"This is the issue of this
election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or
whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little
intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us
better than we can plan for ourselves." — Oct. 27, 1964, televised
speech for GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
"I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Breen." — When
someone tried to turn off his microphone at a Reagan-sponsored debate
during 1980 New Hampshire primaries.
"We have to move ahead, but we are not going to leave anyone
behind." — Republican National Convention, July 1980
Where you go again." — Responding to criticism during debate
with President Carter, October 1980.
"Government is not the solution, it's the problem." —
Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1981.
"All of us need to be reminded that the federal government did
not create the states, the states created the federal government. ...
Steps will be taken aimed a restoring the balance between the various
levels of government." — Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1981.
"Honey, I forgot to duck." — To Nancy Reagan in the
emergency room after he was shot by a would-be assassin, March 30, 1981.
"It's just plain common sense that there be a waiting period to
allow local law enforcement officials to conduct background checks on
those who wish to buy a handgun." — Endorsing the Brady handgun
control bill, at a March 1991 event commemorating 10th anniversary of
"Some argue that we should encourage democratic change in
right-wing dictatorships, but not in Communist regimes. Well, to accept
this preposterous notion — as some well-meaning people have — is to
invite the argument that once countries achieve a nuclear capability, they
should be allowed an undisturbed reign of terror over their own citizens.
We reject this course." — June 1982 speech to British Parliament.
"I was pleased last year to proclaim 1983 the year of the
Bible. But, you know, a group called the ACLU (American Civil Liberties
Union severely criticized me for doing that. Well, I wear their indictment
like a badge of honor." — January 1984.
"I've always stated that the nearest thing to eternal life
we'll ever see on this earth is a government program." — April 1986
"A (nuclear weapons) freeze now would be a very dangerous
fraud, for that is merely the illusion of peace. The reality is that we
must find peace through strength. ...
"I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation
of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally
at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an
evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and
thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good
and evil. ...
"I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in
human history whose last pages even now are being written." —
Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals, March 1983. (He wrote
six years later that "I could not in good conscience today call the
Soviet Union an evil empire.")
"If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union
and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate ...
open this gate ... tear down this wall." — June 1987 speech at
Brandenberg Gate in Berlin. Remarks addressed to Soviet leader Mikhail
"By 1980, we knew it was time to renew our faith; to strive
with all our strength toward the ultimate of individual freedom,
consistent with an orderly society.
"We believed then and now: There are no limits to growth and
human progress, when men and women are free to follow their dreams. And we
were right to believe that. Tax rates have been reduced, inflation cut
dramatically and more people are employed than ever before in our history.
"We are creating a nation once again vibrant, robust, and
alive. There are many mountains yet to climb. We will not rest until every
American enjoys the fullness of freedom, dignity, and opportunity as our
birthright. It is our birthright as citizens of this great republic."
— Second inaugural address, Jan. 21, 1985
"The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was
right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God
would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep
knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a
profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the
use of force for conquest." — On 40th anniversary of Normandy
invasion, June 6, 1984.
"Sending the Marines to Beirut was the source of my greatest
regret and greatest sorrow." — About the Lebanon bombing that
killed 241 servicemen in 1983, from his 1990 book, "An American
"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the
manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the
last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and
waved goodbye and `slipped the surly bonds of earth' to `touch the face of
God.'" — After shuttle disaster, Jan. 28, 1986.
"A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade
arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that is
true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not." — March 4,
1987, speech acknowledging dealings with Iran had deteriorated into an
arms for hostages deal
"You know, by the time you reach my age, you've made plenty of
mistakes if you've lived your life properly. So you learn. You put things
in perspective. You pull your energies together. You change. You go
forward. My fellow Americans, I have a great deal that I want to
accomplish with you and for you over the next two years. And, the Lord
willing, that's exactly what I intend to do." — March 4, 1987,
speech acknowledging dealings with Iran had deteriorated into an arms for
"I did not see it as trading arms for hostages because we were
dealing with Iranian intermediaries, not the kidnappers themselves. I know
it may be a fine line to most people, but it's what I believed then and
what I still believe." — About the Iran-Contra affair, from his
1989 book, "Speaking My Mind"
"My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've
signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in
five minutes." — Joke while testing microphone, Aug. 11, 1984
"So, you can see why, to me, the story of these last eight
years and this presidency goes far beyond any personal concerns. It is a
continuation, really, of a far larger story, a story of a people and a
cause. A cause that, from our earliest beginnings, has defined us as a
nation and given purpose to our national existence. The hope of human
freedom, the quest for it, the achievement of it, is the American
saga." — Last weekly radio address as president, Jan. 14, 1989.
"If I ache, it's because we are apart and yet that can't be
because you are inside and a part of me, so we really aren't apart at all.
Yet I ache but wouldn't be without the ache, because that would mean being
without you and that I can't be because I love you." — 1963 letter
to his wife, Nancy, quoted in 2000 book "I Love You, Ronnie."
"In closing let me thank you, the American people, for giving
me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the
Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest
love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future. I now
begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know
that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead." — Nov.
5, 1994, announcing he had Alzheimer's disease.