Remarks Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao For Ronald Reagan Tribute Dinner Leadership Institute

May 19, 2004

Thank you for that kind introduction, Jim [Gilmore, former Governor of Virginia].

I want to say thank you and congratulations to Morton Blackwell and the Leadership Institute. Your commitment to training young conservatives over the last 25 years is deeply appreciated by our movement and our nation. Your alumni can be found heading institutions throughout the country. In fact, one of your alumni, Dr. Gary Gregg, is doing a terrific job at the McConnell Center for Leadership at the University of Louisville.

Tonight, we are gathered not only to celebrate the Silver Anniversary of the Leadership Institute but also to pay tribute to the greatest conservative leader of the 20th Century, former President Ronald Reagan, who changed the course of history.

Working in the Reagan White House was my first experience following a principled, conservative leader. The great communicator had the courage of his convictions and he took his ideas directly to the American people and often he led them his way. His philosophy resonated with the public because it was based on the core values that made our country great, such as freedom, liberty, empowerment of the individual, strong defense, peace through strength and limited government.

President Reagan helped our nation believe in itself again and restored our sense of greatness. When Ronald Reagan first took office, Jimmy Carter had scolded the American people for a sense of malaise (his term). The economy was in recession. Inflation and interest rates were in the double-digits. Unemployment was 7.5 percent. The price of gasoline was $2.79 a gallon in 2004 dollars. The Soviets dominated in Afghanistan. And, as former U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick once said, when someone kicked America, we apologized.

Thanks to President Reagan’s tax reforms, our economy not only recovered but was responsible for the longest economic expansion in peacetime, creating more than 15 million jobs. And thanks to President Reagan’s consistent, strong stand against communism, the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain ultimately collapsed.

Ronald Reagan was successful because of his principles, not despite them.

Nothing demonstrates that better than his victory in the Cold War. Who can forget his trip to the Berlin when, in front of the Brandenburg Gate, he uttered the six words that have since become part of history: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Some of his aides thought those words were too provocative. President Reagan himself insisted on keeping them in. And two years later, history proved him right and the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

Ronald Reagan changed history forever. His bright optimism gave us hope and made America great again! His conservatism changed the course of our nation-the reforms we see today are still a legacy of his Administration and his philosophy.

As we cultivate a new generation of conservative leaders for our nation, it is important to recognize, remember and pay tribute to the greatest president of the 20th century, President Ronald Reagan.

God bless you. God bless America!
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