Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Ronald Reagan on Wyatt Durrette

My February 20 posting on a voice from the past, Wyatt Durrette, has generated some interest. Bacon's Rebellion, Sic Semper Tyrannis, and the Commonwealth Conservative all posted links to the article on their blogs (thanks, guys!). I have learned that Durrette is now a lawyer in private practice with his own firm in Richmond, DurretteBradshaw PLC. And, as a result of someone finding my article through a Yahoo search, I found out that 20 years ago, President Ronald Reagan gave a speech in Arlington endorsing Wyatt Durrette and his running mates.

Reagan's speech
touches some familiar themes. Taxes, transportation, and education, to start:

Well, Virginia needs Wyatt Durrette's strong, principled leadership. But you all know that already, and I'm here today to tell you that America needs him, too, because it's only if we pull together at both the State and national levels that we can give America the bright future of expanding hope and opportunity that she deserves. Wyatt understands that the road to that future is not paved with government programs. He knows it's freedom that creates economic growth and prosperity, and all over the world we are seeing more and more freedom works.

He knows, in addition to that, that it's not another new State office boondoggle paid for by higher taxes that we need for any of the problems that confront us. He knows the way to give minorities a fair shake is to open up with enterprise zones and a youth opportunity wage for teenagers. He understands the transportation needs of Northern Virginia, and he knows that the way to educational excellence is through incentives for achievement, higher standards for our students, and merit pay for teachers.

I've been following this race in Virginia pretty closely, and in many ways it reminds me of that campaign I was going through not too long ago. Last year, too, we heard promise after promise for billions of dollars of new government spending programs, but at least my opponent, then, admitted that he wanted to raise your taxes. Well, the American people let it be known last November what they thought about that idea, and I am convinced come November 5th, the people of this great State are going to repeat that message loud and clear when they elect Wyatt Durrette Governor of Virginia.
And when Reagan spoke about liberal ideologues and the opponents of his foreign policy, he could easily have been in the shoes of George W. Bush today:
But when we talk about the future of Virginia and the future of America, we're really talking about something more fundamental than dollars and cents. Wyatt understands that underneath all these issues lie basic questions of values. The big spending pressures that we still have to fight against on both the State and national levels are really an attempt to artificially pump up a failed and exhausted liberal ideology. It's an ideology that looks on America with despair and that has spent the last several decades trying to unravel the social order that binds us together as a nation and as a people. When it looks abroad, it is an ideology that, in Jeane Kirkpatrick's famous phrase, always ``blames America first,'' while too often making excuses for the enemies of freedom.
There's even a hint of what sparked Durrette's letter to the Times-Dispatch about federalism last Sunday:
Well, you know, ladies and gentlemen, Virginia is one of the greatest States of the greatest Nation on Earth. Virginia deserves the very best -- John Chichester for lieutenant governor, Buster O'Brien for attorney general, and Wyatt Durrette for Governor. And all of them, I know, endorse the fact that we must never forget that our very freedom is based on this fact: that this nation is a federation of sovereign States, and they must never be reduced to administrative districts of the Federal Government, as some in Washington would have us do.
The irony of this speech, of course, is that while highly critical of politicians who want to raise taxes, President Reagan endorsed John Chichester, described earlier this month by the Washington Times as "the politician who has become the state's most fervent supporter of higher taxes and a bigger state government." Obviously, President Reagan strongly believed in his own Eleventh Commandment.

The U.S. Postal Service introduced its Reagan stamp just a couple of weeks ago, to coincide with what would have been the President's 94th birthday. (For many of us, it's still hard to believe that he's gone, so strong is his influence on the American polity.) Reading a speech by Ronald Reagan, even a short, simple campaign fundraising speech like the one uncovered above, is a reminder of what a masterful orator he was. Fortunately, the Reagan speeches have been preserved in book form, on audio CD, and even on DVD. His spoken words remain a legacy for us to study and admire for generations to come.

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