Our country’s capital will celebrate the 40th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s seminal “evil empire” speech on March 8. In the address, Reagan famously called the war against communism and the Soviet Union a “spiritual confrontation” rooted in “pride.”
“Reagan brought clarity, moral clarity to the Cold War with the Soviet Union,” said Roger Zakheim, Washington director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, told Fox News Digital. “It’s a lasting legacy speech.”
‘The Victims of Communism Museum’ will play host to the anniversary symposium, which aims to honor the estimated 100 million people killed by communist leaders like Stalin and Mao.
“I urge you to beware the temptation of pride,” Reagan said on March 8, 1983, in front of the annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida. “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.”
Reagan’s speech was a challenge to Americans and westerners around the world who preached “moral equivalency” during Cold War and the nuclear arms race. The ‘equivalency’ often posited at the time (and today) implied that constitutional republicanism and capitalism were no better than dictatorial communism.
In the address, Reagan also cited French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, who chronicled the unique qualities of the still-growing United States in his epic 1835 piece, “Democracy of Nations.”
“Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the greatness and the genius of America,” de Tocqueville wrote — and Reagan quoted. “America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
The Berlin Wall finally came down in 1989, weeks after Ronald Reagan left office
Dr. Anthony Eames, director of scholarly initiatives for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute and a teacher at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, said the speech still holds significant importance 40 years later.
“The speech now is more important than ever, with the rise of China and with the resurgence of Russia using its power to achieve political aims,” Eames said. “How many American kids are on TikTok [owned by the Chinese government] today? They’ve become addicted to Chinese manufactured goods, to Chinese products.”
Reagan’s call to philosophical arms led to a renewed sense of community in America, united against the woes of communism. Two weeks later, the ‘cowboy president’ proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, which targeted Soviet economic infrastructure. A few years later in 1987, he boldly demanded that the Soviet premier “tear down this wall,” a moment which defined the era.
“We must contend with these regimes and the threats they pose to free people — and we must struggle for the freedom of the more than one billion people held captive by these regimes,” The Victim of Communism Memorial Foundation declared.