Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Family Values

December 20, 1986

My fellow Americans:

The holiday season is a time of gift giving and merrymaking; a time when millions help churches, synagogues, and organizations like the Salvation Army and Toys for Tots provide for the less fortunate among us, a time when huge turkey dinners are cooked, parents find themselves staying up late wrapping toys, and children's eyes are filled with more and more excitement every day—a time, indeed, when all the world seems taken up with plans and celebrations and family.

That last word, "family," is one that I'd like to consider for a moment. To be sure, family is very much on our minds during the holidays, as children and grandchildren, parents and grandparents, gather to share the happiness of the season. We know how good it feels to be with our families—how it warms and comforts us, how it gives us strength and joy. But I wonder whether we always give our families all the appreciation they deserve. Consider, for example, that the philosopher-historians Will and Ariel Durant called the family "the nucleus of civilization." They understood that all those aspects of civilized life that we most deeply cherish—freedom, the rule of law, economic prosperity and opportunity—that all these depend upon the strength and integrity of the family. If you think about it, you'll see that it's in the family that we must all learn the fundamental lesson of life—right and wrong, respect for others, self-discipline, the importance of knowledge, and, yes, a sense of our own self-worth. All of our lives, it's the love of our families that sustains us when times are hard. And it is perhaps above all to provide for our children that we work and save.

Some have suggested that in today's world, the family has somehow become less important. Well, I can't help thinking just the opposite: that when so much around us is whispering the little lie that we should live only for the moment and for ourselves, it's more important than ever for our families to affirm an older and more lasting set of values. Yet, for all that, in recent decades the American family has come under virtual attack. It has lost authority to government rule writers. It has seen its central role in the education of young people narrowed and distorted. And it's been forced to turn over to big government far too many of its own resources in the form of taxation.

Even so, the family today remains the fundamental unit of American life. But statistics show that it has lost ground, and I don't believe there's much doubt that the American family could be, and should be, much, much stronger. Just last month, I received a report on this from my Working Group on the Family, providing recommendations for giving the family new strength. Our administration will be giving these recommendations serious consideration in the days ahead. But for now we might all do well to keep our families in mind, to make certain that we don't take them for granted. For perhaps at no other time of the year are we able to enjoy our families so thoroughly or see so clearly their importance to ourselves and our country.

And let us remember that in the midst of all the happy bustle of the season there is a certain quietness, a certain calm: the calm of one still night long ago and of a family-father, mother, and newborn child. Listen for a moment to the words of the Scriptures:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"

Now, some revere Christ as just a great prophet. Others worship Him as the Son of God. But to all, this season in which we mark His birth is indeed a time of glad tidings. So, in the midst of our celebrations, let us remember that one holy family in a manger on that still night in Bethlehem so long ago and give renewed thanks for the blessings of our own families. And, yes, let us pray for "peace on earth, good will toward men."

Until next week, thanks for listening, God bless, and from the Reagan family to your family, Merry Christmas!

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Family Values Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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