Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the 40th Anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly

October 19, 1985

My fellow Americans:

Next week Nancy and I will be traveling to New York City. We'll be joining some 80 world leaders and other distinguished guests from around the globe to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly. I'll be meeting with many of these leaders, and I want to share with you my thoughts and hopes on this special occasion.

I can remember vividly the high hopes and expectations we all shared when the United Nations was created in 1945. The nations of the world, exhausted and devastated after the most destructive war in history, came together to lay the foundation for a better world, one free of war. President Harry Truman declared on behalf of all Americans our solemn dedication to fight for the principles of the U.N. Charter: peace, freedom, and an end to tyranny, hunger, and human suffering.

Americans have never stopped striving to uphold and defend those principles. The American people have held high the torch of freedom for all those fighting for liberty around the world. Our farmers have provided food for millions of needy people across the globe. We helped rebuild the nations ravaged by the Second World War. We and our allies have worked to prevent a third. We've come to the aid of our friends threatened by aggression in Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, El Salvador, and Grenada. And we've worked to bring about peace in the Middle East and offered far-reaching proposals to reduce nuclear arsenals. For 40 years, we have honorably carried out our responsibilities to the U.N. Charter, and we have not hesitated to stand firm against those who've sought to undermine peace and freedom for their own sinister ends.

In the coming weeks, we will have a new opportunity to pursue the charter's lofty goals. On Monday, Nancy will be meeting with 31 other first ladies at the U.N. to continue the cooperative efforts she began last spring to focus world attention on the devastating problem of drug abuse. This is a problem which affects the well-being of virtually every country and can only be solved through the kind of cooperative efforts the United Nations was intended to foster. In 1 month, I will be meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. I intend to discuss with him, openly and frankly, the obstacles to peace and to suggest how, together, we can remove some of them. If he's receptive, our discussions can go a long way toward building a safer world and realizing the ideals of the U.N. Charter.

The United Nations' founders understood that true peace must be based on more than just reducing the means of waging war. It must address the sources of tension that provoke men to take up arms. True peace is based on self-determination, respect for individual rights, open and honest communications, and that is the kind of peace we want. We want countries to stop trying to expand their power and control through armed intervention and subversion. We have the opportunity—in fact, we have the mandate—to reduce the danger of nuclear war by drastic reduction of nuclear arsenals. And that's why we've proposed radical, verifiable, and balanced reductions of offensive nuclear weapons and why we're pursuing research and testing to identify defensive technologies which threaten no one.

We must defend human rights everywhere, since countries which respect human rights are unlikely to unleash war or to impose their will on others. And that's why we insist that the Helsinki accords and other international commitments be observed. We must establish better communication between our societies, since misunderstandings make the world more dangerous. These will be the subjects of my discussion with General Secretary Gorbachev. I hope that our discussions will contribute to building true peace, to guaranteeing a safe path into the 21st century. But whether this comes to pass will depend on the Soviet willingness to address the real sources of tension in the world and, in particular, their conduct in the world, their treatment of their own citizens, and their continuing and longstanding arms buildup. In preparing for my meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev, I'll be seeking the advice and counsel of our allies and friends, some of whom will be in New York with me. With their support and yours, we can set a course now for a safer future.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on the 40th Anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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