|President Ronald Reagan.
Reagan At CPAC: The Words That Continue to Inspire a Revolution
Edited and with an introduction by Matt Schlapp, Chairman, American Conservative Union; Preface by Vice President Mike Pence; Afterword by former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III
Regnery Publishing; hardcover, $28.99
There is a lot of debate right now about what it means to be a conservative in the era of President Donald J. Trump and what the future is for the conservative movement.
President Trump fights passionately for Conservative principles, but the leader who embodies the heart of the conservative movement, who gave birth to it, was President Ronald Reagan.
No platform has had more success in launching movements and leaders than the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
As the first written compilation of Reagan’s CPAC speeches coupled with thoughtful commentary from today’s most prominent conservative leaders, Reagan at CPAC: The Words That Continue to Inspire a Revolution displays how CPAC plays an important role in teaching the philosophy Reagan lived and led by and reveals the relevance of Reagan’s CPAC speeches today.
Edited and with an introduction by ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp, the commentary from today’s most influential conservatives found in Reagan at CPAC reveals the enduring relevance of President Reagan’s political philosophy. Within the pages of Reagan at CPAC, readers will discover solutions to today’s most pressing problems and inspiration to continue to fight the good fight for freedom.
Contributors to Reagan at CPAC include leading conservative figures like: Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Ted Cruz, Michael Reagan, Allie Beth Stuckey, Wayne LaPierre, and Katie Pavlich.
Reagan at CPAC illustrates President Reagan’s legacy at CPAC and provides insight into the start of the most influential conference in the history of American politics. CPAC has not only provided a platform for speakers but has served as a launching pad for revolutionary movements and ideologies.
Ronald Reagan started speaking to CPAC in 1964 when, in a speech titled A Time for Choosing, he famously said, "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We’ll preserve for our children, this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness."
In 1974, he gave a speech titled We Will Be as a City upon a Hill, which became an inspirational message of what he thought of the United States. He said, "The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind. We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth."
In the commentary that followed, Katie Pavlich, the editor of TownHall.com and a Fox News contributor, wrote, "America today remains the same as Reagan praised it to be in 1974. His words have echoed through the generations to encourage and inspire the most incredible and blessed country on earth while reminding us that we must work each day to protect that which makes America so special."
In 1981, Reagan addressed CPAC as our newly-elected President with the speech Our Time Is Now, Our Moment Has Arrived, and he said, "This is the real task before us: to reassert our commitment as a nation to a law higher than our own, to renew our spiritual strength. Only by building a wall of such spiritual resolve can we, as a free people, hope to protect our own heritage and make it someday the birthright of all men. There is, in America, a greatness and a tremendous heritage of idealism which is a reservoir of strength and goodness. It is ours if we will but tap it. And, because of this—because that greatness is there— there is need in America today for a reaffirmation of that goodness and a reformation of our greatness."
In the Commentary that follows, Michael Reagan writes, "When my father addressed CPAC in 1981, it was as a newly minted president; the great experiment of whether conservatism was a viable governing philosophy was just beginning."
In his 1986 speech, Forward for Freedom, Reagan spoke of the accomplishments made in the first five years of his presidency: "Tonight, my thoughts cannot help but drift back to another conservative audience of more than twenty years ago and a presidential campaign that the pundits and opinion-makers said then was the death knell for our movement. But just as the opinion leaders had been stunned by Barry Goldwater’s nomination, so too they would be shocked by the resiliency of his cause and the political drama to unfold around it: the rise of the New Right and the religious revival of the mid-'70s and the final, triumphant march to Washington in 1980 by conservatives.
"And you know, that last event really did come as a shock of seismic proportions to this city. I can remember reading about a poll that was taken at a Washington National Press Club luncheon in January
of 1980 on the eve of the primary season. Those in attendance were asked who would be the next president of the United States. Well, Jimmy Carter got a large number of votes, and so did Teddy Kennedy. But there was one candidate on the Republican side who got so few votes from the wise men of Washington that it wasn’t even reported in the lineup. I think it had to do with his conservative leanings. Well, I hope they know I’m not about to change.
"But while official Washington always underestimated our cause, some of the shrewder journalists did over the years sense something astir in America. Theodore White said openly, just after Barry Goldwater’s campaign: 'Some see this as a last adventure in the politics of nostalgia. Others see this Arizonan as a symbol, cast up by the first crest of an early tide, thrown back this once, but bound to come again in greater strength.'
"And you know, to be here tonight and to be a part of this historic conference, your biggest attention-getter, to look at your program for the next two days and all the important people and discussions, to stand here now with the presidential seal on this podium, to feel the energy, the almost festive air of this audience, I think you’ve provided an answer to Teddy White’s implicit question about the fate of our movement, the state of our cause. Fellow conservatives, it took us more than twenty years, but who can deny it? We’re rockin’ and rollin’.
"Now, I know a few liberal observers will try to downplay all this. But don’t you think they’re going to sound a little bit like Yogi Berra on that famous occasion when he said of a restaurant, “It’s so crowded, nobody goes there anymore?” And as for those liberals who finally are catching on to the idea that there is a conservative movement, they kind of remind me of a cowboy who was out hiking in the desert one day and came across the Grand Canyon. And he said, “Wow, something sure happened here!”
"Well, something has happened in America. In five short years, we have seen the kind of political change rarely seen in a generation on nearly every issue: federal spending, tax cuts, deregulation, the fight against career criminals and for tough judges, military readiness, resistance to Soviet expansionism, and the need for candor about the struggle between freedom and totalitarianism. The old taboos and superstitions of liberalism have collapsed and all but blown away, to be replaced by a robust and enlightened conservatism; a conservatism that brings with it economic prosperity, personal opportunity, and a shining hope that someday all the peoples of the world—from Afghanistan to Nicaragua to Poland and, yes, to Angola—will know the blessings of liberty and live in the light of freedom.
"Those in this room know how often we were told the odds of accomplishing even a small part of this were all against us. I remember my own first visit up to the Hill after the 1980 election, when issues like the tax cuts came up. I met a congressman there. He was a kind of a big fellow, as I recall—had lots of white hair. He was from the Boston area, I think. Maybe you know him. He smiled very indulgently and told me not to expect too much because I was, to use his words, 'in the big leagues now.'
"But you know, as a conservative, I had an advantage. Back in the hard years, the lean years, when we were forming our political PACs, sending out our fundraising letters, and working for candidate after candidate in campaign after campaign, all of us learned something vital, something important about our country. Something became an article of faith, a faith that sustained us through all the setbacks and the heartache.
"You see, we knew then what we know now: that the real big leaguers aren’t here in Washington at all; they’re out there in the heartland, out in the real America, where folks go to work every day and church every week, where they raise their families and help their neighbors, where they build America and increase her bounty and pass on to each succeeding generation her goodness and splendor. And we knew something else, too: that the folks out there in real America pretty much see things our way and that all we ever have to do to get them involved is to be brave enough to trust them with the truth and bold enough to ask for their help."
Congressman Mark Meadows writes in his commentary that follows, "When President Ronald Reagan gave his Forward for Freedom speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 1986, he had already realized much of his vision to restore American prosperity by championing a conservative agenda. It is interesting that, when asked to reflect upon the future of the conservative movement, Reagan spoke so much about the past. Reagan saw the 1986 election as a chance for conservatives to fight to preserve the ground they had gained under his administration. Simply put, Reagan saw the future of the conservative movement as a fight to preserve his policies.
"Reagan claimed three major political achievements in his speech to CPAC: his administration’s accomplishments of cutting deficit spending and taxes and supporting the fight against communism
across the globe. He believed the future of the conservative movement in America relied on the preservation of these achievements.
"Reagan presented CPAC with a dichotomy: fight to preserve conservatism or allow the increasingly hostile liberal movement to roll back all of the administration’s achievements. The dichotomy was real; Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, then the Democratic Speaker of the House under Reagan, wanted to increase taxes on the American people and abolish the FBI and IRS.
"I believe conservatives in America are facing another form of that radicalism in 2018. After eight years of liberal leadership in the White House, President Trump, in his first two years in office, has followed Reagan’s example of cutting government regulation and taxes drastically, and strengthening our military. But this has only fueled the fire for the liberal movement in America. More than ever, liberals want to use any means necessary to stop President Trump’s successful conservative policies. The American people must decide whether they want to fight to preserve these changes or give up their hard-won personal freedom."