Commentary: What Would Reagan Do?
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Published: 14-Feb-2012

I had the privilege and blessing of working with Ronald Reagan in four eras of his career - first, during the pre-presidency days of his campaigns from 1974 through the 1976 Republican National Convention, to his election in 1980 as the 40th President of the United States.  He galvanized a movement thereafter referred to as the “New Right.”

Second, I served six months on his transition team to include his first 100 days in office.

Third, during his time in national office, I advised the President on the merits of international trade agreements and the implementation of trade treaties.  I also served as a national field counsel in his re-election campaign of 1984.

Fourth, I worked with him in his post-presidency days through the Republican National Committee and other national policy organizations.

I learned many lessons and principles of integrity while serving on Ronald Reagan initiatives.  

Speakers at the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs event honoring Reagan have talked about transformational leadership. We should remember and make note of how foundational Ronald Reagan’s leadership was, resulting in a turning point of world history. As Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the way people saw legalistic and government systems in their times, so did Ronald Reagan in his time.

While working on the Transition Team, I fielded calls from European leaders and elected officials asking:

How did Ronald Reagan change the debate and dialogue so dramatically from only discussing “what government programs to establish or enlarge” to discussing “government should be reduced and free enterprise and less government is an answer and possible solution”?

Prior to 1980, that debate had no footing in Europe or the world. The answer was that Ronald Reagan possessed confidence in his convictions and the determination and courage to lead the nation to a new purpose and reality.

Ronald Reagan changed forever how we look at and analyze government.

But his leadership was not without compassion. In briefing the president on certain matters of trade policy and treaty analysis, there were three standard questions he would ask that had to be answered:

1.         Is it good for the aggregate economy of the U.S.?

2.         Is it good for the individual workers in those industries affected and does it create jobs?

3.         Is it fair to our trading partners and does it promote free enterprise worldwide?

Fairness was paramount to Ronald Reagan.

Today we celebrate and honor this legacy of President Reagan, and we find ourselves still debating the size and role of government just as Reagan did. The issue then and now is the maintenance and protection of individual freedom and the government’s role not only to protect our freedoms, but to advocate and facilitate that which is our God-given right of freedom from government.

In America and in Oklahoma, we trust the individual to make decisions for themselves in their own best interest and the interest of their families. In doing so, these decisions collectively are in the best interest of the state and the greater community. In other words, we advocate individual freedom and we trust the individual to pursue freedom as he or she sees fit. Ronald Reagan knew these principles.  Ronald Reagan defended these principles. And Ronald Reagan advocated these principles with every breath he took.

To protect those principles, President Reagan would have called for restraint in government and for leadership from members of the legislature to restructure government to provide essential services efficaciously, and to do so within a balanced budget.

He would have supported free market principles to solve the debt crisis. President Reagan stated, “Government can’t control the economy without controlling people,” and it eventually uses “force and coercion to achieve its purpose.” But most importantly, President Reagan believed that such government intrusion “interferes with the people’s right to know.”

He believed that government burdens violate a portion of the cardinal moral truth of the Declaration of Independence, that a person has a God-given right to the pursuit of happiness. Further, President Reagan believed that all people have an equal right to opportunity, that one element of American Exceptionalism is that birth is not destiny. Government intrusion further violates the other portion of the cardinal moral truth – that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life and Liberty, and another portion of the cardinal moral truth – the pursuit of Happiness.

Ronald Reagan said in his 1964 “Time of Choosing” speech, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”

Ladies and gentlemen, now our future is at risk, yet our destiny is in our hands, and the people in this very building have a role to play that is critical. We must say “no” to too much government taking too much freedom for too little in return. 

Oklahoma must set the example for our country. Our children are too precious and their future too critical to the legacy of generations for us to be any less so resolved. This is why my friends at OCPA and I are pleased to offer the “10 Reagan Rules to Govern By.” 

I also look forward to sharing with others across the county who worked and served with President Reagan about the positive direction and leadership role our state is taking.  They will be proud to hear that President Reagan’s spirit is alive and well – right here in Oklahoma.

Marc Nuttle served on President Reagan’s Industrial Policy Advisory Committee for trade and policy matters and as legal counsel to President Reagan's United States Synthetic Fuels Transition Team. He delivered this speech at the Oklahoma State Capitol on February 7, 2012, during a press conference at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs’ “What Would Reagan Do?” event.

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