Remarks by President Ronald Reagan
The Keating Files – January 30, 2021
(Editor’s Note: Much damage has been inflicted on conservatism, conservative thought, and the conservative movement in recent years. The effort to heal and rebuild conservatism promises to be a difficult, but necessary undertaking. The Keating Files will regularly weigh in to help that process. This is our fifth “Rebuilding Conservatism” column.)
In recent years, the Republican Party and parts of conservatism have turned in a dark direction on immigration. Largely succumbing to or peddling zero-sum and populist irrationalities, significant numbers of those on the Right have neglected not only Economics 101 on the benefits of immigration (for example, listen to Episode #13 of the Free Enterprise in Three Minutes Podcast titled “Immigration is Plus for the Economy”), but also the wisdom on immigration served up by Ronald Reagan in his very last speech as president of the United States. The relevant text (from the Reagan Library) and video portion of the Reagan speech on January 19, 1989, follow. – Ray Keating
Now, tomorrow is a special day for me. I'm going to receive my gold watch. And since this is the last speech that I will give as President, I think it's fitting to leave one final thought, an observation about a country which I love. It was stated best in a letter I received not long ago. A man wrote me and said: “You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk, or a Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.”
Yes, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors. It is that lady who gives us our great and special place in the world. For it's the great life force of each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America's triumph shall continue unsurpassed into the next century and beyond. Other countries may seek to compete with us; but in one vital area, as a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws the people of the world, no country on Earth comes close.
This, I believe, is one of the most important sources of America's greatness. We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people -- our strength -- from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation. While other countries cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams. We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we're a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.
A number of years ago, an American student traveling in Europe took an East German ship across the Baltic Sea. One of the ship's crewmembers from East Germany, a man in his sixties, struck up a conversation with the American student. After a while the student asked the man how he had learned such good English. And the man explained that he had once lived in America. He said that for over a year he had worked as a farmer in Oklahoma and California, that he had planted tomatoes and picked ripe melons. It was, the man said, the happiest time of his life. Well, the student, who had seen the awful conditions behind the Iron Curtain, blurted out the question, “Well, why did you ever leave?” “I had to,” he said, “the war ended.” The man had been in America as a German prisoner of war.
Now, I don't tell this story to make the case for former POW's. Instead, I tell this story just to remind you of the magical, intoxicating power of America. We may sometimes forget it, but others do not. Even a man from a country at war with the United States, while held here as a prisoner, could fall in love with us. Those who become American citizens love this country even more. And that's why the Statue of Liberty lifts her lamp to welcome them to the golden door.
It is bold men and women, yearning for freedom and opportunity, who leave their homelands and come to a new country to start their lives over. They believe in the American dream. And over and over, they make it come true for themselves, for their children, and for others. They give more than they receive. They labor and succeed. And often they are entrepreneurs. But their greatest contribution is more than economic, because they understand in a special way how glorious it is to be an American. They renew our pride and gratitude in the United States of America, the greatest, freest nation in the world -- the last, best hope of man on Earth.
- President Ronald Reagan
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Ray Keating is a columnist, novelist, economist, podcaster and entrepreneur. His new book Vatican Shadows: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel is the 13th thriller/mystery in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Get the paperback or Kindle edition at Amazon, or signed books at www.raykeatingonline.com.
The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?
You also can order his book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York from Amazon or signed books at RayKeatingOnline.com. His other recent nonfiction book is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know.
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