Chapter 8 – Setting the New Cold War Strategy: The First Term - Statements and Decisions

The Oath of Office was sworn by Reagan with his hand on a family bible. According to the U.S. Constitution’s Article II, Section 1:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the Oath of Affirmation as follows: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”1

At this point Reagan added the customary, but optional and powerful words “So help me, God.”

Reagan’s Inaugural Address—We the People. In this first grand encounter with the American people as their republic’s new president, Reagan’s First Inaugural Address sounded the freedom themes for individual and societal liberty that he extolled throughout his political journey and would carry uncompromisingly through the two terms of his presidency. Readers will notice in his words, as his audience no doubt did, a strong connection between his domestic and international Cold War strategies. His domestic strategy was to decrease the role of America’s growing government bureaucracy (an unelected administrative “elite group”) and reserve increasing power for the people and the states, drawing on each person’s individual dignity and entrepreneurial spirit, as well as the strength of diverse centers of power, no longer to be exclusively centered in the national capital. His international Cold War strategy was to build America and her democratic allies’ strengths in order to defeat the tyrannical Communist ideology, empire, and ruling class of the world’s most centralized and monopolistic bureaucratic regime, the totalitarian Soviet Union. A selection of his encouraging, heart-felt phrases follows:

[We the People] You have shown a watching world that we are a united people pledged to maintaining a political system which guarantees individual liberty to a greater degree than any other. . . . In this present [economic] crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. . . . “We the people,” this breed called Americans. . .

[Freedom, Individual Dignity, and America’s Uniqueness] Putting America back to work. . . . Ending inflation. . . . All must share in the productive work of this “new beginning,” and all must share in the bounty of a revived economy. With the idealism and fair play which are the core of our system and our strength, we can have a strong and prosperous America, at peace with itself and the world. . . . We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of Earth. . . . Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high. . . . With all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope. . . . There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity, . . . you, the citizens of this blessed land. Your dreams, your hopes, your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes, and the goals of this administration, so help me God. . . .

[Exemplar of Freedom, Beacon of Hope] We . . . the Americans of today, are ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children. And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.

To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale.

[Enemies of Freedom] As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever.

Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength. (headings added)2

[Book pg. 172]