Ronald Reagan: ‘Those who would read this letter a hundred years from now ... will know whether we met our challenge’

          Thursday, August 19, 1976

A defeated Ronald Reagan, invited on stage by President Gerald Ford, galvanizes 1976 Republican convention with impromptu closing speech about freedom, Aug. 19, 1976, at Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Mo. (transcript):

Gerald Ford: "Everybody in this great auditorium tonight: We're all tremendously pleased and honored to have Ron Reagan and Nancy Reagan come down. (Applause, cheering) We are all a part of this great Republican family and we'll give the leadership to the American people to win on November 2nd. I would like, I would be honored, on your behalf, to ask my good friend, Governor Reagan, to say a few words at this time." (Cheering, applause)

Ronald Reagan: "Thank you very much ... Mr. President, Mrs. Ford, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Vice President to be, (applause), the distinguished guests here, and you ladies and gentlemen. I'm going to say fellow Republicans here, but for those who are watching from a distance, all those millions of Democrats and independents who I know are looking for a cause around which to rally and which I believe we can give them. (Applause)

"Mr. President before you arrived tonight, these wonderful people here, when we came in, gave Nancy and myself a welcome. And that, plus this, plus your kindness and generosity in honoring us by bringing us down here, give us a memory that will live in our hearts forever. (Applause)

"Watching on television these last few nights, and I've seen you all filled with the warmth that you've greeted Nancy, you also filled my heart with joy when you did that. May I just say some words (clapping). There are cynics who say that a party platform is something that no one bothers to read and it doesn't very often amount to much. Whether it is different this time than it has ever been before, I believe the Republican Party has a platform that is, a banner of bold, unmistakable colors with no pale pastel shades. (Applause, cheering)

"We ... we have just heard a call to arms, based on that platform. And a call to us, to really be successful in communicating and reveal to the American people the difference between this platform and the platform of the opposing party which is nothing but a revamp and a reissue and a running of a late-late show of the thing that we've been hearing from them for the last 40 years. (Applause, cheering)

"If I could just take a moment- I had an assignment the other day. Someone asked me to write a letter for a time capsule that is going to be opened in Los Angeles a hundred years from now, on our Tricentennial. It sounded like an easy assignment; they suggested I write something about the problems and issues of the day, and I set out to do so, riding down the coast in an automobile, looking at the blue Pacific out on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, and I couldn't help but wonder if it was going to be that beautiful a hundred years from now, as it was on that summer day. And then, as I tried to write, let your own minds turn to that task. You're going to write for people a hundred years from now, who know all about us; we know nothing about them, we don't know what kind of a world they'll be living in. And suddenly I thought to myself, if I write of the problems, they'll be the domestic problems, which the president spoke here tonight, the challenges confronting us, the erosion of freedom that has taken place under Democrat rule in this country. The invasion of private rights. The controls and restrictions on the vitality of the great free economy that we enjoy. These are our challenges that we must meet. And then again there is that challenge, which he spoke, that we live in a world in which the great powers have poised and aimed at each other horrible missiles of destruction, nuclear weapons that can in a matter of minutes arrive in each other's country and destroy virtually the civilized world we live in.

"And suddenly it dawned on me: Those who would read this letter a hundred years from now will know whether those missiles were fired. They will know whether we met our challenge. Whether they have the freedom that we have known up until now, will depend on what we do here. Will they look back in appreciation and say thank God, for those people in 1976 who headed off that loss of freedom, who kept us now a hundred years later free, who kept our world from nuclear destruction, and if we fail, they probably won't get to read the letter at all because it spoke of individual freedom and they won't be allowed to talk of that or read of it.

"This is our challenge. And this is why here in this hall tonight, better than we've ever done before, we've gotta quit talking to each other and about each other and go out and communicate to the world, that we may be fewer in numbers than we've ever been, but we carry the message they're waiting for. We must go forth from here united, determined, and what a great general said a few years ago is true: There is no substitute for victory. Mr. President" (applause, cheering) ...

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