Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the Presidential Election and Veterans Day

November 12, 1988

My fellow Americans:

This week we witnessed a glorious event: We the people going to the polls to determine our political destiny.

I guess I don't need to tell you I think the United States of America did itself proud with the selection of George Bush as the 41st President of the United States and Dan Quayle as his Vice President. George Bush has gotten his mandate from the American people, the mandate to continue the policies that have brought peace and prosperity, to bring hope and opportunity to all Americans, and to expand the frontiers of freedom around the world.

You know, all year long people were saying it was time for a change. Well, by your choice this week, you proved we were right when we said we—George Bush, Dan Quayle, and the Republican Party—are the change. It began 8 years ago, and it's going to continue.

But some things don't change, like the glory of the American political system. We saw it at work on Tuesday, after the dust cleared and the people had spoken. That night the Nation was fortunate to witness the grace and dignity of the Democratic candidate, Governor Dukakis, as he congratulated George Bush in his victory. He ran a tough race, full of energy and purpose, and I salute him for his dedication and courage.

On Tuesday night, and in the days that have followed it, and in the 10 weeks before January 20, 1989, we the people can take pride in just how strong our political system really is. We take it for granted sometimes, but I couldn't help thinking on Tuesday night how inspiring it is that we know we Americans can choose our leader without fear of violence. All Americans, from Hawaii to Maine, know that when the voice of the people is heard, even the mightiest among us must bow before it and accept its wisdom. President-elect Bush said it well the other day: "We can now speak the most majestic words a democracy has to offer: The people have spoken."

Only twice in our history—during the dark days of our Civil War—has anyone dared to question the wisdom of the American people as they chose their President, dared to deny the validity of the selection. In other nations, a disgruntled group of defeated politicians might try to stage a coup d'etat or might even follow our disastrous mistake from the 1860's and go to war-brother against brother—rather than consent to the will of the people. But here we Americans are, just 4 days after one of the most important nights in our history, working or playing or just enjoying our weekend. We've made our choice, and life goes on. We don't even need to give it a thought. But when we do, I think it's cause for us to wonder at our freedom.

We continue to enjoy our freedom because of those brave Americans among us who have legitimately taken up arms in the service of their country, protecting and defending the United States of America. This weekend, we commemorate America's veterans, those who did their duty so that we could be free and strong, so that tyranny could find no quarter, so that we could live in peace.

I think of the example of Staff Sergeant Carlos Stallard, one of the Gold Star men in World War II. In a 1944 letter to his parents, Carlos wrote: "I believe in making that future a place where little children can go swimming and playing around their homes without being mangled for life from bursting bombs and flaming debris that was once their homes, so that they can have a mother's care instead of being left in some dark corner shivering with cold and dying with hunger and wondering if mother, in a concentration camp, is being cruelly beaten or if she is dead. That's what we are fighting for, and I would gladly give 10 lives if I had them." Well, like all of us, Carlos Stallard had but one life to give for his country. He died in action in France on July 26, 1944. His heroic example reminds us why sometimes we must take up arms so that we can live free and at peace.

Every veteran in this country deserves our thanks and gratitude this weekend of all weekends. And, my friends, on this, the last Veterans Day I will commemorate as President, I would like to say that if there is one change George Bush and I made that touches me most profoundly it would probably be this: Once again our young men and women are proud to wear the uniform of their country—Flight Lieutenant George Bush sure was.

Until next week, thank for listening, and may God bless you.

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

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

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