RFI’s Eric Patterson on President Reagan’s 1983 Speech: ‘Keep Alive this Experiment in Liberty’

March 16, 2023

RFI President Eric Patterson wrote an article published in WORLD Magazine this week discussing President Reagan’s 1983 “Evil Empire” speech and why it remains deeply relevant today. Patterson writes:

This month marks the 40th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s powerful 1983 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). That speech was an important diagnosis of the moral health of the time, calling Americans to renew their commitment to the moral values of America’s founding and laying out a vision for religious liberty. It is a call for renewal for us today, to, as Reagan asserted, “keep alive this experiment in liberty, this last, best hope of man.”

Few speeches are worthy of note after 40 years. This one certainly is. President Reagan shocked the nation as he spoke the truth to his evangelical audience. So, what did he say?

Reagan’s speech began with a defense of America’s Christian heritage and then turned to the social ills of the day. He asserted that “American democracy rests on this insight,” that “freedom prospers only where the blessings of God are avidly sought and humbly accepted.” He buttressed this with quotes from the Founders: “William Penn said: ‘If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.’ Explaining the inalienable rights of men, Jefferson said, ‘The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.’ And it was George Washington who said that of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.’”

Read the full article: ‘Keep alive this experiment in liberty.’