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Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

This Day in History: Reagan Delivers “Evil Empire” Speech

President Ronald Rean delivers “Evil Empire” Speech, March 8, 1983

Thirty years ago today, Ronald Reagan delivered one of his most influential addresses to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida, referring to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and calling the Soviets “the focus of evil in the modern world.” In the decades before his presidency, Reagan had read and thought deeply about American foreign policy and brought with him to the White House a number of strong convictions. He regarded Communism as an immoral and destructive ideology and believed that the Soviet Union was bent on world domination. Reagan told the audience on March 8, 1983:

They preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth. They are the focus of evil in the modern world....

Reagan used the speech to lobby the evangelical group to support the administration’s peace through strength approach to negotiating with the Soviet Union and to oppose a “nuclear freeze” that Congress was debating at the time. The Congressional resolution in support of a "nuclear freeze” would have prevented the deployment of U.S. cruise and Pershing II Missiles in Europe. Reagan made the case for deploying NATO nuclear-armed missiles in Western Europe as a response to the Soviets installing new nuclear-armed missiles in Eastern Europe.

Using the bully pulpit of the presidency, Reagan told the crowd:

The truth is that a freeze now would be a very dangerous fraud, for that is merely the illusion of peace. The reality is that we must find peace through strength…

So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.