Remarks at the Convention of the National Republican Heritage Groups Council

May 17, 1985

Thank you very much, and good afternoon. You know, I've been an after-lunch speaker many times, but I really am after lunch this time, aren't I. [Laughter]

Well, greetings to your chairman, Michael Sotirhos, your executive director, Radi Slavoff, your honorary chairman, and to your convention chairman, Dr. Theodore Perros. The work of all of you has meant a very great deal to me personally and to our party and to our cause. And I'm delighted to have this opportunity to be with you, at least for a short time today.

A few years ago, most of us had a great aching in our hearts about America. As we picked up the morning papers, there was never any telling what new setbacks or international humiliation awaited us. And that's not even to mention what was happening here at home -- economic decline, endless increases in crime, and a deepening social discontent stemming from overly intrusive government, the loss of basic values, and stifled economic opportunity.

Well, together, you and I offered the American people a way out of all of this. And just as we always knew they would, they took us up on the offer. Now we've turned away from the days of defeatism and malaise; America's back where she belongs -- the champion of peace and freedom throughout the world.

I can think of few Americans who've made a more vital contribution to this effort than those of you who are in this room today. The story of America's economic, social, and spiritual recovery can be traced in great part to the resurgence of both Republican principles and the organizational strength of our party. And it hasn't been too many years that we've been able to talk about that. But it's there now, and you've contributed mightily to that resurgence. You're here today because of your dedication to your party and your country and your desire to give as well as to receive -- to do something for America in return for all that she's done for you and your families. In that quest, let me assure you that you've succeeded. And so, I wanted to come by today just to thank and salute you.

As you know, I've just returned from Europe, where I had an opportunity to see as well as speak about the new energy and dynamism that is sparking the cause of democracy and personal freedom throughout the world. There just isn't any question in my mind that people everywhere seek now to fulfill one of the oldest and deepest aspirations of the human spirit -- the right to self-expression, to democratic self-rule, to representative government in every land.

You know, when I first began speaking a few years ago about expanding the frontiers of freedom throughout the world, some people asked whether, in preaching this forward strategy for freedom, I was calling for what was known in the 1950's as a rollback -- the end of totalitarian rule in other countries.

Well, you see, I always thought the question was misstated. The very word ``rollback'' suggests that somehow we who are promoting freedom are attempting to stop or roll back the inevitable and that history was actually on the side of those who prescribed totalitarian rule.

Well, it's true that in our century totalitarian ideologies, by holding out the false hope of utopia and promising an end to poverty and war, caught certain historical tides at their height and then flooded some of the lowlands of Western civilization and culture. But now everywhere we look today there is evidence this tide has spent itself and is receding, leaving behind only a totalitarian wasteland.

Look around the world at the growing insurgencies against repressive rule in totalitarian countries, the revolt of intellectuals against the stale cliches and bogus prophecies of Marxism-Leninism, the steady growth of the power and especially the number of nations that are turning to democracy. They all point to one powerful, undeniable truth: That bright, shining crest on the horizon is no mirage but the distant tip of a tidal wave called freedom, a tidal wave that will soon roll and crash its way across the desert that is 20th century totalitarianism.

So you see, it's the other way around. The events of this century are making possible the realization of the age-old aspirations of mankind for freedom. And those who would stand in its way are really the ones seeking to roll back history.

Now, don't mistake me, history has no inevitable outcome; it's still the work of free men and women; so, it's still up to you and me. So, if the cause of freedom is to continue to prosper, the United States must remain strong militarily and economically. We have to continue to strengthen institutions like Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. And we have to continue helping the resistance in Afghanistan and especially in Nicaragua.

A few people who voted the other way with regard to Nicaragua in the Congress are doing a little rethinking since Mr. Ortega went on his Moscow tour.

And yes, we have to continue to state in public the crucial moral distinctions between democratic government and the totalitarian state. And much of this will depend on how the Republican Party fares in the next few years. And once again I think the prognosis -- but only with your help -- is an optimistic one. Our party has been unstinting in its support of democratic development and the struggle against totalitarianism. We've led the way in supporting the resistance movements in Nicaragua and Afghanistan. And we can be proud that in supporting a strong defense, Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, and in being realistic about Soviet intentions, our party, the Republican Party, has led the way.

Now, I mentioned defense there, and we're talking about how to cure some great misconceptions that are the result of a drumbeat of ceaseless propaganda that's been prevalent in the land with regard to national defense. Just give you one line about it. That $436 hammer -- we never bought that. We're the ones that found out that that's what they'd been asking for; then we didn't buy it. And that's true of all those other horror stories. The truth is they're success stories. We are the ones who have been uncovering all that trash and doing something about it.

You know, I've been encouraged by many of those in the Democratic Party who are wondering about a burden that some in their party would have them take on. Already many are asking if they really want to be remembered as the party that couldn't support vital weapons programs or the party that, at a critical turning point in the struggle between totalitarianism and freedom, did not aid those struggling to save freedom in their own countries -- countries like Nicaragua -- from totalitarian rule.

And that's why bringing home the meaning of the Republican Party is so vital. We have already seen -- and I think more than I can remember in any previous time -- people who've decided to change the ``D'' after their name here in government to an ``R.'' I talked to one of those the other day, and I told him -- having been one of those who quite some time ago changed that letter -- I told him that if he was having any qualms to remember that a fellow named Winston Churchill once changed parties. And Winston gave as the reason -- and I think it fits the situation today -- he said: ``Some men change principle for party. And some men change party for principle.''

We need more Members of the House and Senate here in Washington who think as we do on these issues. Now, many of them maybe won't change that letter, but there are some who find that when it comes time to pull the voting lever they like the things that we're trying to do, rather than the objectionism and obstructionism that is coming from the leadership of their own party.

I want to encourage you to keep building the party. Believe me, bringing more ethnic Americans into our fold is the key to the positive realignment that we are beginning to see take shape. And if asked why they should become Republican, talk to them about some of the things that I've just said, and tell them about freedom. They might be interested in that. Believe me, in the coming years, freedom and foreign policy are going to be the issues that move the voter, even as they move the world.

These are exciting times -- the cause of freedom is on the move everywhere in the world -- times when all of us can be grateful for the special chance that we have to help light the way toward a future of peace and freedom.

So, let me leave you here with a few last words from Teddy Roosevelt: ``We, here in America, hold in our hands the hope of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of mankind.''

Well, that light of high resolve is not dimmed in America; I have seen it so many times on so many thousands of faces all across this land; I can see it in your eyes. And just last week I was seeing it in the eyes of 10,000 young people, young Germans, in their teens. And I talked to them about freedom and that they should be proud of the 40 years now of democracy and freedom that their country has known since the days of Hitler. And when I finished speaking, I had a tennis ball in my throat because the band started playing our national anthem, and I saw 10,000 young German students singing our national anthem in English.

These golden hopes of mankind are here for us to protect and preserve. Let us resolve to pass that sacred heritage on to other generations of Americans and to make it someday, we hope and pray, the birthright of all the peoples of the world.

Thank you for letting me come in here and talk to you. Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:02 p.m. in the main ballroom at the Shoreham Hotel.