Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the Upcoming Elections

November 05, 1988

My fellow Americans:

After a vibrant and fractious and exciting year, we will at last be going to the polls on Tuesday and exercising our most important right: the right to choose our future, the right to vote. There's nothing more glorious than the blessing that is our God-given freedom to choose those who will lead us, and there's no sight more moving than a lone American walking to that voting booth, casting a ballot in secret, and thereby determining the destiny of this great country.

And make no mistake: The choice this year at the top of the ballot is crucial. Don't listen to the cynical pundits who tell you this election isn't about the issues. Oh, yes, it is. In fact, it's about more than the issues: It's about the direction this country's going to take over the next 4 years and beyond. It's about the kind of economy we want, the kind of defense we want, the kind of values we want.

The choice is yours. But, yes, my fellow Americans, there is a choice, a very, very important choice. A vote for Vice President George Bush is a vote for optimism, an expression of faith in the American experiment. It's an endorsement of what we've done these past 8 years, and of our heartfelt promise that tomorrow and the days to come will be brighter still.

No one knows better than a man who has sought the highest office in this land what an awesome responsibility it is to be the vessel of change, the selection of a people in control of their present and their future. It's truly humbling. And I'd like once again to thank all of you who placed your faith in me, and I'd like to tip my hat to those who supported others but took their responsibility as citizens of a democratic society seriously and with care. I have heard your voices, like those before me and those after me. I have heard your voices, and I hope I have justified your faith.

You know the two men who wish to succeed me on Tuesday. You know, also, so many others—tens of thousands of candidates on State and local and school board ballots from Hawaii to Maine. And there are ballot propositions on issues from gun control to the size of cows' stalls. And, yes, every one of these choices is vital. Every one is crucial. Every one gives you an opportunity to say: This is what I want the future to look like. This is the country I want to live in. And I believe you must take every choice, from county sheriff to President of the United States, with equal seriousness. That's because our system depends upon you, every single one of you.

Alexander Hamilton, one of our Founding Fathers, said it best: "No laws have any validity or binding force without the consent and approbation of the people." Well, what we've learned in the course of human history is that dictators may coerce, and tyrants may control, but the people who obey them do so only because they are threatened with bodily harm to themselves or their families if they do not. These societies are not just, and they're not good. And perhaps most telling, they do not work. They do not work because the people have no voice. They have no say. Their elections are cynical frauds, sick jokes. Did you know that in the most recent election in the Stalinist nation of Albania, the vote tally was 1,820,652 to 1? Yes, without the fundamental freedom of the right to choose, hope disintegrates, expectations for the future suffer, and life itself becomes gray and dreary. And that means a weak economy, low standards of living, high infant mortality, and general gloom.

Now, compare that kind of society with the democratic societies where the last two centuries have seen the expansion of opportunity and freedom, steady increases in standards of living, and a constant belief that things will get only better. And why? Because we who live in democracy are all our own masters, and we know that the future is ours to build and that the only limits upon us are those we place on ourselves.

You can imagine how very moved I was last May to be in the Lenin Hills at a podium before an audience of students at Moscow State University speaking to them about the wonder and glory of human freedom, individual freedom. Think of those students. Only if they're very lucky and rise high in the Communist Party will any one of them ever have the influence on the course of their country's history and world history that each of you can have just by going into the voting booth.

So, my fellow Americans, on Tuesday, breathe in the intoxicating air of human freedom in every polling place and voting booth in this nation and reaffirm the words in the Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal."

Thank you. And until next week, God bless you, and God bless America.

Note: The President's address was recorded at 9 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House for broadcast at 12:06 p.m. on November 5.

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

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