It is Presidents’ Day, so today’s post in my series “Statues: The People They Salute,” which is currently exploring the statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol will be about one of the U.S. presidents represented with a statue in the National Statuary Collection. I chose our 40th president Ronald Reagan. Other presidents represented in the collection are George Washington, Virginia; Andrew Jackson, Tennessee; James A. Garfield, Ohio; Dwight D. Eisenhower, Kansas; and Gerald Ford, Michigan. They will be subjects of later posts in my series.
The statue of Ronald Reagan is one of the two statues representing California. It joined the collection in 2009 when California chose to replace their statue of Thomas Starr King which had been in the collection since 1931. Thomas Starr King was a famed orator, who had spoken zealously in favor of the Union during the Civil War and is credited with saving California from becoming a separate republic. In a way it is fitting that another great communicator replaced him.
Ronald Reagan was a tireless defender of freedom, and spoke often and eloquently about it. In 1964, Reagan gained national attention in his speeches for conservative presidential contender Barry Goldwater. The passages below are from Reagan’s famous speech, “A Time for Choosing.”
“You and I are told we must choose between a left and right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream, the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”
“The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.”
Ronald Reagan served as governor of California, from 1967 until 1975. He unsuccessfully ran a primary campaign for the 1976 Presidential Election. In 1980, Ronald Regan won the presidency. He also won a second term.
In 1987, at the Berlin Wall, which divided Germany into a communist and a free state, President Reagan fearlessly called on Secretary General of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to “Tear down this wall!”
Ronald Reagan never relented in his rally for liberty. He knew and stated that freedom was never more than one generation away from extinction.
We must continue to recognize this truth from the final paragraph in Ronald Reagan’s speech “A Time for Choosing.” It was spoken in 1964, more than fifty years ago, but these words of warning to those who value freedom must continue to be heeded for eternity.
“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”
Diana Erbio is a freelance writer and author of “Coming to America: A Girl Struggles to Find her Way in a New World”. Read more in her series Statues: The People They Salute, at www.dianaerbio.wordpress.com/blog .