Ronald Reagan was born in northern Illinois on February 6, 1911. After graduating college in 1932, he began a career as a sports commentator before moving to California and pursuing a career in Hollywood. Reagan was twice elected President of the Screen Actors Guild, where he notably helped inform the FBI of suspected communists within the organization.
Reagan first entered the political spotlight in 1964, when he gave his famous “A Time for Choosing” speech in support of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. After gaining a new wave of conservative supporters, he was elected governor of California in 1966. Eventually, he would earn his party’s presidential nomination, going on to defeat incumbent president Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.
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Life As President
As America’s 40th president, Ronald Reagan would come to be remembered for a handful of things. Upon taking office, Reagan would implement sweeping economic reforms. His supply-side economic policies came to be dubbed “Reaganomics”. He would also help start the infamous War on Drugs.
Reagan’s second term was dominated by foreign policy, with conflicts like the Cold War, the bombing of Libya, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Iran-Contra affair all ongoing. In 1987, President Reagan called the Soviet Union and “evil empire”, and he famously challenged Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” (in reference to the Berlin Wall). Reagan has been credited with helping shrink the nuclear arsenals of both the US and USSR, and for his role in helping end the Cold War. By the time Reagan left office, he had one of the highest approval ratings in history.
In 1994, Ronald Reagan would disclose that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. And though he died on June 5, 2004, he continues to serve as a conservative icon to this day.
Throughout his long life, Ronald Reagan was able to offer many bits of wisdom, insight, and humor. Here are a few of the most memorable Ronald Reagan quotes (spoiler alert: he liked to talk about freedom a lot).
21 Defining Ronald Reagan Quotes
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
“Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.”
“Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuous revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions.”
“With the destructive power of today’s weapons, keeping the peace is not just a goal; it’s a sacred obligation. But maintaining peace requires more than sincerity and idealism—more than optimism and good will. As you know well, peace is a product of hard, strenuous labor by those dedicated to its preservation. It requires realism, not wishful thinking.”
“Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means.”
“I believe with all my heart that our first priority must be world peace, and that use of force is always and only a last resort, when everything else has failed, and then only with regard to our national security.”
“Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will.”
“Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”
On Climate Change:
“Approximately 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation. So let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards for man-made sources.”
“I have flown twice over Mount St. Helens. I’m not a scientist and I don’t know the figures, but I have a suspicion that one little mountain out there, in these last several months, has probably released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind.”
“With regard to the freedom of the individual for choice with regard to abortion, there’s one individual who’s not being considered at all. That’s the one who is being aborted. And I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.”
“Americans don’t go around carrying guns with the idea they’re using them to influence other Americans. There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”
“We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry every night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”
“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
“I’m convinced that today the majority of Americans want what those first Americans wanted: A better life for themselves and their children; a minimum of government authority. Very simply, they want to be left alone in peace and safety to take care of the family by earning an honest dollar and putting away some savings.”
“Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.”
“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.””
“Back in 1927, an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said that the American people would never vote for socialism but he said under the name of liberalism the American people would adopt every fragment of the socialist program.”
“Welfare’s purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence.”
Some Other Stuff:
“I am paying for this microphone!”
“Too much SALT isn’t good for you.”
Did you like these Ronald Reagan quotes? Here’s a Reagan-themed quiz you might also enjoy.