Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the Observance of Mother's Day

May 07, 1983

My fellow Americans:

This is a very special weekend in American life, a time specially set aside to honor our mothers and the mothers of our children. As we do, we acknowledge their role as the heart of our families and reinforce our families as the cornerstone of our society.

In our families, and often from our mothers, we first learn about values and eating and the difference between right and wrong. Those of us blessed with loving families draw our confidence from them and the strength we need to face the world. We also first learn at home, and, again, often from our mothers, about the God who will guide us through life.

The mothers we honor this weekend, young or not so young, partners or alone, well-to-do or sometimes agonizingly poor, are as diverse as our varied population. But they share a commitment to future generations and a yearning to improve the world their children will inherit. They shape the America we know today and are now molding the character of our country tomorrow.

Since men seem to have written most of our history books, the role of women and mothers in our communities and families has not always been given its due. But the truth is the wild west could never have been tamed, the vast prairies never plowed, nor God and learning brought to the corners of our continent without the strength, bravery, and influence of our grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and the women who came before them.

Living through blizzards, plagues, prairie fires, and floods, these women made homes and started families, organized churches, and built schools. They served as teachers, field hands, physicians, and the center of the family.

I was reading a book recently about Kansas frontier women and came across a passage that seemed to sum it all up. Esther Clark wrote, "Mother has always been the gamest one of us. I can remember her hanging onto the reins of a runaway mule team, her black hair tumbling out of its pins and over her shoulders, her face set and white while one small girl clung with chattering teeth to the sides of the rocking wagon and a baby sister bounced about on the floor in paralyzed wonder.

"I remember, too, the things the men said about Leny's nerve. But I think as much courage as it took to hang onto the reins that day, it took more to live 24 hours at a time, month in and out on the lonely and lovely prairie without giving up to the loneliness."

Of course, Leny's nerve and strength are echoed in modern-day women and mothers who face different but equally trying tests of their courage. There are mothers like Rachel Ressow of Connecticut, for example, and Dorothy DeBolt of California, who with their husbands have adopted between them 25 handicapped boys and girls in addition to their own children.

I had a chance to visit with Rachel and her family last month, and I can tell you I've never seen a happier group. I know the strains on them must be great, emotionally and financially, but not as great as the love they feel for each other.

Of course, many millions of American mothers are quiet, everyday heroes struggling to stretch budgets and too often maintaining their families alone. Many also contribute to society through full-time careers, and others are forced to work just to make ends meet. They're raising children in a fast-paced world where basic values are constantly questioned. Their monumental challenge is to bring their children into adulthood, healthy and whole, nurturing their physical and emotional growth while avoiding the pitfalls of drug abuse and crime.

The lives of American mothers today are far removed from the prairies, and yet they have a nobility about them, too. Government should help, not hinder parents in this task. And that's why our policies have been designed to restore the family to its rightful place in our society, combat the inflation that stole from family budgets, expand opportunity through a renewed economy and hasten the return of values and principles that made America both great and good.

On the economic front, I think we've made some solid progress in bringing relief to your financially strapped families. When we took office, inflation was at 12.4 percent, but it's only been one-half of i percent for the last 6 months. You can see a difference on the grocery shelves. A loaf of bread, for example, costs only 2 cents more now than it did in 1980. If we'd continued with the old rate of inflation, by now it would have cost 11 cents more. Milk is about 16 cents cheaper than it would have been, hamburger about 18 cents cheaper per pound, and the savings on a dozen eggs is as much as 50 cents. I don't have to tell the people who do the shopping how these savings add up. But for those of you who don't, we estimate that a family of four on a fixed income of $20,000 has $1,700 more in purchasing power this year than they would have had under the old inflation rate.

The progress we're making with the economy, just like the national renewal we're seeing spring up all around us, is the product of our reliance again on good old-fashioned common sense, renewed belief in ourselves, and faith in God.

Now and then I find guidance and direction in the worn brown Bible I used to take the oath of office. It's been the Reagan family Bible and, like many of yours, has its flyleaf filled with important events, its margins are scrawled with insights and passages underlined for emphasis. My mother, Nelle, made all those marks in that book. She used it to instruct her two young sons, and I look to it still.

A passage in Proverbs describes the ideal woman, saying: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."

Well, that passage calls for us to recognize the enormous strengths and contributions of women, wives, and mothers and indicates to me that society always needs a little reminding. Well, let us use this weekend as a symbol that we will always remember, reward, and recognize them and use their examples of love and courage as inspiration to be better than we are.

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

Note: The President spoke at 9:06 a.m. from Rancho del Cielo, his ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on the Observance of Mother's Day Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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