RFI President Eric Patterson: The Sunlight of Human Freedom

February 8, 2024

RFI President Eric Patterson wrote a piece for WORLD this week reflecting on President Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural address, delivered January 21, 1985, in which “Reagan looked down to our time, knowing that we would look back on the renewal that marked those years.” Reagan’s words “should provide hope for us today that such renewal is possible once again…”

“Today marks the birthday of America’s 40th president, Ronald Reagan,” Patterson writes, “and this year marks the 40th anniversary of his smashing landslide victory in 1984. What were the issues that allowed Reagan to carry 49 states and 525 electoral votes (to his opponent’s 13)?”

Patterson continues: 

Ronald Reagan took office during a time of national malaise. The previous decade was marked by Watergate, Vietnam, the oil shock, Jimmy Carter’s inadequacy at home and abroad, and out-of-control inflation. America’s moral consensus seemed to be weakening due to the sexual revolution, the legalization of abortion, the dramatic rise in divorce, and poor educational outcomes (see Reagan’s 1983 ‘A Nation at Risk’ education report). 

At the same time, the Soviet Union and global communism seemed ruthless, confident, and unstoppable. America’s allies, particularly in Europe, were even weaker economically and divided politically, meaning that it was unclear whether America had a viable Western alliance to lead. 

But over the next four years Ronald Reagan’s policies led the country out of a recession and into a stronger economic and strategic position. Going into the 1984 election cycle one might think that Reagan would focus his campaign on the economic turnaround and a renaissance in America’s armed forces. Reagan did emphasize these, but he went well beyond the advice of some advisors to focus attention on the moral foundations of the republic and the threats to America’s ethical core.

Read the full article: “The sunlight of human freedom.”