns, or the plowed fields of their farms, again and again it was the young people I remembered—Cub Scouts in blue shirts and bright yellow kerchiefs, high school bands, college crowds, and little girls perched atop their dads' shoulders. Well, they and millions more like them are what this election is all about.

Watching the Olympic games last summer, Nancy and I were thrilled, as I'm sure you were, when we heard those repeated chants of U.S.A.! U.S.A.! Did it occur to you, as it did to us, that while each of those words—United States of America—is important, none is more so than the first. Yes, we are united. That is our rich heritage. There were moments in recent years when we wondered if we were still united, but not today. Crisscrossing this land these last few months, I have seen such proof of national unity I know our children will inherit an America that's united and coming together again.

There's more than the freshness of youth on those faces I've seen; there is the future and hope of all America. Tomorrow is theirs, a time when they can fly as high as their talents will take them. It's up to us to pass on to them a nation that's free in a world at peace.

If you honor George and me once again with your vote, we will do everything in our power to be worthy of it.

America is coming together again. We're building together. But what I'm really thankful for is that all across this shining land, we're hoping together. We can say to the world and pledge to our children: America's best days lie ahead. And you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Thank you, good night, and God bless you.

Note: The President's remarks were taped in the Oval Office at the White House on October 31 for broadcast on November 5. The broadcast was paid for by the Reagan-Bush '84 campaign.

Ronald Reagan, Address to the Nation on the Eve of the Presidential Election Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives