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UPI coverage of President Ronald Reagan

By United Press International   |   June 5, 2004 at 7:43 PM   |   Comments

Reagan, Gorbachev make giant strides

By HELEN THOMAS, UPI White House Reporter

WASHINGTON, June 4, 1988 (UPI) -- President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev took a giant step toward ending the Cold War at their just-ended fourth summit meeting.

In that respect, Reagan's journey to Moscow did open a new chapter in U.S.-Soviet relations.

But, much as Gorbachev would have liked Reagan to declare the decades-old standoff over -- repealing the famous 1946 assertion of Winston Churchill that "an iron curtain has descended on Europe" -- the president did not do that.

But he did say in his concluding speech in the medieval setting of Guild Hall in London Friday: "Quite possibly, we are beginning to take down the barriers of the post-war era; quite possibly we are entering a new era in history, a time of lasting change in the Soviet Union. We will have to see."

Reagan pointed to his policies as the impetus for such gains. His "forward strategy of freedom, a strategy of public candor about the moral and fundamental differences between statism and democracy, but also a strategy of vigorous diplomatic engagement,'' had worked, the president declared.

But there is no question that Reagan himself has shed some of his 25-year-old anti-communist armor in the twilight of his presidency to probe the possibility of a new East-West detente.

For all his speeches denouncing the Soviet Union, Reagan's dubbing the Kremlin as an "evil empire" stuck, and it was a label he had to publicly drop in his peace offensive.

Asked about it during a stroll in Red Square, Reagan said: "That was another time, another era."

In his own remarks during the summit, Gorbachev said nothing had pained the Russian people more than that perjorative tag. At the same time, the Soviet general secretary has taken many steps -- some bold, some cautious -- to repudiate the repressive and ruthless heritage of the Stalinist era.

Reagan said in his Guild Hall speech that he is pursuing a policy that rejects "both the inevitability of war or the permanence of totalitarian rule; a policy based on realism that seeks not just treaties for treaties' sake but the recognition and resolution of fundamental differences with our adversaries."

"I believe this policy is bearing fruit," he said.

The two leaders came together because of a mutual need.

Reagan brought to the presidency an entourage of conservative advisers who believed, as he later revealed himself, that a nuclear war between the superpowers was inevitable.

And that was the general direction of early administration policy, reflected by Reagan's claim in his first year in office that winning a nuclear conflict in Europe was possible.

But somewhere, at some point, he became convinced that "a nuclear war could never be won and should never be fought."

Who or what convinced him is not yet certain. But from that point on he changed his tune.

The 57-year-old Gorbachev came to power after a string of aging Bolshevik leaders had died. They had left their mark on Soviet society with economic stagnation and paranoia.

Gorbachev realized that for the Soviets to advance to the modern age, there would have to be monumental change. His "glasnost" policy of more openness, more freedom for his people to speak and worship and to be individuals in a state society, is slowly taking hold.

But it has a long way to go and faces continuing attacks from the elite who remain entrenched in power and are fighting his reforms.

The Gorbachev policy of "perestroika" and economic reform has yet to see true fruition and it too is being softly peddled so not to upset those who still hold many of the reins in the Soviet Union.

The summit was more of a triumph for Reagan who learned that Russian people smile and are friendly. He did not meet many of the men and women on the street, but he was able to soak up the atmosphere and came away with impressions that they liked him.

At the same time, the president clearly did not want to make decisions that would tie the hands of his successor on the delicate issue of arms control.

He would have had to cut through many complicated problems to achieve an agreement on the reduction of long-range strategic arms, or START, and he was not ready to go that far.

Such a breakthrough would have been formidable but dogged by opposition of many who believe Soviet superiority in conventional arms would have put the United States at a disadvantage if the missile arsenals were cut in half as proposed.

So the president focused boldly on human rights in Moscow, meeting with dissidents and with the literati, preaching the joys of freedom to the students at Moscow University.

For Gorbachev, the summit was more of a disappointment. He even complained about the slow pace of change and of "missed opportunities."

But Reagan did exactly what he had planned to do and no more. Gorbachev had hoped that at least the president would help the Soviets economically by promising to break down trade barriers, instituted in the decades past, that keep the United States from economic dealings with Moscow.

"We have to take this slowly," said national security adviser Colin Powell, speaking of the superpower relationship. "This is too important to rush."

In his meetings with Gorbachev, Reagan has never abandoned his view that the Soviet leader is a friend he can talk with, or as he explained, that he is "a serious man seeking serious reform."

Summits can be exhausting, and at times the president did appear to be simply going through the motions. His comment that maybe "we shouldn't have humored" American Indians, and his placing blame on the "bureaucracy" for the ills in Soviet society caused some consternation.

But it was apparent the president did not want to attack Gorbachev, his host, or the Kremlin hierarchy while he was a guest in the country. He did pretty well, however, in highlighting some of the prices of the Soviet system.

Reagan also saw firsthand the use of force when he and his wife, Nancy, made an impromptu 10-minute visit to a trendy area. The KGB locked arms, encircled them, and refused to let them continue in an uncontrolled situation.

Afterward, Reagan commented: "It's still a police state."

Had he been a member of the press covering the summit, he would have seen it much more. The security agents were relentless and appeared en masse everywhere. Their power was apparent and their tactics often lived up to their Gulag reputation.

Still, Reagan could see that the sun shines in the Soviet Union as well -- he had beautiful weather every day he was there. And he could see the hustle and bustle of a people, the dynamism that is just waiting to be channeled.

He said the Soviet students he met looked like American students; he praised the warmth and hospitality of his hosts. And he saw that the younger generation was ready for change, even eager for it.

In his way, he did everything he could to try to bolster Gorbachev, encourage his reforms and lend him a helping hand before the Soviet leader goes to the momentous Communist Party congress later this month that will decide whether the society will remain rooted in totalitarian stagnation, or lift the Iron Curtain and end the Cold War with the West.

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The Reagans head west

By HELEN THOMAS, UPI White House Reporter

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 1989 (UPI) - Ronald Reagan is riding tall as he heads back to California, confident that he made the difference and history will view his presidency in a kindly light.

Reagan, who will be 78 next month, is the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to serve eight years in office. Few of his predecessors have matched his popularity ratings even as he prepares to bow out.

But don't count him out. Reagan rejected lame duckism in his last year in the White House. And he makes it clear that proud as he is of his accomplishments, he has an unfinished agenda -- no retirement at ''Rancho el Cielo,'' his mountaintop 688-acre spread near Santa Barbara, Calif.

He plans to be busy on what he calls ''the mashed potato circuit,'' with predictions that he may be able to claim as much as $50,000 a speech, a hefty honorarium in anybody's league.

As a lecturer he hopes to campaign for a balanced budget amendment and line item veto power for the president, two goals dear to his heart that he failed to achieve in his presidency.

Reagan also plans to embark on an ambitious writing project, starting with his memoirs, a chore he does not look forward to when he remembers the tedious hours he put in to write his autobiography, ''Where's the Rest of Me.''

In addition, he will continue to work closely with Edmund Morris, his authorized biographer who has been working on a book for the past three years with extraordinary access to the White House and the records.

Since he has been in broadcasting since the 1930s, Reagan is expected to continue his weekly radio program, and perhaps will write a newspaper column.

Past presidents live in high style forever with round-the-clock Secret Service protection and chauffering. Reagan will have a glassed-in penthouse office suite of many rooms in Century City and a staff paid by the federal government. Privileges and perks abound.

The groundbreaking has begun on his new Spanish-style presidential library in the Simi valley between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, and Reagan will be keeping tabs on its construction and fund raising for the project that will be run by the National Archives.

During the yuletide season, the Reagans moved into their five-bedroom mansion in Bel Air, a fashionable section of Los Angeles, which was purchased by a group of California friends for $2.6 million.

A short time after he was inaugurated Jan. 20, 1981, Reagan went to the Oval Office for the first time with a covey of aides and signed an executive order freezing federal employment. Sitting at his desk, he put the pen down, looked teasingly at the reporters and asked, ''Can I go back to California now?''

He will always have the title of ''Mr. President'' but he will be back home in California where he spent more than 365 days vacationing during his eight years in office.

Reagan's admirers, particularly the conservative constituency that helped bring him to office, say that he has been a great president. ''He has a tremendous capacity to decide the big things and to stick to them,'' said British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, one of his strongest supporters.

Early on he was dubbed the ''Great Communicator,'' a tribute to his speechmaking prowess after years of acting in front of a Hollywood camera, but his performances without a script left something to be desired and he often stumbled and appeared out of touch.

Reagan kept his credentials intact as the eternal optimist whose sunny ''morning in America'' outlook was aimed at making Americans ''feel good about themselves.'' Heros were his big thing. It was a rare dissident who was ever invited to the Reagan White House.

He came to Washington with a set of convictions on domestic issues and apparently nothing happened to make him change his view. ''I am a conservative,'' he often proudly proclaimed. And noting that he was once a Democrat, he insisted the party had changed, not him.

But he disappointed his followers in failing to overcome Supreme Court rulings banning mandatory school prayer and the legalization of abortion.

His detractors believe that he has left his successor, George Bush, with a host of monumental domestic problems, including an enormous deficit and a $2.6 trillion national debt.

Reagan started a $2 trillion military buildup that in the future will cost multibillions more for his dream of a ''Star Wars'' space defense system.

He put his own stamp on the presidency but it is doubtful that the hands off style of governing will carry over to the next administration or that any successor would be willing to defer so much power to his aides.

In the Oval Office, Reagan played the role of chairman of the board and his lack of attention to details came to haunt him when the Iran-Contra scandal broke. ''Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don't interfere,'' he once said.

Unlike some of his predecessors, he did not have a big ego, just plain confidence in what he was doing and where he was going.

Although it was least expected, his most important legacy may be in foreign policy with the opening of friendly relations with the Soviet Union, which Reagan once dubbed ''the evil empire.''

The rapprochement with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev marked the beginning of the end of the 40-year cold war and the reduction of tensions around the world.

The signing of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Missile Force Agreement with Gorbachev in December 1987 was the turning point in a relationship marked by hostility and belligerence.

Reagan had come a long way from his first news conference in 1981 when he said the Soviets ''reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat ... and we operate on a different set of standards.''

Now he thinks the United States can do business with Gorbachev and he has paved the way for Bush to tackle negotiations on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

He has had major setbacks in foreign policy, particularly Nicaragua. The drive to oust the Sandinista government in Managua was sometimes called an ''obsession.'' But in dramatically successful military moves he bombed terrorist Libya in 1986 and he invaded communist Grenada in 1983.

At no time has a new president had such golden opportunities to promote a more peaceful world because of the superpower breakthrough.

Reagan put his political campaign goals of a balanced budget on the back burner, and as he departs the scene, he has generously parceled out the blame to Congress, special interests and the news media, a conglomeration he called the ''Iron Triangle'' of permanent power in Washington.

His luck and his likeability have played no small part in his survival through the good and the bad of his tenure. Some called it a ''Teflon'' coating that permitted him to escape the heavy burden of responsibility and blame for some of his failures.

On the other hand, it was with rare equanimity and good humor that he faced vicissitudes in health, including a cancer operation, and early in his first administration an assassination attempt. A few hours after he was shot in the chest by John Hinckley, he told his wife, ''Honey, I forgot to duck.''

Under the guidance of the Heritage Foundation, which laid out an conservative agenda for him, he pursued privatization of federal property and the nation's finite resources and deregulation of industries and sought to mitigate government intervention in business.

He initiated the ''Reagan Revolution,'' turning the country to the right and hoping to dismantle some of the New Deal and Great Society social programs of the past. While restrained by Congress, he did succeed in crippling some of the programs and eliminating others.

Reagan denigrated bureaucrats throughout and, even though he was running the government, set himself apart from it.

The president is a friendly man, but his friends date back to his California days, and most of them are in the multimillionaire class. He is remote and detached, but has shown immense loyalty to his aides.

The biggest debacle of his presidency was the scandal that enveloped his administration in late 1986 when it was revealed that he had secretly sold arms to Iran in a trade for hostages, and national security deputies funneled the profits to the Nicaraguan rebels.

Reagan, who claimed no knowledge of the secret funding of the rebels, called Contras, lost 20 points in the popularity polls and went underground for months, holding no news conferences and avoiding reporters.

But he has bounced back in his last year in office and went all out to ensure that his successor would be the vice president. No president in history has campaigned as much to keep his own party in the White House. In the process he had fun deriding liberals and making them political pariahs.

Reagan is assured the role of elder statesman in the future with Bush calling on him for advice and counsel, a prominence that Reagan never accorded his predecessors much as they would have liked to be consulted.

Unlike other past presidents, he is not expected to be put out to pasture but to keep plugging for the political philosophy that kept him in office for eight years.

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Reagan: 'We did it'

By NORMAN D. SANDLER

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 1989 (UPI) -- Ronald Reagan, who led a conservative revolution that transformed the political establishment, looked back Wednesday over the longest presidency in a generation and told his faithful followers, ''We did it.''

''It has been the honor of my life to be your president,'' Reagan said in a nationally broadcast address laden with emotion, personal reflection and the convictions that carried him from the political wilderness to the White House.

With the end of an era just nine days away, Reagan summoned up his Hollywood-honed communicative skills a final time to bring his administration to a close on a note of achievement and take his place in history.

Not since January 1961, when Dwight Eisenhower turned over the Oval Office to John Kennedy, has a president served two full terms. And Reagan, who turns 78 on Feb. 6, offered a highly personal reflection on the last eight years.

So, speaking from the Oval Office he will relinquish Jan. 20 to George Bush, Reagan spoke of the triumphs and disappointments of an eight-year tenure that has seen him survive personal attack and political scandal.

''We've done our part,'' Reagan declared in a farewell address to the nation. ''And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan Revolution -- the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back: My friends, we did it.''

It was, not surprisingly, a selective review -- a final report on the state of the union that touted dramatic gains at home and abroad during a period marked by a resurgence of peace, prosperity and national pride.

But Reagan credited the achievements of his administration not to the slick style and telegenic imagery that became trademarks of his presidency, but to ''a rediscovery of our values and our common sense'' and political conviction.

''It has been quite a journey this decade and we held together through some stormy seas,'' he said. ''And at the end, together, we are reaching our destination. The fact is, from Grenada to the Washington and Moscow summits, from the recession of '81 to '82 to the expansion that began in late '82 and continues to this day, we've made a difference.''

His was a declaration of victory rooted in what Reagan called the ''two great triumphs'' of the longest peacetime economic growth in history and a recovery of U.S. morale that has America ''respected again in the world and looked to for leadership.''

Reagan touted the success of his program of tax and budget cuts and reduced regulation. To those who maintain his tax cuts and military buildup have left the economy burdened -- and Bush saddled -- with the huge budget deficits, he said only that ''tonight isn't for arguments and I'm going to hold my tongue.''

''Action is still needed,'' he acknowledged. ''If we're to finish the job, Reagan's Regiments will have to become the Bush Brigades. Soon he'll be the chief and he'll need you every bit as much as I did.''

It was the only mention of Bush or the deficit in the speech. Reagan paid only cursory attention to his regret over the deficit and instead dealt at length with more positive strides on the economic front and in foreign affairs.

Contrasting the current improvement in tensions between the superpowers to the detente of the 1970s, Reagan said his administration forged ''a satisfying new closeness with the Soviet Union'' by basing its actions ''not on words, but deeds.''

Confident that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev -- his partner in a period of unparalleled summitry that led to the first actual reductions in nuclear arsenals -- is committed to democratic reforms at home and less provocative or adventurous behavior around the world, he said, ''We must keep up our guard, but we must also continue to work together to lessen and eliminate tension and mistrust.''

''What it all boils down to is this,'' Reagan said. ''I want the new closeness to continue. And it will as long as we make it clear that we will continue to act in a certain way as long as they continue to act in a helpful manner. If and when they don't, at first pull punches. If they persist, pull the plug.''

The speech, his 34th from the Oval Office, was highly personalized and thematic. Calling the last eight years ''the honor of my life,'' he said, ''Nancy and I are grateful for the opportunity you gave us to serve.''

Having made a successful career in Hollywood, Reagan said he ''never meant to go into politics'' when he was young, but altered course more than 20 years ago to reverse a trend of growing government involvement in everyday life.

''I went into politics in part to put up my hand and say, 'Stop!''' Reagan said. ''I was a citizen politician and it seemed the right thing for a citizen to do. I think we have stopped a lot of what needed stopping. And I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited.''

Once again invoking John Winthrop's image of America as a ''shining city upon a hill,'' Reagan concluded, ''We made the city stronger, we made the city freer and we left her in good hands.''

Reagan, however, will leave office not only optimistic about that city on the hill, but frustrated by such intractable problems as the deficit, the scourge of international terrorism and continued conflict in Central America.

Earlier in the day, a somber Reagan admitted he had no reason to believe the ''great tragedy'' of the nine Americans still held hostage in Lebanon will end before his exit from office and said, ''We can only pray.''

''They've never been out of my mind since they were so unfairly seized,'' he said.

Indeed, it was concern for the hostages, deepened by the emotional demands from their families for action, that drove Reagan to approve the secret sale of arms to Iran that later exploded into the worst crisis of his presidency.

For the Reagans, the last month has been a time for sentimental personal and political farewells, punctuated by parting bursts of presidential pique at critics and Washington institutions.

In summing up a set of domestic policy achievements that fell well short of the conservative revolution he promised as a candidate, Reagan lashed out Dec. 13 at how his progress had been impeded by a powerful ''Iron Triangle'' of Congress, the news media and special-interest groups.

Three days later, while hailing the spread of ''democratic and free-market revolutions'' around the world during his tenure, Reagan assailed Congress for ''on-again, off-again indecisiveness'' on aid to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels and for excessive interference in his conduct of foreign relations.

It was, however, a kindler, gentler Reagan who went before the television camera Wednesday night to bid adieu to the American people and welcome a smooth transfer of power to Bush, who will bring differences in style and substance to the White House.

''It's a bittersweet parting,'' Reagan said during an earlier photo session with his Cabinet. ''Saying goodbye to all these people that have worked together side by side, that's the bitter part. The sweet part is hearing 'California, Here I Come.'''

Befitting his ''last of the Mohicans'' status as the only eight-year member of the Cabinet, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Samuel Pierce presented Reagan with the chair from which he has presided over meetings in the Cabinet Room.

''When you're out in California, relaxing in this chair, you should be very happy,'' Pierce told Reagan, ''because as history is written, it will certainly say that this administration was one of the greatest in the history of this country and that you, indeed, one of its greatest presidents.''

For his part, Reagan thanked his Cabinet secretaries for their contributions to his administration and quipped, ''With regard to relaxing in California in this chair, isn't that what they said I did in the Cabinet Room?''

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Text of Reagan's farewell speech to the nation

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 1989 (UPI) - The text of President Reagan's televised farewell speech to the American people:

My fellow Americans, this is the 34th time I'll speak to you from the Oval Office, and the last. We have been together eight years now, and soon it will be time for me to go. But before I do, I wanted to share some thoughts, some of which I have been saving for a long time.

It has been the honor of my life to be your president. So many of you have written the past few weeks to say thanks, but I could say as much to you. Nancy and I are grateful for the opportunity you gave us to serve.

One of the things about the presidency is that you're always somewhat apart. You spend a lot of time going by too fast in a car someone else is driving, and seeing a child, and the wave you saw too late and couldn't return. And so many times I wanted to stop, and reach out from behind the glass, and connect. And maybe I can do a little of that tonight.

People ask how I feel about leaving, and the fact is parting is such sweet sorrow. The sweet part is California, and the ranch, and freedom. The sorrow? The goodbyes, of course, and leaving this beautiful place.

You know, down the hall and up the stairs from this office is the part of the White House where the President and his family live. There are a few favorite windows I have up there that I like to stand and look out of early in the morning. The view is over the grounds here to the Washington Monument, and then the Mall, and the Jefferson Memorial. But on mornings when the humidity is low, you can see past the Jefferson to the river, the Potomac, and the Virginia shore. Someone said that's the view Lincoln had when he saw the smoke rising from the battle of Bull Run. I see more prosaic things: the grass on the banks, the morning traffic as people make their way to work, now and then a sailboat on the river.

I have been thinking a bit at that window. I've been reflecting on what the past eight years have meant, and mean. And the image that comes to mind like a refrain is a nautical one -- a small story about a big ship, and a refugee, and a sailor.

It was back in the early 80s, at the height of the boat people, and the sailor was hard at work on the Carrier Midway which was patrolling the South China Sea. The sailor, like most American servicemen, was young, smart, and fiercely observant. The crew spied on the horizon a leaky little boat -- and crammed inside were refugees from Indochina hoping to get to America. The Midway sent a small launch to bring them to the ship, and safety. As the refugees made their way through the choppy seas, one spied the sailor on deck, and stood up and called out to him. He yelled, ''Hello, American sailor -- Hello, Freedom Man.''

A small moment with a big meaning, a moment the sailor who wrote it in a letter couldn't get out of his mind. And, when I saw it, neither could I.

Because that's what it was to be an American in the 1980s: We stood, again, for freedom. I know we always have but in the past few years the world -- again, and in a way, we ourselves -- rediscovered it.

It has been quite a journey this decade, and we held together through some stormy seas. And at the end, together, we are reaching our destination.

The fact is, from Grenada to the Washington and Moscow summits, from the recession of '81 to '82, to the expansion that began in late '82 and continues to this day, we've made a difference.

The way I see it, there were two great triumphs, two things that I'm proudest of. One is the economic recovery, in which the people of America created -- and filled -- 19 million new jobs. The other is the recovery of our morale: America is respected again in the world, and looked to for leadership.

Something that happened to me a few years ago reflects some of this. It was back in 1981, and I was attending my first big economic summit, which was held that year in Canada. The meeting place rotates among the member countries. The opening meeting was a formal dinner for the heads of government of the seven industrialized nations. I sat there like the new kid in school and listened, and it was all Francois this and Helmut that. They dropped titles and spoke to one another on a first-name basis. At one point I sort of leaned in and said, ''My name's Ron.''

In that same year, we began the actions we felt would ignite an economic comeback: Cut taxes and regulation, started to cut spending. Soon the recovery began.

Two years later another economic summit, with pretty much the same cast. At the big opening meeting we all got together, and all of a sudden just for a moment I saw that everyone was looking at me. Then one of them broke the silence. ''Tell us about the American miracle,'' he said.

Back in 1980, when I was running for president, it was all so different. Some pundits said our programs would result in catastrophe. Our views on foreign affairs would cause war; our plans for the economy would cause inflation to soar and bring about economic collapse. I even remember one highly respected economist saying, back in 1982, that ''the engines of economic growth have shut down here and across the globe and they are likely to stay that way for years to come.''

Well, he -- and the other ''opinion leaders'' -- were wrong. The fact is, what they called ''radical'' was really ''right;'' what they called ''dangerous'' was just ''desperately needed.''

And in all that time I won a nickname -- The Great Communicator. But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference -- it was the content. I wasn't a great communicator but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full blown from my brow; they came from the heart of a great nation -- from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries.

They called it the Reagan Revolution, and I'll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the Great Rediscovery: a rediscovery of our values and our common sense.

Common sense told us that when you put a big tax on something, the people will produce less of it. So we cut the people's tax rates and the people produced more than ever before.

The economy bloomed like a plant that had been cut back and could now grow quicker and stronger. Our economic program brought about the longest peacetime expansion in our history: real family income up, the poverty rate down, entrepreneurship booming and an explosion in research and new technology. We are exporting more than ever because American industry became more competitive and at the same time, we summoned the national will to knock down protectionist walls abroad instead of erecting them at home.

Common sense also told us that to preserve the peace we'd have to become strong again after years of weakness and confusion. So we rebuilt our defenses -- and this New Year we toasted the new peacefulness around the globe. Not only have the superpowers actually begun to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons -- and hope for even more progress is bright -- but the regional conflicts that rack the globe are also beginning to cease. The Persian Gulf is no longer a war zone; the Soviets are leaving Afghanistan; the Vietnamese are preparing to pull out of Cambodia; and an American-mediated accord will soon send 50,000 Cuban troops home from Angola.

The lesson of all this was, of course, that because we are a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours.

And something else we learned: Once you begin a great movement, there's no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.

Countries across the globe are turning to free markets and free speech -- and turning away from the ideologies of the past. For them, the Great Rediscovery of the 1980s has been that, lo and behold, the moral way of government is the practical way of government. Democracy, the profoundly good, is also the profoundly productive.

When you've got to the point where you can celebrate the anniversaries of your 39th birthday, you can sit back sometimes, review your life and see it flowing before you. For me there was a fork in the river, and it was right in the middle of my life.

I never meant to go into politics; it wasn't my intention when I was young. But I was raised to believe you had to pay your way for the blessings bestowed on you. I was happy with my career in the entertainment world, but I ultimately went into politics because I wanted to protect something precious.

Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: ''We the People.''

''We the People'' tell the government what to do; it doesn't tell us. ''We the People'' are the driver -- the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world's constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which ''We the People'' tell the government what it is allowed to do. ''We the People'' are free.

This belief has been the underlying basis for everything I have tried to do these past eight years.

But back in the 1960s when I began, it seemed to me that we had begun reversing the order of things -- that through more and more rules and regulations and confiscatory taxes, the government was taking more of our money, more of our options, and more of our freedom. I went into politics in part to put up my hand and say, ''Stop!'' I was a citizen politician, and it seemed the right thing for a citizen to do.

I think we have stopped a lot of what needed stopping. And I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts.

Nothing is less free than pure communism, and yet we have, the past few years, forged a satisfying new closeness with the Soviet Union. I've been asked if this isn't a gamble and my answer is no, because we're basing our actions not on words but deeds.

The detente of the 1970s was based not on actions but promises. They'd promise to treat their own people and the people of the world better, but the gulag was still the gulag, and the state was still expansionist, and they still waged proxy wars in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

This time, so far, it's different: President Gorbachev has brought about some internal democratic reforms and begun the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He has also freed prisoners whose names I've given him every time we've met.

But life has a way of reminding you of big things through small incidents. Once during the heady days of the Moscow summit, Nancy and I decided to break off from the entourage one afternoon to visit the shops on Arbat Street, a little street just off Moscow's main shopping area.

Even though our visit was a surprise, every Russian there immediately recognized us, and called out our names and reached for our hands. We were just about swept away by the warmth -- you could almost feel the possibilities in all that joy. But within seconds a KGB detail pushed their way toward us and began pushing and shoving the people in the crowd. It was an interesting moment. It reminded me that while the man on the street in the Soviet Union yearns for peace, the government is communist -- those who run it are communists -- and that means we and they view such issues as freedom and human rights very differently.

We must keep up our guard -- but we must also continue to work together to lessen and eliminate tension and mistrust.

My view is that President Gorbachev is different from previous Soviet leaders. I think he knows some of the things wrong with his society and is trying to fix them. We wish him well. And we'll continue to work to make sure that the Soviet Union that eventually emerges from this process is a less threatening one.

What it all boils down to is this: I want the new closeness to continue. And it will as long as they continue to act in a helpful manner. If and when they don't -- at first pull your punches. If they persist, pull the plug.

It's still trust -- but verify.

It's still play -- but cut the cards.

It's still watch closely -- and don't be afraid to see what you see.

I've been asked if I have any regrets. I do.

The deficit is one. I've been talking a great deal about that lately, but tonight isn't for arguments and I'm going to hold my tongue.

But an observation: I've had my share of victories in the Congress, but what few people noticed is that I never won anything you didn't win for me.

They never saw my troops; they never saw Reagan's Regiments, the American people. You won every battle with every call you made and letter you wrote demanding action.

Well, action is still needed. If we're to finish the job, Reagan's Regiments will have to become the Bush Brigades. Soon he'll be chief, and he'll need you every bit as much as I did.

Finally, there is a great tradition of warnings in presidential farewells, and I've got one that's been on my mind for some time.

But oddly enough it starts with one of the things I'm proudest of the past eight years: the resurgence of national pride that I called ''the new patriotism.'' This national feeling is good, but it won't count for much and it won't last unless it's grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.

An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?

Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American, and we absorbed almost in the air a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn't get these things from your family, you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that too through the mid-60s.

But now we're about to enter the 90s, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren't sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style.

Our spirit is back, but we haven't re-institutionalized it. We've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom -- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise -- and freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs protection.

We've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion but what's important: Why the pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, four years ago on the 40th anniversary of D-Day I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who'd fought on Omaha Beach. Her name was Lisa Zanatta Henn, and she said, we will always remember; we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did. Well, let's help her keep her word.

If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.

Let's start with some basics -- more attention to American history and a great emphasis on civic ritual. And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American -- let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.

And that's about all I have to say tonight. Except for one thing.

The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs I've thought a bit of the shining ''city upon a hill.'' The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim -- an early ''Freedom Man.'' He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.

I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace -- a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.

That's how I saw it, and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

We've done our part. And as I ''walk off into the city streets,'' a final word to the men and women of the Reagan Revolution -- the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back:

My friends, we did it. We weren't just marking time; we made a difference. We made the city stronger -- we made the city freer -- and we left her in good hands.

--

Topics: Helen Thomas
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