If Ronald Reagan was around today he might give the same speech he gave on Labor Day, 30 years ago, with a few changes to reflect the current situation. While a few of the key factors are different the country finds itself in a very similar circumstance. So here is my modified version of Reagan‘s famous speech, I have provided both a video of the original speech and a link to the transcript for comparison. You can learn from history. The original speech should remind us we have been here before and fought our way back. We can do it again.
And now President Reagan…
Labor Day Speech at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey, Updated for 2010 (Original Sep. 1, 1980)
“It is fitting that on Labor Day, we meet beside the waters of New York harbor, with the eyes of Miss Liberty on our gathering and in the words of the poet whose lines are inscribed at her feet, “The air bridged harbor that twin cities frame.”
Through this “Golden Door,” under the gaze of that “Mother of Exiles,” have come millions of men and women, who first stepped foot on American soil right there, on Ellis Island, so close to the Statue of Liberty.
These families came here to work. They came to build. Others came to America in different ways, from other lands, under different, often harrowing conditions, but this place symbolizes what they all managed to build, no matter where they came from or how they came or how much they suffered.
They helped to build that magnificent city across the river. They spread across the land building other cities and towns and incredibly productive farms. They came to make America work. They didn’t ask what this country could do for them but what they could do to make this refuge the greatest home of freedom in history. They brought with them courage, ambition and the values of family, neighborhood, work, peace and freedom. They came from different lands but they shared the same values, the same dream.
Today a President of the United States would have us believe that dream is over or at least in need of change. Barack Obama’s Administration tells us that the descendants of those who sacrificed to start again in this land of freedom may have to abandon the dream that drew their ancestors to a new life in a new land.
The Obama record is a litany of despair, of broken promises, of sacred trusts abandoned and forgotten.
Officially over 14.5 million or 9.8% are unemployed but actually 25 million are out of work. 41 million Americans are now on food stamps. 981,000 Americans have had their homes go into foreclosure this year. The federal deficit is now over $13.5 trillion which adds up to over$120k per U.S. taxpayer. Yet this year, Obama and his friends in Congress will add another $1.3 trillion to the deficit. They are trying to fix unemployment with government jobs and are threatening to increase taxes on the “wealthiest” Americans. Of course these are the very people who could reinvest if not over taxed to create the private sector jobs we so desperately need. This President is interfering in the private sector and leading a government takeover of both the financial markets and healthcare. He is on the wrong side of immigration reform, states rights and climate change. He has a decidedly socialist agenda that pushes redistribution of wealth, entitlement programs and “fundamental transformation of America”. His answer to all of this misery? He tries to tell us that the economy is getting better – just more slowly than expected, as if —words–relieve our suffering. Let it show on the record that when the American people cried out against his healthcare reform plan, Barack Obama ignored them. When the American people begged for economic relief through job creation, Barack Obama gave them the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The real recovery will begin when Barack Obama loses his job.
I have talked with unemployed workers all across this country. I have heard their views on what Barack Obama has done to help them and their families. They aren’t interested in hearing about George Bush any more. They are out of work and they help. And they know the difference between a real recovery and a sucker’s rally.
Let Mr. Obama go to their homes, look their children in the eye and argue with them that this is a recovery even though dad or mom can’t find work. Let him go to the unemployment lines and lecture those workers who have been betrayed on what is the proper definition for their widespread economic misery. Human tragedy, human misery, the crushing of the human spirit. They do not need defining–they need action.
And it is action, in the form of jobs, lower taxes, and an expanded economy that — as President — I intend to provide.
Call this human tragedy whatever you want. Whatever it is, it is Barack Obama’s. He isn’t fixing it. He tolerates it. And he is going to answer to the American people for it.
Last week, more than two years after be became President, he still blames George Bush. And today he announced a new economic program designed to create jobs rebuilding America‘s infrastructure creating jobs in the construction and engineering trades which are some of hardest hit segments of the workforce. But wait – didn’t we already invest in the once before, something called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It is another new economic program based on government spending. He talks as if someone else has been in charge these past few years. With two months to go until the election he rides to the rescue now with a crazy-quilt of obvious election-year promises which might even include extending the Bush tax cuts – which he’ll ask Congress for– after the election.
After two years of neglect, the misery of unemployment, foreclosures, the threat of higher taxes, dwindling earning power and inability to save–after all this, American workers have now been discovered by this administration.
Well it won’t work. It is cynical. It is political. And it is too late.
In 2009 he said the stimulus we could cap unemployment at 8% it is now at 9.8%.
In 2009 he said the stimulus would create shovel ready projects creating immediate employment opportunities – it didn’t. Who can believe him?
And most of us have begun to realize that so long as Obama’s policies are in effect, the next two years will be as dark as the last two. But here, beside the torch that many times before in our nation’s history has cast a golden light in times of gloom, I pledge to you I’ll bring a new message of hope to all America.
I look forward to meeting Mr. Obama in debate, confronting him with the whole sorry record of his Administration–the record he prefers not to mention. If he ever finally agrees to the kind of first debate the American people want–which I’m beginning to doubt–he’ll answer to them and to me.
This country needs a new Congress, with a renewed dedication to the dream of America–an administration that will give that dream new life and make America great again! An America that creates opportunity to create wealth not redistribute it, an America that follows the Constitution not fundamentally trying to transform it!
Restoring and revitalizing the American dream and American exceptionalism will take bold action.
On this day, dedicated to American working men and women, may I tell you the vision I have of a new administration and of a new Congress, filled with new members dedicated to the values we honor today?
Beginning in November of 2010, Americans will once again be heeded. Their needs and values will be acted upon in Washington. I will consult with representatives of management and organized labor on those matters concerning the welfare of the working people of this nation.
I happen to be the only president of a union ever to be President of the United States.
As president of my union — the Screen Actors Guild — I spent many hours with the late George Meany, whose love of this country and whose belief in a strong defense against all totalitarians is one of labor’s greatest legacies. Thirty one years ago today on Labor Day George Meany told the American people:
“As American workers and their families return from their summer vacations they face growing unemployment and inflation, a climate of economic anxiety and uncertainty.”
Well I pledge to you in his memory that the voice of the American worker will once again be heeded in Washington and that the climate of fear that he spoke of will no longer threaten workers and their families.
When we talk about tax reduction, when we talk about ending federal deficits by stopping it where it starts — in Washington — we are talking about a way to bring labor and management together for America. We are talking about jobs, and productivity and wages. We are talking about doing away with Barack Obama’s negative view of capitalism, and ever-shrinking economic pie with smaller pieces for each of us.
That’s no answer. We can have a bigger pie with bigger slices for everyone. I believe that together you and I can bake that bigger pie. We can make that dream that brought so many of us or our parents and grandparents to this land live once more.
Let us work to protect the human right to acquire and own a home, and make sure that that right is extended to as many Americans as possible. A home is part of that dream.
I want to work in Washington to roll back the crushing burden of taxation that limits investment, production, and the generation of real wealth for our people. A job, and savings, and hope for our children is part of that dream.
I want to help Americans of every race, creed and heritage keep and build that sense of community which is at the heart of America, for a decent neighborhood is part of that dream.
We will work to strengthen the small business sector which creates most of the new jobs we need for our people. Small business needs relief from government paperwork, relief from over-regulation, relief from a host of governmentally-created problems that defeat the effort of creative men and women. A chance to invest, build and produce new wealth is part of the dream.
But restoring the American dream requires more than restoring a sound, productive economy, vitally important as that is. It requires a return to spiritual and moral values, values so deeply held by those who came here to build a new life. We need to restore those values in our daily life, in our neighborhoods and in our government’s dealings with the other nations of the world.
We must remember that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. You and I must protect and preserve freedom here or it will not be passed on to our children.
I want more than anything I’ve ever wanted, to have a Congress that will, through its actions, at home and in the international arena, let millions of people know that Miss Liberty still “Lifts her lamp beside the golden door.” Through our international broadcasting stations — the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and the others — let us send, loud and clear, the message that this generation of Americans intends to keep that lamp shining; that this dream, this last best hope of man on earth, this nation under God, shall not perish from the earth. We will instead carry on the building of an American economy that once again holds forth real opportunity for all, we shall continue to be a symbol of freedom and guardian of the eternal values that so inspired those who came to this port of entry.
Let us pledge to each other, with this Great Lady looking on, that we can, and so help us God, we will make America great again.
Link to original speech transcript: http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/reference/9.1.80.html